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Lens Review, Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4 D, On A Nikon D200

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200
A retro look at the Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D on an equally vintage Nikon D200 digital SLR camera.

My first experience with the AF-Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4D, an F-mount prime lens from Nikon. The lens has an excellent reputation for being the best lens for low-light photography. While the lens can be mounted and metered on all Nikon digital SLRs, it does not come with an internal autofocus motor which means that this lens can only be used manually on entry-level cameras such as the D40, D60, D3000, D5000, D3100, or D5100.

The AF-Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4D, introduced in 1995, carries the basic optical design as the manual focus 50mm 1:1.4 AI introduced in 1977. It is a 7-element in 6-group construction, has 7 aperture blades, a minimum focusing distance of 0.45 meters, and weighs 230 grams. As part of the design heritage, the lens still features a traditional aperture ring, and autofocus is a 'screw-drive' from the camera body.

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D

The lens, well put together with tough black plastics used for the lens barrel and metal for the lens mount, has a non-rotating 52mm filter ring, making it ideal for polarising and graduated filters. The aperture ring, however, is made of brittle plastic and the small lug that registers that the lens is set to its smallest aperture for automatic operation is equally fragile.

Nikon D200, Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D

On the user side, the bright 1:1.4 maximum aperture boosts working in difficult lighting conditions, great if you are after shallow depth of field and selective focus effects. With Super Integrated Coating applied to individual elements, lens flare, and ghosting are reduced for increased contrast and color accuracy even when working in bright and backlit conditions. The rounded seven-blade diaphragm is also a way to a pleasing bokeh quality.

On the ASP-C sensor Nikon D200, the AF-Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4D is equivalent to a 75mm short tele lens on a 35mm full-frame camera. The focal length setup is great for portraits because you can get closer to your subjects without making them feel uncomfortable. The longer focal length means you can compress the background to create a more flattering look.


Review Images

This review is not about the technicalities or the technical performance of the lens, but rather an exposé of the images rendered and the capability of the 10MP CCD sensor of the Nikon D200. The midrange DSLR camera was released by Nikon in 2005 and was succeeded by the D300, which had a CMOS sensor, in 2007.

CCD sensors were the gold standard for camera sensors from the early 80s till the late 2000s. While their use today has been overshadowed by the CMOS variants, CCD sensors are still used today in areas of specialized photography including Optical Microscopy, Space Photography, and Near-Infrared Imaging.

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 01
Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 02

The images should speak for themselves hereon. They are not the best as I want them to be, but good enough to extol the virtues of a CCD sensor-based camera. The images started with almost the standard shot of the Mr. Smiley coffee mug, a look over to the dining area, and the mess of my worktop, before moving out to the porch and close-ups in the garden.

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 03
Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 04

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 05
Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D,  On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 06
Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 07

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 08
Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 09

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 10
Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 11

Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D, On A 10.2MP CCD Nikon D200 12

The choice of the Nikon D200 is part of my interest in the 'Re-Living the CCD Sensor' series, where I promote the use and move to cameras with CCD sensors. With film photography costing a lot more with its running cost and development timeline, there is now the trend of film enthusiasts moving over to CCD sensor-based cameras (I am one of them), favoring the instant gratification of seeing the sensor's lower noise and higher sensitivity capability, better homogeneity, and film-like image renders instantly on the LCD screen.


Camera Gear Availability

While Nikon lenses do command a higher value both on the auction market and in brick-and-mortar stores, vintage (as they are more than 10 years old and manufactured with by-passed technology) digital cameras are readily available, with most of them listed at the lower end of the cost spectrum. You will have a field day here, with plenty of brand make, models, and prices to choose and pick from.

Nikon D200, Nikon AF-Nikkor 50mm 1.4D

All the best with your selection!



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