Nikon 50mm 1.2 / Film. Ageless

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There are some things in life that just don’t need replacing or improvements.  You love them the way they are and have never questioned or tried to justify owning them. You probably have a few of these chattels laying around the house somewhere and some of them may not even be that old.  But, you know they hold that special place in your heart and you never want to part with it. For me, that ageless item or combination of items is the Nikon 50mm 1.2 AIS and the Nikon F6. Sure there are better lenses out there technically speaking if you like auto focus.  But the 50mm 1.2 delivers a unique classic look that can easily be identified and admired.

The Nikon 50mm 1.2 has been around for some time now and has gone through various metamorphoses.  Ranging from 50mm to a 58mm NOCT version, the current is the 50mm 1.2 AIS.  A 55mm 1.2 was introduced way back in 1966 along with a new line up of cartoons including The new adventures of superman, The Mighty Heroes and a few others. If you remember these you must be old like me.  Back in 1977 we got the 58mm NOCT version and the beautiful 50mm 1.2 was introduced back in 1978. Overall you can’t go wrong with any of these. But if you can afford the Noct version you will be getting one with hand ground aspherical lens that is simply beautiful.

The version I have is a newer version 50mm 1.2 AIS with a 9 blade aperture as opposed to the original 7 blade version. I won’t go into much detail about the build or details of the lens other than to say it is solidly built out of metal; feels great in hand and has a manual focus that is smooth and responsive.

I have paired the lens with a D3S, D4, D700, F3 and Nikon F6 with wonderful results out of each combination. The lens performs wonderfully at 1.2 yielding a classic look that is clearly its signature. I find that between f2.0 and f2.8 it simply rocks for my style of photography.  It is a great general purpose lens which will not let you down.  I have yet to test it on my A7S.

For street / people photography the lens is a joy to use. When mounted on an F6 the photography experience becomes one of nostalgia with a sense of gratification you just don’t get when shooting with a digital camera.  Don’t get me wrong. Shooting with the D4 or other DSLR is enjoyable as well but is becoming too common and natural.  Ironically, shooting film just makes you more aware of your environment and makes you feel like you’re doing something the other guy isn’t.

For wide open shots where you want that clear separation of the subject from the background or foreground, the 50mm 1.2 delivers and does so with its own distinguishable brand.


Nikon D4 and 50mm 1.2 AIS at 1.2
Nikon D4 and 50mm 1.2 AIS at 1.2


Nikon D3S and 50mm 1.2 AIS
Nikon D3S and 50mm 1.2 AIS


For that classic look of the old days that got me interested in photography, the 50mm 1.2 can’t be beat when shooting film. You don’t find yourself doing the two step pixel peep dance. You just find yourself mesmerized or intrigued by the photo as you should be.


Nikon F6 and 50mm 1.2 AIS
Nikon F6 and 50mm 1.2 AIS
Nikon F6 and 50mm 1.2 AIS
Nikon F6 and 50mm 1.2 AIS


If you like street photography, documentary style photography or just photography in general, I really hope you think twice before trading in the old for the new.  There is so much pleasure one can have from using what you grew up with or started with. It lets you relive moments in life that brought joy and excitement to your photography. At the same time you can be assured your photography will be just as good or better than today’s.  My wife says, if you can look at a picture and come back to it over and over because it interests you, it is a great picture.  You can achieve this with the old as well as the new.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope you enjoyed it.


Nikon 50mm 1.2 Gallery


For a very large collection of photos from various photographers visit

1 Comment on Nikon 50mm 1.2 / Film. Ageless

  1. Yes, that’s very true. I have quite a few Nikkor lenses RF and SLR which I have mated to the NEX-5. Some of them are lovely. The 55mm Micro-Nikkor has a long throw focus ring and this makes getting the focus right very easy. I recently donated my D70 with kit zooms to a foreign missionary and don’t miss it, hope he likes it. It has the biggest photosites of any camera (6MP) and low noise images.
    Old lenses are good for the soul. The weight and feel make me want to take my time messing with it, before I click the shutter. And with manual focus, I need to take the time. I especially like portraits with the older glass. And since I have to fiddle to get the focus right with my old eyes (71 now) it gives the person time to relax their smile a bit for a more natural look. I rather dislike auto focus, anyway.

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