For a long time now, Nikon has been mocked by some for its lack of f/1.2 lenses (with autofocus) available for their standard F-mount. The last time they came out with a new optical design for a 35mm format f/1.2 lens was in 1978, which we mentioned at the announcement of their new “1-system” lens, the 32mm f/1.2. (Click HERE. The lens is designed for their 2.7x crop format system, unfortunately.)
Well, Nikon has not been ignoring this fact, apparently. Actually over the past 5+ years, at least eight separate but similar patents have been filed by Nikon for un-released, un-announced full-frame f/1.2 lenses in the range of 50mm! Clearly, Nikon is up to something. But what?
Some of the lenses are the standard 50mm, with a roughly similar optical design to their current 50mm f/1.2 AIS, (AIS = manual focus lens) …which by the way is still available today for $699, compared to Canon’s $1399 50mm f/1.2 L. (Another fact that has probably gone un-noticed by most, but yes Nikon still manufactures and sells a select few of their old manual focus lenses that haven’t changed design since the 80’s!)
Other designs are apparently akin to the very legendary 58mm “Noct-Nikkor”, which is renowned for its amazing resistance to coma, chromatic aberration or blooming, and overall sharpness wide-open. One of the most recent designs is an oddball 60mm focal length. If Nikon made an AFS-G version of their classic Noct lens, it would be a very historic day indeed. (Although such a lens would certainly cost at least $1,000 more than their current 50mm f/1.4 AFS-G!)
At any rate, Nikon is clearly cooking up something, and we’ll probably see some sort of 50mm f/1.2 AFS-G in the near future. The only other possible explanation is that they are doing R&D and filing patents simply because they want to own the rights to a design, even if they don’t intend to use it. This seems counter-intuitive, but it is quite common if a company simply wants to STOP anybody else from using the design, and/or if they plan to sell the patent license later and profit from it that way. Again, it sounds weird but if you simply Google “patent trolls”, you’ll find plenty of reading on the subject.
And yes, I just called Nikon a potential “patent troll”. So, Nikon, give us an AFS-G (full-frame) f/1.2 prime and prove me wrong! :-)
Personally? I must admit, I’m actually very happy with my 50mm f/1.8 AFS-G. I don’t really favor the 50mm focal length anyways; I feel like it is great for general shooting but most of the time I wish I had an 85mm or 28mm prime instead. When shooting a wedding (my day job) I’d rather have two cameras with a wide and tele lens on, instead of just one camera and a 50mm. Also, I feel that the whole point of having a prime is for it to be light and small, and f/1.2 primes are simply the opposite of that as you can see with the Canon 50 L and 85 L- both are far more heftier than their smaller f/1.4 and f/1.8 siblings.
But that’s just my personal preference, I enjoy lightweight small primes that don’t break my bank, or my back. I know there are many others out there, so what do you all think? Does Nikon desperately need to enter the realm of full-frame f/1.2 primes? Or is the whole addiction to f/1.2 simply a little overblown? (No pun intended…)
Take care and happy clicking,