Review of Nikkor 28mm f1.4 AF

Don Ferrario kindly lent me his 28mm f1.4 Nikkor, and here is what I found using B&W film (results at the far edges and corners can be different with color film with wide angle lenses), using my standard lens comparison tests (using mostly infinity subjects). I compared the f1.4 with the excellent Nikkor AIS MF f2.8 and Nikkor 28mm f4 PC lenses:

---->  This sample showed some optical misalignment (visible in F3 and 8008 finders, and on film mostly around f2.8-4 where softness at the widest stops and 
DOF at the smaller stops didn't partially cover it). Misalignment (irregular variation in focus around the frame), BTW, is not uncommon in zooms and fast non-zooms with "floating elements" - and it is not unknown even 
in lenses of simple design (one should not assume that 
a new lens is without defects...).
---->  At f1.4 and f2 the image quality was surprisingly high (not perfect, and a bit soft in the corners and 
with illumination loss toward the corners at f1.4 - but better than the 35mm f1.4 Nikkor and about equal at f1.4 to a good-sample 35mm f2 AIS Nikkor at f2, which is good at f2).
---->  At f2.8, it was better in the corners and a bit better at the edges than a 28mm f2.8 AIS Nikkor (which 
is very good wide open), but slightly worse over much 
of the frame. (Edges were about the same in the two lenses with the f2.8 at f4.)
---->  At f4-5.6, it was quite good over the entire 
frame, but by f5.6 the f2.8 and f4 PC Nikkors were 
slightly better over most of the frame.
---->  At f8-11, the 28mm f4 PC was better over most 
of the frame, with about equal (very good) corners; the far corners of the f2.8 were inferior, but the rest of the frame of the f2.8 was equal or better than the 
f1.4 at f8-11.
---->  At f16 diffraction was the great equalizer, and all the lenses were nearly the same in performance.

In addition, I shot a roll of color slide film with all three 28mm lenses used above, plus the 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 Nikkor zoom (all at f5.6 and f11, with very slight bracketing used to match slide densities) using the 
same distant subject material on a hazy-bright day. All showed similar color balance, but surprisingly, the 28mm 
f4 PC and 28-70mm zoom showed slightly better contrast and brilliance than the f1.4 and f2.8 28mm Nikkor 

Conclusions: The 28mm f1.4 is remarkably even in performance (for both good and bad...) from about f2.8 
to f16, and quite useable at the widest two stops (showing only a bit of softness at the edges and corners wide open. It is not quite as good at optimum stops as the best of the alternatives. Since a 28mm lens can be 
hand-held at relatively long shutter speeds, this lens 
is effectively VERY FAST! It can also be used for unique limited-DOF wide angle photos, since it is so good at wide stops. I did not check AF, since I found it useless at the time of writing this review; MF, in common with other faster-than-f2 lenses, is not as easy as one might expect (VF optics better match f2-2.8 lenses in cameras with good MF VF optics - AF camera VF optics are often matched to slow zooms, making them nearly useless for MF with fast lenses...). Strengths of this f1.4 28mm: good center-to-corner sharpness uniformity; good wide-aperture performance; good performance at all focus distances; speed. Weaknesses: size/weight/price; slightly inferior performance over most of the frame (sharpness and "snap") compared with the best slower Nikkor 28mm lenses. It is 
a good "speed" wide-angle lens.

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