Nikkor 55mm F1.2, Ai version.

This is one of those lenses that you need to find one in good condition. The front section of this lens is "huge" and can be prone to hard knocks ruining alignment of the front element, and killing the performance. This example is near mint, and has never failed to impress me- whether on a Nikon F2AS or on the Nikon Df.

Recently, I took the Df with the 55/1.2 and the Leica M9 with the 7Artisans 50/1.1 up to the Marine Museum at Quantico, VA. I chose the two lenses as they cost about the same these days. The 7Artisans can be bought new for ~$370, and a near-mint 55/1.2 for about the same. The Ai version of the 55/1.2 has a minimum focus distance of 0.5m, and the optical formula was improved over the previous versions. It is the last version of the lens before Nikon brought out the 50/1.2- which is still in production. The latter is a fine lens, with better corner-to-corner sharpness. The 55 F1.2 is sharpest across the central 2/3rds of the image, the T-Stop is slightly faster, and slightly longer focal length is an advantage in some circumstances.

Wide-Open on the Df:

by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr
I wanted to compare ISO performance and Focus ability between the fast-manual lens on the Df, and the new CCD in the Rangefinder focus M9. I limited the Df to ISO selected on my M9 for similar shots, left the 55/1.2 wide-open and used the electronic focus assistance to "get the eyes", then frame. Same as I do on the M9 and M Monochrom. Field curvature can "kill" this technique, and very little was present on the Nikkor. Recomposing to the point where the original focus point was in the extremes was problematic with both lenses, but something that can be compensated for once you know the characteristics of the lens.

by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr
The 55mm focal length is "ever-so-slightly" better for portraits. The F1.2 is a 1/2 stop advantage. Over the center 2/3rds of the image, the 55/1.2 is slightly sharper than the 50/1.4 Nikkor of the day. Both use 52mm filters and hoods. For manual focus: the F1.2 aperture means a brighter and more selective focus. I have the 50/1.2 Ais, 50/1.4 Ais, 50/1.4 AF-Nikkor, and pre-Ai 50/1.4. I end up using the 55/1.2 Ai more often. I also have the much older 5.8cm F1.4- which is lower contrast, not as sharp.

Nikkor 55/1.2, wide-open on the Nikon F2AS. Kodacolor 400.

Come to think of it- this is the camera and lens that I took to the hospital when Nikki was born.

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