First real review of the Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct (part 1)

NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct

The new Nikon Z mount is all about the possibility to design excellent fast lenses of medium and shorter focal lengths. The unique combination of a very small flange distance and very large mount diameter makes it all possible. It was no surprise then, that soon after the first rumors about the Nikon Z system surfaced, a patent of a super-fast 58mm lens was discovered.

Since many years, Nikon-aficionados were dreaming of a true heir to the Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2. The Nikkor 58mm f/1.4 G was in a couple of ways better than the old Noct-Nikkor, but it was not called a Noct-Nikkor by Nikon for a reason. The F mount limited the design too much to make it as revolutionary as the Noct once was when it was introduced in 1977. Designer Haruo Sato did a great job and when he called the 58mm f/1.4 G a three-dimensional hifi-lens he was right. At infinity (where sharpness really matters) the 58mm f/1.4 G is really excellent in the corners, even at larger apertures, but at shorter distances not so much. And a true heir to the original Noct should be about bokeh and sharpness wide open and it should be fast; faster than f/1.2.

Enter of the Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct. It is fast, no doubt. But the million-dollar (ok, eight-thousand-dollar) question) is: will it also be sharp and have a great bokeh? You can buy other f/0.95 lenses like the Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 and even f/0.95-lenses that have a much lower price, but they all have one thing in common: they are very soft wide open and have bad corners and even borders that never get really good. Besides that bokeh is also often not as beautiful as you’d like. Yes, you have a blurry background wide open, but it is not always really pretty. Bokeh is not related to depth of field, after all.

So the first thing we’re going to look at is bokeh and center sharpness. We’ll have a look at border and corner sharpness as well, and present a graph about all that plus micro-contrast in part 2.

I tested the lens in a place with a Z of course, to be precise in the studio of Hans Kreuzekamp in Zwolle, The Netherlands (thanx!). Hans Kreuzekamp was one of the first shops to order one and you can still buy it there, you can be sure you’ll get a good copy 🙂 I used a 58mm f/1.4 G along the Noct, to be able to compare it, especially with regards to bokeh.

Noct at f/0.95, complete image

The image looks contrasty and sharp, but is it really?

Noct at f/0.95 detail
Noct at f/0.95 super detail

Ok, just to give you an idea, I’ll add the same detail from the 58mm f/1.4G:

58mm f/1.4 G at f/1.4 super detail

OK, maybe that’s not fair, then let’s show the result of the 58mm f/1.4G at f/2, because then it’s equal to most 50mms wide open:

58mm f/1.4G at f/2 super detail

To make it even more difficult for the Noct, I looked at bokeh in the corners. All lenses suffer from what we call cat-eye bokeh wide open. What interested me was, how fast it would disappear. So let’s see what happens if we stop down. Sharpness in the center was already excellent, so there we can’t see a difference!

Noct at f/1.2, complete image

At f/1.2, the bokeh balls are already rounded. Only in the extreme corners, they are elliptical, but I’d say very acceptable, even for movies. Let’s compare with the 58mm f/1.4 G at f/1.4:

F Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G at f/1.4

Now the Noct at f/1.4:

Noct f/0.95 at f/1.4

At f/1.4 the bokeh balls are almost perfect. What’s more: the bokeh as such is also softer, not only the bokeh balls but the cards in the background look softer too.

In part 2 I’ll tell you more about the sharpness, especially in the borders and corners, show you a graph and tell you (spoiler alert) that the Noct is sharper than the Canon R 50mm f/1.2 and tell you more about the other qualities of the lens. I’ll also tell you why Nikon used the strange yellow Noct logo, how easy or difficult it is to focus and why the lens actually is a bargain (at least compared to lenses of competitors). CU soon. Oh in case you’re Dutch: the complete tets and more will be published in the next issue of Digifotopro.

PART 2 >