Before I start, let me just say that this is more of an opinion piece than anything else. I haven’t had any time with the Nikkor 58mm f/1.4 G yet, and in all honesty, I had no idea that this one was actually going to make it to the market. It wasn’t because I lacked confidence in the focal length, it was because I worried of how it would be received. Unfortunately, reading the opinions that many have lobbed its way has only proven my concerns.
So many photographers have been quick to criticize not only this lens, but Nikon’s strategy in general. Their opinions being founded internally based not off what photography as a market wants, but rather what they want. I can sympathize with them as I also have gone through this in the journey to becoming a professional photographer. Being quick to read what others may tell you about a lens, often leaving that to block what the lens itself should say to our art. Let me say this, being overly critical of gear before trying it out first hand will become a handicap upon a career. It will stunt the growth and depth of your repertoire all because of the inability to experience a piece of gear before passing judgement.
One such circumstance that nearly cost me my approach to an image was when the Nikon D3 was about to be released. At the time I was a fierce critic of anything Nikon and a loyal Canon shooter. To me, Canon could do no wrong and Nikon was the dark side. I made fun of the D3 for its lack of resolution and thought it was insane that anyone would spend money on a 12 megapixel camera. When it came to bashing on a camera I had never tried, I bought the hype….
Had I not tried the D3, I would NOT be where I am today.
A new piece of gear like the D3, the 58mm or any other photo item represent the metaphoric brush to the artist. It is the device through which we will convey expression, emotion and capture greatness. I have seen great photographers with cheap cameras and lenses make incredible imagery and I have seen guys with expensive gear make junk. The relationship between you and your gear is evident in your work. The idea that a lens is bad before ever giving it a shot is the inability to push one’s own photographic boundaries.
With that said, let’s chat about the 58 f/1.4 G…
Right away I see this lens and think journalism. The imagery of some of the great street photographers comes to mind. The focal length would also suggest this and so would the aperture. Some will say that the 1.4 is a limitation, however after shooting the Canon 50mm f/1.2 for a long time, I found that I had to play around f/2 to make sure that the focus was hit and that the lens was sharp. At the end of the day, ISO has made max aperture less relevant to low light photography.
The next argument that has reigned prevalent is the focal length of 58mm. All to many have had issue that it is not 50mm, however this argument presupposes that Nikon is replacing their 50mm with this lens, which they are not. I believe this lens is meant to fit the range between 50 and 85 rather than replace either lens.
This brings us to the last issue that I have seen harsh remarks over…. the price. I don’t think this is a lens that is really shifting the paradigm of pricing, rather the opinions seem to hope to shift the price. Comparison to the price of the 50mm is just not fair. A quick viewing of the lens itself will show that it is not even on the same chassis. This lens is more properly compared to the Nikkor 85 f/1.4 G. In doing so it aligns perfectly to a prime set that is above the grade of the 50mm and therefor demands top dollar.
This all brings me back to my original thesis of this blog… what gear works for you. There will be many photographers out there that the new 58mm doesn’t work for, and that is completely fine, for it keeps our eyes different and our styles distinct. However, for those that try this lens and find it to compliment or develop their imagery, the price is nothing to the return it will bring. In the end, we don’t have to love every lens or camera out there, we need only love our own. However, respect and openness towards gear that we have yet to use will equal opportunity that your art has yet to realize, while distain for that gear will always amount to nothing.