Nikon Says Its 58mm f/0.95 Lens Would Have Been 'Beyond Imagination' If It Had Included Autofocus as Originally Planned

Nikon Says Its 58mm f/0.95 Lens Would Have Been 'Beyond Imagination' If It Had Included Autofocus as Originally Planned

If you thought that Nikon’s 58mm f/0.95 Noct lens was ludicrously huge, heavy and expensive, consider that the original plan was for it to include autofocus, a design that would have made the lens outlandishly enormous.

In a curious interview with Japanese website Xitek, some of Nikon’s senior engineers explain that the original idea for the lens was for it to include autofocus, but plans changed when it was realized that the system would be very slow and, given the optical construction, the resulting size of the lens would be “far beyond imagination.”

The lens, which is continuing to prove difficult to buy, weighs 4.4 lb (2 kg) and is 6 inches (15.3 cm) long. As standard primes go, this is very large.

The changes to flange distance and throat diameter have opened up new avenues for lens designers. While Canon opted to produce some exceptionally sharp, incredibly fast glass — such as the 50mm f/1.2 and the 85mm f/1.2 — Nikon chose to create a museum piece that has truly remarkable optics but almost zero practical use, especially when you consider that it costs $8,000, assuming you can find one in stock.

Somewhat ironically, Leica owners, a breed of photographer accustomed to paying outlandish amounts of money for lenses, will soon be able to buy an M-mount 50mm f/0.95 lens for one-tenth of the price of the Nikon Noct. The TTartisan 50mm f/0.95 is available for pre-order for a mere $755.

Should Nikon have opted for more feasible f/1.2 glass rather than creating a unicorn? Or should the Japanese manufacturer simply gone the whole hog and produced an enormous autofocus f/0.95 lens that came complete with wheels and a hoist? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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23 Comments

John Sammonds's picture

Why is Nikon taking this route, Its costing millions to develop and is of no real use in the general photographic world and that is where the bulk of Nikon's income comes from. A nifty fifty lens is probably the most purchased lens and never used.

Same reason Hyundai made the i20 WRC - mostly because they can, I guess.

Ryan Cooper's picture

It is a product built to grab headlines. I'm sure Nikon has no intention for this to be a lucrative lens from a purely sales point of view but people will be talking about this beast for years. It builds brand recognition, respect, and awe. It is the same reason Ford Makes the GT or Apple makes a $1,000 monitor stand. They know almost no one will buy these products other than a small number of enthusiasts who have far too much money but the existence of these products will pay marketing dividends for years to come.

You also will find that even though this sort of product is ridiculous, the R&D that goes into it will trickle down to other products. It is a learning opportunity.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Another point many are not understanding : that lens made them think and rethink what is possible and what is not possible as a lens design.

Thinking that marvelous piece of glass was a useless stunt, they are just short sighted and only seeing their own and personnal POV that never really cared about nor needed that lens. Period.

That lens exist, Nikon now know what they can do, what they cannot do, they learned many things in design that will fuel theirs brains for next lenses design, and that special lens looks like a remarkable halo lens that no other manufacturer dared to release.

Crying loudly of its price and this "useless" lens is just in fact a huge proof that many in fact really interested in it, but as it is too costly for them, they must find a good reason not owning one, was it its price, its size, its weight or no autofocus.

Nick Bentley's picture

Yeah I agree with you some times you have to let your engineers have some fun !! They will have learnt a lot from it. Meanwhile they have some amazing f1.8 z mount primes. I love that people just repeat what they hear from online reviews! “It only has one card slot” “your not a pro if your useing f1.8 glass” it’s a load of rubbish put out by people who have never had to design and manufacture an item in there life. This is not easy to do Nikon take there time but produce quality and there’s something to be said for that !

Stuart Carver's picture

Normally people who don’t own cameras or bother using the one they do own are the ones spouting that rubbish.

I wouldn't include the card slot complaint in that. A lot of wedding photogs (if not pros in general) won't touch a camera that doesn't have dual slots.

Stuart Carver's picture

And I understand why they would want them, but it’s not those photographers that cause the issues. It’s all the Amateurs taking the millionth photo of a tree in some lake that claim they need them in case the card fails and loses their image... those people need a reality check.

Completely agree. As someone mostly doing hobby and some real estate here and there, I really can't justify it despite the number of times I've tried to talk myself into upgrading to an A7R3 from a 2 "because dual card slots" lol

Stuart Carver's picture

See these card failures, I’d love to know how much of it is down to bad practise, not ejecting cards from your PC before taking out, not regularly formatting, not removing shots after each shoot to a backup, buying cheapo cards.

As soon as I get in from taking shots I move them to my storage then format the card, on holiday I take a my passport pro with us and just back up straight to that each day so it stays in the room.

P Davis's picture

Wasn't film considered single slot?

"Leica owners, a breed of photographer" you are hilarious man :D . You are right, we can say they are a breed :)

They built this thing as a "halo" product to garner praise and media attention; however, I think it backfired. I've seen nothing but negative press about it -- and, even if you do want to build a halo product, do it at a time when your lens lineup isn't significantly lacking....It's existence just makes the lack of Z-mount lens staples more glaring...

Nikon's engineers are great; but their business and marketing people have got to be some of the worst

Mark Harris's picture

I guess that's why they've only managed to keep the business running for just over a century.

their net worth vs the other brands is lower, if not the lowest .hopefully they hold in this hell but who knows.

You remind me of the people who believed Kodak was infallible

Pointless, dumb piece of junk.

Nearly four and a half pounds, designed for a body weighing less than a third of that . . . impossible to balance and hand hold properly. But wait!!! It has a tripod mount!!!!

Whooppee shit.

Generally, the purpose of super hi-speed lenses is to shoot un-encumbered in low light levels. Most likely not at all possible with this cumbersome behemoth . . . but you can always tack it onto a tripod????

So what is the point? None at all.

A pointless, dumb piece of junk . . .

Nicolas Thulliez's picture

I wish I could test this lens for deep sky astrophotography; on a motorized mount, this would be a killer lens... It's making me wish I could afford it...

Robert Huerbsch's picture

Depends how the corners handle coma. The Canon 85 f/1.2 for example has really bad coma.

Nicolas Thulliez's picture

I found 3 images on flickr (2 of thme posted by nikon and the last by a regular user) :

https://flic.kr/p/2htjW5M

https://flic.kr/p/2huSe61

https://flic.kr/p/2iL2cRs

at 0.95, there is some coma, less than my nikkor AFS 50mm 1.8 though...

at 2.8, it looks like it's gone..

Will anyone use this other than cinematographers and a handful of commercial studio photographers? In any case, what's done is done, so they really should be doing some, you know, marketing, and showing what it's made of.

Also, to be fair, the picture f-stoppers has is a bit misleading. It's actually about the length of the 24-70 f2.8E for DSLR and the same filter thread, and just a bit fatter around, though obviously a lot heavier and with that chunky tripod collar. Not something you'd routinely carry, but not a 200mm f/2 kind of behemoth.

Michael Laing's picture

Wow, this article reeks of negativity. Yes, the TTartisan 50mm f/0.95 is much cheaper but it isn't in the same league optically. Yes, Canon have lots of f/1.2 primes and f/2 zoom but they where are the f/1.8 primes? Nikon and Canon have gone down different routes, Nikon will bring out f/1.2 primes and Canon will bring out f/1.8 prime. The 58mm f/0.95 was designed to show what the system can do and at that it has succeeded,

It was never intended to be a mass market lens to begin with and all the grumpy photographers who keep moaning about it, will never touch it. Those who will use the lens, know who they are and will probably rent it.

In this day and age it is good that companies are still experimenting and trying new things, otherwise, we get the same thing all the time.