An Amazing Nikon Lens Let Down by an Inferior Autofocus System? A Review of the New Nikon 50mm f/1.2

Released late last year, the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 S is a stunning lens and welcome addition to the options available for the Z mount. However sharp and fast it might be, is it let down by an autofocus system that simply doesn’t compare to those of Canon and Sony?

Jared Polin takes the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S lens out into the real world to see how it performs on a shoot. Slightly larger and heavier than its Sony and Canon counterparts, this is evidently an impressive lens with stunning sharpness and color rendition. However, with such a shallow depth of field when shooting wide open, you will be heavily reliant on the autofocus performance of the camera that you are using and this is where Polin encountered some difficulties: despite shooting on the Nikon Z 7II, he couldn’t rely on face- and eye-tracking to nail focus.

While still behind its competitors, Nikon has made significant progress with the autofocus systems in its mirrorless cameras and you would imagine that further improvements will come via firmware upgrades in the near future, especially when you consider that the Z 9 is expected to launch in November or December this year. As Nikon's flagship full frame mirrorless camera, autofocus performance will have to be spot on.

Do you struggle with your Z camera’s autofocus? Are you waiting for improvements before upgrading from your Nikon DSLR? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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17 Comments

Ryan Cooper's picture

Its wild to think that like 5 years ago, this autofocus system would have been considered incredible and almost unimaginably good but tech has progressed so fast that it is considered unacceptably poor.

Meanwhile, I am still here shooting on a D750 and can only dream of AF so good. ;)

Stuart C's picture

AF is as good as the person behind the camera is what ive largely found, not from my own work or skill (lack of), but from seeing amazing shots taken using cameras with supposedly crap AF.

I belong to a gang of people with cameras that can't AF (Fuji), and are useless for sports, action etc... yet I see world class sports and action images being produced by people who know what they are doing.

The problem with photography, its far to easy too just point at the camera and say, that's the reason my photos are shite.

Matt Edwards's picture

Yep, I shoot with a Sony who I would argue is at the top regarding autofocus and with wildlife photography I still find myself switching to manual focus frequently. At some point the photographer needs to put a little work in to make the shot

Stuart C's picture

“Put a little work in”

Sadly a trait that is lacking with many these days.

Creative Freedom's picture

Nikon's autofocus system is their Achilles heel. They have amazing glass and unfortunately the crap AF ruins the user experience. Sure you can make it work , and for some it's fine, but we're really getting shortchanged when you compare it to the Canon and Sony AF system. Innovations in mirrorless camera systems is going to be less HW related and more SW e.g. perception algorithms and AI. This is not Nikon's strong suit and they don't have the size of development teams that Canon and Sony has.

Corneliu Jercan's picture

LMFAO did you really write a trashcan article based on some YouTuber's "review" of this lens?

Hans J. Nielsen's picture

Not a review whatsoever. Just a 30min Fro rant about a focusing system he does not know how works.
You really want your site to be associated with shit like that?

Ryan Troy answer to Fros' video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNyljTao_cQ

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Troy's video response is a typical hurt fanboy rant. And, as per typical fanboy, he assumes the reviewer is in cahoots with other brands just because his brand receives an unfavorable review.

In terms of AF, Jared explains why he switched AF modes. See timestamp 16:04.

Steve Horne's picture

Most people who rant about Nikon's autofocus have not taken the time to actually learn how to properly use it.

Steve Williams's picture

This has to be the case. My Z6 II has been my most accurate camera and I’ve been shooting professionally with Nikon close to 2 decades. These people are looking for fame, views and free camera equipment.

Robert Hoernig's picture

I do not agree. Switched from Nikon DSLR (D810) to Sony (a7 R III) and back to Nikon (Z7II).
Both, the Sony and the Z7II are great cameras and the difference in the AF is there, but not as big as many claim.
Therefore the Nikon has other advantages, that made me switch back. It’s a matter of personal preferences but in the end the Z7II is an absolutely capable tool (too).

Robert Teague's picture

I don't trust Jared's reviews.

Keith Jones's picture

heh "reviews"

Tomash Masojc's picture

AF is fine :) i never use eye af, because my models moves, turns back, puts hairs on the face and so on. I just use tracking box, if i want to truck, or just point af, there is no problem :)

Tetsuo Sabin's picture

Autofocus with the Z7ii and 50mm 1.2 has been fine for what I shoot, including some human or animal eye af. I also like the option to shoot wide open at ISO 31 on a sunny day without over exposing. Jared is very click baity if you can’t tell. There’s a big exaggeration of AF inaccuracy or maybe it’s just his use cases and approach?

Tetsuo Sabin's picture

Hyperbole for the views and likes. I’d like to see direct comparison between the camera systems. Take x # of shots and compare. It’s very hard to get a sense of how different they are. He posted a ton of sharp shots. 1 shot he said “I can’t tell if it’s in focus on eye exactly or not”. Um lol ok.

Also, he uses Dynamic AF instead of full frame AF-C and pressing ok button or mapping a button to the lens fn, camera fn1, fn2, af-on, movie button, etc. He doesn’t know how to use all the different AF options. He doesn’t even talk about AFC or AFS full frame subject tracking or try, probably he doesn’t know it’s there and that’s why he went for dynamic AF expecting it to track like subject tracking.