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Superior Indoor Sports Photography: the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4

12 April 2009 29,471 views 2 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

AF-S 50mm f/1.4G

I’ve previously written about the limitations of the Nikon D60: the comparatively poor ISO performance, the limited lens compatibility, and the slow flash-shutter sync.  After my first few months with the camera passed, I realized the camera’s limitations; and I became fairly frustrated with my choice.  Fortunately, I made a decision that rectified my error: I purchased the AF-S Nikk0r 50mm f/1.4G.

The AF-S 50mm f/1.4 allows you to freeze the moment.

What I learned from my trials is that it is not the quality of the camera that creates a magnificent picture, it is the skill of the photographer combined with the lens that he uses.  With the AF-S 50mm f/1.4G I am able to take stunning portraits, low-light street shots, and exciting indoor sports action shots. Any dissatisfaction that I find with my pictures while using this lens is my fault, and it is not the fault of a poorly designed camera or lens.

The power of this lens rests in its gigantic aperature. So much light will hit the sensor of your camera, that the distinctions between 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO cameras begins to disappear.

The AF-S 50mm f/1.4 is the perfect lens for indoor basketball.The lens’s large aperture also allows for the generation of pleasing bokeh (the blurry background of a potrait) around human and animal subjects.  You can easily create a stark contrast between the subject and background when operating this lens in dynamic area and single area focus mode.  It is possible to get these types of shots with a kit lens, but a shot will be achieved with trial-and-error.  A properly configured Nikon DSLR equipped with an AF-S 50mm f/1.4 will instantaneously and reliably takes beautiful bokeh shots.The final positive aspect of this lens is that it works great with Nikon’s smaller, entry-level DSLRs such as the D60, D40x, and D40. In order to save size and cost, an internal focus motor was not included in these cameras.  Since the 50mm f/1.4 has the AF-S specification, it is equipped with an in-lens silent wave motor.  The lens operates more quietly and more quickly than the old AF versions of this lens that rely on the internal motor.

One serious limitation of this lens is that it has no zoom.  I knew this when I purchased it, but when I loan this lens to students it frequently disappoints them. Lack of zoom also means that this lens is not good for distance shots and it probably is not what you need for outdoor action shots. On the other hand, indoor shots in environments that allow you to get close to the subject can be amazing.

There is also a high possibility that casual photographers that use this lens will produce worse pictures than they might with a kit lens.  If you don’t carefully correlate the ISO level with the available light or properly adjust the aperture, your pictures will appear fuzzy or overexposed.  There is also a high likelyhood that you will accidentally focus on the wrong object.  The object that someone is holding may be in focus, but the subject’s face may be blurry. The 50mm f/1.4 is not for someone who wants to point-and-shoot, but rather people that want to constantly tweak their cameras and their photography skills.

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  • Large Format Photography | Large Format Cameras said:

    […] Cullen Hartley » Blog Archive » Superior Indoor Sports Photography … […]

  • Keith said:

    I agree 100% this lens is not for someone who wants to point and click. The Nifty 50 as I call it, challenges the photographer to work on their skills every time its in use. Tweeking aperture,and shutter speeds is really important for making the most out of this lens. This lens is amazing for low light portraits as well as indoor controlled sports.

    I know it sounds corny but “your only limitation is your imagination”. It will do everything you need it to do. despite its hefty $500.00 price tag it is well worth every penny. You will know that when others see its results and request portraits because of the beauty it creates. It will give 100% professinal performance even with the most basic entry level dslr.

    I recomend this lens as well.

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