Nikon F and autofocus optics with F / 1.2

A brief note on the possibility / impossibility of producing autofocus lenses for a mirror mount Nikon f with aperture F / 1.2.


Optical design of a modern manual lens Nikon Nikkor

There is a legend on the net that Nikon did not release autofocus lenses with a maximum aperture ratio of 1: 1.2 due to the small size of the Nikon F mirror mount. For example, it is believed that one of the problems in creating lenses with focal lengths of 50/55/58 / 85 with a maximum aperture of F / 1.2 (relative aperture 1: 1.2) for the Nikon F mirror system is the problem of the location of the contact pad for the microprocessor.

In fact, this is not a difficult task, you just need to look at the extreme Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic (September 1989) in which the platform with microprocessor contacts practically hangs in the air behind the rear lens group.

Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic

Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic

A good example, which shows that it is not the microprocessor contacts, is the fact that for the original manual lens Nikon 50mm 1: 1.2 Nikkor (AI-S, since 1981) craftsmen easily embed Lushnikov dandelion (it is also a chip with microprocessor contacts).

Another problem is the difficulty of installing an autofocus system in such very fast lenses. But for this there are several solutions. The simplest thing is to do internal focusing (exactly internal, and not using the rear lens group). In this case, the lens will outwardly resemble the same Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic, which has a thickening of the body from the mount towards the front lens.

Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic

More “thin” lens barrel on the bayonet side

The focus motor in this case is placed on the middle groups of lenses. A similar problem was encountered during the creation of the monster Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm 1: 1.4E ED N (Nano Crystal Coat SWM ED IF). True, they acted even easier there - instead of a big ring SWM focusing motor in the lens installed a microscopic ordinary compact ring motor focusing.

motor size

“Plump” large ring focus motor and small compact focus motor

For such a decision, Nikon has been criticized more than once.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm 1: 1.4E ED N

Focus motor on Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm 1: 1.4E ED N lens

The problem with installing the focus motor was repeated in the lens Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm 1: 0.95 S Noct (2019, for mirrorless mount Nikon Z). But in this case, they still abandoned auto focus in favor of reducing the size of the lens.

Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm 1: 0.95 S Noct

Lens Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm 1: 0.95 S Noct, which again “couldn't” and was left without a focus motor. At the same time, the lens Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic, with almost the same aperture and focal length, and even under the mirror mount, it can focus automatically since 1986.

In the articles "1000 and 1 night Nikkor”I came across the opinion of Nikon engineers that the creation of autofocus optics with F / 1.2 for the Nikon F mirror mount is technically possible, but Nikon does not make them for commercial reasons. Those developments that were being prepared are not economically beneficial for the system.

A good example of this is the fact that Canon has discontinued its legendary Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic and replaced it with a less fast Canon Lens RF 50mm F1.2 L USM. Roughly the same applies to the Canon Lens EF 85mm 1:1.2 L II USM (March 2006) and its upgrade/replacement to the Canon LENS EF 85mm 1:1.4 L IS USM (November 2017), where the transition to less fast optics is again noticeable.

To close the issue with the size of the Nikon F mount, I want to remind you that all other manufacturers of SLR cameras, except for Canon, which have a mount size larger than the Nikon F, have not released a single autofocus lens with F / 1.2 in the same way. And again - it was not the size of the mount, but the expediency of such optics.

SMC PENTAX-A 1: 1.2 50mm

SMC PENTAX-A 1:1.2 50mm, 1984, never received an autofocus version


Autofocus lenses for Nikon F SLR cameras (and for Pentax K, Konica Minolta A, Sony A, Sigma SA, Contax N, 4/3 reflex system) with F / 1.2 aperture can be made. There are no fundamental physical prohibitions for this, and the technical component is quite realizable. The lenses themselves have not been made and will not be made due to economic factors. The size of the Nikon F mount (and other autofocus reflex systems) only plays the role of an aggravating factor.

The situation has changed with the advent of mirrorless mount Nikon Z, where a new round of high-performance optics and strong competition with the system Sony E и Canon RF still forced Nikon to release class lenses 50/1.2 и 85/1.2 with auto focus support.

On the topic, also take a look at the sections:

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Comments: 26, on the topic: Nikon F and autofocus optics with F / 1.2

  • Basil

    Yes. Nikon Ef was blown clean. Sonya will probably finish him off.

    • wj

      Why would Sonya finish off Nikon? The second financially feels excellent and is quite competitive, and in a number of models it even outperforms Sony counterparts.

    • Hair dryer

      As soon as the new generation of Nikon and Z8 comes out, as well as third-party optics go to the masses, they will slowly begin to forget about Sony.

      • i is glorious

        As soon as the Z8 comes out and one hundred to one hundred and fifty autofocus lenses for Z, then right away.

  • i is glorious

    “... just look at the extreme Canon EF Lens 50mm 1: 1.0 L Ultrasonic (September 1989) in which the platform with microprocessor contacts practically hangs in the air behind the rear lens group.”

    As if it does not affect the picture ... True, on DSLRs, the shaft and the mirror have a stronger effect, cutting off the glare in the blur zone from above and below, but on mirrorless cameras at the EF 50/1 L this area can be seen.

  • i is glorious

    The real question is expediency. And I think the diameter of the mount also affects.
    There are detailed comparisons of Sigma 35 / 1,2 and Sony 35 / 1,4. In the open, these lenses differ in the strength of blur only in the center, and are the same at the edges - “optical vignetting” affects, glare is cut off. At the same time, the creators of Sigma did not save on glass: the lens is much heavier than its counterparts with aperture ratio of 1,4 (up to two times), which means that optical vignetting is caused by other limitations. For example, the bayonet design.

    Another interesting point: for the APS-c lens Laowa 33 / 0,95 (this is a mirrorless fix for Sony E) on the A6600 cameras, the bayonet shaft affects the shape of the flare, see the test at

    In short: making a lens that has an image brightness in the center of F / 1,2 and lighter is not a problem. The problem is to ensure that the lens blurs the blur zone at the edges with the same force as in the center. For lenses with F / 1,4, the problem is not so acute, but for individual F / 1,8 it is not at all.

    • Rodion

      Yes, you are right. Geometric vignetting also serves as a way to sharpen the edges of a frame by cropping “extra” off-axis rays; besides the fact that it reduces the size of the lens. The size of the bayonet and the shaft of the lens matrix fundamentally limits the possibility of creating ultra-fast lenses with minimal vignetting. And in fact, with fast optics, the matrix shaft often spoils the bokeh. An example is not only the mentioned 50 / 1.0 EF, but also the Zenitar-S 50 / 1.2s, the rear lens of which is too large for the crop camera matrix shaft. Also, the shaft sometimes leads to strong vignetting: the TVNE-4 50 / 1.2 lens gives black corners in the photo, for the most part due to cropping the lens area by the camera matrix shaft.

  • Molchanov Yuri

    What an interesting article! I never thought about the technical side of the issue, why they don't make f0.95 or f1.0. I thought that there was no demand ... Thanks to Arkady, it turns out there are technical problems.
    But as for me, the plot where there is not enough blur at f1.4 still needs to be looked for. After all, you always want something in the background to be guessed. I usually use f2.2 on my Sigma 50 and 85 (f1.4).
    Apparently I'm not the only one, since the demand for super fast optics is low. Otherwise, they would still make such lenses.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Lenses with F / 1.2 were made earlier not for the sake of blur, but for a bright image in JVI, as well as for short shutter speeds, since ISO 400 was already a luxury in the days of film.
      F / 1.2 instead of F / 1.4 made it possible to shoot already at 1/125 instead of 1/80, etc.

  • Dmitry Kostin

    Thanks, interesting.
    Once upon a time I wanted to buy a manual Nikon 50 / 1.2 for myself, but somehow they didn’t go into my hands for various reasons. So I let go of this idea.

    • Dmitry Kostin

      The comments were also interesting to read.
      Thank you!

    • Aleksey68

      it was necessary to take nikkor nokton 58 1.2 :)

      • Dmitry Kostin

        I looked at different options at a flea market, but often I came across heavily worn specimens, with scratches on the glass and with a fungus (for some reason, Nikkors with aperture ratio of 1.2 often get sick with them).
        And the price of good specimens sometimes exceeds the Zeiss Planar T * 1.4 / 50.
        In general, not fate yet.

        • Arkady Shapoval

          Nikon 50 / 1.2 AIS was produced until 2009, they are almost new, on average $ 500

          • Aleksey68

            I'm talking about Nokton. it costs a lot more, but the worker is open, because the front lens is aspherical (polished by the hands of virgins in the shade of cherry blossoms under a full moon).

            • Arkady Shapoval

              as a whole, it was made primarily to combat coma in the corners, I would not say that it is significantly better in the center than the same 50 / 1,2 ais

              • Aleksey68

                I shot it a couple of times - it is really sharp in the center even on 40+ megapixel cameras. All the rest with aperture 1.2 are much softer. But I haven't decided to buy it myself yet, it's a little expensive.

            • B. R. P.

              In the 90s, it also cost bless you, now even more.

          • Dmitry Kostin

            I saw new ones a long time ago, although I may not have looked there.
            But the problematic 50 / 1.2 and 55 / 1.2 periodically lie at flea markets.
            For some reason, there are scratches on the lenses and fungus.

            • Arkady Shapoval

              it’s more likely to 55 / 1.2, personally I have never seen the same nikon 50 / 1.2 ais with a fungus, this is a relatively new solution

      • Dmitry Kostin

        I looked at Avito.
        Lies for 300.000 rubles in Leica Moscow and another one for 220 thousand :)
        As they say - no thanks :)
        Perhaps this is for sophisticated connoisseurs of beauty and wealthy collectors.

  • B. R. P.

    When they began to develop and manufacture super-aperture lenses (manual, then af), of course, no one thought about bokeh. The films were low-speed, shutter speeds at first, discrete, and a diaphragm maneuver was needed to obtain a normal exposure. With modern ISO and processing capabilities, such aperture loses its relevance, of course.

    • Aleksey68

      when Nikon released 50 1.4, photographers began to complain about too much softness-blur in the open, caused by large spherical aberrations, but Nikon replied that it was not intended for shooting in the open. such a bright lens was needed for a bright picture in the viewfinder when focusing, and the shooting had to be covered. this can be read in various historical documents of Nikon.

      • Arkady Shapoval

        yes, that's how it was

  • i is glorious

    Another question concerns the expediency of such aperture ratio for lenses with a focal length of 85mm and longer. A popular A-mount portrait lens, the Sony 85mm f/2,8, has an aperture of 2,8 (yes, I'm the captain of the obvious!). You can remember the same Yu-37 with its 135mm and f / 3,5 or Minolta 70-210 / 4 - it was a “portrait” zoom. Yes, and my experience says that the most popular apertures are in the region of 2,0..4,0. To require /1,2..1,4, you need the following set of circumstances:
    – A scene with a close background that does not play into the composition.
    – Growth shooting distance with a landscape arrangement of the frame.
    - A flat model, in which nothing will protrude beyond the sharpness zone.
    – Pathological unwillingness to crop tightly.

    Well, or the night that knocks on the window with an apple.

    • Viktre

      And what about a bunch of at least (or even more) popular 85/1.4, 85/1.2, 135/2, 100/2, 85/1.8, 105/1.4, 135/1.8… you get tired of listing. 200/1.8 finally.

      And that's not counting the manuals.

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