Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct Review
The Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens was announced as a concept all the way back in the summer of 2018, during the unveiling of the Nikon Z6 and Z7 full-frame mirrorless cameras.
The 58mm Noct lens is the fastest (widest aperture) lens, the company has ever produced. The “Noct” designation is only used by super-fast lenses, and is said to be a shortening of the word “Nocturne”.
As the Nikon Z mount has an unusually large 55mm inner diameter, coupled with a short 16mm flange focal distance, a lens with an extraordinarily large aperture is made possible - and is a key point of difference between Nikon’s Z mount and Sony’s FE mount, which wouldn’t be able to support such an optic.
At the development announcement, Nikon said that the lens would offer the ultimate in sharpness and would be the flagship lens designed to show off the capabilities of its new system.
It took until October 2019 for the product to be officially ready for launch, with an £8,299 price tag attached to it. For a super-heavy, manual focus only lens, the Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct is obviously destined to be a niche lens, which exists mainly as a proof of concept. It may also do well on the rental market, too.
Other features include ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings on the front of the lens, which are designed to minimise ghosting, flare and light reflections. A fluorine coating is there to repel dust, dirt and moisture.
The lens construction features 17 lens elements in 10 groups, and a filter attachment size of 82mm.
At the time of writing, the Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens is priced at £8299 / $7999.
Ease of Use
The Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens comes with its own Pelicase in the box to house it, which is an indicator both of how heavy and large it is, as well as hinting at the fact that it’s a premium product.
Weighing in at 2kg, this is a lens which will give your muscles a good work out. It is naturally a little unbalanced when using it on the Z7 or the Z6 cameras - you’ll definitely need to use both hands to keep it as steady as possible.
Although in theory it’s possible to use it with the even smaller Z50, it’s not something that’s overly recommended, since the balance would definitely be way off.
Towards the base of the lens, you’ll see the marking 58/0.95 S, which sits just above a white dot. You can use the white dot to help you line up the lens to a matching white dot on the lens mount of your camera.
Twisting it into place will lock it firmly into position - something you’ll definitely want to be careful you have done when working with a lens which costs more than £8000.
Just above the focal length marking, you’ll find the first of the lenses two rings. This is a thin ring which acts as a customisable control dial. You can set this to access either controlling aperture or exposure compensation from the main camera menu.
After this ring, the lens widens out to incorporate the huge amount of glass necessary for such a wide aperture lens. Since the lens is so large, a tripod mount is incorporated into the lens itself - this makes for a much better balance if you want to mount the camera and lens combination on a tripod. You can move the tripod foot around the circumference of the lens, using the white dots printed to line it up into precise positions.
Above the tripod mount, you’ll see that there are two buttons, and a small LED screen. This is a very similar design to the 24-70mm f/2.8 professional-level lens.
The first button is an ‘L-Fn’ button, which can be customised to control different functions, such as depth of field preview, metering, display zooming and more. This button has a raised surface surrounding it, which should make it easy to find it when you’re not looking at the lens, but shooting through the viewfinder.
The second button is a Display button, and is used for altering what appears on the LED screen. You can move between the chosen f stop, or the focusing distance. Note that it widest it can show is f/1, rather than f/0.95, for some reason.
A manual focusing ring makes up the rest of the exterior lens design. This is ridged to help you get a good grip on it, and includes focus distance markers in both feet and metres. It has hard stops at either end to help you know when you’ve reached either the closest focus distance, or infinity focus.
Included in the box is a lined lens hood, which screws onto the front of the lens. It doesn’t add too much to the overall length of the lens, but it can’t be reversed and attached to the lens if you don’t want to use it - you’ll have to take it off and place it somewhere safe if you don’t need it.
As this is manual focus lens, there’s no AF/MF switch. Although working with manual focusing lenses can feel like a bit of a step backwards when you’re so used to autofocus lenses, at least manual focusing with a camera like the Z6 or Z7 is a fairly pleasurable process.
For a start, switching on focus peaking to be displayed either through the viewfinder or on the screen makes it relatively straightforward to tell when you’ve got the subject in satisfactory focus. You can even change the colour of the focus peaking display - for example switching it to blue if your subject is red, and vice versa. The focus point will also change to green, rather than red, when it believes that you have got the focusing spot on.
Overall, it’s a much slower way to work than you might otherwise be used to, but it is also a more considered way to shoot, encouraging you to slow down and take your time.
The biggest complaint however is that with such a heavy build and construction, it takes its toll on your arms and back after a relatively short period of time if working with it handheld.
This is a prime lens which is designed for full-frame cameras. Therefore the 58mm focal length printed on the side is what you get.
You could, in theory, use it with the APS-C Nikon Z 50, or use the Z6 or Z7 in crop mode - in which case, the equivalent focal length would be around 87mm.
The angle of view when used with full-frame is 40°50’, or 27°20’ with APS-C.
Typically characterised as blue or purple fringing along high-contrast edges, chromatic aberration can often be a problem for low-cost or cheap lenses. We certainly wouldn’t expect to have much issue with it when talking about an £8,299 lens.
Happily, it’s been very, very difficult to find any examples of chromatic aberration, even when examining closely at 100%.
As we’d expect to see from a lens offering such a wide aperture, there is some noticeable light drop off in the corners, particularly when shooting a subject such as white wall.
The effect is less obvious when shooting normal subjects, though there is some benefit to dialling in some exposure compensation when wishing to shoot at the maximum f/0.95 aperture.
Either way, the effect is lessened when shooting at f/1, even more so at f/1.2, and has more or less disappeared completely by the time you reach the still very wide f/1.8.
As we’d expect from a lens of this focal length, this is very little distortion of any kind. You might see some, naturally, if you shoot very close to the subject, but otherwise at normal distances, the effect is very natural.
This lens is not a dedicated macro lens, but you might find it useful for typical macro type subjects, such as leaves or flowers. The minimum focusing distance is 0.5m (1.64ft).
With a maximum aperture of an incredibly wide f/0.95, along with a high-quality lens construction, we’d expect the quality of bokeh to be fantastic from the Nikon Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Lens. Happily, it does not disappoint.
Bokeh is usually described in qualitative terms, such as creamy, smooth or rounded. Those words can all be applied here, with a great natural fall-off in sharpness between the subject and background too.
Since the quality of bokeh can be a very subjective thing, we’ve included some examples below so you can judge for yourself.
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.