The Nikon 1 System Nikkor 32 1.2 Lens Review
One of my favorite cameras now has the capability to mount a superfast 85mm equivalent lens that has been much needed since the launch of the camera system. The Nikon 32 1.2 lens for the Nikon 1 System is here and when taking it out to mount it to my V1, it appears to be a masterpiece of design and build quality. After taking a few snaps, it is obvious that this lens is serious about optical performance as well.
Nikon’s own blurb:
“A legendary lens in the making.
One of the most celebrated lenses in NIKKOR’s 80-year heritage is the 85mm f/1.4, often praised as the ultimate portrait lens. Now that same medium telephoto angle of view and outstanding performance is available for your Nikon 1 system—with an even faster f/1.2 maximum aperture. The 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 (86mm equivalent on Nikon 1’s CX format) combines exceptional optics with lens technologies usually reserved for D-SLR lenses, like Nano Crystal Coat for preventing lens flare (even in direct light) and the innovative Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for ultra-fast, ultra-quiet autofocusing. The 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 even includes a manual focus ring—another first for a 1 NIKKOR lens. Whether you’re shooting portraits, travel, landscapes or HD videos, the 1 NIKKOR 32mm f/1.2 brings exciting new capabilities to your Nikon 1 system.”
A 32 1.2 Lens for $896? Deal or Rip Off?
Coming in at $896 for a 1 system 32 1.2 CX lens sounds expensive on one end of the spectrum because many will be mounting this lens to a Nikon V1 that they paid $300 for or a V2 that they paid $700 for. Most other Nikon 1 lenses are on the lower end of the cost scale coming in between $190 to $500. The highly regarded 18.5 1.8 is less than $200 but weighs as much as a feather (not really, but it is LIGHT). The 10mm 2.8 can be had for $200 and the 30-110 zoom is $250 or so. So seeing a lens for this system come in at $896 is sort of nuts when you look at it in this light. Why is this one so expensive while the others are on the lower end of the price scale?
This was snapped out of my windshield as I was driving into Sedona, AZ with the Nikon V1 and 32 1.2 lens. Click it for larger!
I can answer that question for you. This is a 32mm lens, but let us just say it is 35mm for the sake of discussion. A 35mm lens is more expensive to make than an 85mm lens or a 45mm lens. Especially when premium glass is used with Nano coatings. Being a 35mm lens with premium build, nano coating, silent wave motor and a manual focus ring means that it will of course be more expensive than the other Nikon 1 lens offerings, not just because of these pro features but because those other lenses are not in the same league where build, feel, and even IQ are concerned. I have not even mentioned that yes, this is indeed a 1.2 aperture lens any ay you look at it.
You will indeed get the light gathering of a 1.2 aperture lens, and speed costs money in the camera lens world. For Nikon 1 users this is a huge bonus as we want a lens that will give us low light ability and some shallow DOF as well. We may not get the same DOF as we would on a full frame camera but it will be about the same as the Olympus 45 1.8 on a micro 4/3 camera. While the Olympus 45 1.8 is $399, less than half the cost of the Nikon, you can not use it on a Nikon 1, the build is not the same as the Nikon, it is not a 32/35mm , it is a 45mm. It is also a f/1.8 aperture lens and not an f/1.2 aperture lens.
A storm was a brewin…
So when you look at it in this light, $889 for a 32 1.2 lens sounds about right when you compare it to other lenses in this category, especially since there are no other lenses for the 1 system like this, at all. It is basically an ultra fast 35mm lens but seeing that it is mounted on the 2.7 crop Nikon 1 body, it gives us an 86mm equivalent, so it acts as a super high quality portrait prime, the best lens yet for the Nikon 1. It even has a manual focus ring that when turned, automatically brings up magnification in the viewfinder or on the LCD. The manual focus action is smooth as silk. So for $889, a superfast prime for Nikon 1 shooters is really not a bad deal at all.
Once you shoot with one you will see I speak the truth. Still, many will shun it due to the price and the fact that it is a Nikon 1 system lens, which is a shame. I learned long ago to never judge a book by its cover. Even with me, a guy who used it extensively along with almost every other mirrorless lens out there telling you all this I am sure many will comment that it is overpriced. The ones who say that are the ones who will never touch it, use it or own it.
For the 1st time with the 1 System, you can get shallow DOF without having to be super close to your subject 🙂
The Nikon 32 1.2 is well worth it to Nikon 1 shooters who want the best quality lens they can get for this system. It offers build, speed, precision AF, beautiful manual focus ability and yes, even some shallow DOF for us 1 shooters. You could skip this lens and buy a Voigtlander 35 1.2 II and mount it with a Leica M to Nikon 1 adapter but you will lose some sharpness, have to shoot in manual only and lose the blazing fast AF. It will also be much larger and heavier. You will get the same field of view and depth of field and pay $500 more while losing sharpness. So again, looking at it like this makes the Nikon 32 1.2 appear to be a deal.
The 32 1.2 wide open at 1.2 will deliver sharp results and finally, some shallow depth of field for us Nikon 1 lovers. I added grain during a B&W conversion on this one.
But what if I do not own a Nikon 1 camera? Is it worth buying into?
Many will say that you should not buy into Nikon 1, but I say hogwash. If your requirements are small size, fast and accurate AF, great video, nice build, built in EVF, and nice prime lenses than you have three options. Sony, Olympus or Nikon 1.
Sony: The excellent NEX-7 is still around for $1200 but really good lenses will cost you. The Zeiss 24 1.8 is still one of the best for the system at $1100. The 6 is also great. But it will be slower than a Nikon 1 camera in AF, color out of the camera will not be as good, and you will have larger lenses and more bulk. You will gain the power of a larger APS-C sensor which means better low light and richer files. There is no 85mm 1.2 equivalent made by Sony or Zeiss for E-Mount but there is the 50mm f/1.8 which will give you a 75mm equivalent.
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Olympus OM-D – The OM-D has it all. Built in EVF, fast AF, jam packed with features, 5-Axis, etc. So buying an OM-D E-M5 and 45 1.8 will get you the equivilant of a Nikon V1 and 32 1.2. So why go for one over the other? Well, I have both and the new E-P5 here. I have shot with all of these quite a bit. All I can say is that you can still buy a V1 with 10mm prime for $269 with free fed ex express shipping. Add in the 32 1.2 for $900 and you have a $1169 investment. Buy a V2 instead at $700 and you are up to $1600. The Olympus E-M5 will set you back $900 plus $400 for the lens, or $1300. You will have a more modern feature packed body but you while you gain all of the fancy stuff you will lose on a couple of things over a V1 or V2:
Nikon 1 will win for AF speed, sharpness, and color out of camera. Nikon 1 will be more simple and to the point and Nikon 1 has better video without the jello effect of the Olympus. A Nikon 1 with 10, 18 and 32 will take up much less space in your bag than an E-M5 with 12, 25 and 45.
Nikon V1 with 10, 18 and 32 – Total cost = $1370 – This gives you a 28 2.8, 50 1.8 and 85 1/2 equivalent prime lens set.
Nikon V2 with 10, 18 and 32 – Total cost $1800 –
OM-D E-M5 with 12, 25 and 45 – Total cost = $2700 – This gives you a 24 f/2, 50 1.4 and 90 1.8 equivalent prime lens set.
The V1 has a 1/16,000 of a second shutter, so no ND filter required to shoot at 1.2 in full sun.
When you start to add in other lenses the cost rises for the Oly system and the 1 system is less expensive, smaller, faster and with what I feel is better color. BUT, the OM-D E-M5 has a larger sensor, more features, and better high ISO performance. Still, the difference is not that huge and like I said, the Nikon will be sharper if that is your thing. The Olympus will be a little “richer” in its files which can give you a more “pro” or polished look but again, not a huge difference. Just see my Olympus 45 1.8 Lens review HERE and take a look at the images there, and then again at these in this review. Do those strike you as being any better in quality? Hmmm.
So if you are on the fence do know that the Nikon 1 will also give you more noise in the images, even at base ISO, but they will be more film like in their look at the same time. The OM-D will be richer and the Sony NEX series richer still. To those that say the 1 System sucks, you are so wrong! It is a great little system as long as you are not hung up on sensor size. With this 32 1.2 lens added, it made my love grow even more for the 1. You can read my Nikon V1 Review HERE, and my V2 review HERE.
Nikon 1, it’s quite good
So many have dismissed the Nikon 1 system and have called it everything from a “toy” to “junk” to “worthless” and even “bad for photography” but I have been a fan since day one of the Nikon V1 release. I found that even though it had a few issues, the V1 was HIGHLY capable and gave a unique look that no other camera was giving but the speed and AF accuracy is also top notch. I said from the get go that the V1 put out files more film like than other digital cameras, mainly due to the “hard” files that came out of it. These images have grain, grit and superb color right out of the box. Even base ISO has grain, but it is nice. Those who crave large and smooth buttery files will NOT like the Nikon 1 bodies because this is not what they will give in most situations. What it will give you is sharp detailed 10-14MP files with amazing exposure and color. It will give you fast AF in a fun to use format and body. Did I say beautiful color right out of the box?
Right from RAW, this color is SPOT on. Something my Leica M could not do or get close to. The 32 1.2 when wide open delivers super sharpness and nice contrast as well. This is not your old 1950’s tech, this guy is as sharp or sharper than any full frame or APS-C 85mm lens, and yes, you can qoute me on that. I have owned the Nikon 85 1.4, the Canon 85 1.2 and 1.8, the Olympus 45 1.8 and others.
But enough of the V1 as I went over all of its virtues in the V1 review from long ago, and then the V2 review not too long ago. Needless to say, I am a fan of the 1 system for what it brings to me: Size, speed, rock solid exposure with an almost film like rendering and gorgeous color with sharp as can be performance. It lacks in the high ISO department, shallow depth of field department and resolution department seeing that the V1 is 10MP and the V2 is 14 MP. But what happens when you attach a nice lens? We finally get “WOW” performance from this little powerhouse system with a nice control over depth of field. We now have TWO amazing lenses for the 1 system, the 18.5 1.8 and this 32 1.2 that is above that one.
Yes my friends, this Nikon 32 1.2 lens is awesome. What a beauty of a lens it is in just about every way. After using this lens for a while I came to appreciate what it is, what it does and how it transforms my V1 into something else than it has ever been before. I can go for some shallow DOF or some crisp sharp rendering with good dynamic range and splendid color. Nikon 1 gives me better OOC color than my $7000 Leica M 240.
The sensor in the 1 cameras may be small but it is capable of nice results as long as you do not need huge megapixels. The 32 1.2 lens is sharp, crisp and pumps out rich color. The Nano coatings show. Click them for larger!
The 32 1.2 is the best quality lens for the Nikon 1 system. Period.
Those of us who are familiar with the Nikon 1 system know the main weaknesses and high ISO is at the top of the list. Compared to the competition in the APS-C world, the V1 and V2 can not compete at ISO 400, 800, 1600, 3200 or 6400. The noise starts to get worse and creep in at ISO 400 even. But guess what? Film has a way of doing the same thing. I look at the V1 as a mini digital film camera, and know what it will give me in return when I crank it up to ISO 1600 or 3200. Before the 32 1.2 all we had was the 18.5 1.8, which is a GREAT lens but 1.2 is faster than 1.8 so we can now get that extra bit of light to the sensor and lower our ISO or gain faster shutter speeds to eliminate shake.
Wide open at 1.2, shot at a distance. I am so used to shooting 35 and 50 that shooting at 85mm seems odd to me as I am so far from the subject. Still, you can not argue with results like this from a Nikon V1. This is from RAW.
Clouds – 32 1.2 at f/5.6 – converted to HC B&W with Alien Skin
The 32 1.2 also gives us that 85mm equivilant portrait length prime, with some nice shallow DOF. While the DOF can not compete with a full frame camera and 85mm lens, it does compete with the DOF from a 35mm lens, because that is basically what this lens is when rounded up. You can not get the DOF of an 85mm lens from a 32mm lens, period. Still, there is nothing else comparable for the 1 System and this lens delivers the goods in all areas.
Close focus – You can focus as close as 17 inches or 0.4 meters or 16 inches. That’s pretty close for an 85mm equivalent lens.
From RAW showing the Bokeh of the 32 1.2 wide open.
Out of camera color and contrast is superb!
The 32 1.2 also gives us real manual focus control and it feels GREAT and works great on the Nikon V1 and V2 (have not tested on the J series). Yep, the front of the lens has a nice feeling metal manual focus ring that rotates smoothly. As soon as you start to rotate the camera automatically goes into magnify assist mode making it a breeze to get critical manual focus. You also get a meter that pops up in the display to show you where you are at in the focus range. Shooting MF with this lens is a good experience. The AF performance is top notch but sometimes you will want precise control and this lens gives it to us with the 1 series camera.
Do not be afraid of the smaller sensors!
As Craig Litten explained in his excellent V1 article, there is no need to be afraid of small sensor cameras. The Nikon 1 series is a fantastic take anywhere system that while not offering full frame or APS-C performance in DOF and creaminess will give you some things that are better than what a DSLR or larger sensor can give you. For example, with a full frame camera it is very hard to get large Depth of Field (everything in focus) and we usually need to stop down to f/11 to do so. With the 1 series you can stop down a lens like the 32 1.2 to f/5.6 and have a large DOF. At 1.2 you will get shallow DOF. It is the best of both worlds but do not expect full frame f/1.2 shallow DOF performance. Still, the small sensor in the V1 and V2 and even Sony RX100 are splendid for what they are and what they can do and they are highly capable regardless of what the naysayers THINK. Yes, I say think as those who bash this system are those who are just hung up on sensor size.
With the new 32 1.2 lens by Nikon, they have given the 1 series owners what they have been begging for since day one. Now that it is here many are complaining about the price yet I see people every day spend $4000, $6000, and even $11000 on Leica lenses. I see people plunk down $2500 for a Nikon DSLR lens and others pay $1300 for a Micro 4.3 2.8 Zoom. At $896, Nikon delivers a very well made, very well feeling quality fast 32 1.2 lens for the 1 system so us owners can have a fast portrait type of prime. This lens is built to a level much higher than the 18.5 1.8 and even though it is larger, it is still VERY small when compared to other lenses that are 1.2 in aperture, or even 1.4 aperture. It is about the same size as the Panasonic 25 1.4 for Micro 4/3 but feels better made, looks nicer, focuses faster, is silent and will give similar performance. (and looking at my review for that Panasonic 25 1.4, I prefer my images here with this lens by far)
My Final Word on the Nikon 32 1.2 and more on the 1 system.
If you own a 1 system camera and have been craving a fast lens, this is it. If you go for it, you will LOVE it.
The AF is fast, the lens and camera will even focus in near dark conditions and thanks to the Silent Wave Motor it is QUIET. You can shoot at 1.2 and suck in more light and keep your ISO lower and it is damn good looking on the camera. I say BRAVO to Nikon for this one, it is a fantastic lens that just made the Nikon 1 system that much better. I just wish they had a 13 f/1.2, 19 1.2 and a 75 1.4 in this quality build. That would be awesome but I am also aware that most 1 series owners are those who are just happy shooting the kit zooms, so I am surprised Nikon released this one at all. I am not sure how many more fast primes they will release, if any, but this one is the real deal.
I enjoyed shooting this lens so much I went ahead and ordered one for my V1 camera. I review and evaluate tons of gear, much more than I even write about on this website. It is not very often that I buy what I review. In the past 6 weeks I have tested the Leica X Vario, Ricoh GR, Zeiss Touit lenses with a Fuji X-E1, Olympus E-P5, Samsung NX300 and this lens. The only one I plunked my money down for at the end of the day is this lens. So there ya go.
Truth be told, I enjoy shooting my Nikon 1 more than I did the Leica X Vario or Fuji X-E1 or Olympus E-P5. I can own any of these cameras as a walk around every day kit but I chose the Nikon 1. So did my son and so did his stepbrother. Pretty crazy but it seems that those who shoot the little NIkon V1 and actually gives it a real go ends up really liking it, and at $269 for the V1 and 10mm 2.8 (while they last) it is the biggest no brainer of the century.
As for this lens, at $890 it is NOT cheap but fast QUALITY glass never comes cheap and if it does it is sadly not to the quality of this lens. Sure the Olympus 45 1.8 is $400 but it is not a 32 1.2. Sure the Sony 50 1.8 is cheaper but it is also not a 32 1.2 lens. The only other lens that comes close to this focal length is the Voigtlander 35 1.2 and that is a $1400 full frame Leica M mount lens and I would bet $100 that it would be less sharp from 1.2 to f/2 on the Nikon V1 or V2! It is also much larger and heavier and while it kicks major bootie as a 35mm lens on a full frame $7000 Leica, it would be no better than this lens on the Nikon 1 as an 85mm.
True you will never get the full frame look of a 35 1.2 on any Nikon 1 camera but that is not what this system is all about. It is about fun, usability, reliability, speed, and yes, color and image quality. It is a take anywhere compact system that gets trashed all over the internet by those who never touched one. No, not everyone will like the look of the files that come from the smaller sensor but this lens makes it much harder to dismiss the Nikon 1 unless you are just a Nikon one trash talker just for the sake of being one.
Yes my friends, the lens is a winner but only you can decide if the cost is worth it to you. If you own a Nikon 1 you owe it to yourself to check it out if you can and you may just fall for it as I did. It’s a beauty and yes, worth the premium price if quality is what you seek.
You can see more images from the Nikon 1 cameras HERE
You can buy this lens at Amazon or B&H Photo at the direct links below:
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