Update: Nikon UK kindly sent me one to review for a leading UK photo magazine – you can see my first impressions here.
Nikon’s previously announced Nikkor Z 58mm F0.95 S Noct is set to ship at the end of the month (31st October) for a shade under $8,000 in the US, and around £8,299 (in VAT) in UK.
The ultra-high speed Z-mount lens takes the Noct monikor from the AI/AIS 58mm F1.2 from the 70’s and early 80’s (first production was 1977) respectively. That lens was originally designed for low-light reportage and featured a single large diameter, hand-ground aspherical element in its optical design, where the brighter viewfinder image and reduction of sagittal coma flare (or reproduction of point light sources) was an important consideration for photo-journalists.
Nikon made the original Noct-Nikkor in answer to this lens from 1971 (look for the earlier “AL” version, latter models used the “Aspherical” descriptor), which hasn’t garnered quite as much attention, presumably because of the switch to the larger and longer register EF mount that made it incompatible with digital bodies until only recently (with the introduction of mirrorless).
The new manual focus only lens (using a helicoid instead of the predicted focus-by-wire), revealed yesterday to the press in London, is faster still at F0.95. But this new lens boasts no less than three aspherical elements, including large diameter ground and precision moulded elements made with high-refractive glass which promises extremely high correction of coma and SA (spherical aberration). Four of the 17 elements in total feature ED glass for CA correction, which I would assume also to effectively remove troublesome longitudinal CA, but that’s not specifically mentioned in the PR and not a given with such a wide initial aperture, despite the high price.
Given that the new Z-mount is capable of lenses of around a half-stop faster at F0.45 or F0.5, this lens is an oddity. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it a bargain but as it’s around $2,000 cheaper than the Leica equivalent, I expect it will be popular with collectors, hence the scope of delivery (which includes a superb hard case), and the movie crowd. Though, I suspect most sales will be to rental houses. Only when sales start to fall will we see a faster Noct model, so that it can be sold a second time, to all the same people.
Nikon also updated their lens “roadmap” yesterday, but with no other high-speed F1.2/1.4 lenses detailed, other than a 50mm F1.2, it’s not a stretch to think that they’re unwilling to commit fully to those designs in-order to protect sales of the F-mount versions. Time will if that’s the right decision, but with Canon not holding back, it’s difficult to reconcile.