Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct Review

Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct Review
Review

Our Verdict

The new Nikon Noct is exceptional in its build, image quality and aspiration. Undeniably big, heavy and expensive, it’s impractical for the majority of Z-camera shooters, but actually more practical than I’d imagined. Its image quality is stunning. It’s not easy hitting focus manually at the maximum aperture, but good technique and Z-camera features like Focus Peaking and Zoom On/Off help. For portraits particularly, the combination of the 58mm field-of-view and creamy bokeh produce an other-worldly feel that’s almost unrivalled. The Noct truly is the type of lens that will set your photography apart.

What is the Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct?

The Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct is a lens designed for use with Nikon’s Z series of mirrorless cameras. It sits at the top of Nikon’s S-line lenses.

Based on the AI Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 Nikon launched in 1977, the new f/0.95 version is constructed of 17 elements in 10 groups, which includes four ED glass elements and three aspherical lens elements.

These also include new large-diameter ground aspherical lens elements made of high-refractive-index glass materials.

It also features Nikon’s ARNEO and Nano Crystal anti-reflection coatings to reduce ghosting and flare. In addition, it has focus and control rings on the lens barrel.

Price and Availability

Nikon released the Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct on 31 October 2019 and it’s priced at £8,299/$7,997.

Features

The Noct’s stand out feature is obviously its f/0.95 maximum aperture. That makes it the fastest lens in the Nikkor line-up and almost unique. It’s also one of the more expensive, but £8,299 buys you a lot of lens including features like an electronic OLED display window, a function button, control ring, tripod collar, screw-on lens hood, huge focus ring and a peli-case.

The DISP button on the lens barrel allows you to select either focus distance or aperture value in the display window. The L-fn function button can be customised via the Controls>Custom Controls Assignment menu, with a large range of options available. And the Control Ring will adjust either aperture value or exposure compensation.

Unboxing the Noct you know you’ve got a special lens, with its custom CT-101 Peli case oozing quality. A pre-cut foam-lining houses the lens safely, with additional compartments to hold the lens hood, a few accessories and either a couple of Z bodies, or a single body and a flashgun. I opted for the latter, making it convenient to carry a single light portrait set-up with the confidence your 8 grand lens is well protected.

The foam insert protecting the accessory compartment is worth a quick mention to, as it’s embossed with the lens’s optical arrangement. Nice touch!

Nikon Noct review
Build and handling

There’s no getting around it, the Noct is a big and heavy bit of glass. It’s built like a tank, which is reassuring given the price.

That said, it’s not as difficult to use as I’d imagined.

Whilst noticeably weightier than the 105mm f/1.4, it’s smaller and lighter than the 200mm f/2, and I could support the weight and navigate the controls fairly comfortably.

The challenge is nailing focus manually at f/0.95, particularly on close-range portraits, where a few millimetres makes the difference between the eye-ball or eyebrow being sharp. Mirrorless features on the Z7 such as Focus Peaking, to highlight in-focus areas, and Zoom On/Off, to magnify the EVF image, are really helpful.

I assigned Zoom On/Off with a 50% magnification (100% was just too close with the Z7’s 46Mp resolution) to the lens’s function button (L-fn), so I could switch to a magnified view, adjust focus and zoom out again.

It worked well and I felt confident whilst shooting, but you only need to move a tiny as you zoom out and adjust the composition to throw focus a bit. A tripod is probably recommended for both sparing your arms and improving the focus hit rate, but it’s definitely useable handheld.

I set the control ring to Exposure Compensation, which I find really useful when shooting in Aperture Priority.

I found the Control Ring harder to use though due to its position close to the lens mount. I couldn’t reach it with my left hand that was supporting the lens, and whilst I could almost get a finger from my right hand that was holding the camera to it, it was a bit awkward.

It’s not really a deal breaker, but with these features easy to access via the camera, I’m not sure the Control Ring adds much.

The focus ring is a joy though. It’s smooth and well-weighted for precise focusing adjustments and rotates through the full 360-degrees as you move from the minimum 0.5m distance through to infinity.

Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct Review
Performance

The be-all and end-all for this lens is performance at f/0.95. Frankly you’d be mad to use this lens at other apertures when cheaper, smaller, lighter alternatives with autofocus are available.

Thankfully though image quality at the maximum aperture is stunning. The combination of the Noct’s 58mm focal length and f/0.95 aperture gives an effect that’s very rare, with beautifully creamy foregrounds and backgrounds, even on full length portraits.

Whilst previous ‘bokeh masters’, such as the 85mm and 105mm f/1.4’s, or the 200mm f/2, also render amazing blur, their longer focal lengths make full length portraits challenging.

They also appear to ‘compress perspective’ more, and whilst I’m a fan of that effect, the wider angle-of-view the 58mm lens provides opens up new compositional possibilities.

The Noct allows you to really root your subject in their surroundings, whilst simultaneously producing an ethereal aesthetic that’s really something.

Combining that wider angle-of-view with a short 0.5m minimum focus also makes it possible to get pretty close to large subjects. So headshots, as well as still-life or environmental shots, have a distinctive look as focus drops away quickly.

The creamy bokeh, with a nice shape to spectral highlights, is beautiful and when you nail focus it’s very sharp.

Contrast is also high, with pleasant colour rendering, and although lens shading is quite heavy at f/0.95, it often looks good on portraits.

There’s also a bit of fringing on RAW files, but of course that, as well as the lens shading, can be easily corrected in post.

Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct Review
Sample Images

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Nikon Z 58mm F0.95 Noct Image Gallery

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Verdict

Exotic and exceptional, Nikon’s Noct 58mm f/0.95 lens is a show-stopper.

Big, heavy, manual-focus only and super expensive, it’s fair to say it will have limited appeal high street appeal, but that’s not really the point. Nikon wants to push the boundaries and show what’s possible with its new, larger Z mount.

Discerning photographers know it’s the glass that makes the difference and the Noct captures images, particularly portraits, that are truly distinctive. Top-end advertising, editorial photographers and portrait specialists will have a field day.

Like Cartier-Bresson shooting Leica, or Ansel Adams large format, it’s a piece of kit that can really define your style as a photographer.

Personally I’d love one, I’ve just got to work out how to pay for it!

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