Nikon's Manual-Focus Lenses
One of the more interesting VDSLR-related sidebar stories has been the "rediscovery" of manual-focus lenses among VDSLR shooters. Most manufacturers long ago pulled the plug on manual focus lens R&D in order to concentrate their energies into improving AF technologies. And then video came along and lo and behold, all of these AF speed queens turned out to be less than ideal, not to mention too noisy, for shooting anything other than stills.
For Nikon VDSLR shooters in particular, this has resulted in renewed interest in previous generation manual-focus Nikkor lenses, which as it turns out, are still very much in production.
Though greatly scaled back, production of many manual-focus Nikkor optics has continued in short runs since the advent of AF and AF-S Nikkor lenses, and as a result, Nikon has been able to quickly reboot its manufacturing schedule of a series of classic manual-focus Nikkors including the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 AI-S, Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AI-S, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-S, Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 AI-S, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI-S and Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S. All of these lenses are currently in production and in stock, with the exception of the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4, which is expected to be back in circulation in October.
Along with focus tracking that actually stops at infinity, manual focus lenses are also quieter than AF optics, which tend to be noisy even when switched into MF mode. There's also the tactile experience of shooting with manual-focus lenses, which in the case of the Nikkors, have a far more solid feel about them than most AF lenses thanks to their all alloy, zero-plastic construction. Each of these lenses is also fast, with f-stops ranging from f/2.8 (20mm, 24mm and 28mm) through f/1.4 (35mm and 50mm), as well as the truly speedy 50mm f/1.2 Nikkor.
Video shooters will appreciate the fast apertures afforded by these MF Nikkors, which enables shooters to make good use of selective focusing. Our intredpid Nikon rep, David Edelstein, was kind enough to drop off one of the "new" 50mm f/1.2 Nikkors for a test drive, and as the stills we shot demonstrate, these lenses are capable of capturing wonderful still and video imagery. (Camera: Nikon D300s)