New Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED test and review

New kid on the blockNikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED test and reviewMarrakech, 2017

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED test and review
Shooting and testing Nikon’s new AF-S 28mm f/1.4E ED lens in Morocco

Last year I was fortunate enough to earn a Nikon ambassador badge. I took this as a recognition of my work from a the institution I admire for making the best tools to meet my creative needs. Few months later, going through my work on Shotkit article, Nikon representatives asked me to shoot and test the new Nikon Nikkor AF-S 28mm f-1.4E ED. I took on the challenge and, about a month later, found myself getting lost in the souks and surroundings of Marrakech. Searching for great light to emphasise on the qualities and trying to find weak spots of this new member of my gear bag was fairly easy. Doing it with high fever and fighting the rainy forecast wasn’t as much fun. Nevertheless, I came back with a set of images to portray the lens which, for me, sets a new professional standard for documentary, portrait and landscape photography. You’ll find out why I think so if you keep reading.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED test and review

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/8000

28mm Lets You Get Close. So close you can feel it.

When it comes to lens choices, my approach is simple. I love both the 24 and 35mm focal lengths for my wedding and documentary work, but ever since 28mm f/1.8G got out it was used it as my primary lens for its versatility. All of the images used in this article were taken with the new AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED lens wide open and were edited to taste. Straight out of camera shots can be found on the Nikon website.

AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED test shots

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/3200

Review of new Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED lens

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/6400

Things tend to get personal when you’re using this lens. I shoot two Nikon D750 cameras on my weddings. One of them has a 28mm on it the whole time, while another is usually shifting between AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G and AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G. You can see my full gear list here as well. In most cases my images are worthless without the context. I love the way new 28 adds context to every shot if you choose so. If not you always have the option to get closer and narrow things down using shallow depth of field. Paired with impressive autofocus performance and beautiful bokeh it astonished me.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f-1.4E ED review images

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/1250

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f-1.4E ED test

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 400; f/1.4; 1/200

Why 28mm and not 24 or 35 for me?

This focal length is, quite simply, a bit wider than 35 and slightly narrower than 24. This happens to fit my style perfectly. Those few milimeters matter to me a lot. You are able to fit things into a frame without overflowing it or distorting the corner elements. It’s not as wide, therefore not as supernatural and much closer to human field of view. It was said by the famous Robert Capa that, if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough. With a new 28mm you’ll be able to get really close to your subjects. Not only physically close. Emotionally close. The adaptability of this lens is so amazing that it allows me to shoot documentary, landscapes and portraits without the need to unmount. New 28mm can focus rather close, but not as close as the older 1.8 brother. However, that difference is only 3cm and it allowed me to make some interesting proximity shots.

AF-S AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED macro performance

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/640

It’s commonly known that 50mm length fits into so called “normal view” that matches what our eyes see while focusing straight ahead. But once you take peripheral vision into account, 28mm fits human field of view much better. This is why it feels so natural using a 28mm lens. What you see through a viewfinder is closely matched to what you see through your eyes. This is the reason why, if I had to choose one lens to use – it would be this one.

Portrait in Morocco shot with Nikon 28mm f-1.4E ED lens AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED ISO 200; f/1.4; 1/640

AF-S Nikon 28mm f-1.4E ED lens review

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 800; f/1.4; 1/800

What about the performance?

My approach to shooting rarely makes me stop down more than f/2.8. I would say with confidence that 95% of my shots are shot wide open, just like the ones I used for this article. I’ll guess that most readers will try to draw the comparison or question the difference between the two 28’s. While it’s not as compact or lightweight as the G version, it absolutely outperforms in every other aspect. I’m not really a pixel peeper and some things matter to me more than others. That being said I’ll always value autofocus speed over wide open sharpness, or colour rendering over contrast (as it takes me less time to sharpen and add contrast it in post production).

I also believe that sharpness of the lens usually has more to do with the person using it than the lens performance itself. Everything I say here is strictly subjective as I didn’t submit this lens to proper studio testing. Instead, I took it out in the real world paired with a D5 to see what it has to offer in conditions I find myself in on my shoots. And it has surpassed my expectations. That being said – it’s up to you to trust my judgement or not. I’d definitely suggest trying one out and drawing your own conclusion if having any second thoughts.

nikon ambassador croatia testing the new AF-S 28mm 1.4e ed lens from nikon

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/2500

Review of the new AF-S Nikon 28mm f-1.4E ED lens

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/2500

AF-S 28mm f-1.4E ED images

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/1600

AF-S Nikon 28mm f-1.4E ED landscape photography

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/3200

I have to state the obvious. Creating a lens is always a matter of compromise. Why? Because it’s a matter of physics. Taking from one value to gain another, it definitely is one of the biggest struggles of lens manufacturers. To simplify this in my mind I see it like this. Every lens has a value of 100 distributed over several key elements such as weight, autofocus speed, distortion, sharpness, contrast, bokeh, build quality etc. The role of a lens manufacturer is to distribute that value of 100 perfectly and try to match the needs of their users. This is a really tough role. My hat goes down to true heroes of our craft, the lens engineers who, not only managed to distribute these numbers immaculately, but managed to do it so that you’re left with the impression they cheated somewhere. But they didn’t.

The build quality of this lens is a great compromise between robustness and weight. Those of you shooting for long hours will probably be pleased with the fact that it doesn’t weight a ton. On the down side it is significantly larger and heavier than the older 28mm 1.8G which is the curse of having a professional lens with wider aperture and, overall, far better performance.

Distortion is barely noticeable and easily controlled. Vignetting wide open is not the issue as well, while autofocus speed when you pair it with D750 or D5 is significantly faster compared to older 28mm or a 35. Focus ring could use a bit shorter spin for my taste, but will probably be welcomed to videographers. I’m not buying this lens to focus manually. It produces very pleasing bokeh which is responsible for smooth results and great subject differentiation. For a wide angle lens, this aspect is definitely one of the key elements of focus. It is also one of the reasons why I named this lens revolutionary earlier in this text. I tried hard to produce chromatic aberrations by shooting highlighted or shiny metal objects on Moroccan markets and failed to find unpleasing results. Sharpness across the frame is spectacular and doesn’t ask for a stop down at any point. Uncommon for a wide angle and like it’s older sister, she’s able to focus relatively close, which allows the use of interesting perspectives and compositions.

Portrait shot AF-S 28mm f-1.4E ED from Nikon

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/400

AF-S Nikkor 28mm f-1.4E ED lens review images

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 400; f/1.4; 1/160

Should you get one?

Whether you should go ahead and pre-order one for yourself depends on your choice of lenses and way of shooting. There is no product or service made to please everybody. If you are a professional looking for an upgrade of your old 28 2.8 or 28mm 1.8G – this is the lens to go with. If your main go to lenses are 24mm or 35mm you should absolutely try it out. For those of you using zoom lenses such as 16-35 or 24-70 I’d suggest checking the exif data to see which focal length you most commonly use. If you’re on the wider to medium range, I’d give it a try and see if it fits you.

There’s no secret in the fact that movies are very inspirational to majority of photographers out there. You’ll often hear that Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg love to use a 28mm lens. The reason for this lies in storytelling as 28mm simply is great for the job, and videographers will appreciate this lens a lot. Paired with close focus abilities, shallow depth of field and smooth focus ring, it brings refreshment in this area of work as well. As I mentioned earlier, if you try to balance size, speed, weight, price and optical performance, you won’t get any further than this. The only question is – do you like the focal length it gives you?

Images review of the new Nikon 28mm f-1.4E ED

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/1250

Looking to buy new Nikon AF-S 28mm f-1.4E ED

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/1600

New Nikon 28mm lens test

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/1000

Nikon Nikkor 28mm f-1.4E ED preformance

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/3200

Testing the new 28mm 1.4 from Nikon

Nikon D5; AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED; ISO 100; f/1.4; 1/2000

Client info: Nikon Japan/Worldwide
Creative Director: Soichi Hayashi
Talent: Fatimazahra Elhorre, Ena Cucek, Ivana Cirjak, Luka Smetisko
Photo Assistant: Ivana Cirjak

You are able to pre-order or buy this lens at B&H photo, Adorama and Amazon.
This article was featured on Dpreview, SLR Lounge and Petapixel

If you have any questions leave them in the comments section.
Follow my work on Instagram.

  • Karlo said:

    I can't believe it's out already :). I'm having the older 28mm 1.8G and absolutely love it, using it as my main lens and almost never goes down from one camera. Sometimes it's a little bit slow with AF, but I can't imagine better focal length for my photos. DOF and sharpness at 1.8 is simply stunning, everything you said is truth, and I can't wait to try 1.4E version even if it's out of my budget - for now :)

    Thank you for great review and amazing photos to compile the whole post.

    Greetings my friend to you and your better half ;)

    • Vik said:

      Love the name Ivan cirjak in the category of talent :)

  • Richard said:

    Liked that you took all the photos wide open. Did you need to post process for vignettng or distortions?

    • Marko said:

      Thanks Richard! I did, but minor adjustments as the falloff was minimal with a D5 body.

  • Looks like Nikon has made a great lens. You certainly put it to good use.

    • Marko said:

      Thanks Z, really appreciate it! Hope to see you in NJ once I'm there.

  • Dimitri said:

    Great, really great job. Amazingly good, smartly composed images! While my prime lens today is 80-400G, I'll take a very close look on that 28E. Looks like a clear winner on the world market today, in its class. Thank you, Marco! Dimitri-Longzoom.

  • Steve said:

    Some nice shots, do you have the 24mm 1.4G? I prefer 24 to 28mm myself so wondered what your impression of that lens was?

    • Marko said:

      Hi Steve! Thanks for the comment. Yes, I use 24 1.4 as well, but found it personally too wide for my work. I also dislike the stretched/distorted edges, so it was really limited to central framing for me (while being careful not to include any people in the frame edges). It's still an amazing lens, but maybe not as much for my view of documentary work. 28 has no such problems, and being a new E type lens it really delivers more in terms of performance. I'd recommend you give it a try in a store somewhere, but the fact remains - 24 is amazing as well.

  • Jesus Maria Saenz said:

    As a 28 1.8G owner, I can tell that this is my lens to go. it's fixed to my D800 almost all the time. I't will be great to test the new 28mm 1.4G.

    Anyway, many says that 28 1.8G suffer front/back focus and also foscus shift, that is, changes in the focus point when the aperture is being changed.

    Do you have to set any kind of micro focus adjustment with the new lens?
    Have you notice the focus shift? As far as you feel comfortable in the wide open field, I don't know if you have put this lens in trouble in this way.

    Thanks for your great review and your great pictures!!!

    • Marko said:

      Hi Jesus, thanks for the comment! 28 1.8G is an extraordinary lens and I use it ever since it got out. It was on my camera as well for the whole time, but that's about to change with this one. For me this lens required no micro focus adjustments. D5 worked flawlessly as well as both of my D750s. However, 750 bodies usually require a bit of adjustment with new lenses which is normal for non full-pro bodies. I adjusted them for my 24 and 58 lenses. No focus shift was noticed on my part whatsoever, if anything this lens excelled. And all of the shots I took and put here were shot wide open with AF-C 3D or AF-C S AF settings (ones I use all the time). Hope this helps, thanks for reaching out!

      • Jesus Maria Saenz said:

        Hi Marko,
        Thanks for your answer!! I have had no problems and any micro focus adjustment have been necessary.
        As you well says, it should be related more with the couple camera&objective than in the objective itself.
        Thanks again!!

  • wow...!! i think this lense is a good couple to my 58 1.4G... sometime my 35mm is very near to the 58 in frame.

    Waiting for cheapest used lenses.

  • Great review, you really make me want this lens. I currently have the 35, 58 & 85mm and think this would fit perfectly with the 58mm.


  • Tyler said:

    Nice review and great photos. Just curious about the reference to the directors and their 28mm lens preference. Since they were shooting on S35 film, that'd be closer to the field of view a 40mm lens would produce on a full frame 35mm camera, correct?

  • Marc said:

    Hi, I discovered your work with this review of the new nikon 28mm lens. Your pictures are amazing,. I wish your were publishing more "travel" pictures !

  • Andy said:

    Hi Marko, thanks for the review! I'm in a market for a fast 28mm lens and this review just convinced me to go for this lens over the older f/1.8 one.
    Awesome work!

  • Ali demir said:

    Thank a lot for such a movitating review. I had planned to buy 35mm 1.4 and 14 24 2.8 until I read your review. But the photis taken with 28mm are awesome. Which one do you suggest me?
    1) nikon 14 24 nikon 35mm 1.4
    2) nikon 28mm 1.4
    Thank a lot for your comment from now on.