Nikon 1 32mm f/1.2 - Real World Use

First off, I'd like to say that I'm going to try to avoid, as far as possible, comparisons between this and other formats with different sensor sizes. While I'm not so naive as to believe that this isn't an attempt by Nikon to provide a Nikon 1 System equivalent of a fast 85mm lens on a 35mm system, I'm not sure thats how it should be regarded or seen as its function. Firstly I think that doesn't give full consideration to the system itself and its advantages (or disadvantages) and secondly an equivalent of this lens in 35mm is often regarded as a 'portrait' lens and to be honest I'm not sure that any of my past portrait clients would have been that thrilled if I used this lens. With the degree of sharpness that it has, I doubt many of those clients would have been pleased to have all of their features (and flaws) captured in such high resolution.

My first post on the lens yesterday summed up my initial reaction. Its a very good lens indeed. The best of all the Nikon 1 lenses without doubt. Nikon have talked it up, and so have many of the people who have used or reviewed it and after what is admittedly limited use so far, I feel it does deserve most of this. Its not perfect. For example there is some noticeable fringing wide open, but for me and thinking of the ways I will most often use it, this medium telephoto with the depth of field characteristics of a medium wide angle is a really useful lens capable of producing some beautiful images. The sharpness, colour, contrast and overall rendition are really very good indeed and though its not often cited as such, this kind of prime lens can be very useful indeed for outdoor, landscape and travel work. Since that is the way I will use it the most, I have no problem with the depth-of-field thats possible here, in fact for me thats one of its great advantages. However I'll start with some reactions to using it for the first time.

It is, like all of the Nikon 1 lenses it has to be said, beautifully made. Its perhaps more metallic feeling, and slightly heavier than you would expect if you have used the other Nikon 1 lenses. It is very solid and has an expensive look and feel. It is also unique in Nikon 1 terms in that it has a manual focusing ring. If you have a Nikon 1 camera you will need to install the latest camera firmware to get the best from this. When that is installed, as soon as you touch the aperture ring up pops a magnified view in the EVF or on the screen. You can toggle between two different magnification views and the image is clear and should you want to use it, it is a very easy and accurate way to focus the lens. However considering that AF on Nikon 1 cameras is so fast and reliable anyway, I'm certainly not going to be using it much, but its there if you need it. It is probably more useful for video as far as I'm concerned however. 

Its a pricey lens, but in this case you do get what you pay for and nice to see Nikon including a lens hood in the package, which all lens makers should do anyway. For me it fleshes out the Nikon 1 lens range very nicely indeed. Apart from a couple of alternative zoom lenses I have the whole range, and while I like all of them, this one is definitely the class act. Now whether or not you buy into the Nikon 1 idea, both literally and philosophically, there would be few who would dissatisfied with what this lens produces. It allows lower ISO's in low light, which considering the sensors struggles at higher ISO's is very useful and allows the Nikon1 system to continue to 'punch above its weight' in image quality terms. The extra sharpness over the other Nikon 1 lenses means that upsizing images is achieved more successfully than with the majority of the other lenses and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between images shot with this lens / camera combination and similar combinations on m4/3 or APS-C mirrorless systems. 

I think its one of those lenses thats going to be hard to get off the camera. With my favourite lenses I tend to go looking for subjects that fit the lens rather than choosing the lens to fit the subject. However seeing that I have a lot of license to do that in my work thats no problem for me. 

I would conclude however by saying that this lens does further confirm my opinion of the Nikon 1 system. I've loved it ever since I started using it and while I know that its not in any way intended as a 'professional' system, in fact thats how I've used it. I have I know, pushed it to its limits and the way that I make my living does allow me to do that. I would though be quite happy to use the system for virtually any job I was offered. Though what the reaction of a client would be if I pulled out a V1 + 10mm pancake, is another matter. I would conclude by saying that the last 10MP cameras I used extensively were the Leica M8's I had. I would never have thought I would be saying this, but I think one of my V1's with this lens produces better results than anything I ever got with the Leica. I also prefer using the Nikon 1 system to any other mirrorless system I've used. I'm not saying that its better, or higher quality, I'm just saying that I prefer it. It works better for me, its quicker, more in tune with what I want from cameras and lenses and how I use them. If the Leica X vario is my all-time favourite camera then Nikon 1 is my all-time favourite camera / lens system and I'd have given you long odds a year ago that I would ever write that.