Nikon 1 32mm f/1.2 Review and Tests - Part 3 - The manual focus ring - Who is this lens for?


Above is a video I found on YouTube showing the use of the manual focus ring, which is on the lens barrel. In typical Nikon 1 fashion, its very quick and easy to use. Just turning the barrel slightly brings up a magnified view which you can increase and decrease by using the rocker switch above the mode dial. The magnification screen isn't the sharpest I've seen and the image doesn't exactly 'snap' into focus, but it works. Focus by wire of course and there is a lot of play in the ring which means it sometimes takes a while to get the image focused. So its there if you want it, and it could be useful for video when you don't want the AF hunting around.

However I would say that I won't be using it much for stills. With such fast and accurate AF I see little point and if I'm working fast then using MF I would miss the shot. 


Much as I already love this lens, the above section on MF and thinking about it did lead to me to wonder who this lens is for. I'm surely not the target market for Nikon 1, neither I suspect are Steve Huff, Thom Hogan and Rob Galbraith all of whom have expressed enthusiasm for the system.

I was really pleased with the picture above, grandson and grandmother in conversation going through a canal lock gate. Its everything this lens and system is good at. I had to react fast and the depth of focus the small sensor allows means that everything that needs to be sharp is sharp. The image is in fact gorgeous when viewed at 100%.

Below is another from the same series.


I would mention the dynamic range here, part of the image is in sunlight, most in shadow and yet there is a nice balanced exposure. What however did impress me is that when I upsized the image to 6000px longest size I could clearly see the time on the boaters wristwatch. 3:30PM which is when I took the picture.

200% blowup

Shows I think just what kind of resolution this sensor + this lens is capable of. 

I wrote in an earlier piece about the 10MP Leica M8 I used, and if I had taken either of the above pictures with that camera and some m-mount lens, (though to get this framing it would have to have been a 63/64mm since the M8 had a 1.3x crop), I would have been very pleased and probably started writing about how the sensor without an AA filter was really capable of producing wonderfully sharp results with one of those great m-mount lenses. But this is a glorified compact camera surely, with what most of the photographic internet apparently thinks is a 'junk' sensor. Well its not obviously, and just because a camera is small and inexpensive (you can currently pick up the V1 + 10-30mm zoom in the UK for about 1/3 of the price of the 32mm lens) doesn't mean it can't be used for demanding and 'professional' use. But I must admit I was surprised when this lens was announced. I can understand the 'fast standard', the 18.5mm f/1.8 and the 10mm pancake (everybody HAS to have a pancake it seems) but the 32mm is obviously designed to be a very high quality, very fast specialist lens, which it is.

So is it intended by Nikon to add some prestige and gravitas to the system? To try and convince enthusiasts, hobbyists and even pros that this is a serious system. Can it really be for what is seemingly its target market, upgrading point and shooters who want a versatile fast camera, who like the fact its a Nikon, and after its initial high cost is cheap to buy. Can you imagine a conversation in an electronics superstore when the young couple have just decided to buy the V1, which is on sale, and the assistant says 'Oh by the way Nikon have just brought out this ultra-fast portrait lens with manual focus that will cost you 3 times what you've paid for the camera + zoom, would you be interested?' No I can't imagine that conversation either. 

It would of course be nice to think that Nikon have decided to re-position the camera and go after the enthusiast / hobbyist market, but then they did release the V2 camera, which seemed to me to be moving in a somewhat different direction to the V1. Does this mean that we can expect a different emphasis in the next upgrade? which is probably due soon since Nikon 1 seems to move in a 12-month cycle. The obvious upgrade would be to adopt the Sony RX100 ii sensor, unless Sony want to keep that for themselves. Plus they could of course give us retroheads a real treat by using the S1 rangefinder design on a V3, add in an optional battery grip and an OLED EVF and screen and we're talking about fulfilling my fantasies!! Is the 32mm going to be joined by other lenses of its type. A 13mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 perhaps? 

Well I have no answer to these questions (though its fun to speculate) so I'll just be content with the fact that I have a superb lens for a camera system I really like using. 

Next in this review series of posts is a comparison of the lens with other Nikon 1 options. The telephoto zoom and some Nikon G primes via the adapter. I'm going to see how the 32mm performs against the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and Nikon G DX 35mm f/1.8 I have.