Fuji X-T1, Nkon 50mm f/1.4G, Metabones Speed Booster - Is this the answer to low light shooting?

With the Speed Booster pushing the light gathering possibilities of the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G to the equivalent of f/1 and the X-T1's exemplary high ISO performance this would seem to be a superb low-light combination. But of course this all depends on how good the Nikon lens is wide-open.

As you can see from the above examples it's OK, but I'm not sure it's much better than that. Most lenses are at their worst when fully open and the Nikon f/1.4G is no exception. There is also no Sigma 35mm f/1.4 or Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 type performance here. Those lenses are very much exceptions to the general quality of fast lenses wide open. 

There is a current fashion to shoot with very limited depth of field, but for me in most cases it's emergency use only. Opening a lens up to it's widest aperture is only something I consider when I don't have any other option and I suspect I'm in the majority on that. Because as is usual the above combination produces softer results with CA and fringing when used at f/1.4. and it's certainly not something I would use out of choice. 

And yet 'fast' lenses continue to be popular. And expensive of course. The newly announced Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 is £1349 here is the UK. For that price it would have to be absolutely sensational wide open and even then it's overpriced. 

So is the Nikon f/1.4G + Speed Booster a good option for low light? Well I would give a qualified yes. It has the virtue of being a cheap option, if you have the speed booster already of course. Personally I might be inclined to use the Sony A7r / 55mm f/1.8 combination I have. It's slower, it requires using a higher ISO but the results are definitely better wide open. Likewise with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 a-mount lens, which does loose between 1/3 and 1/2 stop because of the adapter however.

And then of course there is the Fuji 35mm f/1.4. My adventures with one of those can be found HERE. Again it's a decent lens but weakest wide open. It does have the advantage of AF however. 

The continuing debate I have with myself over AF lenses compared to MF equivalents, depends to a large extent what I'm shooting and indeed on the time I have to focus and the pressure of the situation. Certainly when I was shooting weddings and indoor events I never 'risked' manual focus lenses. There was never any particular guarantee that AF lenses would prove more successful and it is often more difficult to focus an AF lens wide open with low contrast subjects, but when it works it's certainly quicker, though again with practice and experience this difference may not be as great as you might think. 

The bottom line is I don't do this very often anyway. If I did I would probably do a lot more testing to see what my best option was. My main reason for using 'fast' lenses is that they are often better at apertures like f/2, f/2.8 and f/4 than lenses that have one of those as their fastest aperture. And the reason for me using a Speed Booster is to gain that one stop light gathering advantage for ISO selection and shutter speed rather than the ability to use very wide apertures in low light conditions. As you can tell I'm somewhat non-committal on this and for me there is no clear answer. The MF / adapter option is certainly the solution if the situation means it's the only way of getting the shot. And with some Photoshop work afterwards it's possible to get decent results. 

If you have similar experiences or thoughts to share then please feel free to post them on either the Soundimageplus blog readers Google+ group or Soundimageplus Blog facebook page.

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