Nikkor 14mm f/2.8 AD F ED FX Ultra Wide – Urban Exploration Review

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 03.09.2010

History of the Nikkor 14mm f/2.8 AD F ED
The Nikon 14mm f/2.8 AF-D is an ultra-ultrawide lens designed for film and FX digital cameras. It was introduced in 1999 at the same time as the historic D1. This fixed 14mm f/2.8 has great optics, is very solidly built and retails for about £1,200GBP.

The Nikon 14mm f/2.8 AF-D is a huge improvement over the manual focus 15mm f/3.5 AI-s and other older ultra-ultrawide lenses. This fixed 14mm is smaller and weighs exactly 2/3 what the huge new 14-24mm f/2.8 zoom (introduced in 2007) does. This means this fixed 14mm weighs 333g (12 oz.) less than the zoom!


Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 478)

The Nikon 14mm is a much newer aspherical 14mm has none of the crippling ghosting problems of the earlier lenses, and it’s much, much sharper at every aperture. This 14mm lens covers the full FX format and 35mm film for an ultra-ultra wide view – its typical use is architecture and photo journalism.

 

For DX digital cameras the 12-24 mm DX or Tokina 11-16mm is far better choice. These DX lenses can use front filters, and weigh and cost much less. This 14mm can’t use anything except gels behind the lens. The reason today to get this14mm is for use on film and FX cameras, not to use on DX cameras.

Performance
The AF 14mm f/2.8D ED is a well built with most parts made of magnesium and with a texturised finish. The rubberised focus ring operates very smooth without being damped. The built-in petal hood is not removable – at a guess to protect the large front element which is going to be pretty vulnerable in the type of exploration locations. There is no provision for front filters however gels can be used in the back of the lens

Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 478)


Specifications
Nikon calls this the Nikon AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8 D ED RF Aspherical.

  1. AF: Autofocus.
  2. D: Sends focus distance information to the metering system.
  3. ED: Magic glass for sharper images and less lateral secondary chromatic aberration (color fringing). See the gold metal
  4. band around the front? That how Nikon sets off their serious ED lenses, and Nikon is so serious that they really use solid gold. People argue whether it’s solid 14kt or just 18 kit gold-filled, but it is gold.
  5. RF: Rear focusing. Nothing moves except the rear internal elements.
  6. Aspherical: Specially shaped glass elements greatly improve sharpness at large apertures and in the corners.
  7. Optics: 14 elements in 12 groups. One of these elements is made of ED glass. Two of these are hybrid (compound) aspherical lens elements. Hybrid means gluing plastic corrective pieces to the glass elements. Rear Focusing (RF).
  8. Diaphragm: 7 conventional blades. Stops down to f/22.
  9. AF System: Old-style mechanical AF linkage, not AF-S. The good news is that this 14mm therefore autofocuses perfectly on every AF and digital camera except the D40 and D40x. The bad news is that you have to unlock and rotate a ring on the lens to switch between autofocus and manual focus, just like the AF 28/1.4D and AF 20-35/2.8D.
  10. Close focus: 8″ or 0.2m from the film plane, which is only inches away from the front of the lens and way too close for safety if you shoot airplane propellers.
  11. Filters: None on front. Gelatin filter slot on rear. More at Filters.
  12. Introduced: May 2000, right after the original D1 digital SLR.
  13. Size: 3.427″ diameter x 3.425″ extension from flange (87.05 x 87.00mm), measured. 3.425 x 3.406″ (87 x 86.5mm), rated.
  14. Weight: 23.518 oz. (666.7g), measured, naked. 23.6 oz., (670g), rated.
  15. Nikon Product Number: 1925, in catalog as of spring 2008.

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Shooting Performance

Sharpness
The 14mm shoots really sharp in the center at all apertures on a D700 – I would suspect this would be very sharp on a DX which will use the center of the lens. There will also be less distortion on DX – more on that in a bit

Shooting at f/2.8 shows a little softness in the corners and vignette however its gone by f/3.6, at f/5 things are perfect – don’t let this worry you. The falloff on the 14mm lens is enough for you not to notice. The only lens on the market that outperforms when stopped down is the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF/S which sell for around the same money – that lens is massive though so worth thinking about that and urban exploration

The following shot at 100% crop shows levels of sharpness:

Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 426)


Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 426)

Not bad at all at 100%

Distortion
You can see from the above full shot of the wall, the 14mm has a complex distortion signature which makes it pretty hard to fix in Photoshop/Lightroom.

Distortion is complex. This 14mm has barrel distortion in the middle, but pincushion at the far corners of film or an FX digital camera. On an FX body, you will see the ‘moustache’ pattern with a slight barrel in the middle but who shoots walls anyway? With the distortion it means you can play around more and use it to your advantage however again, if you want simple distortion then you should look at the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8

Urban Exploration Shot – HDR
As you may see in this shot, the distortion is not noticable and verticals hold up better than a comparative Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 DX lens

Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 478)


In the shot below, you can see the distortion playing with the full length horizontal at the bottom of the image

Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 478)


Urban Exploration Shot – Non-HDR
In the shots below you will see a full size and 100% crop

Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 426)


Zoom in (real dimensions: 640 x 426)


Conclusion

Does Well
+ Built to last – the build quality of this lens backs it up as a pro lens
+ Sharp
+ Resistant to contra light
+ Mid performer on chromatic aberrations

Not so good
- Price
- Complex distortion
- Don’t buy for DX, get the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 instead
- No front filters

The 14mm f/2.8 comes with a large price tag – around £1,200 GBP however its one of those lenses you will still be using in 10 years and it will be performing just like the day you bought it. There are several options in the same price range – the main one being the 14-24mm f/2.8 which beats the 14mm on sharpness and distortion however the 14-24mm is massive which may or may not bother you.

DX users will want to go for the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 which will provide great quality at more than half the price. I’m going to carry on shooting this lens for urban exploration and landscapes seeing how things go. I’m happy with the lens however have been left wondering what the 14-24mm would have performed like – something I was not left feeling when I bought the Tokina 11-16mm for DX

References
Photozone.de - http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/208-nikkor-af-14mm-f28-d-ed-review–test-report
Ken Rockwell - http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/1428.htm
Nikon USA - http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/ProductDetail.page?pid=1925#tab-ProductDetail.ProductTabs.TechSpecs

3 comments

#1cpXDecember 25, 2011, 1:22 am

Hi,

take a look to the Samyang 14mm F/2.8. ;-)

Regards: Carsten

#2AndréJanuary 8, 2012, 4:00 pm

Hi,

i don’t think the 14-24 is the only lens to outperform this thing. Canon has a 14/2.8 too and it’s so great. Nearly no distortion at all and really compact in size. I’m really jealous about that thing, because i’m also on the Nikon side ;-)
Where does that flare in that brick shot come from? That’s a point i’m particular interested in as that happens to be the weak point of the Tokina 11-16, too.

If Nikon brings out a reasonable D700 successor then i probably need to get a 14-24. But that remains to be seen, the rumored D800 with 36MP is not what i’m dreaming of :-D

    #3sophos9January 8, 2012, 5:20 pm

    I shoot the Nikon 14mm on the Nikon D3, it works really well – I compared the 14mm with the 14-24mm in the camera shop, there was not much difference in sharpness but there was more distortion on the 14mm.

    Also, the 14mm suffers pretty bad with flare, the metal petal cover is pretty small – certainly flares more than the DX 11-16mm Tokina…

    I would def recommend this lens though, its far more compact than the 14-24 and a fair bit cheaper

    The D4 announcements were a bit of a let down, I hope the D800 is much better :)

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