Do you love the look of bokeh and swirls on your portraits and creative photography projects, but don’t have the right lens for it yet? We’re going to let you in on a little secret: the Nikkor 55mm 1.2 lens, which is often overlooked in favor of the more coveted 50mm 1.4 or 1.2 lenses, could be a top choice.
For Ken Wheeler, the Nikkor 55mm f1.2 lens is a far better choice. He never liked the bokeh of the 50mm 1.2, having used and owned three in the past. Now, it may be a matter of personal taste (I’ve been using a 50mm 1.4 Nikkor AI-s but find the bokeh it makes beautiful, too), but let’s hear out why he calls the 55mm f1.2 AI (and non-AI) a “secret, nearly must own” Nikkor lens in his video below.
When it comes to portrait photography and bokeh quality, the 50mm 1.2 or 1.4 lenses tend to be the more sought after and pricier. In that regard, coming across a cheaper 55mm f1.2 AI lens would indeed be a steal. The difference in focal lengths isn’t that big, and having an extra stop would indeed be nice for low light or indoor portraits. So, if you’re still looking for a Nikkor lens in the 50mm range, with bokeh in mind or otherwise, I’d say the 55mm 1.2 recommendation is a top choice, too.
Now, for the bokeh quality of the 55mm f1.2 AI lens, Ken has linked to a sample shot taken with a Nikon D850. He mentions a swirly, bubble-like look to the bokeh, a significant coma and a lot of chromatic aberration, and better saturation from the lens. You can definitely see those in the shots. If that’s the look you’re after for your photos, this vintage lens could be a good option for you.
Ken says you can find non-AI versions of these Nikkor lenses at roughly $250. Coming across one of the roughly only 40,000 55mm 1.2 lenses made for the AI mount could be a bigger challenge, and thus more expensive at around $350 to $400. Still, keep your eyes peeled for these in second hand stores or vintage markets where you might even find them for cheaper.
Screenshot image from the video by Ken Wheeler