When Nikon launched the Z system, the cameras came with a promise: wider aperture lenses. The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 S fulfills that promise. With an extremely wide aperture, this lens introduces more light-gathering power and bokeh to the full-frame mirrorless system. But, even more importantly, the Noct brings a classic feel to a system that otherwise reaches for technical superiority. With a metal build and a name straight from the 1970s, the new Noct merges old and new.
The Noct 58mm f0.95 is the brightest in the Z system, but it’s also the most expensive. It weighs 4.4 pounds, and yet did not have enough room for an autofocus motor. At $7,999, it’s a beautiful lens that few will be fortunate enough to add to their kit.
The lens for this review was provided by Lensrentals.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
- Lovely metal build
- Stunning bokeh
- Wide f0.95 aperture with lots of light-gathering power
- Great sharpness to the edges
- More character than other Z mount lenses
- Durable weather sealing
- Lens hood can’t be reversed for storage
- It’s heavy.
- Some chromatic aberration
- $7,999 price point
The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 beautifully mixes technical superiority with dreamy bokeh and a bit of character. It brings the best of the Z system — that impressive sharpness across the frame — with bokeh that melts like butter and just enough flare and vignetting to add character without going over the top. The lens creates some beautiful images. And wrapped up in a metal body, it looks beautiful too.
But, all of that comes at a high cost. The lens retails for $7,999 and weighs 4.4 pounds. While the manual focus is an easy affair with the aid of focus peaking, it’s not ideal for moving subjects. There’s also purple on some highlights due to chromatic aberration. The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 is a lovely piece of glass, but the expense and manual focus will significantly narrow the number of photographers who can work with this lens.
I’m giving the Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 four out of five stars.
I tested the Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 S Noct with the:
- Nikon Z7 II (loaner unit)
- Profoto B10X (loaner unit)
- B&W Clear Protective Filter (loaner unit)
This review sample was provided by Lensrentals.
The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 meshes Nikon’s classic Noct lenses with the modern Z mount. This modern Nikon Noct is the company’s most innovative lens for the Z mount. Everyone is making new mirrorless lenses; few are paying homage to vintage lenses in the way the Noct does. At f0.95, it’s the brightest full-frame Nikkor yet. And with a metal body, it’s also beautiful to look at too.
Lensrentals lists these technical specifications for the Nikon Noct 58mm:
- Angle of View: 40° 50’
- Aperture Blades: 11
- Aspherical Elements: 3
- Autofocus: Unknown
- Brand: Nikon
- Compatibility: Full Frame
- Diameter: 4.0”
- Filter Size: 82.0mm
- Focal Length: 58.0-58.0
- Focus Type: Manual
- Groups/Elements: 10/17
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Type: Lens
- Length: 6.0”
- Lens Type: Normal Range
- Max Aperture: 0.95
- Maximum Magnification: 0.19x
- Minimum Aperture: 16.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 1.6 feet
- Mount: Nikon Z
- Tripod Collar: Fixed and Rotating
- Weight: 4.4 lbs.
Bright aperture lenses are big and the Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 is no exception. The lens is six inches long and wide enough to require 82mm filters at the front. It’s a 58mm prime, but it’s going to take up the room of a mid-range zoom lens.
The lens weighs a whopping 4.4 pounds. so there’s no forgetting the $8,000 slung around my neck. After shooting with this lens for a few hours, my wrist was a bit sore. But, I’m willing to forgive that because the lens has a metal body. I have a thing for metal lens bodies with aperture rings. There’s just something classic and lovely about them.
Speaking of aperture rings, the Nikon Noct 58mm has one. The first control out from the mount is a thin, de-clicked control ring. While I prefer this control set to aperture, it can also be used for ISO and exposure compensation. I love being able to twist to control the aperture. But, I do have a tendency to bump Nikon’s lens rings for some reason. I had to keep a close eye on my aperture settings and make sure they didn’t get bumped out of place.
Moving further out from the mount, the lens has a rotating tripod collar. That’s not typical for a 58mm lens, but it’s a good idea considering the weight of the lens. It’s smaller than most, so it’s not large enough to grab onto. But the lens will be better balanced on a tripod with the collar.
The top of the lens houses an OLED information panel that displays aperture or focal distance. The display button just underneath switches between the two. Under that is a customizable Fn button.
The brunt of the lens is taken up by a large, grippy focus ring. The lens has a focus scale etched here, but it’s simple. There is no depth of field indicator for different aperture settings like on Leica’s manual focus lenses – a fair comparison, given this lens’ price point.
At the front, there’s a screw-in metal lens hood. While the hood can’t be reversed for storage, it doesn’t add a ton of length to the lens to store with the hood mounted.
“There are no depth of field indicators for different aperture settings like on Leica’s manual focus lenses – a fair comparison, given this lens’ price point.”
With a magnesium alloy build, the Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 feels lovely in the hands. It feels like how a lens of this price point ought to feel — solid. Even the lens hood and tripod collar is metal.
As part of Nikon’s S series, the lens is weather-sealed. I shot with it in a brief rain and, just to be sure, gave it a good splash from the sink too. It continued to perform just fine. I also didn’t notice any dust spots on the sensor during my time with this lens.
The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 is manual focus. Getting such a wide aperture lens in focus manually would be nearly impossible except for the Z series focus peaking. With it, I was able to get plenty of sharp images at f.95. Were there missed focus shots? Absolutely. But, with patience and a bit of overshooting, I had plenty of sharp images to choose from. The most misses occurred when attempting to shoot wide open with more distant subjects, making the spot of color on the focus peaking harder to see.
With a 1.6 feet minimum focus distance, the lens can capture close-up portraits. Working at a close distance with this lens created some of my favorite shots. The mix of a close focus and the wide aperture creates a really dreamy effect.
Of course, an f0.95 has a very thin slice of focus. When shooting this wide, a genuine smile or laugh can throw the shot out of focus. That’s really the downside to manual focus. While it’s not impossible or even extraordinarily difficult to get sharp shots, it needs to be stepped down if there’s a chance the subject moves even a little bit.
Ease of Use
An f0.95 manual focus lens is, by nature, going to be a bit challenging to use. But, focus peaking keeps that learning curve from resembling a mountain. The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 takes some time to get in focus and, holding up a 4.4-pound lens, the extra amount of time needed to focus can also be physically draining.
While the Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 is high-end, the physical controls aren’t overly abundant. Learning how to use the lens is simply a matter of learning to focus and set and use the custom control ring.
The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 has a superb combination of bokeh and sharpness that creates a thin slice of focus and bokeh like melted butter. The background melts away while, when meticulously focused, the subject stands out like a children’s pop-up book. While the lens has a sharpness I’ve come to expect from the Z-mount S series, a bit of flare and vignetting adds some character.
The f0.95 aperture, mid-range focal length, and close focusing capabilities combine to create dreamy backgrounds. The background just melts away. When shooting wide open and getting in close, even not-so picturesque locations can look quite stunning. In some images, the background has almost a swirl to it.
Points of light are soft and round. I didn’t spot any onion ring edges or soap bubbling.
The word wow came out of my mouth several times when looking at the images from this lens. While I’ve tested several Z lenses with edge-to-edge sharpness, I was expecting the f0.95 to introduce a more softness to the edges. While the corners aren’t as tack-sharp detailed as the center, they’re sharp enough to place subjects on the edges. So, this lens is sharp, but it’s not overly sharp.
The Noct name comes from a 1977 lens, the Noct Nikkor 58mm f1.2, that was designed to be used wide-open in low light or “nocturnal” settings. With those vintage roots, I had high hopes it would have a bit of character. And while the lens has the sharpness of a modern lens, I’m happy to share that there’s indeed a bit of character here too.
Flare is a mid-point between heavily suppressed and heavy flaring. Shooting into the light, the lens creates soft blooms of light, but doesn’t ruin the contrast. Creating circular ghosting flare was a bit tougher to accomplish, though not impossible.
Barrel distortion is minimal. There’s a moderate amount of vignetting, which adds a bit of character but edits out easily if you don’t want it.
Fine details around light sources occasionally get a bit of a purple tint to them due to some chromatic aberration. The aberration isn’t thick, but it’s present and may occasionally skew the highlights towards purple. The aberration was easier to manage in Lightroom, which has the lens’ profile, while it was a bit more obvious and difficult to edit out in Capture One.
Otherwise, the colors are consistent with those from the Nikon Z7 II. I had to work a bit to remove some green tint at times and reduce a bit of skin redness. But, these are edits I often make when working with Nikon’s bodies regardless. Nikon shooters will find consistent color when switching from the Noct to another lens.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy it?
The Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 offers a beautiful mix of sharpness and bokeh that many photographers will fall in love with. If you like the sharpness of S series lenses but want to be blown away by bokeh, soft subtle flare, and want to hold a metal lens in your hand, then the lens is a great choice. It’s one of the best lenses for the Z system, if not the best.
But, it’s a pricey lens, and manual focus isn’t ideal for every genre of photography. It also suffers from some chromatic aberration that can skew the highlights towards purple. If you don’t mind manually focusing, a bit of occasional aberration, and the price tag, you’ll get a lens that offers an ideal blend of character and technical superiority. For photographers working with movement, the manual focus may be a deal-breaker. For others, the deal breaker is going to be that $7,999 price tag (though, of course, Leica’s f0.95 is more expensive).
Would I buy it? The bokeh and sharpness are indeed tempting. However, one of the reasons I choose Fujifilm when switching to mirrorless was the fact that I could actually afford an f1 lens. For $8K, the Noct is quite expensive, and the chromatic aberration is a bit bothersome for such a high-priced lens.