The Nikon Nikkor-S 55mm f/1.2 is a lens I always wished for but never had a chance to have before this particular specimen appeared. Most of the ones I’d previously come across were too expensive for me but this one had the right balance of price and scratches. Given the fact it would be yet another lens in the range of others like 50/1.4, 50/1.8 AF, 60/2.8 Micro, I could not justify anything less damaged than this.

If I remember correctly my previous research, this is the second version of this lens, still missing major corrections that would arrive later in the AI version. I’m always worried with how different lenses render images that could work together later. It became clear that this lens has three different characters or looks depending on the f/stop used. One with the lens between 1.2 and 1.4 (very soft, very unique), one between 1.8 and 2 (less soft, probably would mix well with 28mm f/2 or 35mm f/1.4 wide open) and 2.8 and above (not soft at all, can be mixed with other Nikkor lenses, if used in same assignment).

This one has this older clip-on shade that was permanently attached to a filter ring to turn it into a screw-in shade. The shade was for the 58mm S lens, also one other lens I always wished to have, but never had the opportunity. Sort of the search for the classic look of the 60’s Nikon or maybe just plain GAS.

Some TLC

I took this lens completely apart and gave it a good scrub. There was an overall patina of dust and cigarette smoke (maybe). Put in a new grease in the lens barrel and focusing became easy again. The lens fit comfortably on the FM2 and the weight balanced well.

Image of the doors and one of the security camera show what this lens can do around f/2 and f/2.8. They exhibit shallow depth of field and very interesting local contrast. At f/5.6, images of the swimming pool and the textured wall show straight lines and lots of details. At f/1.2 images still show interesting contrast. This backlit example is missing most of its detail but still has volume and bokeh is quite ok, although I prefer the bokeh at f/2, I guess.

For the images I have here, I used an expired roll of Kodak Plus-X. I rated it at box speed but push developed with Dektol to produce some grainy images. Not exactly what you would get with regular ISO 125 film. Negatives were scanned in Pakon.

Lenses brighter than f/1.4 are usually very tempting and this one was very fun to use. Eventually I let this one go, I was a hard one to mix with the others.

About the author

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Guilherme Maranhão

Guilherme Maranhão, artist. Published Travessia book, author of Refotografia blog. Colaborates with FotoPlusTV. Currently living in Braga, Portugal.

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  1. To be 100% accurate, the lens pictured is the 55mm f/1.2 Nikkor, which predates the 50mm f/1.2.

    The 50mm is a much more evolved optical formula with better coatings.

    I point this out only because the title of this post says “50mm”, and it might give a false impression of the capability of that lens.

  2. That big front element! It just says ‘throw whatca ya got at me darkness, I’ll beat you!’
    I’m getting the 40mm f1.2 vm for my Leica M2…gonna conquer some bad light.
    I was curious about the prices on the Nikkor…they seem to start around $330.00; not bad for a super fast prime.