Life at 1.4

Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 24mm f/1.4G

There’s a place in my bag as well as my heart for both zoom and prime glass. I don’t think I could shoot exclusively with just one or the other, because both types can accomplish different things in various situations. For ultimate depth of field control and maximum speed, however, you can’t beat a fast prime.

When I use any of my prime lenses, I really like to take advantage of what truly sets them apart from my zooms, so I almost always leave them wide open at f/1.4 all day long.  Sure you can shoot a lens like this at f/5.6 and get great results (yaaawn), but I love shooting at 1.4, just because I can! Every shot you see in this post was taken at f/1.4.

At f/1.4, your camera becomes an absolute light bucket, even compared to a “fast” f/2.8 zoom. This allows you to shoot at night or indoors under low lighting with ease. In general, the wider your focal length, the lower shutter speed you can hand-hold. So shooting wide open with say a 24mm f/1.4 lens in front of a full frame sensor means you can happily keep snapping away under a moon-lit sky. Amazing stuff.

Let’s not forget control over depth of field with a super fast lens! Getting your subject pin sharp while the entire background melts out of focus gives you images with a unique sense of dimension and depth that, at least for me, never gets old. Many fast primes, like Nikon’s incredible 24mm f/1.4 AFS lens, are also insanely sharp wide open. Just be careful with your focus; the limited depth of field you get at really wide apertures means you have to nail your focus perfectly.

I’m all about wide angle lenses. If I had to pick one focal length as my absolute favorite, I’d have to say 24mm. To me it’s just wide enough to make a powerful impact on the perception of depth in an image if used correctly, and it’s a great focal length for everything from landscapes and street photography to portraits (yes, portraits!). Here’s a few more images from my catalog from the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

These images are part of a new gallery I’m putting together on my website called “Random Moments.” It’s a less directed gallery compared to my others, very open and creatively free. It’s an expression of my life through the lens as I carry my camera with me everywhere I go. At least for now, it’s a gallery of images I’ve taken with prime lenses. Check it out at!

My favorite lens ever….really!


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 24mm f1.4G  and Nikkor AFS 50mm f/1.4G

44 thoughts on “Life at 1.4

  1. Amazing images! You are definitely putting the 24mm 1.4 to good use. I’m trying to decide between the 24 and the 85mm. I think you’re making a pretty good argument for the wide angle.

    1. Thank you! Between the 85mm and the 24mm, it really was no contest for me. 24mm all the way! I might pick up the 85 as well one of these days, but I’m positive I wouldn’t use it even half as much as I use the 24.

    1. Thanks Annie! Yeah, the 24 1.4 is similar in price to the 70-200 VRII. Both are really expensive but worth every penny. Looking forward to your blog by the way =D

    1. Hehe, I like to be prepared! j/k

      So that rocket is one of the art displays along the water in San Francisco’s Embarcadero area. This particular display is set up just south of the Ferry Building.

  2. Now that you have both the wide zoom and the wide prime, if you could only choose one. Would you recommend the 24mm 1.4G or the 16-35mm f/4? I have the 50mm 1.4G and am looking to buy a lens to cover the wide end.

    1. Oh wow, that’s a tough one, which is probably why I have both! But I’d have to say get the 24mm only if you need the speed and depth of field isolation that f/1.4 can give you. Other than that, the 16-35 VR is more flexible all around, is very sharp, and is significantly less expensive.

  3. damn… 24 1.4 looks great with FX 🙂 I’d like to see 16mm 1.4 or even 1.8 for DX bodies… 😉
    I’m having 35 1.8, it’s preety good- but after crop its ~50mm…
    next lens which I’m going to buy is 50 1.4, but it’s even longer… 🙂
    ehh… i would like to see fast wideangle lens for DX cameras 🙂
    greetings from Poland ;D

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yes, lenses like the the 24 1.4 really make a strong case for full frame cameras, though on DX, you could mount a 24 and get a fast 35ish full frame equivalent.

      1. I was thinking about Nikon 24 2.8 or Sigma 20mm 1.8… 🙂 but i’d like to have something like 24mm but after crop- i wish Nikon had 16mm 1.8 DX 😀 but there won’t be probably any lens like that 😀

  4. I don’t have words. Wonderful. Jonathan, could you please tell – did you use flash when making pictures at daylight (for example – first picture)?

    1. Thanks for the comment! No flash used in any of these images actually. In the first image, the sunlight coming from behind my subject is reflecting off of a white office building behind me, essentially acting as a huge reflector, helping me balance the foreground and background exposure. I look for things like this when I’m out taking pictures. Thanks again!

      1. Thanks Jonathan for so quick reply, and this trip that you used with office building is great. Also Jonathan, I would really appreciate if you could help me with the following:
        I want to buy camera and lens for it, and can’t decide what is the best option now between D700 and D7000 (I heard rumors about D800 is coming, but in any case it will be too far from my budget 🙂 ). So just D700 or D7000. And as for lens – you’s favorite Nikkor AF-S 24mm F1.4.
        My story is – I am not planning to change this equipment for many years, and I would like to have one good lens that will suit me while shooting landscape and portraits (for portraits I mean in the same manner as you listed at this post). I am planning to make photos mostly as a hobby (not commercial), but would like to do it professionally. I am inclined to take D700 – but will it suits me for many years?

      2. Denis,

        If budget is a concern, you really need to consider if you have a pressing need for anything the D700 offers that the D7000 can’t give you. Currently, a D700 body will cost you almost double what a D7000 body would. If you can’t identify specifically why the D700 would be a better choice for your needs, you should probably just pick up the excellent D7000 and spend the money you’d save over buying a D700 on a good lens.

        Either camera will suit you for many years. Yes, the D700 is considered a little old at this point, but that doesn’t mean it won’t continue being a great imaging tool for years to come. But if you can’t decide, why not save some cash and get whatever costs you less? =)

  5. Hi Jonathan.
    Great thanks for all your answers and help to me. I’ve got your idea and probably will do so. The only last question: I read that a lot of people have problems with D700/D7000 and AF-S 24mm F1.4 (Focus problems on F1.4). As I can see – you made a lot of shots on this lens – have you had any similar problems?
    Thank you

    1. Denis,

      I’ve heard of those reports, but haven’t had any focus issues at all with the 24mm, and I often shoot wide open. I suspect that a number of those reports involve user error, as nailing your focus at f/1.4 is not an easy task. Keep in mind too that if you mount the 24mm f/1.4 on a D7000, you’ll get an angle of view similar to that of a 35mm lens on an FX camera, not the true 24mm you’d experience with a D700.

  6. beautiful shots.

    i’m considering this lens or the 35/1.4.

    if you remember, how close were you to the subject in shots like “Bridget 3” and “Sukiiiii”? how is the dof a little further out (10-20ft)?

    1. Devin,

      Thanks for the comment. I come in REALLY close to my subjects when I use the 24. To me that’s the beauty of the lens: it allows me to get in real close while still providing an expansive context for my subject. You still get a very 3D sort of look wide open if you back away from your subject, but obviously the 35 can give you shallower depth of field.

  7. Never have I enjoyed looking through somebody elses photos quite as much as these. I loved pretty much all of them, excellent work. 🙂

  8. Hello,

    Admiring your photos with this combo. I have the same lens and just acquired a D700. Did you needed to fine tune the combo to get more focus shots wide open? If so can I ask your fine tune settings.


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