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Nikon brings better optics to new 50mm lens

The new f/1.4 lens has better optical performance, but it'll cost more. Also: Nikon says it built 5 million lenses in the last year and 45 million over its history.

Nikon's new f/1.4 lens
Nikon's new f/1.4 lens should cost about $440 when it goes on sale in December. Nikon

Nikon announced an update to its 50mm f/1.4 lens on Monday, a relatively high-speed mainstay set to go on sale for $440 in December.

The new lens, called the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, has less chromatic aberration and internal flare than its predecessor, Nikon said. It's also got a silent wave motor for quiet, speedy autofocus, a close-focus distance of about 18 inches, and nine rounded aperture blades for a smoother look, called bokeh, in out-of-focus regions.

Lenses with a fixed 50mm focal length are very common, though not as much as during the era before zoom lenses became standard for entry-level SLR cameras. Nikon's current AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D costs about $300.

"Experienced photographers have always appreciated the incredible image fidelity and low-light ability that a precisely engineered 50mm lens can deliver," Edward Fasano, general manager for marketing for Nikon's SLR systems products, said in a statement. "In addition, seasoned shooters often prefer the photographic discipline imposed by the use of prime lenses."

The company, which has been gaining market share on market leader Canon, announced the new lens in conjunction with the Photokina show in Germany. Nikon also said it's produced 45 million SLR lenses over its history--notably, 5 million of them in the last year.