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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews this new wide-angle prime lens from Nikon with a bright f/1.8 aperture.

|  Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 20mm 1 1 8G ED N Lens (4)

This compact ultra wide angle lens from Nikon costs around £680 and sports a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture, silent, internal focusing with full time manual focus override and Nikon's Nano Crystal optical coating, to improve contrast while suppressing ghosting and flare. In this review, we'll take a look at how it performs.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED Handling and Features

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 20mm 1 1 8G ED N Lens (3)

Weighing only 355g, this lens is lightweight and quite compact, for a lens this wide with a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture. The lens barrel is constructed from high quality plastics and the lens bayonet is metal, with a rubber gasket to help prevent the ingress of dust and moisture into the camera. The lens makes a great companion for the Nikon D600 body used for testing, and should even feel right at home on Nikon's most compact DSLRs.

Autofocus is powered by a silent wave motor, and AF is very quick as a result. Manual adjustments can be applied at any time via the focusing ring also. The focusing ring is smooth to operate, and well damped enough to stay put once you've made any adjustments, which makes fine adjustments quite easy to apply.

Closest focus distance is 20cm, and focusing is performed internally, so the 77mm filter thread does not rotate, which should make this lens ideal for use with graduated filters and polarisers.

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 20mm 1 1 8G ED N Lens (5)

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED Performance

At f/1.8, sharpness in the centre of the frame is good, although performance towards the edges is only fairly good. Stopping down improves clarity across the frame, peaking between f/4 and f/5.6. Here sharpness is outstanding in the centre, and approaching excellent levels towards the edges of the frame.

Nikon20mm MTF

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.


Levels of chromatic aberrations are kept within acceptable levels, remaining just below one pixel width at maximum aperture. This level of fringing should be difficult to spot, even in large prints, and harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Nikon20mm CA

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.


Falloff of illumination towards the corners is quite severe. At maximum aperture the corners are 3.29 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination isn't achieved until stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

Imatest managed to detect 1.42% barrel distortion, which is a reasonably mild amount of distortion , especially for a 20mm lens. If straight lines are of the utmost importance, you'll be glad to hear that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software afterwards relatively straightforward.

Thanks to Nikon's Nano Crystal optical coating, the lens is very resistant to flare and contrast holds up well when shooting into the light. A petal shaped hood is supplied as standard, which does a sterling job of shielding the lens from extraneous light, that may cause issues.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED Sample Photos

Value For Money

Priced at around £680, this lens represents reasonable value for money, especially given its ultra-wide angle of view and fast f/1.8 maximum aperture.

Those with an eye for a bargain may consider this lens' predecessor. The old Nikon 20mm f/2.8D does have a slower maximum aperture, and lacks silent focusing, but it can be picked up for around £460.

Sigma also produce a 20mm f/1.8 lens for Nikon cameras. Their 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical lens lacks silent focusing, but only costs £390. however, it does have a reputation for producing a 'dreamy', soft look on images taken at maximum aperture.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED Verdict

This new lens from Nikon is a nice upgrade to the previous 20mm f/2.8D, which has a design that dates back to the early nineties. The fast f/1.8 aperture is great for low light shooting, and even though sharpness may not be of the same level as Nikon's top lenses at maximum aperture, it is still very usable.

The lightweight, yet robust construction lends itself to being used in harsh environments, as well as meaning that it balances well with Nikon's most compact SLR bodies.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED Pros

Very sharp when stopped down
Relatively compact and lightweight
Silent focusing
Low distortion for an ultra-wide angle lens
Good value
Nano-Crystal optical coatings

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED Cons

Falloff of illumination is quite severe at max aperture
Could be sharper at maximum aperture


The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED has a fast aperture and is very sharp when stopped down.


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
Focal Length20mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/1.8
Min ApertureNo Data
Filter SizeNo Data
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus20cm
BladesNo Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
HeightNo Data

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15 Oct 2014 11:32PM
Very interesting to compare this test against the Nikon 14-24mm at 18mm in 2010. I have both lenses, and apart from missing the 14-19mm range, I am moving towards the 20mm f1.8 for landscape & general ultra-wide shots. Brilliant lens & very sharp shots so far.
22 Oct 2014 12:26PM
I have been repeatedly advised not to use a polarizer filter on a wide angle lens.
themak 8 1.0k Scotland
30 Oct 2014 3:12PM

Quote:I have been repeatedly advised not to use a polarizer filter on a wide angle lens.

Any reasons particular to wide lenses? I'd have said polarisers need discretion generally.
daibev 17 350 Wales
31 Oct 2014 11:34AM

Quote:Quote: I have been repeatedly advised not to use a polarizer filter on a wide angle lens.

Any reasons particular to wide lenses? I'd have said polarisers need discretion generally./quote]

Polariser effect depends on the angular position on the sun. With extreme wide angle lenses the polariser effect will vary across the frame due to differing angles to the sun.

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