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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the new version of Nikon's 50mm prime lens, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens.

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Handling and Features

Nikon 50mm F1 8g Fx

This update to Nikon's venerable 50mm f/1.8G has a lot to live up to, as the reputation of the older D version that it is amongst Nikon's sharpest optics will be a hard task to live up to. This new version currently costs around £200, which is around £100 more than the cheapest price the older D version can be picked up for currently.


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The new design sports a silent wave focusing motor, which will allow it to autofocus on Nikon's entry level bodies such as the D3100 and D5100 and older bodies which lack a built in focusing motor such as the Nikon D40 or D60. Although this lens is designed for full frame cameras, it has great appeal for DX camera users, as the angle of view on the smaller sensor is equivalent to a 75mm lens on the larger FX format, which is perfect for portraiture. It's rounded diaphragm blades should also help to provide smooth out of focus areas.

In this review we'll take a close look at how this lens performs to see if it is a worthy successor to its predecessor.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Handling and Features

Weighing only 185g, this lens is incredibly lightweight and shouldn't be too much of a burden to stow in a kit bag until needed as a result. Despite the light weight, the build quality hasn't suffered. The lens mount is constructed from metal, which has a rubber gasket to keep dust and moisturise from getting into the camera, although the rest of the lens makes no promises about weather sealing. The rest of the lens body is made from high quality plastics with a matt textured finish. Due to the light weight and compact size, it balances well on the Nikon D700 used for testing, making a compact, travel-friendly combination.

Although the lens doesn't employ an internal focus design, it does not extend during focusing, with all movement back and forth kept inside the lens barrel. This design also means the front filter thread does not rotate, which makes this optic perfect for use with graduated and polarising filters via the 52mm filter ring.

Focus speeds are reasonably fast and manual adjustments can be made at any time, thanks to the silent wave focusing motor. The narrow manual focusing ring is well damped, making it a pleasure to use when focusing manually. A focus distance window with hyperfocal markings for f/16 is provided. Although these markings are a welcome addition for hyperfocal shooting, they are very close to the focused distance marking, making them difficult to use effectively.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Performance

Even when shooting wide open at f/1.8, the clarity in the central portion of the frame is very good, although the quality towards the edges of the frame is fairly good.

As with most lenses, stopping down the aperture increases this optics performance across the frame and by f/2 the lens produces images with good sharpness from edge to edge with near excellent clarity in the centre. Peak performance is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where this lens' performance is truly outstanding across the frame.

Resolution at 50mm

How to read our charts

Nikon 50mm Nikkor Lens Resolution 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 D700 using Imatest.

The simple optical design requires no exotic ED glass to keep chromatic aberrations under control. At its worst, fringing chromatic fringing covers and area that just exceeds 0.5 pixel widths, which should pose few issues, even in very large prints or harsh crops from the edge of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations at 50mm

How to read our charts

Nikon Nikkor 50mm Lens Test CA 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 D700 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is quite pronounced on FX format cameras at f/1.8. Here the corners of the frame are 2.5 stops darker than the image centre, which can be a blessing, or a curse depending on your preference. Stopping the lens down results in more even illumination across the frame and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/4.

For a prime lens like this, barrel distortion is quite pronounced, which may pose problems for critical applications such as copy stand work. Imatest detected 1.98 barrel distortion and the pattern of distortion is uniform across the frame, which should make it relatively easy to correct in image editing software afterwards.

The deeply recessed front element is already well protected from extraneous light that may cause flare or loss of contrast and a deep circular hood is also provided to provide further protection. When shooting into the light, the simple optical design ensures this lens maintain good contrast and is resistant to flare in all but the most extreme of conditions.

Nikon 50mm Flower Nikon 50mm Lens Boats
Out of focus areas are rendered smoothly thanks to the rounded aperture blades - ISO500, 1/6400, f/4, 50mm The compact size and light weight makes this lens an ideal travel companion - ISO200, 1/1250, f/4, 50mm
Nikon 50mm Nikkor Lens Nikon 50mm Nikkor Lens
Sharpness is outstanding from edge to edge when stopped down - ISO200, 1/250, f/11, 50mm The simple optical design is very resistant to flare - ISO450, 1/250, f/8, 50mm
Nikon 50mm Nikkor Lens Test Nikon 50mm Nikkor Lens Test
ISO200, 1/400, f/8, 50mm ISO200, 1/640, f/1.8, 50mm


Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Verdict

Considering the reputation of this lens' predecessor, it has a lot to live up to. The new more refined design is indeed very welcome, especially for those looking for a portrait lens for their entry-level DX format camera, who would have had to resort to manual focus if using the older D version.

Although this new lens is more expensive than many 50mm f/1.8 lenses, the build quality is excellent and it handles very well. Optically, it is also superb, offering outstanding quality at a reasonable, although not bargain basement price.

The new Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens is optically superb offering outstanding quality.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Pros

Outstanding optical performance when stopped down
Very good sharpens in the centre at maximum aperture
Excellent build
Light weight
Resistance to flare
Low levels of chromatic aberration

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Cons

Barrel distortion a little strong for a lens of this type
Hyperfocal marking difficult to use



Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Specification

Price £200
Filter size 52mm
Format Full frame
Construction 7 elements in 6 groups
Angle-of-view 47º
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 75mm
Internal focusing No
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 45cm
Maximum aperture f/1.8
Minimum aperture f/16
Weight 185g
Size (lxw) 72 x 52.5mm
In the box Lens pouch CL-1013, Lens Hood HB-47, Lens caps


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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G SEARCH

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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G SEARCH

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Got mine today for my Nikon D5000 will let you have a review when I have tested it out
It would seem that, unless the Nikon user has a non D lens operating camera, and has the need for a 50mm lens, the older much cheaper lens is a cracking bargain. I assume that Nikon will be discontinuing the older lens.
I have the older D lens, and I often wonder how I got by without it. The appeal is mainly the lens speed. The majority of shots I've taken with the lens are wide open or close to wide open. It's an excellent lens for portraiture: f1.8 means you'll be able to get shallower DOF that will make your subjects pop... it definitely beats any zoom that's in the market in this regard.
Performance may peak at 5.6 or 8 (which is usually the sweet spot for most lenses), but the whole point of picking up a lens such as this is for that large aperture.

I can't believe they're more than doubling the price just for changing a letter, especially when all they're doing is removing an aperture ring... that's all G lenses are: D lenses without the ring. Shame on Nikon.
TongueWorks have taken many pic. of grand-kids in normal lighting .I am well please, got it on line @ Amazon $ 219.00 .so far so GOOD!
cameracat 18 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island

Quote:it definitely beats any zoom that's in the market in this regard.

A sweeping statement indeed.....!

Have you tested it against every zoom in the market....!!

I tested the old Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D against the Nikon AFS 24-70mm f/2.8, At 50mm this zoom is way better and sharper than the 50mm D....!!!

Obviously there is a big price difference, But making sweeping statements that one lens is better than another does not always hold true, Stating that primes lens are superior to zooms, Is not always the case, It rather depends on what Zoom your refering to.....Grin

Otherwise such statements are a tad misleading.....Wink
One lens verses another, type conversations can lead nowhere (as can sweeping statements).

We all hope to get the best from the equipment that we use and can afford. Every lens has worth and can produce wonderful images if used carefully. Age or newness may have little to do with results.

The shame is that, with this 50mm lens and its other new stuff, Nikon hopes that consumers ditch their older DSLRS and lenses, and purchase the new more expensive gear. Not all of use can afford to do so, or we are perfectly happy with what we have.

50mm lenses have had a reputation for many years of high quality irrespective of other lenses, and deservedly so.
As I understand this, and I have done very limited research so far, is that the difference between the D lens and this S lens is that this S lens will autofocus on cameras such as the D60 but the D lenses will not. But it is still a lot of extra money for this function. As for the comment about the zoom lens being better then well it may be but not everyone can afford a lens 6 times the price of this one being reviewed so as for the sweeping statments, I swept by them. Smile For me, a good review which will help make my mind up whether to purchase it. Smile
First lens I got for the D3100 - I did try the D-version but didn't like manually focusing, so spent a tiny bit extra for this and I think it's just incredible for the money and has given me a passion for primes. I advise anyone to get it instead of a kit lens when buying a body - I'm amazed why no-one listens though - there loss!
Just bought this lens myself. looking forward to getting some great shots with it. I believe the filter size is 58mm though and not 52mm as suggested in the table above. I believe previous models where 52mm but the G is 58mm.
Well, I've just this minute had mine delivered, paid the princely sum of £149Smile) Not having had a prime 50mm lens for years and this was given fab reviews by many people on the internet store, I thought go for it. I like to take photos with good bokeh or in my time, blurrrrrSmile) I see how I go with it

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