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Brian Tobey
Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S

NIKON 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S

UPDATED: JUNE 14, 2011 (NEW $220)

SHARPNESS:
 
9.2
BOKEH:
 
9.0
BUILD:
 
8.6
VALUE:
 
9.6
OVERALL:
 
9.3

PROSCONS
Light WeightNo Zoom
Low Light
Nice Bokeh

Last Updated: April 21, 2012 | By Brian Tobey Email Google+

SUMMARY


INTRODUCTION:

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G AF-S

The new Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S is an extraordinary value. Introduced at a $220 price tag, it packs some awesome optics. First, it is very sharp. But more importantly, it has the ability to blur backgrounds softly making it an excellent lens.

It scores great in all categories: low-light performance, sharpness, weight, mechanics, build-quality, and bokeh. It can work great as a portrait lens for DX users, or as a walk around lens for FX shooters. It is clearly the best bang for the buck from Nikon. Package this lens with a D5100 and its game over! A 90% solution for 50% cost!

DX CAMERAS:

The 50mm f/1.8 AF-S is an excellent lens for DX users. It is a great portrait lens or walk around lens. It's size is comparable to most DX cameras and makes for a nice balanced feel. It is an AF-S lens and will focus on all of Nikon's digital cameras. This lens is also in most DX users price point. For me the decision was a no brainer.

The 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX can now step aside, there is a new contender in town. Although the 35mm f/1.8G is a great lens, this new 50mm outperforms it in almost all categories. Choose the 35mm should you need a wider perspective.

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G AF-S

PURPOSE:

This lens is great for portability, low light shooting, and portrait use. Use it to walk around, take out with friends, or bring to events. Fixed focal length lenses (non-zoom) are great to learn with, allowing one to study a perspective. In this case, the 50mm is a fairly standard perspective on FX and a little tighter for DX. The len's Perspective is very useful for a variety of situations.


LIMITATIONS:

The 50mm f/1.8G has a fixed focal length, which means you may miss opportunities. Zoom lenses can provide greater flexibility depending on the scenario.




PERFORMANCE


- SAMPLES -

Sample Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR
Sample Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR
Sample Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR

SHARPNESS:

As expected, the 50mm f/1.8G is ultra sharp. At f/1.8, the corners of the frame are a bit soft. This should not be of much concern, unless shooting flat subjects like walls, where depth of field is the same throughout the frame.

By f/2.8, the lens is incredible sharp, with the corners just a little bit softer then the center. I assume the lens reaches its peak sharpness at f/5.6, but based on my testing, I could not resolve the difference between f/4 to f/8 because the lens out resolved my D700. At f/16, diffraction begins to settle in.

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G AF-S


NIKON'S MARKETING:

Nikon's published MTF chart shows how sharp this lens can perform at f/1.8. It is impressive for such an inexpensive lens. MTF Measurements describe only a sub set of overall lens performance and should be used cautiously. Learn more about MTF.


- NIKON SPECIFICATIONS -
GLASS7 ELEMENTS / 6 GROUPS
DIAPHRAGM7 ROUNDED BLADES
MINIMUM APERTUREf / 16
CLOSE FOCUS1.48 FT (45.1 CM)
DEPTH OF FIELD SCALEYes
WEIGHT185 GRAMS (6.53 OUNCES)
DIMENSIONS64.5x46mm
FILTERS58MM
MAXIMUM REPRODUCTION RATIO1:6.67




LEARN MORE: DISTORTION

DISTORTION:

Unfortunately this lens has some mild barrel distortion which is typical for most Nikon fixed focal lenses. What is most disappointing is how its predecessor performed so well.

The previous 50mm f/1.8 AF-D, hardly had any distortion. It always made me more at ease knowing I didn't have to correct for distortion afterwards. Although this new 50mm f/1.8 AF-S has some barrel distortion, it is minimal, and should only be corrected for the important shots. Add approx +2 in Photoshop's lens distort tool or in Lightroom to correct for this. Lightroom has a preset for this lens! Learn more about distortion.


LIGHT FALL OFF:

There is some light fall off on FX. It is gone by f/4. DX has no issues.

Vignette Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S


FLARE:

Nikon Flare 50mm f/1.8G AF-S

Flare is not a concern with this lens. I was surprised at how well this lens performed pointing it directly at the sun. So much for Nikon's Nano Crystal Coating marketing bull. The truth is Nano is probably not needed for such a simple lens, but Nikon still did a great job here.


SUNSTARS:

Sunstars are easy with this lens. Its magnificent 7 bladed diaphragm produces 14 ray sunstars. I am impressed at its ability to do this so well with a rounded blade diaphragm . Read more about Sunstars.


BOKEH:

Bokeh is the quality of the out of focus area of an image. This lens has suprisingly great bokeh. In the example below I compare it to Nikon's older legendary 85mm f/1.4 AF-D, which is known for its extrordinary Bokeh.

Although this is a limited example, you can see the similarities. One difference is the 85mm out performs the 50mm when stopping down some. At f/2.8 the diaphragms shape plays a larger role and the out of focus areas of the 85mm at 2.8 remain rounder and softer. Learn more about Bokeh and its importance.

Nikon BOKEH 50mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR


MECHANICS:

This lens requires no instructions. It's self explanatory. Grab the focus ring to adjust focus while in either automatic or manual focus modes. The focus ring turns smoothly and is accurate. The switch on the side adjusts the focus mode. M/A is autofocus with the option of manual overide. M is simply manual focus.


BUILD QUALITY:

The lens is very plasticy. But it feels very solid constructed. It is made in China, probably because it doesn't require advanced manufacturing processes that are performed in Japan.


COMPATIBILITY:

All modern Nikon cameras work great with this lens. However, older film cameras which require an aperture ring will lose some functionality.


SIZE COMPARISON:

The new 50mm f/1.8G AF-S is larger than its predecessor, the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D. However, it remains noticeably smaller then the 50mm f/1.4G AF-S. It is also lighter. This is one of the many reasons it is difficult to justify purchasing the 50mm f/1.4G AF-S.

Nikon 24mm Size Comparison


FILTERS:

It takes 58mm screw on filters. I'd prefer if it was the standard 52mm size. Using multiple filters should not be a problem. Vignetting should not be an issue with filters.

HOOD:

50mm f/1.8G AF-S with Hood

The 50mm f/1.8 AF-S comes with a modern nikon plastic twist on hood (HB-47). It is fairly large compared to the lens' small size. I would leave it at home, as this lens has no issues with flare!


FOCUS:

Focus is fast, quiet and accurate. The 50mm f/1.8G features AF-S which means the focus motor is built into the lens and is whisper quiet. It also has easy manual focus overide. Just grab the ring at anytime to manually adjust focus. It is a major upgrade from the previous version, the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D.

Focusing elements are internal, so the front element won't rotate. Any use of filters will remain stationary.

The lens has a depth of field scale that is useless because it is so compacted. This is typical from most modern Nikon lenses. It does not have an infinity stop or infrared scale.



PRICING - PURCHASE SUGGESTIONS


PRICING HISTORY:


Current eBay Auctions
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor FX Lens USA

CURRENT PRICE: $153
BID COUNT: 28
END DATE: Tuesday the 25th
END TIME: 02:30 ZULU

Nikon (Nikkor) AF-S Nikkor 50 mm F/1.8G Lens

CURRENT PRICE: $132
BID COUNT: 19
END DATE: Tuesday the 25th
END TIME: 03:21 ZULU

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

CURRENT PRICE: $121
BID COUNT: 16
END DATE: Monday the 24th
END TIME: 15:50 ZULU

PURCHASING SUGGESTIONS:

Just buy it new, not refurbished or used. Why? It is inexpensive already and you typically do not get much discount buying used. It should hold its value well over time. I bought mine on Amazon If you are looking for more inexpensive solution, I recommend buying the previous 50mm f/1.8 AF-D as an alternative. However, the background blur is not as nice as this 50mm 1.8G model.

If you are considering purchasing it used, I have provided some pricing history data above along with the current eBay auctions to the right. I would verify with the owner that the lens has not been dropped and the lens functions as it did new.



CONCLUSION



RECOMMENDATIONS:

I recommend this lens for portable, low light use. It's great for both DX and FX users. It's compatible with all of Nikon's digital SLR cameras. I'd skip the 50mm f/1.4G AF-S, and get this 50mm f/1.8G or jump to the optically superior 85mm f/1.4G AF-S.

If you are more familiar with zoom lenses and are looking for a low light solution, this lens is a great stepping stone and great compliment to many popular zoom lenses.

Nikon D90 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S NIKKOR

50mm f/1.8 G AF-S Mounted on D90


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