Jan 24 2006

Nikon 50 1.8 review – the best bargain in the Nikon lenses line-up ever

The Nikon 50 1.8 is the smallest, lightest and cheapest lens among the AF Nikon lenses. A lot of users say that it is one of the sharpest too. And this should make you think really hard why you still don’t own and use one.

Nikon 50 1.8 review – Specifications:

Nikon 50/1.8 AF

Nikon 50/1.8 AF

The long name of this Nikon lens is: AF NIKKOR 50mm 1:1.8 D

Focal Length: 50mm
Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
Construction: 6 elements in 5 groups
Minimum Focus Distance: about 1.5 feet, 0.45m
Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.15
Number of Diaphragm Blades: 7 blades
Picture Angle: 46° (35mm format), 31° 30′ (Nikon DX format)
Aperture: 1.8-22
Filter Size: 52mm
Dimensions: 2.5 x 1.5 in., 63 x 39mm
Weight: about 5.5 ounces, 155g

Check the price of the Nikon 50/1.8.

It comes with a 52mm lens cap and a rear cap. The optional hood is the HR-2 rubber hood, but any 52mm “normal” rubber hood will do. Also, if the need arise, the 52mm filters are quite affordable.

Due to it’s optical formula it can be used successfully for close-up photography with an auto extension ring. At the minimum focusing distance it covers an area of about 14.5 x 9.5 cm.

This lens was designed as a normal lens for the film cameras so on the DX cameras (Nikon and Fuji DSLRs), it will become a short portrait lens, similar with a 75mm lens on a full frame camera.

Nikon 50 1.8 review – Appearance:

The Nikon 50 1.8 exterior is plastic and the focusing ring has a slightly different design than the other AF Nikkors. The lens is made in China, and the build quality is not the best, but since the optics are great and the price is so low this is not a problem.

Being a normal lens, it doesn’t need or feature internal focus or CRC. This is a good thing because the lenses inside do not move relative to each other, ensuring good reliability.

The mount is metal, the AF is the “screw type” and the lens feature the good old aperture ring so it is compatible with all Nikon cameras.

Nikon 50 1.8 review – In use:

The lens is very small and light so you will barely notice it on the camera and there is no “intimidation factor”.

Due to the large aperture, the image in the viewfinder is very bright, which is very useful when shooting in dark environments.

The AF is quite fast and accurate, but if you want you can use manual focus with a great deal of confidence, due to the bright image in the viewfinder and the reduced depth of field.

The Nikon 50 1.8 has a lot of different uses, from a low light lens, very useful to be paired with a more flexible but darker zoom lens as the Nikon 18-70 3.5/4.5, to a portrait lens and even a product and table top useful lens.

I used the Nikon 50 1.8 to take the beverage images at right because I both needed a particular perspective (50mm) and a shallow but controlled depth of field ( f:4.8 ). And at 50mm around f:4, the Nikon 50 1.8 is sharper than most other lenses, maybe except the Nikon 50 1.4.

Nikon 50 1.8 review – Performance:

The Nikon 50 1.8 is very useful for portraits taken in the available light, since it is sharp enough for portraits from 2.8 in the center, and with the portraits the corners are not important at all.

Also, the reduced depth of field helps with the impression of sharpness, since the main subject will look much sharper on a blurred background and the image edges will not be in the depth of field region anyway.

For more critical applications, it is better to close the aperture past 3.5, better to f:4 and higher. The best sharpness is achieved at f:8.

The Nikon 50 1.8 bokeh is not that great, the lens have 7 aperture blades but unfortunately they are pretty straight so the blurred light sources in the background, if any, will look like well defined polygons. This situation is better avoided.

The distortion is pretty nonexistent, but if you need the Nikon 50 1.8 for a really critical job this distortion can be easily corrected with Panorama Tools, or easier with PTLens from Thomas Niemann.

Lens kits:

The Nikon 50/1.8 can represent a very good low light addition either to a versatile but not very fast zoom lens as the Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5, to fulfill the gap between a (ultra) wide zoom and a telephoto zoom lens, or in a prime lenses setup:

Nikon 50/1.8 + Nikon 18-70/3.5-4.5 – versatile solution for social events

Nikon 50/1.8 + Tokina 12-24/4 + Nikon 80-200/2.8 – complete kit for demanding assignments, less versatility for press photography.

Nikon 50/1.8 + Nikon 20/2.8 + Nikon 85/1.8 or Tokina 100/2.8 macro – small but comprehensive prime lenses kit. You may add a Nikon 180/2.8 to cover the need for more focal length.

Nikon 50 1.8 review – Conclusion:

I find the Nikon 50 1.8 lens a very high quality lens, much more considering its price.

If you are addicted to zoom lenses, a prime lens may look limiting to you, but this one has a lot of advantages:

Price

If you just want to “get your feet wet” with prime lenses, this is the best choice to start.

Image quality

One of the sharpest lenses you can get. If you are using consumer grade zooms, by any means get the Nikon 50 1.8 just to see what a sharp lens can do.

Large aperture

Even than it can’t be used successfully at 1.8, from 2.8 you will get very good results consistently. And if you are in a situation when getting the shot is more important than absolute sharpness, the Nikon 50 1.8 will get the image you can’t take at 3.5.

Small and light

You can keep it in the bottom of your bag all the time and you will not notice it until the need arises.

Buying the Nikon 50/1.8 AF-D

You can get the Nikon 50/1.8 at B&H, here.


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