Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8 Nikkor
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Lab Test Results
April 3, 2013
by Andrew Alexander
The Nikon 1 series of lenses are small and light, and at 70 grams (under 3 oz), the 18.5mm ƒ/1.8 is no exception. With just 8 elements in 6 groups, the lens produces an equivalent field of view of 50mm when mounted on a Nikon 1 series camera.
The 18.5mm lens was built specifically for the Nikon CX mount, and will not fit on other Nikon cameras. It does not ship with the optional HN-N104 round lens hood. The lens comes in three colors: white, black, and silver. The lens takes 40.5mm filters, and is available now for under $200.
The 18.5mm ƒ/1.8 lens produces tack-sharp images, even straight out of the gate at ƒ/1.8. It's tack-sharp all the way to ƒ/8, only losing a tiny bit of sharpness at ƒ/11, and then it's just sharp when fully-stopped down at ƒ/16. Excellent performance.
Unfortunately, in so small a package, something's got to give, and the lens shows some amount of chromatic aberration in the wider apertures. Fortunately this is mostly confined to the corners, where it is especially evident (showing as purple fringing in areas of high contrast).
When used wide open at ƒ/1.8, the 18.5mm produces corners in images which are 2/3 of a stop darker than the center. Stopping down to ƒ/2.8 or smaller reduces this to below a quarter-stop, or negligible.
There is some prominent barrel distortion when using this lens: specifically, +0.6% in the corners. This is fairly noticeable if you put subjects on the edge of the frame, otherwise, not so much.
The 18.5mm ƒ/1.8 1 Nikkor uses a very fast focusing system, focusing from close-focus to infinity in well under a second, and doing so very quietly. Attached 40.5mm filters will not rotate during focus operations.
This lens is a was not designed for macro work - just 0.12x magnification, and a minimum close-focusing distance of 20cm (around 8 inches).
Build Quality and Handling
Small and light is the order of the day for this lens, which uses 8 elements in 6 groups, one of which is aspherical and use a super integrated coating to reduce flare. The lens itself doesn't have much to complicate it - in fact there are no control surfaces of any kind, not even a focusing ring. The ring that you see on the front of the lens is for show, it doesn't turn - but it does provide another place to hold onto. All focusing operations are conducted from the camera, including manual focus. Other 1 system lenses employ optical stabilization, but unfortunately, there's just no room left over in this lens to provide the same system here.
The HN-N104 lens hood is a small, round hood that screws onto the front of the lens to provide some additional resistance to flare. It's an optional accessory and will run you about $20 if you feel it is necessary.
Right now, the only alternatives in the Nikon 1 system are other Nikon 1 lenses.
Nikon 1 10-100mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 PD-Zoom Nikkor VR ~$750
Three times the price, but ten times the range - the 10-100mm also offers VR. The 18.5mm prime is sharper and offers the faster working aperture of ƒ1.8; however, the zoom lens gives you the convenience of multiple focal lengths. Otherwise, the 10-100mm is similar when it comes to distortion, corner shading and chromatic aberration.
Nikon 1 10-30mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 Nikkor VR ~$-
The odds are that if you're a S, J or V owner, you already have this lens. It also features VR, and is as sharp as the 18.5mm prime at that focal length setting. Of course the 18.5mm prime goes faster at ƒ/1.8. Otherwise, it's a bit better for CA performance; corner shading and distortion are about the same.
The Nikon 18.5mm ƒ/1.8 1 Nikkor produces tack-sharp images, right out of the gate at ƒ/1.8 This alone should make it exceptional; its performance for CA, corner shading and distortion are acceptable as well, especially given its low price point. It's well worth a very small space in your bag.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Nikon 1 18.5mm f/1.8 Nikkor User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Tord (23 reviews)A universal 'normal' lens: Fast, sharp, and affordable!None
This is comparable to a 50mm lens on a full format camera, and a very good one, to boot. Excellent sharpness, and IQ. In short, the best Nikon 1 lens there is, bar the 32, and possibly, the UWA (6.7–13).reviewed November 16th, 2013 (purchased for $250)
I have to confess that I don't use mine so much, being more of a wide shooter, or longer focal lengths, like the 32.
This lens doesn't ooze quality, as the 32 does, but it comes very close to that, and image quality is definitely first class! In many ways it reminds me of the Sigma 19 I use on my NEX ever so often, but this lens is faster and slightly more compact.
For me the ideal Nikon 1 camera kit is the 6.7–13, the 18.5, and the 32, all without compare in the affordable camera world. When I bought mine, I sold the 50/1.4G I had for my D600, as I realised this little fellow would do just fine if I needed with that FOV!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Prime Minister (40 reviews)Small, light, fast and silent autofocus, build qualityCA
The build quality of this little lens is very good. The lens barrel and bayonet are made of metal. There are no external moving parts and it weighs almost nothing. It feels and looks clean and sturdy though.reviewed January 5th, 2013
The ribbed ring provides good grip while attaching or removing the lens and when you are holding the camera. The chrome rib on the lens barrel is a useful help in attaching or removing the lens. I really like the design of this lens.
Autofocus is fast, accurate and silent. In good light it's lightning quick but even in low light the lens locks on reasonably quick. The large aperture allows hand held shooting at low shutter speeds.
Center sharpness and contrast are very good at f/1.8. Totally usable, very nice. At f/2.8 sharpness and contrast get a little better, but you really have to be pixel peeping. This lens was made to use wide open.
Unfortunately there's some clearly visible CA and some distortion. Some of it can be removed in post processing. Overall the image quality is very decent for a small lens like this.
Personally, I like this focal length. If you like the Nikon 1 system, I think this lens is a vey nice addition. Together with the 10mm f/2.8 it forms an interesting set of primes.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by hekob (6 reviews)weighs nothing, low light performancerestrictive focal length, depth of field uninspiring, no focus ring
The lens to get currently if you are a low light CX shooter. I'm not sure this lens will ever sell well until sensor technology catches up a bit with DX/FX. Competent but not much more.reviewed December 14th, 2012 (purchased for $186)