Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor
Lab Test Results
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August 15, 2011
by Andrew Alexander
Released in June 2011, the Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.8G AF-S offers (among other things) silent focusing and full compatibility with all of Nikon's current camera lineup. The lens was designed to fill the FX or 35mm film frame, and will also work on DX sensor camera bodies, with an effective field of view of 75mm.
The lens takes 58mm filters and ships with a circular lens hood. The lens is available now for around $220.
The 50mm ƒ/1.8G didn't blow us away for sharpness, but it's not bad, either. At its maximum aperture setting, where arguably it will be used the majority of the time, it offers only average results for sharpness. The results are better on the sub-frame D300s, as some areas of uneven focus are cropped out. Stopping down is definitely necessary to squeeze out the best results for sharpness with this lens. At ƒ/2, as you might imagine, results aren't that much different from ƒ/1.8; at ƒ/2.8, we achieve very good results, the unevenness starting to smooth out, combined with a good area of central sharpness. On the D300s, results are excellent, and from this point on we only see minor gains when stopped down further. Results are best at ƒ/5.6-ƒ/8.
On the full-frame D3x however, the corners are still a bit of an issue and there are further gains to be had until we achieve tack-sharp results at ƒ/8. Diffraction limiting sets in on both camera bodies at ƒ/11, with a marginal reduction in quality. Fully stopped-down performance is good, better at ƒ/16 than we note at ƒ/1.8 or ƒ/2.
CA is slightly noticeable on the sub-frame D300s, with the 24 megapixel sensor of the D3x giving that camera an advantage on our testing software. It's notable more in the corners than throughout the majority of the image frame, and shows as very slight colored fringing on areas of high contrast.
On the sub-frame D300s, corner shading is nothing to write home about; at ƒ/1.8, the corners are just 1/3 of a stop darker than the center. At any other setting, corner shading is negligible.
On the full-frame D3x, corner shading is slightly more evident; at ƒ/1.8, the corners are 2/3 of a stop darker than the center. At ƒ/2.8, this differential reduces to just 1/3 of a stop, and at ƒ/4 or smaller, corner shading is negligible.
Distortion is nicely controlled on the 50mm ƒ/1.8G AF-S, with just a light amount of barrel distortion. On the sub-frame D300s this amounts to just +0.2% in the corners; on the full-frame D3x, it's slightly more noticeable, at +0.4% in the corners.
The 50mm ƒ/1.8G uses an AF-S designation and is relatively fast to autofocus, racking through its close-focus to infinity distance and back, in just over one second. However, it's worth noting that the implementation of the AF-S standard is not similar to that of Nikon's higher-end lenses. Where lenses such as the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S will snap to focus with blisteringly fast speed, the 50mm ƒ/1.8G AF-S is comparatively sluggish.
The filter ring of the lens does not rotate while focusing, and neither does the focus ring (which does on the 50mm ƒ/1.4 and ƒ/1.8 AF-D models). The 50mm ƒ/1.8G AF-S is also very quiet during focus operations.
The 50mm ƒ/1.8G AF-S is not rated as a macro lens, and with a magnification ratio of just 0.15x (1:6.8) we can see why. The lens has a minimum close-focusing distance of 45 cm (about one and a half feet).
Build Quality and Handling
Observant readers will note obvious similarities with the Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4G review; this isn't a coincidence, as the design notes of the ƒ/1.8G lens seem to be inherited from the 1.4G.
The lens is well-built, with durable plastic components and a metal lens mount. A rubber gasket shrouds the lens mount, protecting the lens from dust and moisture. The lens barrel is composed of a black semi-roughed finish, and the rubber focus ring shows a ridged pattern that is easy to grip. The lens features seven rounded diaphragm blades to make up the aperture, said to produce pleasing out-of-focus results. As well, an aspherical lens element is used in the optical formula.
The lens bears a distance scale that is recessed and windowed, its markings set in feet and meters. A depth-of-field scale is also present with indicators for ƒ/16 (however, no infrared index). A switch on the side of the lens allows the user to disable autofocus operations on the lens (marked as "M/A | M").
The focus ring is 3/8'' wide. The ring turns nicely; it is well-dampened, if just slightly stiffer than necessary. There will be no accidental adjustment to manual focus, though this is not to say that the ring is by any means difficult to turn. It just lacks the silky smoothness of higher-end lenses. It takes about 100 degrees of rotation for the focus ring to turn throughout its range of close-focus to infinity distance. There are no hard stops at either close-focus or infinity, though there is a slight increase in resistance to let you know you've reached a limit. The lens will focus slightly past infinity.
It's worth noting that the front lens element does move slightly during focusing operations, but the lens housing forms an effective shroud and thus the overall exterior dimension of the lens does not change.
The lens ships with the HB-47 lens hood, a small circular-style bayonet-mounted hood that adds 1 1/4 inches to the lens' overall length when mounted. The lens reverses for storage on the lens.
Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.8D ~$120
The most obvious comparison will be with the D-version of the 50mm ƒ/1.8, at around half the price. Sharpness has been improved, especially in the corners on an FX body, where the ƒ/1.8D was fairly atrocious at fast apertures. However, the ƒ/1.8D achieves its best sharpness by ƒ/4, where our sample of the ƒ/1.8G had to be stopped down to ƒ/8. Chromatic aberration and distortion test results were better on the ƒ/1.8D. The major advantage of the ƒ/1.8G is compatibility, as the ƒ/1.8D lens won't autofocus on modern consumer-level cameras such as the D3100, D5100 or even D40x.
Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4G ~$440
For about twice the price, you can buy an extra two-thirds of a stop of light-gathering ability. The 50mm ƒ/1.4G and ƒ/1.8G lenses are practically identical, with only a fifty-gram weight difference (owing to the two extra lens elements). The ƒ/1.4G is indeed sharper than the ƒ/1.8G, offering better results for chromatic aberration as well; however, shot at ƒ/1.4, the ƒ/1.4G lens will exhibit signs of spherical chromatic aberration more prominently than the ƒ/1.8G (magenta-green fringing in areas of high contrast, before and behind the focus plane). Distortion is better controlled in the ƒ/1.4G, but corner shading is definitely more prominent at higher apertures.
Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4D ~$350
You can also buy an extra two-thirds of a stop of light-gathering ability in the form of the ƒ/1.4D version of the Nikon 50mm lens. The ƒ/1.4D is indeed sharper than the ƒ/1.8G, offering better results for chromatic aberration as well (but, as mentioned in the ƒ/1.4G above, spherical chromatic aberration is quite prominent at large apertures). Distortion is slightly worse in the ƒ/1.4D, and corner shading is definitely more prominent at higher apertures. As well, without AF-S capability, this lens won't autofocus on consumer-level cameras such as the D3100, D5100 or D40x.
Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 EX DG HSM ~$500
The Sigma 50mm is significantly more expensive than the Nikon ƒ/1.8G, but offers somewhat better results for sharpness - at least on the DX frame. On the FX body, corner softness is quite prominent at wide apertures. Chromatic aberration is well controlled, distortion is minimal, and there isn't that much corner shading, even wide open on full-frame.
Carl Zeiss 50mm ƒ/1.4 Planar T* ~$725
The most expensive of these alternatives, the Carl Zeiss 50mm ƒ/1.4 eschews automatic features - there is no autofocus for this lens. However, the build quality is without equal, and image sharpness (when stopped down) is very good indeed. However, it's not better than other Nikkors, Distortion is slight, chromatic aberration is well controlled, and corner shading is similar to other ƒ/1.4 models.
With so many choices in the 50mm category, even just from Nikon, it's hard to figure who the target audience for the 50mm ƒ/1.8G. Obviously, owners of consumer bodies such as the D3100 or D5100, which don't have mechanical autofocus screws, will gravitate to this lens. However, for a 50mm "experience", those users are better served by the 35mm ƒ/1.8, which offers a similar field of view to the traditional 50mm lens. FX camera users can use either of the D series lenses, and the odds are if you have spent the money on a D700 or a D3-level body, you're probably more interested in a ƒ/1.4G instead of a ƒ/1.8G.
Out of context, the Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.8G AF-S is a fairly solid performer; stopped down to at least ƒ/4, it offers very sharp, contrasty images with little chromatic aberration and no corner shading. However, when you market the lens with a fast aperture, you have to imagine that people are going to use it predominantly at ƒ/1.8, and that's where the lens exhibits all of its shortcomings: it's good but not especially sharp, offering uneven performance on both FX and DX bodies. Chromatic aberration is at its most notable, and on FX bodies, corner shading is somewhat evident.
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 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor
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Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor User Reviews
7 out of 10 points and recommended by HilaryCC (4 reviews)Great Centre sharpness, colour and contrast at maximum aperture in low light. Small lens.Overall sharpness only at smaller apertures
My experience is the same as the reviewer. I was hoping to use this lens for landscapes as well, but it requires a lot of stopping down.reviewed December 13th, 2017
Fine in low light, though - bit of a marvel there.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Airy (16 reviews)Contrast, flare behaviour, against-the-light shoooting, point light sourceslightly built
One of my best nighttime performers, better than the 50/1.4 AFS and than most other 50mm I tested (but the Noct of course), including the Voigtlaender Nokton 58/1.4. Good results in low light, generally speaking. Wide open, it vignettes a lot, but pictures do have some punch already.reviewed April 26th, 2015
Otherwise it is roughly equivalent to the 50/1.4 AFS.
AF is decently fast and more accurate than was the case with the 50/1.4 AFS (it tended to be erratic).
Very, very good value for money. I was surprized to see it sold as a kit lens with the expensive Df, but that makes sense.
7 out of 10 points and not recommended by LCN (1 reviews)budget friendly lensNot the best 50mm quality I've seen....
This is a mainstream lens, not very special, a not overexciting image quality, just a normal performer. I think that Nikon will need to be doing something to stay in competition: more and more third party manufacturers are delivering a better quality at a lower price. If I was in their driver seat, nobody could beat the quality of my own range of lenses.reviewed January 15th, 2014 (purchased for $470)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by hunter (2 reviews)contrast, rendering, good AF speed, sharpness, manuall focus overdrive, silentvignetting at 1.8
this is problably best money spend on lens ever( i use d90)!reviewed July 21st, 2013 (purchased for $230)
This is a huge improvment in quality compared to the kit lenses ( 18-105mm etc). The AF speed good and decent, and it can be overdriven anytime- I found this more usefull feature - better than 1.8D. Sharpness is good wide open and excellent from 2.2 and up- the tested copy of 50mm G's on SLR gear site must be a lemon copy ( also at 2.2 has little less vignetting and bokeh fringing), contrast is very good wide open and it's not hazy(!) like in other primes wide open apertures. It' reneders good natural colours with neutrall feel in them perhapse little towards warm side and not very ''cold'' looking ( at least on my copy). A lot of people say that 50mm is uselles on dx- I don't agree on this I think this is tottaly fine focal lenght on dx !
you get all in one prime: excellent sharpness, contrast, af speed, very decent built, and I think is better value than 1.4G version. you can't loose on this and it will be hard to get more lens for this money!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by photospots (5 reviews)Sharpness, bokehcould have better build quality
Great lens that I consider to be the best 50mm Nikon lens that you can buy with almost as great picture quality as the 1.4g.reviewed October 22nd, 2012 (purchased for $250)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Prime Minister (42 reviews)Sharp, faster auto focus, small, light, affordable, recessed front lensVignetting at f/1.8
Like the AF-S 85mm f/1.8G, this AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is a nice surprise. And an affordable one too. Sharpness and contrast in the center are very good already at f/1.8 (really) and stopping down the whole image becomes nice and sharp at f/2.8. It's fun to have a lens which gives usable sharpness at f/1.8. None of the other AF 50mm lenses from Nikon are this sharp and contrasty at this aperture.reviewed July 3rd, 2012 (purchased for $200)
CA is well under control and I find the bokeh of this lens soft and unobtrusive. It looks like the bokeh of the f/1.4G model. Vignetting is very evident at f/1.8 to f/2.8, but in most cases this can be corrected simply by applying a lens correction profile in your editing software.
The f/1.8G focusses faster then the f/1.4G model (thankfully, because that is one very slow focussing lens). I've had no issues with accuracy so far. It doesn't seem to be any worse then the f/1.4G model anyway. It's reasonably silent. There's only a light whirring sound.
The build quality is very modern; lots of plastic, whimsy AF-S motors and no aperture ring. I wonder how long it will last. It does have an ass gasket to prevent dust and moisture getting into the camera and lens. The front and rear elements move in and out. The lens hood is simple and good.
This f/1.8G is both smaller and lighter then the f/1.4G version. It feels pleasantly light and compact on a full frame camera like the Nikon D800.
If you're in the market for a 50mm Nikon prime, I recommend this lens over the more expensive f/1.4G version. Optically this f/1.8G is as good or better, but it's smaller, lighter, cheaper and it focusses faster too.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by d5100_Nikon (3 reviews)lightweight, sharp, large aperture, great bokehauto-focus not always accurate
Disclosure - I am not a professional. Ok, I do have an opinion though. This lens is awesome! It produces super sharp pictures with minimal effort.reviewed June 25th, 2012 (purchased for $216)
I've tested it out at wide open and stopped down to 11 and was pleased with the results. It's really fast too!
My only little complaint is that it doesn't always auto-focus on what I want it to. I'll point it at something 5 feet away and press the shutter release button half way to let it focus and it shows me with red blinking lights what it's focusing on and if I do it again and again, not moving the camera at all, it will focus on different things each time.
Not sure if this is the lens or my camera d5100 (w/11 focus pts).
One more point, I didn't think I would need a filter to protect this lens since it is recessed, but I do because it will get dusty in there so buy yourself a 58mm filter to go with this lens.
I had to choose between this and the 35mm and I'm not sure I chose the right one. You have to stand back with a cropped sensor body so it's technically a 75mm lens, not 50mm. And the 35mm would be a 50mm on a cropped sensor body so although I'm super happy with this lens, I wish I'd have gotten the 35mm first. I'll be happy owning both though one day.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Gandalf (8 reviews)Sharp from f. 2.8Some distortion
For the price I have to give it a 10-er.reviewed October 25th, 2011 (purchased for $260)
It has also a very fine resistance against flare and ghosting - but you will get it if you press it with the sun, but at a lower "rate" than a lot of other lenses .
No lenses can compete in that area (flare/ghosting)with the" non flare/ghosting king" = The Nikon 28mm f/2.0 AI or AI-S (sorry, but it is manual).
It is sharper, than my 50 1.4 G from f. 2.8 to f. 5.6, from f. 8 they are equal.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Matthew Saville (21 reviews)Sharp, built like the pro 50 1.4, accurate and consistent focusNone
Unfortunately, in my opinion the copy of the lens used in the official SLRgear review must be a lemon copy, because mine is *INCREDIBLY* sharp even wide open. I don't know about charts and graphs, and I'm only shooting on a D700 not a D3X, but the bottom line for me is that this lens is WAY sharper than any other affordable 50mm lens on the market, except the new Nikon and Sigma 50 1.4's. This lens even beats the Canon 50 1.4, at f/1.8 and f/2, by a considerable margin. (With the multiple copies of the Canon 50 1.4 that I've tested, and the single copy of my Nikon 50 1.8 AFS-G.)reviewed August 16th, 2011 (purchased for $220)
I've been shooting with this lens all summer at weddings, and I don't hesitate at all whatsoever to shoot this lens even wide open for even the most important portraits. Maybe I bump from f/1.8 to f/2 most of the time just to milk a bit more sharpness out, and it seems to flatten the plane of focus too. But by f/2 and especially f/2.8, this lens is just flawlessly sharp. I couldn't be happier.
Anyways, I didn't care much for 50mm in the past. I'm really a 35mm + 85mm kinda guy when it comes to primes. So I never felt like spending the extra money on the Nikon or Sigma f/1.4's, and the f/1.8 D is just not really a professional work tool in my opinion. It's not built as well as the 1.8 AFS-G, and autofocus is that crummy screw-drive focus that jitters if you like to use AF-C all the time.
I'm very impressed that this lens has very solid (albeit "super-plastic") construction, like the 50 1.4 and unlike the 1.8 D. It even has a weather sealing gasket, and comes with a hood. Totally worth the extra ~$100 compared to the f/1.8 D, and unless 50mm is your absolute FAVORITE focal length, this lens kinda makes the f/1.4 AFS-G seem like a slight waste of money.
In closing, I'm so pleased with this 50 1.8 AFS-G that I really, really hope Nikon also has a 85 1.8 AFS-G up their sleeve. I can only imagine how light, sharp, and snappy that lens will be!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by RobCusto (1 reviews)fast, sharp, light, cheapno aperture ring, plastic, DOF scale not helpful, 58 mm filter size
This is an excellent standard fast lens. Comes with a hood and pouch. Autofocus is fast and quiet on my D200. Manual overrride is handy. Manual focusing is smooth. Image contrast and color is very good wide open. Sharpness is best at 5.6. Bokeh is much better compared to my old 50/2 Ai. Built quality is OK. Time will tell how durable it is. Has a 5 year warranty. If you don't need 1.4 you get this lens half price of the 50/1.4G. Nice walk around lens.reviewed June 28th, 2011 (purchased for $219)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by tdm (1 reviews)Sharp, good colors and contrastNot found yet
I wasn't sure if I would take the 1.8D of 1.8G but since a few days I purchased the 1.8G because I already have a 50mm f/1.8 with aperture ring (MF) and I was reading good things about the smooth bokeh.reviewed June 25th, 2011
The same evening I had a party and I used the 1.8G in available light and wide open. I was impressed of the image quality and sharpness of this baby.
AF is fast, quiet and accurate.
The build quality feels okay and I think this looks kinda better on my D300s then the smaller 1.8D (I know, this shouldn't be a decision breaker).
I have the feeling this will be my favorite and most used lens.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by scooby (3 reviews)sharp, nice bokeh, very good wide open, cheap and good valuenothing really, umm dof scale is pretty useless
I only just purchased this lens, so haven't used it extensively, but first impressions are excellent. Better (and bigger ) than old AF D version, especially wide open. It's fairly large with hood attached but light as. Focus is quiet and accurate. Whether 75mm equivalent focal lenght on DX is useful is up to you. It has a rear dust seal but the inner tube at front moves during focusing so I will use a filter to seal out dust.I would rate this slightly better than both old AF D version and 35 1.8 G for DX cameras. A good lens to use wide open..bokehlicious! For the price,everyone should have one.reviewed June 18th, 2011