AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens


    Photo Review 8.8
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    AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

      In summary

      Buy this lens if:
       - You require a keenly-priced,  prime lens that can be used with all Nikon interchangeable-lens cameras.
       - You want a reasonably fast standard lens for general-purpose use with Nikon's FX cameras.
       - You want a fast portrait lens for Nikon's DX cameras.
       - You'd like a lens that requires no readjustment when you fit polarisers and graduated filters.

      Don't buy this lens if:
       - It will be used mainly on CX format bodies.
       - You require instant lock-on when autofocusing.

      Full review

      The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G was introduced in April, 2011 and is designed for use with both FX and DX camera bodies. On the latter, its effective angle of view is equivalent to 75mm in 35mm format. The G designation indicates this lens has no aperture ring, which means it's best used on a modern camera body. On older manual focus SLRs there's no way to set the aperture. 

      Side view of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens. (Source: Nikon.)

      If you need a 50mm lens that will also work with older cameras, the AF 50mm f/1.8D Nikkor lens provides the required aperture ring. It can also relay subject-to-camera distance information to AF Nikon camera bodies and support functions like 3D Matrix Metering and 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash.

      The optical design of the 50mm f/1.8G is relatively simple with seven elements in six groups. One aspherical element is included and the iris diaphragm has seven blades that close to a rounded aperture.  As with many Nikkor primes, the minimum aperture is f/16. Super Integrated Coating has been applied to optimise  light transmission and minimise flare and ghosting.
       

      The optical diagram for the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. (Source: Nikon.)

      Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM) drive ensures fast, accurate and quiet autofocusing. The minimum focusing distance is 45 cm, with a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.15x. Two focus modes are provided:distance scale M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual). Built-in stabilisation is not provided.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Only 72 mm long and weighing 185 grams, this lens is compact and light. Interestingly, it's a bit larger and heavier than the AF 50mm f/1.8D lens and roughly double its price.

      Build quality is generally good, thanks to a metal mounting plate and outer barrel of high-quality polycarbonate plastic. The overall finish is smooth and similar to Nikon's other consumer-level lenses.

      The physical length of the lens remains constant at all focus settings, although the inner barrel rotates as focus is changed, moving forwards for closer subjects. However, the outer barrel, which carries the filter threading, remains fixed, enabling angle-critical attachments to be used without re-adjustment.

      Aside from the inner barrel, the lens has only two moving parts. A 12 mm wide focusing ring is located approximately 5 mm back from the front of the lens. It has a 10 mm wide ridged rubberised grip band and turns through approximately 55 degrees, with soft stops at each end of the focusing range. A distance scale is located just behind this ring, protected by a transparent plastic cover.

      On the side of the barrel just behind the distance scale is the focus mode switch with M/A and M settings. The lens is supplied with front and end caps plus a dedicated bayonet mount hood (HB-47). The CL-1013 flexible lens pouch, which is normally supplied, was not included with the lens we received.

      Our Tests
      We tested this lens on two camera bodies: the D5200 and the Nikon 1 V2. On the latter we used the FT-1 mount adapter to fit the lens to the smaller camera body. The DX sensor in the D5200 yields a focal length equivalent to 75mm in 35mm format, while the CX sensor in the V1 applies a  2.7x crop factor, providing a focal length equivalent to 135mm in 35mm format. This is a classic focal length for portraiture.

      Unfortunately fitting the mount adaptor plus this lens adversely affects the balance of the small Nikon 1 camera bodies. Using the lens on camera bodies with smaller sensors than the image circle this lens is designed for reduces the effects of both distortion and vignetting. However, both are automatically corrected with the default camera settings (and the default settings in Nikon's ViewNX2 raw file converter, which we had to use for converting raw files from the V2).

      Autofocusing was not particularly fast with either camera body we tested this lens on. It was noticeably faster on the D5200 than the V2, where it was often quite slow. However, it couldn't be described as 'lightning fast' on the3 DX body. Use of the mount adaptor with the V2 restricted focusing to the centre of the field, which may account for the slower focusing with the CX camera.

      The inherently higher resolution in the D5200 produced better results in our Imatest tests, although both cameras showed good resolution results between about f/3.5 and f/8, with a rapid fall-off as diffraction kicked in when the aperture was reduced.

      Resolution at wide aperture settings was marginally higher, relatively speaking, on the CX camera, although the differences between centre and edge resolution were marginally more. Stopped down to about f/3.2, relatively high resolution figures were achieved with both cameras, with the highest figures around f/4, as shown in the graphs of our Imatest results below.
       
       

      Results of tests on the 24.1-megapixel D5200.
       
       

      Results of tests on the 14.2-megapixel Nikon 1 V2.

      Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible on the D5200 and low on the Nikon 1 V2, as shown in the graphs of our test results below. This aberration is easily correctable, either in-camera or in post-capture editing so it's no big deal.
       
       

      Results of tests on the D5200.
       
       

      Results of tests on the Nikon 1 V2.

      Rectilinear distortion was also low, with slight barrel distortion being seen on the D5200 body but no significant distortion visible with the Nikon 1 V2. Vignetting was barely noticeable with the DX camera and undetectable with the V2's much smaller CX sensor.
       Bokeh was different with each camera because of the differences in their sensor sizes and photosite densities. Neither body yielded the soft background blurring that characterises attractive bokeh.

      On the D5200, out-of-focus highlights were not completely circular and some coloured fringing could be seen along their edges. This fringing was more noticeable with the V2 but could be reduced slightly by stopping down (which also increased depth of field).

      Conclusion
      Owners of Nikon's FX cameras will find the price of this lens attractive – and its performance on the 'full frame' bodies should justify its including in an FX kit. DX owners looking for a lens with a 'normal' perspective should probably favour one of Nikon's 35mm primes (the f/1.4G or f/2D, depending on the camera body and/or shooting requirements), which provides an effective focal length of 52.5mm and is closer to the standard lens field of view.

      Users of Nikon 1 system cameras are better served by the 1 Nikkor18.5mm f/1.8, which we have recently reviewed (INSERT LINK). However, if they also have an  FX or DX camera, this lens could be a viable option for portraiture if they don't want to invest in the dedicated standard lens.

      Buy this lens if:
       - You require a keenly-priced,  prime lens that can be used with all Nikon interchangeable-lens cameras.
       - You want a reasonably fast standard lens for general-purpose use with Nikon's FX cameras.
       - You want a fast portrait lens for Nikon's DX cameras.
       - You'd like a lens that requires no readjustment when you fit polarisers and graduated filters.

      Don't buy this lens if:
       - It will be used mainly on CX format bodies.
       - You require instant lock-on when autofocusing.

      SPECS

       Picture angle: 47 degrees (31 degrees 30 minutes on DX body) diagonally
       Minimum aperture: f/16
       Lens construction: 7 elements in 6 groups (with one aspherical lens element)
       Lens mounts: Nikon F mount
       Diaphragm Blades: 7 (rounded)
       Focus drive: Silent Wave Motor (SWM) 
       Stabilisation: No
       Minimum focus: 45 cm
       Maximum magnification: 0.15x
       Filter size:  58 mm
       Dimensions (Diameter x L): 72 x 52.5 mm (distance from camera lens mount flange)
      Weight: Approximately 185 grams

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG files taken with the D5200 body.

       

       

      Based on JPEG files taken with the Nikon 1 V2 body.

       
       

      SAMPLES

       
       

      Vignetting at f/1.8; D5200 body.
       
       

       Vignetting at f/1.8; Nikon 1 V2 body.
       
       

       Rectilinear distortion; D5200 body.
       
       

      Rectilinear distortion; Nikon 1 V2 body.
       
       

      Depth of field, D5200 body, f/1.8.
       
       

      Depth of field, D5200 body, f/4.
       
       

      Depth of field, D5200 body, f/5.6.
       
       

      Depth of field, D5200 body, f/11.
       
       

      Depth of field, Nikon 1 V2 body, f/1.8.
       
       

      Depth of field, Nikon 1 V2 body, f/4.
       
       

      Depth of field, Nikon 1 V2 body, f/5.6.
       
       

      Bokeh at f/1.8, D5200 body.
       
       

      Bokeh at f/1.8 Nikon 1 V2 body.
       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$289, US$220

      • Build: 8.8
      • Autofocusing: 8.0
      • Handling: 8.8
      • Image quality on D5200: 8.8
      • Image quality on Nikon 1 V2: 7.8
      • Versatility: 8.5

      BUY

        No