Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G (Special Edition) Review

4.5
January 29, 2014 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G (Special Edition) is the standard kit lens for the retro Nikon Df DSLR camera. Read our expert Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G review to find out if it's the Df's perfect partner...

The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is a fast standard prime lens for Nikon full-frame DSLR cameras. The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G features 7 optical elements in 6 groups, including one aspherical lens element. A Silent Wave Motor provides smooth and quiet auto-focus with full-time manual focus override, while Nikon’s 7 rounded aperture blades promise effective bokeh. The retro design pays homage to vintage NIKKOR lenses and complements the look of the Nikon Df DSLR camera that it ships as a kit lens with. The standard Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens is available now priced at £149.99 / $219.95 in the UK and the US, respectively, while the special edition version that we reviewed currently only ships with the Nikon Df.

Ease of Use

Tipping the scales at 190grams and measuring 5.3cms in length (without the lens hood fitted), the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is quite a compact standard prime lens, especially compared to Nikon's much bigger 58mm f/1.4 lens that we reviewed recently. Coupled to the Nikon Df, as seen in the photos below, the lens is impeccably styled to pleasingly match the retro body.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G mounted on the Nikon Df

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G mounted on the Nikon Df

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G mounted on the Nikon Df

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G mounted on the Nikon Df

Despite the low price of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, build quality is acceptably good. The lens feels solid in your hand, even if the outer barrel and the 58mm filter thread appear to be plastic. The focusing ring is wide, ridged and rubberised. As this is a G series lens, it has no aperture ring - no big deal unless you wanted to use it on a very old film body.

The lens features a distance scale complete with a DOF scale, although the latter is of extremely limited use, having markings for f/16 only.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Since the AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4 does not have Vibration Reduction or a focus limiter, the only control on the lens barrel is a focus mode switch with the usual M/A and M settings.

 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8Front of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8Rear of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is sealed against dust and moisture, so it's a great companion for similarly sealed bodies even when they are used in dusty locales or less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8Side of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8Side of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G in-hand

The lens ships with the dedicated HB-47 hood, but not a lens bag.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G with the supplied lens hood fitted

Auto-focus

The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens features a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) that allows near-silent auto-focusing on all Nikon DSLR cameras. Importantly, this solution allows instant manual override even when the focus mode switch is in the M/A position. Focusing is fully internal, meaning the length of the lens always remains constant, and the front of the lens does not rotate on focus. This is good news for those who use polarisers or ND grads on a regular basis.

In use, we found the focusing to be indeed very quiet, and pretty fast - but not instantaneous - with the lens mounted to a Nikon Df body.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as blue or purple fringes along contrasty edges, are well controlled with this lens - the examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Light Fall-off

With the lens wide open at f/1.8, you can see some light fall-off in the corners and along the frame edges. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/5.6 or smaller.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Macro

The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is not a macro lens. The closest focusing distance is 45cm, and Nikon quotes a maximum magnification of 0.15x for the lens. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8Close-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reason to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background. Nikon was apparently very much aware of this requirement, as they employed an iris diaphragm with 7 rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they largely succeeded. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
   
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Entry Tags

review, test, lens, prime, full frame, f1.8, 50mm, fx, dx, standard zoom, nikon df, nikon 50mm, nikkor 50mm, special edition, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f1.8G Review

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