Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S Review
The Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 lens is the third lens available to buy for the new Nikon Z series camera range, following the 24-70mm f/4 kit zoom and the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 that were available at launch.
It features 12 elements in 9 groups, including 2 ED elements, 2 aspherical elements and elements with Nano Crystal Coating. It is a prime lens offering the classic 50mm focal length, which equates to around 75mm if you use the lens in the DX crop mode. An internal focusing mechanism is included, and like the Z 7 camera, it is weatherproof.
Designated with the “S” moniker, it’s anticipated that another, more affordable series of lenses will be created for the Nikon Z range, with the S series lenses designed for ultimate sharpness and image quality.
At the time of writing, the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens retails for around £599 / $599. The lens is made in Thailand.
Ease of Use
Nikon has stuck with a very simple design for the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens. It’s fairly large for a mirrorless prime lens, but that is necessitated by the fact that the lens has a much wider aperture than the 24-70mm f/4 kit lens. As this is a prime lens, there’s no zoom mechanism, and there’s no need to extend it before use either.
Weighing in at 415g, it’s pretty heavy for a standard 50mm f/1.8 lens, especially compared to Nikon's DSLR alternatives. It weighs a lot more than the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens (187g) and the faster AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G (290g), although if you want to use those lenses with the Nikon Z6/7, you have to factor in the size and weight of Nikon's FTZ lens adapter, which adds anohter 135g, making all three lenses much more comparable.
Build quality is excellent, with a sturdy and high-quality feel, plus a metal lens mount. Overall, the size and weight matches very nicely with the Nikon Z 7 camera that we tested it with (and the Z 6 as both cameras are the same size and design). It’s possible to use the Z 7 with the 50mm lens with just one hand, but you’ll probably find it more comfortable to use a second hand cradling the lens for a better handling experience.
The manual-focusing ring around its middle takes up the main bulk of the lens. It’s ridged to help you get a good grip on it. There’s just enough to give to make precise focusing possible, while not feeling too stiff or too loose. There are no hard stops on either end of the focusing ring though to help you know when you have achieved infinity focus. If you don’t want to use the focusing ring for manual focus, you can also set it to control other functions on the camera body, such as ISO or exposure compensation.
There are also no depth of field or distance indicators on the lens itself to help you judge distances, but as the vast majority of people using this lens will be doing so with autofocus, it's less of an issue.
With autofocusing switched on, focusing is pleasingly quick and almost silent, making it a good lens to use when shooting video. The focusing ring is click-free, which also means you can pull focus from one subject to another without any distracting noise.
Optical image stabilisation is not a feature of this lens, but as the Z 7 and the Z 6 cameras both have in-body image stabilisation, that isn't an issue.
On the side of the lens is a switch for moving between autofocus and manual focus. Directly underneath this switch is the “Nikkor S” label. The filter attachment size is 62mm, if you wanted to use this lens with any additional filters. The filter thread doesn’t rotate when the lens is focusing, either.
Just like the Nikon Z 7, the 50mm f/1.8 is fully weatherproof, with every part of the lens barrel sealed to protect it from dust and water droplets. The front element of the lens has fluorine coating to repel, water, dust and dirt.
To attach the lens to the body of the camera, you simply need to line up the white dot on the lens barrel with the white dot on the lens mount. Unlike the Nikon F mount, the Nikon Z mount has four connection points, which helps it to feel extra secure when the lens is mounted on the lens. You need to twist it into place to lock it into position – when you want to remove it again you can use the lens release button to the left of the Z mount.
In the box you’ll also find a 62mm snap-on front lens cap, a rear-lens cap, a bayonet hood and a flexible lens pouch for storing the lens when not in use.
The fixed length of 50mm offers an angle of view of 47 degrees in FX (full-frame) format.
In DX format (which the Nikon Z 7 or Z 6 offer as a shooting mode), the angle of view is 31°30' degrees.
Normally seen as blue or purple fringes along the edge of high-contrast subjects, we found it very difficult to find any examples of it happening with the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 lens, a sign of high-quality construction.
Light Fall-off and Distortion
There is some notable vignetting when shooting a white wall wide open at f/1.8, although it is particularly obvious because of the subject matter. For ordinary subjects, it’s far less noticeable, disappearing entirely at f/5.6.
As we’d expect from a lens of this focal length, distortion is kept to an absolute minimum.
Although the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is not designated as a macro lens, you can get fairly close to your subject with a 0.4m minimum focusing distance (1.32 feet). The wide aperture also allows you to create shallow depth of field effects making it suitable for macro subjects such as flowers or this seasonal Christmas tree.
The Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 lens has a lens construction which features 12 elements in 9 groups and a diaphragm opening with 9 rounded blades. The result is a smooth and creamy bokeh which is very pleasing to look at, considering this is only an f/1.8 lens.
We have included some sample shots below to judge for yourself, since evaluation of bokeh can often be a personal preference.
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.