Review Nikon 50mm 1.8G AF-S Nikkor @ Nikon D800E
The Nikon AF-S 50mm 1.8G is is a fast and compact FX prime lens that entered the market in 2011 as a replacement for the Nikon 50 mm 1.8D. We’ve tested this lens earlier, using a Nikon D700 with a 12 megapixel sensor. With a Nikon D800E, this lens really can show it’s impressive resoluton performance.
This classic standard lens now includes a Silent Wave Motor technology (SWM). The previous model did not have a built-in AF motor, making that lens less suitable for entry level Nikon cameras like the Nikon D3200 or Nikon D5200. The Nikon 50 mm has a fast maximum aperture, which is very convenient for a nice creamy bokeh. And if you enjoy working with “prime lenses”, this 50 mm lens fits very well in the series of 28 and 100 mm. In the latter case, a macro lens such as the Nikon 105 mm 2.8 Macro VR is an option.
Construction and autofocus
The Nikon is lightweight and feels less solid than, say, the Nikon 105 mm 2.8 Macro. If you are used to kit lenses designed for APS-C cameras though, you do experience this 50 mm as a solid lens. The focus ring turns very smoothly and if there is a filter on the lens, it does not rotate. Very handy when using a polarizing filter. The Nikon is supplied including the lens hood, which is firmly attached.
The new Nikon 50mm 1.8G is an AF-S type, which means an internal AF drive. This drive is very smooth; focusing with a Nikon D700 takes as long as with a D5100: 0.2 seconds with a focus stroke of 15 meters to 1.5 meters. I expected less noise from the AF, but hunting in low light is rarely observed.
When you don’t corect vignetting usig the standard lens profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop, you will sometimes encounter visible vignetting. The Nikon D800E corrects vignetting for you in the jpg files. At f/1.8 the vignetting in jpg files is half the vignetting in RAW files.
The distortion amount is a fraction over 1%. For a not so difficult to design and fabricate lens as a 50 mm 1.8, we expected a slightly lower value. In practice, you will have to address the distortion with software.
The lens shows moderate barrel distortions at around 1.1%. This is more than you’d expect from a fix focal lens. However, this is actually a typical amount of distortion for fast standard primes and unless you shoot subjects with straight lines near the image borders it’s usually not field-relevant.
If you like to limit the depth of field, as photographic style device, you choose a lens with a wide aperture and you choose a camera with great image sensor. But that is no guarantee that blurred parts on the photo are also nicely blurry displayed. The Nikon 50 mm 1.8G, with its 7 round aperture blades, does not disappoint us; the bokeh of this lens is absolutely beautiful.
The Nikon 50 mm 1.8G has little with flare or ghosting at an open light source. We’ve founf the ghost you see in the 100% crop to the right in an image we shot with heavy backlight.
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens is a very sharp lens: even using the 36 megapixel Nikon D800E this lens performs better than the much more expensive Nikon 50mm 1.4G lens. The difference in center sharpness of the Nikon 50mm 1.8G at full aperture or f/5.6, is actually quite small. The sharpness at the edges and in the corners is visibly better if you stop down two stops. The optimum is around f/4- f/5.6, but f / 8 and f/11 are almost equivalent in terms of sharpness across the entire image field.
The chromatic aberration, both lateral and longitudinal (color bokeh), is low. Also positive is that the difference between the best and worst values is low. Color bokeh is a common issue with relatively fast glass. It can be visible as halos of different colors in out-of-focus areas – magenta (red + blue) in front of the focus point and green beyond.
Typical for most fast primes, the Nikkor shows noticeable bokeh fringing, but not much, at large aperture settings, which can of course be reduced by stopping down.
Conclusion Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor review
- High resolution in the center from full aperture
- Nice bokeh
- Reasonably insensitive to backlight
- Fast autofocus
- Low purchase price
- Much vignetting at full aperture and f/2.8
- Distortion on the high side
- Corner resolution up to f/2.8 could have been higher
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G is super sharp, focuses perfectly, and offers a beautiful bokeh as well. Despite its attractive price, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G is one of Nikon’s best lenses at any price. In terms of proce/quality this is a fierce competitor for the much larger, heavier and more expensive Nikon 50mm 1.4. The small Nikon 50 mm 1.8G will always fits in your camerabag and when you use it, it will not disappoint you.