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Reviews continue with my review of the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, now posted at http://www.bythom.com/nikkor-50mm-f18-lens-review.htm.
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J. Scotty's profile photoChris McMillan's profile photoOlivier Molody's profile photoJeff Martin's profile photo
50 comments
 
do you plan on reviewing the 24-70 2.8, honesty little strange you haven't already
 
As always an informative review. I just wish that Nikon would keep aperture rings on their higher end lenses.

I kept almost getting a 14-24 to use on my D700 (or potential D700x/D800) but the lack of an aperture ring makes it harder to use when I want to shoot film on my Nikon FE bodies or if I wanted to use the lens on sone 35mm motion picture cameras with Nikon mounts I have access to.

I guess I'll just have to get Zeiss manual focus lenses or hold out for some sort of ridiculous adapter that would let me control aperture.

For now in 50mm, I'm happy with my 1.4 AF-D and my Ais 1.4/1.8 lenses on digital, 35mm print and motion picture film. :)
 
Thanks for the review. If you Had an 85 1.4 you go with 35 1.4G or one of the 50Gs?
 
+Brian Arndt As always, it depends on what you shoot. If I shoot concerts on small locations, I take my 35 f/2 and my 85 f/1.8 on FX and leave the 50 f/1.8 at home. The 35 and 85 (on FX) are good matches for group and portrait shots. But sometimes I leave the home with my 50 f/1.8 alone. I really like the 35 mm on FX, if you can fill it with enough content.
 
Thom- a question you didn't address in your review, and I'm sure many will be asking themselves: I already have a 50/1.8D, but I'm not totally happy with what I get from it (pick your poison: AF noise, wide-open performance, corner performance, unit focusing, whatever). Should I upgrade?
With a lens so cheap telling people to buy it and try it, and sell if they don't see the difference might actually be a sound advice. But not everyone is capable of this line of thought on their own. I know I'm not :)
 
+Brian Arndt For me, the perfect prime trio would be 24, 50, 85mm f/1.4, and of those, I'd be using the first and last one 90% of the time.
 
+Lior Kravitz The f/1.8G isn't going to be a magic upgrade for you, just better at the things that trouble you about the f/1.8D. The other variable here is that this is a low-cost lens, and it's clear that there is sample variation at play (for both f/1.8's). A decentered optical chain and a non-symmetrical aperture diaphragm are not confidence boosters, though both problems were minor on my sample. Your comment about buying it and trying it is probably correct. There's not a lot of downside involved: no matter which lens you decided to sell afterwards (or both ;~), you'd get a fair amount of your money back out.
 
Thanks for input folks. I guess Google + is the place to be! I use the 24 2.8D, 501.4G, and the 85 1.4D now. I thought I would try to pair it down for traveling. I also have the 35-70 2.8D and the 80-200 2.8D for events but lighting the bag for travel is my goal. I also have the X100 which has its good points and bad. Mine as of late dosent seem to focus accurately but when it works is great.
 
To go a bit off topic with the X100: has someone an idea why it focus for some (Ken Rockwell) and for some not (Thom Hogan, Scott Kelby)? I once had a Konica Minolta A2 and it also often focuses on more contrasty parts which were behind the subject I pointed the AF sensor to. I absolutely hated the camera for that behavior.
 
+Alexander Kiel I'm not going to answer here, and no one else should. There's an X100 review thread where this would be an appropriate question.
 
+Thom Hogan, what do you think of the Tamron 60mm in comparison, and as a one-lens alternative for low-light, macro and portrait on a DX body?
 
I don't know about Thom but I have yet to see a macro lens that doesn't do a decent portrait. Personally I don't like 60mm for macro, it's too short for bugs.
 
I have the 50mm 1.8G, what a beautiful sharp lens. All you have to do is take two full steps back from your subject with the 24mm 1.4 and you voila you;re now shooting at 50mm 1.4
 
I'm a dedicated Dx shooter. I had the 50 f/1.8 AF-D. I liked the lens but once I got the 35mm f/1.8 and having the Tamron 17-50 and an 18-105, it just sat around collecting dust. I don't much use the 35mm either. I'd like something in the 50-60mm range that has good (or better) bokeh, nice sharpness between f/2.8 and f/4 and maybe even be able to do 1:2 or 1:1. Snappy AF and VR are not so important for my uses.

I want a short tele, workhorse prime. The 35, 50 and 85 f/1.8s are useful but none fit the bill.
 
Thank you for another helpful review. It would be interesting to hear how this lens compares with the sigma 1.4, especially for portraiture.
 
Thanks for the review Thom...
It's interesting that it doesn't seem that the aspherical lens in the 1.8 formula made much of a difference (compared to the 1.4G) based on your review. That was the one spec that caught my interest in the 1.8G. 
 
Thanks Thom, my question if you were to choose the 1.8D or the 1.8G which would it be? Or should I just wait for the 85 1.8G? :)
 
You don't recommend the 50mm f/1.2 for people who are comfortable with shooting manual? I love my 1.2... I like the character wide open... and it's sharp as anything from anybody at f/2... and it's built like nothing else Nikon (maybe anybody) makes.
 
+Sean Molin No, I'm not a fan of the 50mm f/1.2. But that's probably because I own a 58mm f/1.2 NOCT, which has to be the best corrected of all the "normal" focal length lenses Nikon has ever made.
 
Sorry to say it here, but there's a minor typo in the article ("assymetrical"). Thanks for the review! :)
 
+Kurt Wall The inner blue ring is a problem with aperture and rear element placement in many of Nikon's older primes. It was there in film, too, though I lot of people didn't notice it because they never had the kinds of viewing technology we have today. It's present on almost all the old MF through D-type Nikkors, and occurs partly because of bounce-back flare.
 
Nice review, I'm thinking of a move from Canon to Nikon ( 400D to D400 ) and your reviews have been invaluable in terms of planning a lens collection.
One minor typo in the final word "I found that it the new lower-cost lens is indeed slightly behind the older faster lens."
I suspect "that it the" should be "that the".
 
+Thom Hogan Well, yeah, I wouldn't care about Corvettes if I had a Ferrari either!!!
 
+Sean Molin Good analogy, but most people don't need a Corvette if they've got a solid Camaro. That's one of the problems with a lot of things in photography. We get lots of things that are 1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and so on in capability (i.e. small increments) but the pricing tends to be 1, 2, 4, 8 (i.e. large exponential increments). The question is one of what's the right balance.

When things are tightly grouped in terms of ability (as the Nikkor 50mm lenses are), price has to enter into the equation, which means that the 50mm f/1.8G actually turns out to be at a very good balance point. Arguably the best balance point. Paying more and giving up autofocus to get a lens that may or may not be better at f/2 seems questionable to me.

When I first wrote about the 58mm NOCT being the perfect portrait lens for DX they were still quite reasonable in price. Most people hadn't heard of them. But apparently I created a run on the used market--not many were ever made--and the price has stayed stratospheric ever since. Indeed, it is a great portrait lens for DX. And the best corrected lens for astronomical shooting, too, which has gotten more popular again.
 
Found a 58mm NOCT in my uncle's house sitting in a box. Didn't even know what it was until my other uncle asked where it went. Looking forward to borrowing it from him to test out!
 
It's very nice, tends to fetch a handsome price at auction as well, especially boxed.
 
I wish we'd get a 16mm f1.8 dx prime. Sony NEX has one.
 
+Thom Hogan , I'd say that the 1.4G, 1.8G and 1.8D comparison in terms of size is incomplete and, perhaps, unfair. Especially since we've seen the growth by the 85/1.4G, I'd say that not comparing with the old 50/1.4D doesn't allow one to really appreciate whether the size change is appropriate or not.

On another front, I was wondering, when comparing the 50's to the exotics, whether the "very good" mark at the end was consistent. I was also wondering whether it's Nikon thinking its fifties are good enough what's keeping these primes from being as good as the Zeiss and other MF lenses.
 
+Alvin Panugayan Be careful what you wish for (you won't get exactly what you're asking for, by the way).
+Miguel Martinez You'd have to compare the f/1.4D against the f/1.8D to be an apples versus apples comparison. And guess what, there's a size difference. AF-S lenses have several internal differences that change their size from what would be a similar optical formula without AF-S. Unfortunately, it looks like Nikon has some sort of minimum size in those designs. The 35mm f/1.8G DX, 50mm f/1.8G, and 50mm f/1.4G are all very similar in overall size. That's a shame, because it means that Nikon is not thinking "pancake" in primes at all. To put that in context, the largest Olympus m4/3 prime is the 12mm f/2, and is smaller than any of the recent Nikkor G primes. I strongly suspect that Nikon has a "no small primes" directive in their design group so that the upcoming mirrorless camera lenses will all look very small.
 
Does your statement about the sharpness mean that (ignoring the focal length difference) 35/1.8G beats 50/1.8G in terms of optical performance for DX?
 
+Thom Hogan Currently own a D90 with a 18-200mm Nikkor lens. I'm in the market for a portrait lens and during my research saw this post on the 50mm f/1.8G as well as comments. Given my recent "hobbyist" venture into photography, what would you consider best bang for the buck portrait lens?
 
+Marian Kostadinov Not exactly apples to apples there, and on DX you'd only be using the much better central portions of the 50mm f/1.8G. So no, not really.
+Jeff Kennedy Well, the 50mm f/1.8G isn't a bad choice for that, and it's difficult to find really good lenses like this one for less money. But it's at the shorter end of portrait range for FX if that's any consideration. I personally prefer 60mm for DX portraits, which makes the 60mm f/2 Tamron a possibility.
 
I'm still hoping for a 50/1.2G AF-S :)
 
+Jeff Kennedy If you want a portrait lens now, get the 85mm f/1.8D. I know, I know, it's not AF-S; so what, it's incredibly sharp, small and compact, a wonderful lens if portraiture is in your cards. And your camera body has a focus motor (go D90 club!), so it's not like you'd lose anything.
 
OT: Have you tried the manual focus of the af-s 35mm 1.8 ? The smallest manual AF adjustment tends to go over my intended focus point. I'm getting front focused shots when I manually adjust the focus. My target is 1.5 meters away when I tested this.
 
Well for what it's worth I've enjoyed using the 50mm f1.4G on DX (D40 & D7000) love using it on my F75/N75 and wish it were usable on my FM3a. That said when it meters I almost prefer my manual & very scruffy 50mm f2 and would have bought the f1.8 had it been out when I got the f1.4 ;)
 
+Alvin Panugayan That's one of the reasons why I try to report what the minimum to maximum distance is in turning the focus or zoom rings. When a lens only has a 90° change or less, you can't discriminate small differences. Old manual focus lenses used to have 180° and larger rotations for the same change. Most AF-S lenses are not optimized for manual focus, unfortunately. Lens makers are trying to minimize focus element movement because it means the lens focuses quicker. This is one of the reasons why the f/1.4G is slower to focus than the f/1.8G: there's a huge difference in the amount of focus ring rotation from min to max, and that means the cam inside the f/1.4G is more fine toothed and takes longer for the focus motor to move through.
 
videographer shall be aware that it s not possible to change the aperture while having live view ON with this lens..while its possible via the parture ring with the AFD....
 
+Olivier Molody Basically true on Nikon DSLRs. The aperture you set before you enter Live View is what you get. However, on a D3s there's some ability to control the exposure manually once in Live View.

Frankly, though, anyone buying a DSLR for video really should be using MF lenses, which would have aperture rings. None of the DSLRs have what I'd call acceptable video autofocus, and most of the focus rings on autofocus lenses don't have enough discrete discrimination and smoothness to be usable in manual focus video (yes, that's a broad generalization--there are exceptions, and the 50mm f/1.4G comes close to usable for MF in video). Even a GH2 with the 14-140mm (optimized for video) hunts too much for me when set to autofocus.
 
Thom, thank you so much for this and all the other reviews and for now discussing them on Google+.
I am interested in AF speed. You mention that the AF-S 50/1.8 is a bit faster than the AF-S 50/1.4 (and if I understand you correctly then the 1.4 is easier to focus precisely). Can you give me an estimated how the AF speed of these lenses would compare to the AF 50/1.8 on a D90? (Or on an F80, but that is less important to me.) And how would they compare to the AF-S 17-55/2.8?
Of course I do not expect you to actually test this, if you could just tell me what you would expect from having handled all of these lenses, that would be great.
 
Thanks! I am not completely sure what your reference for “faster” is, though. I must have asked too many questions at once. You are saying that the 50/1.8G would be in the same league as as the 50/1.8D, possibly a bit faster, right?

If I may a follow-up question: What are good lenses for fast action around 50mm then?
 
+Carsten Schultz Correct. Well, none of the 50mm primes are exactly "fast action" lenses. Most of us would use the 24-70mm, probably.
 
Thanks again. I just had a look at a youtube video of its AF speed, that is something...
 
Thanks so much. I'm keeping my old "D" lens. so small, so quick, so handy... and yet... I rarely use it on DX... go figure...
 
I've the 50mm 1.4G, and my fast focusing normal lens is the 60mm Micro 2.8 G, it's in another league ;-)
 
Is the difference between the 50 1.4 and the 1.8 similar to the difference between the 85 1.4 and 1.8? Here's what you said about the 85s: "(The 1.8) just doesn't quite have that "don't see it" bokeh of the f/1.4D....if I look closely, I can tell the two apart." IOW, does the 1.4 have any advantage in terms of it's ability to deliver a beautifully defocused background when compared to the 1.8? Because in the reviews you don't seem overjoyed with the out of focus background of either of the 50s.
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