The 50mm lens is one lens that every photographer should have, no matter how amateur or professional you are. It's the one lens I will take me with on every single shoot because it has so many uses; I've used it for portraits, nature photography, close-up and even sports, because of this and because of how cheap it is it would make an excellent starter lens to any budding photographer. Although it is a prime lens and therefore has no zoom range it's incredibly sharp in outside light and you can easily crop tightly into a photo with none or little quality loss.
This particular nifty fifty is also probably one of the cheapest on the market, there is also a F1.4 version available although this is of course more expensive and I've found the F1.8 to be completely adequate for what I've needed it for and therefore haven't considered buying the 1.4 version.
The lens is also very compact and light making it a perfect all round lens to take on holiday and travelling when you don't necessarily want to lug all of your kit around with you.
The autofocus is very smooth, silent and accurate. The only bad thing I've found with this lens and it is a very minor one is there is an aperture ring for use with film cameras and the aperture has to be fixed at f22 for digital use, there is a small lock switch to keep it at this and it can easily be knocked causing an FEE error meaning the camera wont shoot and I've lost a few precious photo opportunities by accidently doing this.
This Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AFD is one of the first lenses I owned for my DSLR's. Its remains the cheapest lens I have bought so far and optically, although it has no stabilising trickery or high end super glass it is still my best performing lens by a mile.
Lenses can be broadly split into two catagories - Zoom and Prime lenses. A zoom lens gives you the most flexibility of composition in one lens by comprimising quality across the range and giving you the best it can at all focal lengths. A prime lens is fixed at one focal length (in this case 50mm), this does mean that to compose your shot you must move. Using your actual feet! This also means that each piece of glass is designed specifically for that 50mm and the result is quite frankly staggering.
Aperture is selectable between f1.8 - works in dim light, small depth of field, soft images and f22 - needs bright light, huge depth of field, super super sharp.
For those new to aperture and depth of field I wont go into too much detail but suffice it to say this lens will let you shoot in very dim light and/or throw the background of a portrait right out of focus offering a really pleasing proffesional effect.
On a full frame (FX) camera this lens will be roughly the same perspective as the human eye making it an ideal walkaround lens. On a DSLR (DX) it will be the equivelent of a 75mm or short telephoto lens. Perfect for portrait photography.
The lens itself is incredibly compact, my only complaint with it is that it can look a bit uninspiring when at a job, clients like to see a huge stacked lens with an 82mm filter or similar because that means you're a pro. Shame as this lens far outperforms many others 3 or 4 times the price. Nikkor has got it right here.
The front element does not rotate during focusing allowing the easy use of 52mm polarising filters. I use a 52-72mm step up ring so I only have to buy one set of 72mm pro filters to fit all my lenses.
As stated the lens is fixed length with an aperture ring near the mount to manually select the f number. There is a small lock button to fix it at f22, this must be selected when mounting a Digital SLR with aperture control for it to work. If you dont lock it at f22 you'll get a 'FEE' error until you remember to push the switch.
The 'AF' designation shows that this is an auto focus lens. AF is fast, near silent and very accurate, amazing performance for this price. The 'D' shows that with modern nikon digital cameras it will relay accurate distance to subject information for use with the metering and flash modes. A must if you want to use your camera on any P or auto modes.
Don't be put off by the small size of this lens, it really is a winner. I own £4/500 lenses and this is still my choice if I can only carry one, its light, accurate and fast at all light levels.
As an alternative, consider the Nikkor 50mm 1.8G lens. This is a larger digital only designated lens that has no focus ring. I looks more the part but is twice the price for no real gain.
If you are thinking about buying one of these, stop thinking, buy one immediately. You wont regret it.
Choosing a lens for your SLR camera can be a daunting process - when you're spending vast amounts of money, it's important that you buy the right one. If you haven't got masses of cash to splash, then Nikon's 50mm 1.8D could be the ideal product for you. Costing £98 from amazon.co.uk, the 1.8D offers superb value for money and is arguably the best lens you can get for the price. Nikon's lenses are traditionally top drawer in terms of their quality, and this one is no different - the use of exceptionally high quality glass translates into super sharp shots.
- - - - - - - - -
So let's get down to the essentials, and primarily the lens's specifications and performance. The 'f1.8' in the product's title refers to the maximum aperture - the smaller the number, the more light can enter the lens. To provide a point of reference, many kit zoom lenses (the ones that come 'free' when you buy an SLR camera) start at f3.5, meaning that they're not great for use in dim conditions. The Nikon 50mm 1.8d on the other hand is a great low light performer, and will allow you to use a faster shutter speed than you would with an equivalent f3.5 lens. Of course, setting the camera to f1.8 means that there will be very little depth of field on the shot, so it's important to focus accurately. Luckily the lens's autofocus is quick and efficient, even at night. In terms of its compatibility, the lens will work on all Nikon SLR cameras, although you'll have to use manual focus on D40 and D40x models.
Build Quality & optics
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
What else can we say abut this lens? well the build quality is very impressive and although the body is primarily plastic, it feels solid in the hand and the focusing ring has a firmness about it which is reassuring. I would recommend investing in a decent filter to pop on the end, so that you don't accidentally damage the glass - Hoya's Pro1 digital is a perfect option and can be picked up for around £25. Optically, the Nikon f1.8 is superb - images are pin sharp across the aperture range (with ultra, ultra sharpness starting at around f4). There's hardly any aberrations in the lens - vignetting, barrel distortion and pincushioning aren't apparent whatsoever, meaning there will be little corrective processing to do in Photoshop afterwards.
- - - - - - - - -
Any downsides? none really, except for the fact that there isn't an image stabilisation system built into the lens, which can result in blurred images at slow shutter speeds if you've got shaky hands!. The only other downside I can think of is the fact that the lens it isn't great for macro work - it will focus in to around 40cms, although purchasing a separate macro filter will allow you to get closer to your subject.
- - - - - - -
Overall, Nikon's 50mm f1.8d is simply an excellent lens - it's well made, quick to focus, and most importantly takes really sharp images. It would be a good lens to use if you're into portrait work, and if you use one alongside a 18-105mm zoom, then you'll have an excellent set for all eventualities. What's especially good about the lens is the fact that it's fun to use, and the quality of the images speak for themsleves - highly recommended.
Filter thread: 52mm
Macro focus: 1.5ft