Nikon 50 f/1.8 Review

Nikon 50 f/1.8 Review

“One of the best lens for portrait and low light photography.”

nikon nikkor 50 f/1.8

I don’t even know where to start. This lens produces sharp pictures and great color and contrast. And for its price (which seems to climb recently), it is worth more than 5 stars rating. I initially get this lens for low light action and sport photography (as this lens is famous for being one of the fastest lens together with its brother 50mm f/1.4), but I also found out that this lens is also perfect for portrait and other general purposes (macro etc). This is definitely a very versatile lens.

As much as I want to encourage everyone to buy this lens right away, let me mention some of the limitation that you would see (which I think will be helpful to go over before deciding to buy this lens):

First, being a prime lens, you will need to move your feet a lot to compose your picture. If you are used to zoom lens, don’t underestimate this limitation. It takes me a while to get used to it, and sometime I still find people looking at me wondering why I am moving forward and backwards. the good news is that most of the time, they don’t think I’m weird, but they are actually wondering if I’m a professional photographer.

Secondly, the focal range of 50mm, which is considered the normal lens and great for portrait lens. but on a DSLR (which I assume most of you use nowadays), this lens become a 75mm equivalent which is in the border of a short tele lens. I actually like the 75mm equivalent though I often have to move backwards when taking picture of a group of people.

Third, in some situation the autofocus might not able to focus (which is common for many other lens too). It is hard for the autofocus to lock when aiming at a wall that is one color (usually black or white), or on a clear sky (day or night). This kind of makes sense to me actually. IN these situations the AF assist light doesn’t help either so you can opt for manual focus or set the focus to infinity when you can’t find focus lock on scenic/landscape or sky photography. So far I don’t have many problems with the autofocus.

Sharpness increases as you stop down to f/2.2 or f/2.5. I actually use f/1.8 most of the time and the results are still nice. Personally, I’d rather use f/1.8 aperture settings than stopped down (e.g to f/2.8) and compensate with higher ISO setting which often gives me grainy picture. But if your object is not moving (static) then it is better to stop down to f/2.8 or more.

If you are wondering whether you should get a fast lens or a lens with VR, here’s my take: VR does help a lot (and produce better/sharper picture than equivalent faster lens without VR) if the object is static. If the object is moving (sports/action) then VR feature doesn’t really help and fast lens (like this lens) will be a far better solution. Using tripod (and a remote) will substitute for the need of VR feature. In general I would recommend getting a fast lens with VR feature (and usually it is expensive) such as the 70-200 f/2.8 VR, but if one can only get for one or the other, then find out what do you want to use the lens for and then use the guideline mentioned here.

Here are the summary of pros and cons for this Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF lens:

1. Very fast (f/1.8)
2. Very sharp pictures (especially when stopped down to f/2.2, f/2.5 or more.)
3. Great for sport/action photography
4. Great for indoor and low light situation
5. Great for portrait
6. Bokeh is almost as good as many expensive Nikon tele-lens
7. Fast autofocus
8. Good for wedding photography (or no-flash event). However, if this is your main objective then you might want to get the 50mm f/1.4 version or 28-70mm f/2.8 lens)
9. 75mm equivalent which can be considered a short tele lens (I actually like the fact that it’s 75mm equivalent vs 50mm in DSLR. if you need more zoom, you can get the Nikon 85mm f/1.8, or the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR)
10. Inexpensive

1. Being prime lens, you need to move your feet a lot to adjust/compose
2. Autofocus issue on some situations (read detail above)
3. Plasticy build
4. Autofocus is not the most silent but very reasonable
5. 75mm equivalent with 1.5x multiplier on DSLR (many people find this is an odd range for normal lens. I actually like it)

Bottom line: This lens is so versatile (and inexpensive) that I think everyone should own in addition to all the lenses that they already have. Being a very fast lens, it enables me to take pictures in low light (sport/action photography) that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
After knowing its limitation, I would predict that 99% of you that decides to buy this lens will find this lens very useful. And if you decide that you don’t like it (which I think not more than 1%), I’m sure there will be a lot of people who wouldn’t mind buying it from you (with some discount of course).

Again, I would recommend everyone to get this lens. In some ways I can say that this lens makes me a better photographer.

Happy Photographing!

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Nikon 50 f/1.8 Review by Sidarta Tanu (Richmond, VA USA)
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