- Fantastic full-frame performance
- Some chromatic aberration on DX-format sensor
- Review Price: £130
There was a time when almost every 35mm film camera came with a 50mm prime (fixed focal-length) lens because on a full-frame camera, the 50mm focal length captures roughly the same angle-of-view as is seen by the human eye. Today, 50mm primes have two further appeals; they provide a good focal-length for portraiture on APS-C digital cameras and they often have a very wide maximum aperture with which to exploit creative focusing techniques. Nikon’s G-series 50mm f/1.8 lens is an excellent example of its type.
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens features the same deeply-recessed front element design that has been seen on Nikon’s standard primes for decades. The front half of the barrel is given over to a manual-focus ring, behind which sits a focused-distance window and focusing-mode switch. When AF operation is set, manual intervention can be applied at any time.
The feel of the manual-focusing ring is excellent, with a silky movement and just the right amount of resistance over an approximately 100° throw. The feel is the same regardless of which focusing mode is selected. There is a nod towards the provision of depth-of-field information but this is nothing more than a small and easily-missed pair of indices for the near and far in-focus regions at f/16.
The smallest aperture of f/16 may seem limiting given that apertures of f/22 and beyond are typically found on most lenses, but in fact this tactic helps to maintain top-notch image quality across the range.
Focusing is carried out quickly and quietly when the AF mode is set to M/A, and manual intervention works seamlessly. It’s also good to see a weather seal at the back of the lens. Image quality was either very good or excellent in every case.
Not only is a lens hood provided with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G, which reverses over the lens for storage, but also there is a soft carrying pouch. Some users might worry about the prime’s low mass in case this indicates a prevalence of plastic rather than metal but there is nothing to warn of any problems in this respect.
MTF (Modular Transfer Function) testing returned excellent results for full-frame images and the Nikon 50mm lens would easily have taken maximum points here were it not for the spontaneous decision to reshoot the test targets on a DX format (APS-C) sensor. There were clear signs of chromatic aberration under these conditions though it is clear that this is due to the lens-body combination, not the lens itself. And this weakness was not seen in real-world images except as the very faintest trace.
Overall, 50mm primes are rather unglamorous lenses that can look out-dated in a world where zooms are truly dominant. In fact they are often high performers despite their low prices and are therefore worthy of very serious consideration. There is little to fault in Nikon’s latest G-series 50mm lens. If you want the simplicity and purity of a standard prime on a full-frame body, or a modest portrait lens on an APS-C body, this lens is likely to be a very satisfying purchase.
Score in detail
Image Quality 10