The Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D AF Lens — My Take On It

First published on: Tuesday, 29 July 2008

This is a brief, “long-term use” review of the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D AF lens, which remains one of my most favorite of lenses.

I almost always reach for it whenever I wish to do low-light or portrait photography.

Of course, there are better lenses for such applications (such as the new Nikon f/1.4G AF-S lens for lowlight photography, or the Nikkor 60mm or the new 105mm f/2.8 VR macro lenses for portraits) but not many can claim to offer the same immense value and satisfaction for the money as this USD100 lens. If you want a shortcut to great-looking images as soon as you get your new Digital SLR, getting this lens will make that objective a reality, without busting your bank account.

This is the lens I got when I first purchased my Nikon D70 back in March 2004 — my only lens for a few months. Mine’s made in China but for what it’s worth, I’ve not had any problems with it whatsoever.

I include below a table pointing to various images taken with the 50mm f/1.8 which I feel best exemplifies the benefits you’d attain from having this lens in your arsenal.

Reversed onto a Nikkor 28-200mm lens, with SB-800 flash Reversed onto a Sigma 18-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, with SB-26 flash The portrait of a jumping spider was done with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 reversed onto a Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF lens — an SB-800 flash was used to illuminate the scene. The second image was shot with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 reversed onto an el-cheapo Sigma 18-50mm f/3.5-5.6 DC lens, with SB-26 flash (I didn’t have an SB-800 of my own at the time, so I borrowed my brother-in-law’s flash) Learn more about taking macro shots with stacked / reversed lenses.
With Hoya +4 Close-up Filter With Hoya +4 Close-up Filter and f/1.8 for super-shallow DOF Shallow DOF images are possible with Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 opened-up to wide apertures, eg f/2.0 for the first image and f/1.8 for the second. I used a Hoya +4 close-up filter to allow the lens to come nearer to the subject, yielding a larger image of it, with shallower depth-of-field as a result. Shop for close-up filters or B+W 52mm close-up lenses (52mm filters are suitable for screwing onto the front of the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens).
See Ross Armer's wedding shots with the Nikon D100 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens I have used the 50mm f/1.8 on my Nikon D70 successfully for weddings and events too. The images taken always has that special “something” to them, probably due again to the shallow dof and bokeh qualities when this lens is used wide-open. But I’d rather let Ross Armer’s wedding examples do the talking. Clicking the thumbnail on the right brings you direct to his PBase gallery. You can also read his forum post regarding his comment on the use of this lens mounted on his Nikon D100 camera.
Focuses reasonably fast, for example on aquarium fish Even without Nikon’s AF-S technology, this lens focuses pretty briskly, as evidenced by this snapshot of moving aquarium fish at close focusing distance.
Lightweight lens for travel, shallow DOF capabilities a plus Portrait of Jenna by Kyle William Smith Truly superb portraits of Joanne by Terence Toh Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D AF portrait of Angeline, by Terence Toh The 50mm f/1.8 works great as a lightweight, general-purpose portrait lens — many truly great images have been made with it. Comments on the thumbnails on the left (click them to view the larger version):
  1. The first image is one of Kellie and me in Paris — being easy to carry on travels, it’s a cinch to summon the services of this lens whenever the need for snaps with shallow DOF is required
  2. Great headshot example! Portrait of Jenna by Kyle William Smith
  3. Malaysian-based photographer Terence Toh shows how it’s done with this superb portrait series of Joanne and Angeline. I’ve seen much worse portraits taken with far more expensive lenses, so kudos must be given to Terence for extracting every ounce of performance from the 50mm with his raw talent
Oh BTW, all the images were taken with the Nikon D70 / D70s camera.

I’ve written some tips for shooting with the Nikkor 50mm lens here and a correction to my statement about the AF-A mode. You can also see how well I did manually focusing with the lens here.

Here’s a nice, light-hearted account on why the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens is actually “very expensive”.

If you have any comments or reviews of this lens, do leave a note here, pointing to your forum, blog or website posting containing your thoughts.

Browse other Nikon products.

Archive of comments from the old Nikon D70 / D70s blog

  1. xavtek Says:

    I totally agree, the 50mm 1.8, is a must-have for every nikon DSLR owners, and it has a fantastic quality/price ratio.
    Since i bought it, 5 months ago, i barely used my 18-70.
    I had a 50mm on my former standard film SLR and i liked it’s aspect ration : i would have loved to found a 35mm 1.8, but nikon only offers a 35mm f2 that is too expensive.
    Thanks for all these sample pics, i can’t tell mine are excellent but i still need to improve.

    (ohh and by the way, all these ads on your pages make it impossible to read)

  2. Taylor Says:

    I have been using the 50 1.8 and love the DOF it provides, but I have been having problems with metering. The photos get washed out and I need to go -5.0 EV to get it to expose properly, especially in outdoor setting. Do you have any ideas about this problem?

  3. sungame Says:

    I totally agree about the superb qualities of this lens when it comes to portrait photography. I bought it just five days ago, but in that time, It has already produced some of the best portraits I’ve ever taken.

    However, it’s qualities (extremely shallow depth of field, especially at large apertures)also means it takes some time getting used to focusing this lens when taking candid portraits. Anyway, it is a wonderful lens, and the price is just ridiculously low.

    I’ve never had any problems with exposure, but then I’ve only used this lens for portraits, then using the spot metering function on my D70s, so I have not yet checked out how it works with the matrix metering.

  4. Kris Says:

    Great sample pics and review — exactly what i was looking for. I’ll get the lens even though i just spent $ on the 18-200 I think I’m more excited about this one :D

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