Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S (DX) - Review / Lab Test Report
Lens Reviews - Nikon / Nikkor (APS-C)
Article Index
Introduction
Analysis

Review by Markus Stamm, published September 2021

Introduction

Being one of the essential lenses for the system, the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S was announced as part the first batch of lenses when Nikon introduced the new mount and first Z cameras. The lens is designed as a normal prime for the full-frame sized FX sensor, where the lens delivered very impressive performance in our review based on the Nikon Z7 (you can read the full review here).

In addition to FX, Nikon obviously still sees a future for the smaller DX sensor as part of the system and released both DX cameras as well as dedicated DX Z-mount lenses (even though only two so far at the time of this review).

So, let's have a look at how the lens performs on the Nikon Z50, where the lens behaves like a short tele prime. For obvious reasons, parts of the FX review have been reused here.

Along with the new system comes a new lens body design language. Depending on personal preferences (and brand affection) it's either perceived as minimalistic and clean or basic and boring.

The lens body consists of a mixture of tightly assembled polycarbonate and metals parts. The latter include the mount and most of the body parts, including the broad focus ring, giving the lens some weight and a welcome feeling of solidity.

The number of controls on the lens is reduced to a minimum. There's an AF/M switch, the already mentioned focus ring... and that's it. There is no distance scale or DOF indicator on the lens. Z cameras provide some sort of minimalistic distance information in the viewfinder, that is fairly basic though and mostly useless if you want to set the lens to a specific focus distance. However, with the immediate feedback the EVF can give by focus peaking and zooming in, those scales will probably not be missed by many.

The focus ring works by wire, so is not in any way mechanically coupled to the focus motor. This allows to adjust the focus throw depending on the speed the focus ring is turned with, giving fast changes with fast movements and very precise fine-tuning with slow movements. In addition, other functions can be assigned to it if required, like ISO, aperture or exposure compensation control. One slight disadvantage is however, that it doesn't give any physical feedback if the end scale of whatever function is assigned to it is reached. This is most obvious of course during manual focus, where the lens gives no feedback when the focus setting reaches MFD or infinity.

One thing to get used to with the new minimalistic design is that at least the f/1.8 primes are less distinguishable from each other than their F-mount counterparts. This is especially true for the Z 50/1.8 S and the Z 35/1.8 S, which look nearly identical. Grabbing the right one from the photo bag is some kind of gamble, at least for anyone new to the system. In that case it's helpful that that Nikon imprints the lens name in large and white writing near the mount.

With 12 lens elements, including 2 ED and aspherical elements each, the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S comes with a fairly complex optical design for a normal prime. In addition, it carries the S designation, which Nikon reserves for the high-end lenses in the new Z portfolio.

Thanks to an IF (inner focus) design the length remains constant regardless of the focus setting and as you'd expect from any modern lens the front element does not rotate. So, using a polarizer is no problem.

The lens features a stepping motor that allows the lens to adjust focus fast and silently. It's not a completely noiseless drive, though, so if you're into video, you'll likely want to use an external microphone (which you'll probably use anyway if you're seriously into video). The aperture is controlled electronically, too.

The lens is sealed against dust and moisture.

Specifications
Equiv. focal length75 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/2.7 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction12 elements in 9 groups including 2 ED, 2 aspherical elements and Nano Crystal Coat
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.4 m (max. magnification ratio 0.15x)
Dimensions76 x 86.5 mm
Weight415 g
Filter size62 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodpetal-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)
Other featuresStepping motor (STM), electronic aperture, customizable control ring, dust and moisture sealings