Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G (FX) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Nikon / Nikkor (full format)

Review by Markus Stamm, published August 2021

Introduction

The Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G is a traditional "nifty fifty" prime as they used to be before several brands turned the normal prime market into a battle ground to show off: compact, light-weight, fast and most of all affordable. At the time of this review, the lens retails for around 200 EUR/USD. It's not a feature monster coming with all the latest lens engineering innovations, nor is it meant to be one. It's the kind of lens one buys to hopefully get a lot of bang for a low amount of bucks, equally popular among those who take their first careful steps into the unknown territory of primes and those with decades of experience.

In this review we take a look at how the lens performs on our 45 MP review camera, the Nikon D850. We also reviewed the lens on the Nikon D3x back in 2011, so if you're interested in how the lens performs on a lower resolution FX body, please have a look here. For obvious reasons, parts of the earlier review have been reused here.

Special Edition

With the retro-style Nikon Df body, Nikon also announced a Special Edition (SE) of the Nikkor AF-S 50/1.8 G featuring a body design similar to classic Nikkor lenses. There's a silver ring on the lens body and the rubber pattern on the focus ring looks more old-style than on the regular AF-S lens. Don't get too excited, though: what looks like a chrome ring at first sight is simply silver plastic. And besides the cosmetic differences, the regular lens and the SE are identical in terms of features, electronics and especially optical construction and performance.

The AF-S 50/1.8 G SE was available as kit lens with a Nikon Df, but can also be purchased seperately. The different design comes at a little extra price, though, the Special Edition currently retails for 280 EUR/USD.

The build quality of the lens is very decent thanks to an outer barrel being made out of high quality plastics. The rubberized focus ring is slightly damped and operates reasonably smooth.

Unfortunately the focus ring shows a behaviour that we have seen in other recent Nikon lenses, too: there's a little play, not in the focus ring itself, but the coupling with the actual focus unit. When changing the focus direction, it takes a few millimeters of movement until the focus unit actually follows the focus ring. This can be annoying when trying to nail critical focus, for example in Live View.

The physical length of the lens remains constant at all focus settings. It's not a true IF (internal focus) design though - the inner tube moves within the outer barrel (linear extension focusing system).

A protective pouch as well as a dedicated hood with bayonet mount are included with the lens. However, the front lens is deeply recessed except for close focus distances and already well protected without a hood.

The front element does not rotate, so using a polarizer remains easily possible.

As an AF-S lens the Nikkor is compatible with all current Nikon DSLRs (including the motorless entry-level cameras) and features the usual advantages of a silent wave (ultrasonic) drive: there's manual override at any time in single-shot AF mode and AF action is very silent. However, just as with the AF-S 50/1.4G, the AF speed is not overly fast. It's quick enough for everyday use and most subjects, though.

The AF-S 50/1.8 is a G-type lens and thus does not offer an aperture ring.

Specifications
Optical construction7 elements in 6 groups, incl. 1 aspherical element
Number of aperture blades7 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.45 m (max. magnification ratio 1:6.7)
Dimensions72 x 52.5 mm
Weight185 g
Filter size58 mm (non-rotating)
HoodNikon HB-47, barrel-shaped, bayonet mount (supplied)
Other featuresLens provides distance (D) information to the camera, Silent Wave AF motor