Advantages and Disadvantages of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D “nifty fifty” lens




There are two popular questions that I have been asked about this lens the Nikon 50mm 1.8D and Nikon 50mm 1.8G.

The question no 1. Can I use this lens on my camera?

The Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens does not have a built-in auto-focus motor, that means that this lens can only use manual focus on entry-level cameras such as the D3000 and D5000, series, so if you have D3000 D3100 D3200 D3300 D3400 or D5000 D5100 D5200 D5300 D5500 D5600 you will not have auto-focus with D lenses in general.

VS

The Nikon 50mm 1.8 G lens has Silent Wave Motor SWM / AF-S making it possible to use and auto-focus on entry-level Nikon DSLR like D3000 and D5000 models, basically on all Nikon cameras, even on many older Nikon 35mm film camera.

The question no 2. Is 50mm focal length good for portrait photography?

50mm lens is fine for group shots, half-length and ¾-length pose on an FX camera.

I recommend 85mm to 135mm focal length for portraiture on both FX and DX camera.

it’s best to use lenses from 85mm to 135mm for regular portraits, the produces a good image without perspective distortion, so medium telephoto in the range of 85mm to 135mm is fine for head-and-shoulder and tight headshots.

It’s best to have a variety of focal lengths.

Lens Specifications

Advantages

Portrait photography

long exposure photography

Starbursts

Still life photography

Sharpness

Disadvantages

Lens flare

Conclusion and recommendation


Lens Specifications

50mm f/1.8D Portable normal lens.

Maximum aperture f/1.8 – Minimum aperture f/22.

Lens construction 6 elements in 5 groups.

There is no Aspherical lens element to eliminate the problem of coma and other types of lens aberration – when used at the widest aperture.

But this lens has Super Integrated Coating (SIC) for providing high-contrast image even with maximum aperture.

Closest focusing distance 45 cm/1.48 ft.

No. of diaphragm blades 7

The no of diaphragm blades means, for example, the 1.8D lens have heptagon-shaped bokeh effects and Starburst in long exposure photography is gonna be 14 stars on the 1.8D.

Filter/attachment size 52mm.

Weight Approximately 155 g/5.5 oz.

Nikon 50mm 1.8 D Review
Nikon 50mm 1.8D

Advantages

The 50mm f/1.8 D lens has long been some of the sharpest and cheapest lens available for most photographers out there, you actually get more than you pay for in my opinion.

The 50mm “nifty fifty” can let you capture images with shallow depth-of-field that lets you isolate subjects from the background, getting great bokeh effects, and has great low-light abilities.

50mm lens on FX camera captures a scene with a perspective similar to the way we see the world, so the 50mm focal length is what we call normal, that is not because other focal lengths are abnormal, because this focal length captures the scene in front of your camera with a perspective that appears normal to our eye

I use the 50mm lenses mostly for – Cityscape photography – long exposure – Landscape – Parties – wedding – Portrait – Still life photography and Video.

Nikon 50mm 1.8D is probably the cheapest lens available, I always thought this lens was rubbish because it was so cheap, but this lens is worth every penny and more.

Great bokeh effects – Small and light lens.

Nikon 50mm 1.8 D Review
Nikon D810 Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/2.5 ISO 64 1/500 sec.
Nikon 50mm 1.8 D Review Cop from the picture above
Cop from the picture above

Portrait photography

In my opinion, I find the Nikon 50mm 1.4G and Nikon 50mm 1.8G lenses to a better job for portraits photography when shooting wide open, they are much sharper on the focus area and with more creamy bokeh.

I usually do not use 50mm lens for close up portrait photography, the 50mm is more shootable for a full-length portrait, for example, I have a small home studio and I usually use 85mm or 70-200mm for close up portrait and 50mm for a full-length portrait in my studio.

Recommendation when you use the Nikon AF 50mm 1.8D lens for portrait shots outside like I’m doing on the next photo, use lens hood,

otherwise, you are likely to get sun flare and low contrast flare on half of your picture if you are shooting with the lens wide open

(See picture below)

Nikon D810 - 50mm 1.8D @ f/1.8 - 1/5000 sec - ISO 100 - HSS flash
Nikon D810 – 50mm 1.8D @ f/1.8 – 1/5000 sec – ISO 100 – HSS flash

You will need to stop the lens down to F/3.2 than this lens becomes very good.

Nikon D810 - 50mm 1.8D @ f/3.5 - 1/2000 sec - ISO 100 - HSS flash
Nikon D810 – 50mm 1.8D @ f/3.5 – 1/2000 sec – ISO 100 – HSS flash

long exposure photography.

The 50mm 1,8D lens really shines in long exposure photography, I find this lens do a much better job than all the other Nikon 50mm prime lenses, I find this lens to be very sharp @ f/5.6, also the starburst is more pleasing than on the G lenses.

Starburst

It’s a result of the small aperture if you want to capture starbursts in your photos you need to stop down the aperture

The number of aperture blades also affects the starburst’s shape.
if a lens has five aperture blades it will produce 10-star points. If it has six, it will produce six-star points, and if it has seven blades, it will produce 14-star points

No. of diaphragm blades 7 in Nikon 50mm 1.8d

The no of diaphragm blades means, for example, the 50mm 1.8D lens have heptagon-shaped bokeh effects, and Starburst in long exposure photography is gonna be 14 stars on the 50mm 1.8D

Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/4
Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/4

star burst

This picture is taken in Sonderborg Danmark with
Nikon D810 - 50mm 1.8D @ f/8 - 30.0s ISO 100.
Nikon D810 – 50mm 1.8D @ f/8 – 30.0s ISO 100.
Cop from the picture above
Cop from the picture above
Crop from Nikon 50mm 1.8G
Crop from Nikon 50mm 1.8G

Still Life Photography

I have been doing some still life photography for a friend of mine, I use most of the time 50mm lens and also Nikon 60mm macro lens, but most of my photos are taking with the 50mm lens.

Nikon D810 50mm 1.8D @ f/2.5 ISO 64 1/320 sec. In this photo I have added vignetting.
Nikon D810 50mm 1.8D @ f/2.5 ISO 64 1/320 sec. In this photo, I have added vignetting.

Sharpness And Bokeh Test.

In the Photographic world, all lenses used properly have sharpness.

Sharpness in lens performance is usually overrated and you need to go your own way and see what lens are good for you.

I think the Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens is both sharp and not sharp, wide open this lens is not sharp, I need to stop the aperture down to f/3.2 to reach some good sharpness with this lens, on f/5.6 this lens is one of the sharpest 50mm lenses that I have, only the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens is sharper on f/5.6, so this lens is both sharp and not sharp, in my opinion.

f/1.8: soft and low contrast images, almost un-useable.

f/2.8: A little bit soft, with improved contrast.

f/3.2: good contrast @ this aperture you should be free from low contrast flare.

f/5.6: sharp and good contrast.

Disadvantages

If we compare the nifty fifty lenses to Nikon 50mm G lenses how the are manufactured then we can see that this lens does not have any thing that we can call minimum flare control on maximum aperture, this lens have something that is called Nikon Super Integrated Coating for providing high-contrast image even with maximum aperture, but my experience is this lens is not doing so good @ maximum aperture, not until you stop the lens down to F/3.2 than this lens is very good, my favorite apertures on this lens is f/3.2 to f/5.6.

This lens…..

Does not have a built-in auto-focus motor, that means that this lens can only use manual focus on entry-level cameras such as the D3000 and D5000, series.

I know this lens works on Nikon D7000, D7100, D7200, and all fx Nikon cameras but remember, for auto-focus to work on your camera with this lens you need to set the aperture ring to f/22 and locked there.

Nikon 1.4D on the right and Nikon 1.8D on the left.
Nikon 50mm 1.4D on the right and Nikon 50mm 1.8D on the left.

Lens Flare Test

Lens flare is the light scattered in the lens mechanisms, usually unwanted.

Lens flare can also be useful because it adds a sense of realism in images or video, meaning that the image is a non-edited original photograph of a real-life scene, so it is more up to you what you want or needs.

All lenses suffer from some imperfections especially old cheap lenses.

Almost all modern lenses are coated and corrected to minimize flare so when you use some of the old lenses you should always use a lens hood, a lens hood will help eliminates flare if the bright light is slightly off to the side, but it won’t help if the light is directly in front of you.

The 50mm 1.8D lens have something called Nikon Super Integrated Coating for providing high-contrast image even with maximum aperture, but my experience is that this lens is not doing so good @ maximum aperture not until you stop the lens down to F/3.2 than this lens becomes very good.

Lens flare is probably the only downside with this lens when it comes to image quality from Maximum aperture f/1.8 to f/3.2, on lower aperture then 3.2 you are almost free from flare.

But on the other hand, you can get really artistic lens flare with this lens, it’s very similar to Helios 44-2 58mm lens.

Nikon D810 - Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f1.8 - ISO 64 - 1/800 sec
Nikon D810 – Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/1.8 – ISO 64 – 1/800 sec
Nikon D810 - Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/4,0 - ISO 64 - 1/200 sec
Nikon D810 – Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/4,0 – ISO 64 – 1/200 sec
Nikon D810 Helios 44-2 @f/2 – ISO-90 1/125s
Nikon D810 – Helios 44-2 @f/2 – ISO-90 1/125s

Here are some of the test images that I took on my Nikon D810.

I especially searched for this lens flaw in order to find differences between the lenses, so this may not happen to you in daily photography shoot.

Here, I put my subject between me and the sun. I did not use any lens hood here, and the sun is very low and to the right.

50mm 1.8D. @ f/1.8 1/500s ISO 100 / No lens hood.
50mm 1.8D. @ f/1.8 1/500s ISO 100 / No lens hood.
VS
The 50mm 1,8G / No lens hood
The 50mm 1,8G / No lens hood
Lensflare
50mm 1.8D @ f1.8 1/8000s ISO 100
VS
The 50mm 1,8G
The 50mm 1,8G
50mm 1.8D @ f/1.8 - 1/1600s ISO 100
50mm 1.8D @ f/1.8 – 1/1600s ISO 100
Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/2.8 - 1/640s ISO 100
Nikon 50mm 1.8D @ f/2.8 – 1/640s ISO 100
VS
The 50mm 1,8G
The 50mm 1,8G

Here I’m doing low contrast flare test in front of a computer screen, Nikon 50mm 1.8D vs Nikon 50mm 1.8G vs Nikon 50mm 1.8 AI-S pancake lens, you can get low contrast flare with Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens just with a white light coming from a computer screen.

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Nikon 50mm 1.8D vs Nikon 50mm 1.8G
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Nikon 50mm 1.8D
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Nikon 50mm 1.8G

Conclusion and recommendation

Nikon 50mm 1.8D is probably the cheapest lens available.

Flare is the only downside with this lens when it comes to image quality @ Maximum aperture f/1.8 – f/2.8.

Great bokeh effects – Small and light lens.

Good sharpness @ aperture f/3.2.

Does not have a built-in autofocus motor.

perfect for long exposure photography.

To minimize flare you should always use a lens hood with this lens.