AI NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8S pancake lens review




There are four type of this lenses, One has 45cm / 1.5ft Closest focusing distance, the other three have 60cm / 2ft Closest focusing distance.
The lens that has 45cm / 1.5ft Closest focusing distance is rare and therefore more expensive.

I have three of them, I’m missing the one that has the Closest focusing distance of 45 cm/1.5 ft.

According to the NIKKOR – The Thousand and One Nights.

Development of the Nikon Series E began with the goal of producing a line of lenses suited to the compact size and light weight of the very reasonably priced Nikon EM. A 50mm f/1.8 lens was developed as part of the Series E lineup.

As this lens was not sold in Japan, However, the Series E 50mm f/1.8, sold in some regions including the U.S., and the AI Nikkor 50mm f/1.8S were actually sister lenses designed with the same basic optics, but different outward appearance and coatings.

The AI Nikkor 50mm f/1.8S was designed by Mr. Souichi Nakamura

Nikon 50mm 1.8G – 1.8D – AI 1.8-S pancake. E-Series 1.8 pancake

There were three issues with the AI Nikkor 50mm f/1.8S. It had to be compact, inexpensive, and offer excellent performance. Although the lens design would also be used for the Series E, it had to offer a level of performance equal to or better than that of previous lenses.

One of its most notable characteristics is its lack of distortion. There is only 0.1% distortion of objects positioned at infinity, and just 1% for objects at the minimum focus distance, where the most distortion occurs. There is also a very little lateral chromatic aberration.

This lens, released in 1980 to coincide with the release of the Nikon EM (released in 1979 as a Nikon Series E lens), has been a favorite of many users for its slimness and superior rendering capabilities. It also contributed to the appeal of the EM series. What’s more, the same basic optical design was reborn as the AI AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8S (coatings and such were modified) and is still available today (2016) in the AI AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D. When this lens was reborn as an AF lens, it lost its slim, pancake design, but its rendering characteristics remain the same.

If we compare performance to the latest AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G, we find that while contrast and sharpness are not as good at maximum aperture, there is very little distortion. Further, very similar rendering characteristics can be achieved by stopping down the aperture. Differences in rendering characteristics that occur in accordance with the aperture setting make this a lens that can be enjoyed for its uniqueness.

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Nikon D810 and Nikon 50mm 1.8 pancake lens

Lens Specifications

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AI-S Pancake lens

Maximum aperture f/1.8

Minimum aperture f/22

Lens construction 6 elements in 5 groups

Closest focusing distance 60cm/2 ft.

No. of diaphragm blades 7

Filter/attachment size 52mm

Weight Approximately 4-3/4 oz (135g).

Diameter x length It is 2.5″ – 63.3mm in diameter – 1.3″ – 33mm long

One of its most notable characteristics is its lack of distortion. There is only 0.1% distortion of objects positioned at infinity, and just 1% for objects at the minimum focus distance, where the most distortion occurs. There is also a very little lateral chromatic aberration.

 The same lens as the Nikon 50mm 1.8D

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Nikon 50mm 1.8D on the left and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AI-S pancake lens on the right

So this is more or less the same lens as the Nikon 50mm 1.8D but without AF and It focuses as close as 2 ft – 60 cm, when the Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens can focus as close as 45 cm/1.48 ft.

Can I recommend this lens to anyone, yes I can?

1. Maybe you don’t want to invest a lot of money in 50 mm lens.

2.  To someone how is curious about 50 mm focal length.

3. You want to practice using manual focus lens.

4. Using macro extension tubes with this lens is good.

Whatever the reason is I don’t think you should buy this lens for more than 50% of what the Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens cost.

Low contrast flare test Nikon 50mm 1.8D vs Nikon 1.8 AI-S pancake lens.

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

Low contrast lens flare test Nikon 50mm 1.8D vs Nikon 1.8 AI-S pancake lens @ f1.8
Low contrast lens flare test Nikon 50mm 1.8D vs Nikon 1.8 AI-S pancake lens @ f1.8

So how can this be the same lens? when one is so different when shooting with the lenses wide open @ f/1.8.

I think this is the front element of the lens, the plastic in front of the glass is actually reflecting light onto the glass (on 50mm 1.8D) the Nikon 50mm 1.8G is free from this low contrast flare, the lens is built differently than the Nikon 50mm 1.8D to prevent this to happen, and the old pancake lens does not have this plastic at all, and is there for free from this low contrast flare on maximum aperture.

50mm-1-8-vs-1-8-vs-1-8
Nikon 50mm 1.8G – Nikon 50mm 1.8D – Nikon 50mm 1.8 pancake lens

long exposure photography.

For long exposure photography, I have sometimes got a strange reflection from the opening of the aperture blades on my photos like this on the image below, so I cannot recommend this lens for long exposure.

opening of the aperture blades
Opening of the aperture blades @ f/16
Nikon D7000 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/16 ISO 100 - 120.0sec
Nikon D7000 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/16 ISO 100 – 120.0sec
Nikon D7000 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/8 ISO 100 - 15sec
Nikon D7000 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/8 ISO 100 – 15sec

Using macro extension tubes with this lens.

I really like using this lens with macro extension tubes, this lens has original closest focusing distance 60cm/2 ft,  and somehow that works better with macro extension tubes, better than Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens, in my opinion, the 1.8D have closest focusing distance 45cm/1.5 ft.

Using macro extension tubes with this lens. 12mm 20mm 36mm macro extension tubes.
Using macro extension tubes with this lens. 12mm 20mm 36mm macro extension tubes.
Nikon D7000 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/2.8 - ISO 100 - 1/640sec
Nikon D7000 – 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/2.8 – ISO 100 – 1/640sec + macro extension tube
Nikon D7000 - 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/2.8 - ISO 500 - 1/100sec + macro extension tube
Nikon D7000 – 50mm 1.8 pancake @ f/2.8 – ISO 500 – 1/100sec + macro extension tube