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Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G
Special Edition (2013-)
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

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Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Special Edition

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G, special edition styled for the Nikon Df. (58mm filters, 6.7 oz./190g, 1.5'/0.45m close focus, about $275). The biggest source of support for this free website is when you use these links, especially this direct link to this lens at Adorama, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.

November 2013     Nikon Reviews    Nikon Lens Reviews   Other Reviews

Ideal for: Perfect for use on FX digital, DX digital and 35mm film. On DX cameras, the viewfinder is usually at close to 100% magnification, making two-eyed shooting easy.

Not for: Rich people who just don't feel right unless they pay a lot of money for something, or people who need no distortion, for whom the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D has less distortion for half the price. Otherwise, everyone needs some sort of 50mm f/1.8 and not much more.


Introduction       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Compatibility    Previous Versions

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This Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Special Edition is a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G restyled for the Nikon Df.

This is Nikon's latest iteration of their classic 50mm f/1.8 lens, first introduced in 1978. This new lens allows instant manual-focus override simply by grabbing the focus ring at any time.

The 50mm f/1.8 G is one of Nikon's best lenses at any price, and for the Df, I don't mind paying more for one that looks better; it's still a bargain.


Compatibility       intro     top

Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon ever made, both FX and DX, from the best Df, D4, D800, D800E, D610 and D600 to Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100 and D5200 and D5300.

It's also perfect on decent or recent AF film cameras like the F6, F100, F5, N80 and N75. I tried it on my Nikon F4, and it works great, although there's no way to set a manual aperture as explained below.

The incompatibilities for older or cheaper film cameras are that:

1.) It won't autofocus with the cheapest new AF 35mm cameras like the N55, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. Even if you lose autofocus, these cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.

2.) Late 1980s ~ early 1990s AF cameras like the N90s, N70 and F4 will focus just fine and you'll have Program and Shutter-priority modes, but lose Manual and Aperture-priority since you have no way to set the aperture on the camera or on the lens.

3.) You're really pushing it with the oldest AF cameras like the N2020, N6006 and N8008. You'll have no AF and very confused exposure modes. Manual focus is fine, along with electronic focus indications.

4.) Since it has no aperture ring, it's just about useless with manual focus film cameras. It will shoot every shot at its minimum aperture.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I" and "G" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a deliberate handicap which removes features.


Previous Versions       intro     top

These all use the same glass as each other, but in different mounts. This G lens is the first new optical design since 1978.

The popular 50mm f/1.8 AF-D remains in production, as it works fine on 35mm manual-focus Nikons, while this new G lens does not.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G (standard version, 2011-)

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D (2002-)

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF (1986-2001)

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series E (1979-1985)

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AI (1978-1982)

Nikon 50mm Lens Comparison


Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations


Name        top

Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G.

    NIKKOR: Nikon's brand name for their lenses.

    AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave Autofocus Motor.

    G: Gelded for cost-reduction and removing compatibility with older cameras.

    ∅58: 58mm filter thread.

    Aspherical: Specially shaped glass to give even sharper pictures, especially at f/1.8.


Optics        top

Diagram, Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G

Internal diagram, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. enlarge. (original graphic by Trip Ulvila for KenRockwell.com)

7 elements in 6 groups.

One aspherical element, shown in yellow.

It's multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Integrated Coating.


Diaphragm        top

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Front, Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G at f/16. enlarge.

7 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/16 (not f/22 as does every other Nikon 50mm f/1.8).


Coverage        top

35mm film, FX and DX.


Focal Length        top


When used on a DX camera, it gives angles of view similar to what a 75mm lens gives when used on an FX or 35mm camera.


Angle of View        top

47° on FX and 35mm.

(31.5° on small-format DX.)


Close Focus        top

1.5 feet (0.45m).


Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top



Filter Thread        top

58mm, plastic.

Does not move or rotate.


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top


You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.


Focus Scale        top

Not really; two tits at f/16 don't count.


Depth-of-Field Scale        top

Not really, two little tits for f/16.


Infra-Red Focus Index        top



Aperture Ring        top



Bayonet Mount         top



Rear Weather Seal         top



Size        top

Nikon specifies 2.1" (52.5mm) extension from flange by 2.8" (73mm) diameter.


Weight        top

Nikon specifies 6.7 oz. (190g).


Hood        top

The HB-47 plastic bayonet hood is included.


Sack        top

CL-1013 bag, included.

A used sock protects better and is easier to use.


Included        top

LC-58 snap-on front lens cap.

LF-4 rear cap.

HB-47 hood.

CL-1013 bag.


Introduced         top

Announced on 05 November 2013 with the Nikon Df.


Promised for         top

Late November 2013.


Nikon Product Number        top



Price, USA         top

$275, November 2013.


Performance       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh    Color   Coma    Distortion

Ergonomics   Eyeblow   Falloff    Filters   Flare and Ghosts

Focus Breathing   Hood    Lateral Color Fringes    Macro

Mechanics   Sharpness   Spherochromatism  Sunstars   Survivability


Overall       performance     top

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G Special Edition is solid, inexpensive and a great performer. If you don't already have something similar, everyone deserves one of these.


Autofocus       performance     top


Autofocus is fast, easy and accurate. I wish everything worked this well.


AF Speed

AF is as fast as every other Nikon AF-S lens.


AF Accuracy

On my D800E, AF is always right-on, especially at f/1.8 where it matters.


Manual Focus

Manual focus works great; just grab the ring at any time.

The rubber ring is grippy so it can be moved with a single fingertip, although the mechanics are stiffer than real Nikon Manual-Focus lenses.


M/A - M Switch

Nikon goofed. This switch is supposed to be labeled "A - M."

The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because you also can focus manually simply by grabbing the focus ring in this position.

The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because back in the old days, when Nikon had almost caught up to Canon who had been doing this for ten years before, Nikon was trying to show off that you could focus manually while in the AF position.

Paint over the extra M if you're easily confused.


Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is great. Out-of-focus backgrounds are always soft and never distract.

At f/1.8, it's also smooth.


Color Rendition       performance     top

I can't see any difference from any of my other modern NIKKOR lenses.


Coma       performance     top

Any coma is minimal at worst, better than the earlier 50mm f/1.8 lenses. I expected this from the aspherical design.

Coma (saggital coma flare) often causes weird smeared blobs to appear around bright points of light in the corners of fast or wide lenses at large apertures. In lenses that have it, coma goes away as stopped down.


Distortion       performance     top

This new 50/1.8 G has moderate barrel distortion, while all the other the 50mm f/1.8 lenses, especially the 50/1.8 AF-D which sells today for half the price, has none. You'll never notice it, unless you like to shoot brick walls.

If brick walls are your thing, this Nikon 50mm f/1.8 sadly has far more distortion than any other Nikon 50mm f/1.8 or f/2 lens, ever. Even Nikon's very first 50mm f/2 lens of 1946 has less distortion than this new lens!

The 50/1.8 G's distortion can be largely corrected by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter, however the distortion is slightly complex on FX, so it never corrects completely with simple tools like Photoshop. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

FX and Film
10' (3m)

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


Ergonomics (handling and ease-of-use)       performance     top

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Special Edition

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G Special Edition.

Ergonomics are just about perfect. They are the primary reason to pay twice as much as the perfectly good 50mm f/1.8 AF-D.

This is a tough lens, and all one needs to do to focus manually is grab the ring. With a filter on the front, it's reasonably well sealed against physical damage and dust, unlike zooms or the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D.


Eyeblow       performance     top

I can't detect any air coming out of my viewfinder as focused. The internal optics move as a unit inside the outer barrel.


Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff on FX is typical: some of the usual wide open, and goes away stopped down. It's the same as the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D.

It won't be an issue at all on DX (see crop factor).

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Nikon 50mm Special Edition falloff on FX and film at infinity, no correction.


© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


Filters, use with       performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick filters.

58mm is a generous filter size, so it never gets in the way.

The filter ring does not move; the glass moves around inside the barrel.


Flare and Ghosts       performance     top

I couldn't get any ghosts or flare, even looking straight into the sun, even in the shadows:

Even without a hood, the front glass is deeply recessed in the barrel, so I doubt there will ever be any problem with flare or ghosts.


Focus Breathing       performance     top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image from the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G grows as focused more closely.

This is as expected from a unit-focusing lens: the entire optical cell moves in and out as one unit as focused.


Hood       performance     top

The plastic hood is included. It works fine, but I never use it.


Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D3 or D7000, which corrects them automatically.

There is a bit of spherochromatism, which is a different aberration.


Macro       performance     top

Close-focus reproduction ratio is the same as most fixed Nikon lenses.


Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G Special Edition is typical of Nikon's current amateur lenses: metal mount, glass glass, and plastic everything else.


Filter Threads




Plastic bayonet.


Hood Mount



Barrel Exterior



Focus Ring

Plastic; rubber covered.


Focus Helicoids

Feel like plastic.


Depth-of-Field Scale

None, unless you consider two little tits right next to each other for f/16 as something useful.


Aperture Ring




Dull-chromed brass.





Mounting Index Dot

White plastic ball.



Painted inside front filter threads and on outside of barrel.


Rain seal at mount



Noises When Shaken

Mild clunking.


Sharpness       performance     top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

With these caveats, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G is among Nikon's sharpest lenses.

As expected for the latest aspherical designs at any price, the 50/1/8 G is sharp at every aperture.

At f/1.8, it's only slightly less sharp in the corners of FX or DX, and sharpens right up as soon as stopped down a couple of stops.

As shown above under Bokeh, it can be too sharp sometimes.


Here are Nikon's claimed MTF curves:

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Nikon's MTF Curve, 50/1.8 G.


For comparison, here's the same for the 50/1.8 AF-D at f/1.8:

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D

Nikon's MTF Curve, 50/1.8 AF-D.


Spherochromatism       performance     top

The 50mm f/1.8 G has a slight bit of spherochromatism. Out-of-focus foreground highlights can sometimes have a bit of a magenta fringe around them, and out-of-focus background highlights can sometimes have a bit of green around them. This helps bokeh most of the time.

Spherochromatism is sometimes mistakenly called "color bokeh" by laymen, and is common in fast lenses.


Sunstars       performance     top

With its rounded 7-bladed diaphragm, the 50/1.8 G tends to make soft, subtle 14-pointed sunstars on bright points of light, if any at all.

The conventional 7-bladed diaphragm of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D gives much sharper sunstars.


Survivability       performance     top

The Nikon 50/1.8 G is pretty tough because all its optics and delicate parts are protected within the outer barrel.

Use a filter, and nothing moves externally. The filter protects against airborne threats, and the delicate internals are completely protected inside the outer barrel.

The older 50mm lenses have fronts that move in and out; this lens and the newest 50/1.4 G don't.


Usage             top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Leave the M/A — M switch in M/A. In M/A, you get autofocus, and if you want manual focus, just grab the ring at any time.

The M position disables autofocus; giving manual-only focus. I only use the M position as a hard focus lock; I grab the ring for instant manual focus.

I'd leave either a 58mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 58mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 58mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

For color slides like Velvia 50 shot outdoors, I use a 58mm Hoya HMC 81A.

For B&W film outdoors, I'd use a 58mm Hoya HMC K2 Yellow or 58mm Hoya HMC Orange.


Compared             top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Nikon 50mm Lens Comparison

The 50mm f/1.8 G is the same thing, styled differently.

Distortion is much worse than any other Nikon 50mm f/2 or f/1.8 lens.

I prefer the conventional straight-bladed diaphragms of older lenses that make much better sunstars than this new lens. This lens makes wimpy sunstars, if any at all.

The earlier Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D costs about half as much, has none of the distortion, focuses just as close and fast, is just as super-sharp at normal apertures, stops down to f/22 instead of being limited to f/16, and weighs much less. Although the older 50/1.8 isn't quite as sharp in the corners at f/1.8 (who cares), it is just as sharp in the center. The biggest difference is on which cameras each autofocuses — or not (see Nikon Lens Compatibility), and the huge ergonomic advantage to instant manual-focus override on this new G lens. This new G lens is also tougher when hit from the front, with or without its hood.

Price, 6/2011
Price, 11/2013
(3m, FX)
190g plastic
7 rounded
185g plastic
7 rounded
157g plastic
155g plastic
278g plastic
9 rounded
229g plastic
135-155g hybrid
220-145g metal
354g metal
150g metal
134g metal


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

This is the 50mm f/1.8 G, with different styling. Either are excellent lenses, unbeaten in sharpness by any other Nikon lens.


More Information

Nikon's product data.

Nikon's press release (as a tag-along in the Nikon Df press release.)


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