I just got my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 yesterday and I’ve been playing around with it on my D40. Overall, I find it fun to play with, probably because it’s a very simple lens. With no way to change the focal length, you’re left with playing with the aperture and focus.
Focused at infinity. When the focus is turned to near focus, the front filter ring protrudes out by about 1cm. The ring does not rotate during focusing. Perfect for those who want to using polarizing filters.
The 50mm f/1.8 lens with its large aperture is perfect for precise depth of field control. At f/1.8 with the subject 0.5 meter away, the depth of field is paper thin at just 1cm. I can see that it will be great for portrait shots also because it will be able to blur out the subject’s background while keeping the subject in sharp focus, therefore bringing the viewer’s attention to the subject.
One word describes the low light performance of this lens: incredible. Shooting at wide open, you can easily take blur free photos (1/80) at ISO 200 indoors. In dimmer conditions, ISO 1600 will be more than sufficient. This will no doubt be a good lens for indoors and for night time photography.
Comparison of shutter speeds at different apertures. All shot at ISO 200. At f/1.8, you can easily shoot at 1/30 whereas if you are using the kit lens, at 50mm you would have to use a f/5.6 which will probably give you a shutter speed of less than 1/10. If you ramp up the ISO to 800 where noise levels are still good, you can easily shoot using 1/100 and above, giving you virtually blur free photos.
Barrel distortion is almost non existent on this lens. Shooting at my test chart shows very straight lines even on the edges of the frame. The photo on the left is shot with the 18-55mm kit lens, and the one on the right is shot using the 50mm at wide open.
The sharpness of this lens is also exceptional. Its sharp even at the far corners. The 3 photos following the photo below are cropped 100% from the areas in the red boxes. Original photo was shot at f/9 on a tripod with focus approximately on the forward latch of the dry box.
The crops are still relatively sharp. But you’ll never have to blow them up this big unless you’re printing a large photo (roughly 45x70cm).
The only shortcoming of this lens when mounted on a D40 is the lack of autofocus. Although the green focus light comes on when the subject is in focus, you are very likely to miss shots while fiddling with the focus. When mounted on bodies that supports autofocus on this lens, focusing was fast and accurate. No hunting was evident.
Conclusion: If you love playing with depth of field and frequently shoot in low light or do portrait shots, then this is a lens that you should get. It’s so cheap that there’s no reason not to get one. For D40/D40x/D60 users, you might want to think twice about the lack of autofocus. Like I’ve said, it’s not a real problem but you may miss some shots while focusing. But for me, this lens will probably be a permanent resident on my D40 from now on. Continue reading