After more than 30 years, Nikon has changed the optical design of its 50mm f/1.8 lens. But how does the new model compare to its predecessors? Richard Sibley investigates
Build and handling
Due to the built-in AF motor, the new 50mm f/1.8G lens is larger than the two previous 50mm f/1.8 AF optics. The larger diameter of the new lens means that the filter thread is now 58mm, as opposed to 52mm on the older versions, and its weight is fractionally increased, from the 160g of the 50mm f/1.8D to 185g.
The increased size of the G-series lens means the rubberised manual-focus ring is also larger than on previous models. But this is something of a paradox: with no aperture ring on the lens, it cannot be properly used on a manual-focus Nikon camera. However, it does prove useful when shooting in live view to ensure the subject is precisely in focus.
Despite being one of the cheapest Nikkor lenses, the 50mm f/1.8G doesn’t scrimp on build quality. It has a metal lens mount that is weather-sealed by a rubber surround covering both the lens and body mounts when the optic is attached to the camera. Sealing the connecting mounts in this way helps to prevent the incursion of moisture and dust.
Like most other Nikkor AF lenses, the 50mm f/1.8G features a switch on its side to change between two focus modes: M/A and M.
When switched to M/A, the lens will focus automatically and then, with the shutter button still half-depressed, you can adjust the focus manually. When switched to M, AF is disabled completely and the lens becomes fully manual focus. Again, this feature was not present on the previous incarnations of this lens.
Considering its price, the 50mm f/1.8G lens has a premium build quality. About the only feature lacking is Vibration Reduction, but this is largely unnecessary in a lens of this focal length and such a large maximum aperture.