People have been the focus of artwork since the beginning of time — okay maybe not that long, but at least since the dawn of art. Cave paintings dating back to 23,000 BC depict human figures going about their everyday lives: hunting, dancing, and even having sex. It’s no surprise, then, that lensmen have been capturing images of fellow humans since the camera was first invented. Today, from year books to weddings to Instagram selfies, portraiture is arguably the most widely practiced form of photography.
The first step to taking great portraits is picking the right lens. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is an astonishing and perfect for the job. It’s lightweight and compact yet produces stunning images. Its f/1.8 aperture allows for beautiful images with a shallow depth of field, making your subjects pop out from the background. This makes it the perfect lens for portrait photography with your Nikon D5300.
- Focal Length: 50 mm
- Minimum Focal Distance: 1.48 feet / 0.45 meter
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Field of View: 47 degrees
- Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.15x
- Length: 2.1 inches / 52.4 mm
- Diameter: 2.8 inches / 72.1 mm
- Weight: 6.6 ounces / 185 grams
- Mount: Nikon F-Bayonet
- Diaphragm Blades: 7
- Filter size: 58 mm
- Filter type: screw-on
- Manual-to-auto focusing
- Silent wave motor
- Aspherical lens
- Super integrated coating
- Front lens cap
- Rear lens cap
- Flexible lens pouch
- Bayonet hood
Your D5300’s Best Friend
This lens works great for portraits as well as everyday use, giving you a professional look at a 10th the cost of the leading professional lenses. It’s fast f/1.8 aperture enables you to take gorgeous shots with a shallow depth of field and natural-looking bokeh, that blurry effect in the background. Even though it’s backed by the great reputation of the Nikkor brand, this lens deserves the accolades of its own accord.
Performance And Functionality
Established in 1917, Nikon is one of the global leaders in the creation of optic and imaging products, famous for their camera and lenses. In 1933, Nikon marketed their first lens under the brand name Nikkor. Originally used only for its highest-quality imaging optics, Nikon now brands almost all of its lenses with the Nikkor name.
It’s a long-running trusted brand. They first became well known back in the 50’s when a photojournalist touted their use during the Korean War. Ever since, they’ve been one of the most trusted names in cameras and lenses. These guys know how to make a lens, and they only make high quality products.
A lightweight and compact lens, the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is a perfect travel companion. Only 2.1 inches long, this lens is probably shorter than the kit lens you opted for with your camera.
Weight distribution won’t be a problem. At only 6.6 ounces (185 grams), this lens isn’t even half the weight of an average mirrorless camera. It’s so light, it feels like a toy. But don’t let that put you off. Due to the optical design and the large lens barrel, the front element of the f/1.8G does not extend or rotate during focus. This increases the durability of the lens and helps to keep an even weight distribution.
Plus, it makes it easier to use filters.
Also incorporated is the addition of Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM), providing a nearly silent focusing experience and allowing the lens to be fully auto-focus capable on Nikon’s more entry-level DSLR’s like the Nikon D5300.
The AF-S motor also provides Nikon’s M/A capability, allowing you to switch from automatic to manual focus with minimal lag time. Just turn the focus ring and you’ll seamlessly be able to fine tune your focus manually, without ever taking your eye off the viewfinder.
This lens auto-focuses almost twice as fast as its more expensive professional grade counterpart, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G delivering equally accurate results. The lens does struggle to find focus of dark objects under very dim lighting conditions. However, this is normal, and the use of the autofocus assist lamp fixes the issue.
The 50mm f/1.8G performs excellently throughout its full aperture range, starting with a sharp focus in the center of the frame, and softening moving outward. Starting at f/1.8, sharpness increases as you tighten the aperture, with maximum sharpness and clarity being reached at f/5.6.
The lens does seem to suffer from ‘focus shift’, which is normal for this class of lens, but it’s good to keep in mind. When you open or tighten the aperture past 5.6, you’ll want to be sure to refocus, so you’re capturing the desired focal point.
When focusing on anything at closer range, the background of the image should come out blurry while the foreground is crisp and sharp. The quality and feel of the background blur is referred to by photographers as Bokeh.
Bokeh is very important in portrait photography, as good quality Bokeh can help the subject stand out, almost appearing to pop out of the image, while bad quality Bokeh just makes the picture unpleasant to look at. Long story short, the 50mm f/1.8G produces excellent Bokeh, especially considering the low price tag of this lens.
Ghosting, Flare, And Aberrations
Comparing the f/1.8G to previous generations, the ghosting and flare on this lens is minimal. Shots taken with the sun in the frame at f/1.8 show almost no ghosting or flare, while previous generations show so much that the entire image is ruined. The AF-S lens is such an improvement because the front element is recessed much more deeply inside the barrel.
The barrel does have noticeable distortion, slightly curving straight lines on the top and bottom of images, however this can pretty easily be fixed in post-processing without losing too much of the image. Meanwhile, longitudinal chromatic aberration (color bleeding in front of and behind a focused subject) is controlled far better than on high-end expensive versions of Nikkor’s other portrait lenses.
The majority of lenses with a fixed focal length will have heavy vignetting (a reduction of brightness around the periphery of the image), so it’s not shocking that the same holds true for the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8. Fortunately, vignetting only hangs around for the first few aperture stops; by the time you get to f/4.0 it’s completely gone. It’s worth noting that when this camera is mounted on a DX camera (rather than a full-frame like the Nikon D5300) there is significantly less vignetting, even at the widest aperture setting.
This lens does vignette a bit more than it’s older cousin, the f/1.8D but it does better than some of it’s professional-grade counterparts, like the 50mm f/1.4G. Vignetting also seems to be higher when focused to infinity rather than using a close focus.
These excellent independent reviews for this lens are glowing, with thousands of reviews to be found across sites like Amazon and Best Buy. Both sites include reviews with customer uploaded images, so you can see for yourself just how great a shot this lens is capable of. Reviewers are professionals and novice alike, with Amazon’s user base giving it a 4.9 star rating.
User Interface And Control System
The focus ring is located at the front of the barrel, making manual focus easy without the need to take your eye off the viewfinder and switching between M and M/A focus is a breeze, with the flip of a switch located on the side of the barrel.
Included with the lens is a HB-47 hood that snaps tightly on the front. Unlike some other Nikon hoods, this one doesn’t wobble at all, so it won’t cause distractions.
The lens attaches quickly and easily, like the rest. Line up the dot on the camera body with the dot on the lens and turn until you hear a reassuring click.
Build Quality And Design
Like their other lenses, the 50mm f/1.8G is has a solidly built plastic exterior and a metal mount. Designed to replace the older f/1.8D, the optical and barrel design have been updated, increasing the overall size of the lens, but adding durability.
A rubber gasket on the lens mount helps seal the lens to the camera body, keeping dust from getting into the camera. The only negative thing to say about the durability of this lens is that it’s not weather sealed the way Nikon’s professional line is. While this lens is usable in various weather conditions, remember to take extra precaution when changing the lens in dusty or windy conditions. The rear element of the lens does move in and out during the focusing process, so you’ll want to set the focus to infinity before mounting or dismounting to prevent dust from entering.
As stated previously, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G was designed to replace its older cousin, the 50mm f/1.8D. While the AF-D had six optical elements in five groups while the f/1.8G has been modified with seven elements in six groups.
Unlike the older model, the updated f/1.8G also contains an aspherical element. This element reduces coma and chromatic aberrations, while still allowing for a compact size. Even used at its widest aperture, the aspherical lens helps aberrations stay minimal while also allowing for a lighter and more compact design.
Comparing The Competition
Compared to other 50mm lenses currently on the market, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is hands down the best you can get for the price. It outperforms most professional line products yet is affordable enough for even the hobbyist photographer to feel it’s a worthwhile investment.
It’s almost hard to wrap the brain around — Nikkor has a professional grade 50mm lens that’s more than ten times the price of the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G but the quality difference is so subtle it’s simply not worth the cost.
The weight and size of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8G lens make it perfect for taking anywhere. It adds almost no bulk to your gear bag, yet it’s still incredibly well made and capable of high-quality images. A large aperture size makes it ideal for taking pictures of subject matter requiring a narrow depth of field or extremely dim light. Despite its large aperture capability, autofocus stays super-fast and accurate (and almost silent) through the use of Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology, plus the M/A mode allows for seamlessly moving into Manual focus to allow for precision targeting without the need to take your eye off the viewfinder.
The inclusion of an asymmetrical glass element and super-integrated lens coating minimizes ghosting, flaring, coma, and chromatic aberrations. Smooth, round bokeh makes the subject pop right of the page, creating crisp, clear images. This lens helps even amateurs take shots that feel almost professional.
Not much! This lens isn’t weather resistant, but unless you’re chasing desert storms or wandering in the Arctic, it should be fine. If you do happen to use it in an extremely dusty or windy environment, just remember to be sure it’s free of dust particles and focused to infinity before changing lens to help keep particulates out of the barrel.
A minor amount of distortion does appear on the top and bottom of the frame, but it’s only noticable when taking shots of straight lines (like a fence or a brick wall) and is fairly easy to touch up in post process.
A great option portraits or general use
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8G lens is compact, lightweight, and produces phenomenal image quality. Whether you’re a professional wedding photographer, an enthusiast who’s just getting started, or a yogi who just takes pictures of himself for Instagram marketing, this lens will make you happy. With a great reputation of a brand backing high-end professional lenses, yet at a tenth of the price, everyone can feel justify the investment of one of these.