The Best Portrait Lens For Nikon D90 Cameras!

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If you’re using the Nikon D90, then it’s safe to say that you’re pretty serious about your photography. The D90 is one of Nikon’s prosumer models, fit for beginners and professionals alike. It’s also an excellent camera for a wide range of uses, especially portrait photography. That is, of course, if you pair it with the right portrait lens.

But what makes for a ‘good’ portrait lens? Photographers usually capture great portrait shots using prime lenses. That’s because they possess a wider maximum aperture than zoom lenses with identical focal lengths. On top of that, portrait photography is better with a lens that performs well in low-light conditions and of course, a lens that captures high-quality images. Well, guess what? The Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens does all of those things exceptionally well. That’s why it’s one of the best portrait lenses for Nikon D90, if not the absolute best.

The Nikkor f/1.8G does its job well. Still, it has much more to offer, even to a professional portrait photographer. It’s compact, light, and reasonably durable. Best of all, it won’t burn a hole in your wallet!

You’d be hard-pressed to find a review that challenges the Nikkor AF-S 50mm’s excellent reputation in the photography world. That’s because it continues to serve photographers very well even after almost a decade, and it’s tough to find any faults with it. Many consider this lens to be a must-have.

Keep on reading to understand why that is!

Performance And Functionality

This lens was actually developed to replace the earlier f/1.8D lens. Both have been received well by Nikkor enthusiasts worldwide. Still, the Nikkor AF-S 50mm does come with several performance and functionality improvements over its predecessor.

The Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is a no-frills kind of camera lens. Most of its value comes from how it performs and functions while being used, especially with the Nikon D90. Here are a few key things you need to know about how the Nikkor AF-S 50mm performs:

Prime Lens

As mentioned before, the Nikkor AF-S 50mm is a prime lens with a fixed focal length of 50 mm (a ‘nifty fifty’ lens, as they say). A prime lens is the opposite of a zoom lens, which allows you to adjust the focal length in whatever way you need it. As a prime lens, pairing the Nikkor AF-S 50mm with the Nikon D90 gives you many advantages. 

Firstly, it has a wider maximum aperture which allows you to let more light into your camera. That’s the reason why it performs well under low-light conditions.

This lens also allows you to get a shallow depth of field. In simpler terms, that means that you’ll be able to isolate the subject of your portrait quickly with the background blurred. That will give your portrait images a much more professional look and feel.

Silent Autofocus Motor

The “AF-S” in the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens means that it has a silent autofocus motor built right into it. 

Now, if you’re capturing your portrait shots outdoors or in a crowded location, this might not make a difference to you. But let’s say that you’re capturing your portrait images indoors in a quiet place. You might be in a quiet studio or even capturing candid photos of people you don’t want to interrupt. With the Nikkor AF-S 50mm, you won’t have to worry about any distracting motor noises coming from the D90 in your hands. 

Super Integrated Coating

Over the years, Nikon has developed a special multi-layer lens coating called the Super Integrated Coating. Nikon uses this material to coat all Nikkor lenses, including the Nikkor AF-S 50mm. According to Nikon, the coating helps you achieve high transmittance of light on a broader wavelength range. That sounds a little too science-y, but all you need to know is that this coating reduces ghosting and flaring in pictures. 

The end product? You’ll be able to capture vibrant looking high-contrast images, with fantastic colour balance. That’s precisely what you want from a D90 camera when you’re taking portrait images!  

Outdoor Performance

With the Nikkor f/1.8G, you’ll be able to use your D90 for much better outdoor portraits, as well. The lens features aspherical lens elements built into it which are a big reason for the Nikkor AF-S 50mm’s excellent low-light performance. With sharper pictures at wider apertures, you’ll be able to capture portrait shots out in the open, even if the weather isn’t as bright as you’d like it to be. 

Bokeh Effects

One thing you’ll hear lots of photographers say about the Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens is that it’s excellent for capturing bokeh effects in your portraits. Bokeh, as you might already know, are the out-of-focus light shapes captured as part of the portrait photo. Older lenses tend to capture those orbs as hexagons with sharp edges. The Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens, however, will give you smooth, round bokeh orbs. Using the Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens with the D90, you’ll give your portraits a much dreamier effect!

Many photographers have captured and shared fantastic results using the Nikkor AF-S 50mm. A quick Google search will give you a whole bunch of independent reviews with sample images so you can see for yourself!

User Interface And Control System

The Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8G is a no-frills lens. One might even say it’s ‘minimalist’, but that’ll depend on who you ask. Simply put, it’s a prime lens with autofocus, so there’s not much that you need to control. Still, let’s take a closer look.

Fixed Focal Length

The focal length of the Nikkor AF-S 50mm is set at 50 mm. Thankfully, with portrait photography, you’re probably not going to want to do much zooming in on your subject, anyway.

Still, if you need to get a close-up shot of your subject, you’ll need to move around physically. There’s an added side effect to this: using this lens will remind you to appreciate the space that you’re using. You see, having a zoom feature is a convenience for portrait photographers. It may be safe to say that many have forgotten how to capture amazing portraits without using the zoom. By using the Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens with its fixed focal length, you’ll sharpen your kills by re-learning how and where to position your camera to get the best portrait of your subject. You’ll naturally learn how to control your shots without relying on a zoom feature.

Autofocus With Manual Override

The autofocus in the Nikkor AF-S 50mm is, as mentioned before, totally silent. That’s thanks to the Silent Wave Motor (SWM) in the lens. Being so quiet helps not only in quiet environments but perhaps also if you’re working with animals. Without the sound of the autofocus in action, the cute cat or dog you’re taking portraits of will less likely be distracted or scared as you take pictures of it.

If you’re looking for a bit more control over the focus, the Nikkor AF-S 50mm also offers a manual override feature. That way, you can focus your shots just the way you like them, which brings us to our next point.

Ridged Focus Ring

For manual focusing, you’ll be quite happy with the way Nikon designed the focus ring. It’s got deep ridges to ensure that your fingers always have traction on it and never slip. The ridge design might not seem like a big deal, but its ergonomic nature is convenient in situations where you might find yourself on the move.

Build Quality And Design

Part of the Nikkor AF-S f/1.8G’s popularity is inspired by how well Nikon built the lens. Let’s take a detailed look at how the company put this lens together.


Firstly, the Nikkor AF-S 50mm is really light. The whole thing weighs only about 187 grams! To put that into perspective, the body of the Nikon D90 weighs 703 grams (with the battery and no lens). So, even with the Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens on, your overall setup will still weigh less than one kilogram in total. You’ll be able to handle the camera without your hands getting tired so quickly. 

Compact Build

Next, you’ll find that the Nikkor AF-S 50mm is also very compact. Its exact dimensions are 2.09 x 2.83 x 2.83 inches, which means that it’ll fit neatly into whatever bag you’re carrying. That’s good news if you’re travelling, as well. You can keep this lens in your carry-on without having to worry about it in your check-in luggage.

Some photographers worry about theft, and rightfully so. With a lens that’s compact and discreet like the Nikkor AF-S 50mm, I would be less concerned about someone trying to steal it. Firstly, it doesn’t look expensive. Second, I can keep it with me at all times instead of having to leave it in my check-in luggage or a locker somewhere.

Sturdy Barrel

Nikon didn’t skimp on the materials when it came to the Nikkor AF-S 50mm’s barrel, either. The company makes it out of polycarbonate plastic that’s sturdier than some other materials. Even the way the plastic feels under your fingers makes the lens feel like it’s a much higher-end piece of equipment!

Aspherical Lens Elements

In the last section, we mentioned how the Nikkor AF-S 50mm has aspherical lens elements inside of it. We already know that it helps to produce better images, but what is it exactly? 

Well, it’s pretty simple. The glass that the lens uses has one or more non-spherical surfaces. Nikon has had these elements in development for decades now, and they’ve perfected them to the point that they’re able to prevent many optical distortions from being captured. The final result? Flawless photographs.

Super Integrated Coating (SIC)

Finally, the lens comes coated with Nikon’s signature material, the Super Integrated Coating (SIC). Essentially, the SIC is the part of the lens that prevents things like ghosting and flaring from happening. These are common in environments where your subject is backlit. This coating works by making the best out of any light that is shining into the lens to give you a clear, undisturbed image.

Final Thoughts

Back around the time when the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G was first released, many people in the photography community already considered it to be one of the best portrait lenses for Nikon D90. Today, that claim would be a significant understatement that doesn’t do justice for this fantastic lens. 

The Nikkor AF-S 50mm has been around for almost a decade now. Despite all that time, this lens seems to have a special place in the hearts of photographers, new and old alike. All over the world, Nikon owners know that if they had to choose just one lens, the Nikkor AF-S 50mm would be their best bet. It’s light, it’s compact, and it’s versatile enough to capture great shots no matter what you’re doing.

When it comes to portrait photography with the D90 camera, nothing beats the Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens. Portraits captured with this lens are sharp, and it even captures minor details of your subject. In the end, you get portrait shots that are nuanced and full of life, just as portraits should be.

Who’s going to appreciate this lens on the D90? Well, everyone. Newbies using a Nikon D90 will appreciate the Nikkor AF-S 50mm as it drastically improves the quality of their portrait shots without having to pay for a more expensive lens. Experienced professionals will also enjoy this lens. With its versatility, they’ll be able to capture professional images without having to carry around too many lenses or other gear.

If you’re interested in buying the Nikkor AF-S 50mm, you can get it brand new or even used. With a used lens that’s in good condition, you could end up saving a significant amount of money. However, with a brand-new one, you’ll have the pride of owning this fantastic lens and having it covered by Nikon’s warranty. Either way, this is a lens that you need as part of your photography set up. There’s no doubt about it.

Even after all these years, the Nikkor AF-S 50mm maintains its stellar reputation. I don’t know about you but for me, that’s a better indicator of a great lens than any fancy marketing campaign that Nikon or any other company might carry out.