Seven 50mm prime lenses for Nikon F-mount compared by Cary Jordan

Nikon F-Mount 50mm lens comparisons by Cary Jordan:

There are many “normal” 50mm prime lenses available for the Nikon F-mount. So many, that it can be difficult deciding for yourself which lens is right for you. Differences in performance as well as price are abound. Our goal in this article is to compare the 7 most common 50mm prime lenses from Nikon and well known third-party manufacturers.

These lenses are all excellent in their own rights. In most cases, it really comes down to how you’ll employ the lens. What’s important to a landscape photographer is not usually important to a portrait photographer, unless the lens will serve as a multi-purpose lens. Each photographer will have different needs and thus be looking for different qualities in a 50mm prime. By the end of this article, we hope you’ll have a better understanding of what each of these lenses has to offer and which is the best value for you.

Because each lens was designed to be used on FX DSLR and 35mm film SLR bodies, this test was performed on a 12.1MP Nikon D700 FX (Full-Frame) DSLR camera. This is to show each lens’ true performance, corner-to-corner. If you're shooting on a DX (APS-C) body, you're using the “sweet spot” of the lens. The DX sensor crop will show less vignette and more corner sharpness due to said sensor crop of the image circle. Note for DX users: Due to a 1.5x crop of the image circle, a 50mm lens is actually 75mm in FX equivalency. This means a 50mm lens is no longer a “normal” prime and is now in the short telephoto range.

To keep article size as small as possible and easy to follow, we will only go over basic qualities in the “Size/Ergonomics/Build Quality” category. Focusing instead on the performance aspects of each lens. We'll close the article with a summary and rating of the lenses according to their performance, as well as offer our own favorite picks.

Lenses tested:

Size/Ergonomics/Build Quality

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM EX: The largest of our tested lenses, the Sigma features a 77mm filter thread (the only one in its class). Its ergonomics are great with a large focus ring at the front of the lens. The focus ring can be used at any-time, without the need to switch to MF mode, yet does feature a M/A switch. The HSM AF is very fast and very accurate. The lens is made of polycarbonate and features a nice matte finish. Weighing in at 1.11lb (505 g), this lens is the heaviest of the lenses tested. I find its weight and heft to be perfect and actually prefer a larger 50mm prime. It’s a substantial bit of glass. It also comes with a nice/large plastic hood. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 features a 9 rounded blade diaphragm.


Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G | Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G: Both the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G and the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G feature a 58mm filter thread and are also about the same size. The 50mm f/1.4G does weight a little more than the 50mm f/1.8G, though. Ergonomics are in-line with Nikon’s typical AF-S primes. The lens is made of polycarbonate and features Nikon’s usual signature finish. Auto Focus is fast and accurate on both lenses; Although, the focus is significantly faster on the newer 50mm f/1.8G. As with most AF-S lenses, you can grab the focus ring at any time for MF. These two lenses are the only lenses to feature a rear mount gasket for improved weather sealing. The f/1.4G features a rounded 9-blade diaphragm and the f/1.8G features a rounded 7-blade design. Both lenses share the HB-47 lens hood.


Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Manual Focus | Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Manual Focus: The Nikon Ai-S lenses are built like tanks. Due to being a MF lens, their all-metal construction features extremely smooth focus rings. These lenses are a real joy to shoot with and are some of my favorites of all time. As expected, the 50mm f/1.4 is slightly smaller than the f/1.2 version. Both have 52mm filter threads. Both lenses have aperture rings with an Ai coupler pre-installed. The f/1.4 features a 7-blade diaphragm and the f/1.2 version features a 9-blade design.

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Manual Focus: Like the Ai-S lenses, the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 lens is built from solid metal and is manual-focus. It’s also a real joy to shoot with and is very accurate due to its large ratio focus ring. This lens features a 58mm filter thread and comes with an all-metal bayonet lens hood. The Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 features a rounded 9-blade diaphragm.

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D: A classic 50mm prime, this lens is made of polycarbonate and features a matte finish. It is the lightest of the tested lenses and also the smallest. It features a 52mm thread. While it is the cheapest of the tested lenses, this lens is still durable - yet has a very plastic feel when compared to the others in this class. Because it doesn’t have an in-built Silent Wave Motor for AF and is screw driven, the focus speed depends entirely on the body you’re using it. The focus ring cannot be turned manually without disengaging the AF screw drive via the AF/MF switch on the body, unlike the AF-S lenses. On the D7000 and D700, focus is very fast and accurate. This lens features a 7-blade diaphragm.


Each lens was tested in the following 5 performance categories (click on each image for larger view):

  • Bokeh - The characteristics of the out-of-focus areas. Some lenses are smooth/creamy, while others have nervous/jittery characteristics.
  • Bokeh Highlight - The characteristics of the out-of-focus areas at bright points of light when stopped down. This test is intended to show how well the diaphragm keeps it's "rounded" shape at smaller apertures. Apertures tested: f/2.8, f/4.
  • Center Sharpness - Lens sharpness at the center of the frame.
  • Corner Sharpness - Lens sharpness at the corner of the frame.
  • Vignetting -  light falloff at the corners of the frame.


Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Wide-open Bokeh Test

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Wide-open Bokeh Test

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Manual Focus Wide-open Bokeh Test

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Wide-open Bokeh Test

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Wide-open Bokeh Test

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Wide-open Bokeh Test

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Wide-open Bokeh Test

Bokeh Highlight (f/2.8)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Bokeh Highlight Test f/2.8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Bokeh Highlight test f/2.8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Bokeh Highlight Test f/2.8

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Bokeh Highlight Test f/2.8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Bokeh Highlight Test f/2.8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Bokeh Highlight Test f/2.8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Bokeh Highlight Test f/2.8

Bokeh Highlight (f/4)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Bokeh Highlight Test f/4

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Bokeh Highlight test f/4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Bokeh Highlight Test f/4

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Bokeh Highlight Test f/4

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Bokeh Highlight Test f/4

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Bokeh Highlight Test f/4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Bokeh Highlight Test f/4

Center Sharpness (f/1.2)

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.2

Center Sharpness (f/1.4)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% crop f/1.4

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Center Sharpness (f/1.8)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% crop f/1.8

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Center Sharpness (f/2.8)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Center Sharpness (f/4)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% crop f/4

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Center Sharpness (f/5.6)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% crop f/5.6

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Center Sharpness (f/8)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% crop f/8

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Center Sharpness (f/11)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% crop f/11

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100$ Crop f/11

Center Sharpness (f/16)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Center Sharpness 100% crop f/16

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Center Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Corner Sharpness (f/1.2)

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.2

Corner Sharpness (f/1.4)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/1.4

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.4

Corner Sharpness (f/1.8)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/1.8

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/1.8

Corner Sharpness (f/2.8)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/2.8

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/2.8

Corner Sharpness (f/4)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/4

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/4

Corner Sharpness (f/5.6)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/5.6

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/5.6

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100%Crop f/5.6

Corner Sharpness (f/8)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/8

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/8

Corner Sharpness (f/11)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/11

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/11

Corner Sharpness (f/16)

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG Corner Sharpness 100% crop f/16

NIkon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/16

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Corner Sharpness 100% Crop f/16


Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM DG EX Fall-off test f/1.4

2_Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Fall-off Test f/1.4

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4 Fall-off test f/1.4

Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 Fall-off f/1.4

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Fall-off f/1.8

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Fall-off f/1.8

Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 Fall-off f/1.2

Test Notes

  • The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG was the only 50mm lens that wasn't a true 50mm. The Sigma tested more like a 45mm lens. This didn't effect it's performance, but was worth noting.
  • The Nikon Ai-S Nikkor 50mm Manual Focus lenses don't have an f/1.8 aperture setting. Because of this, these lenses are absent in the f/1.8 aperture tables in the "Center/Corner Sharpness" categories.
  • Our copy of the Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2 lens over-exposed each shot by almost a full stop. This is not an issue, if you know to correct for it. We decided to leave the exposure compensation at "zero" during testing to show the lens' true performance without compensation. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 had over-exposure issues too, especially at small apertures.
  • The Sharpness tests were shot in the worst conditions possible - directly into bright sunlight. This was done on purpose to show the lens' sharpness and contrast characteristics in the least ideal conditions. This can actually be seen in the Nikon Ai-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.2/1.4 test shots when shot wide-open; there is a drastic loss of contrast, a massive lens flare and over-exposure. Another contributing factor: The Ai-S lenses don't come with lens hoods and their front lens elements are very close to the end of the lens barrel.  These lenses will perform much better in more ideal situations and with the addition of a lens hood.
  • All test images can be found also on flickr (grouped by lens):


As you can see, these lenses perform very differently at each aperture. If you shoot mainly wide-open and don’t need to go faster than f/1.8, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G is your best bet and was the sharpest of the lenses tested @ f/1.8. If you prefer a faster f/1.4 lens, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM EX DG is great, as is the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G - both are sufficiently sharp at f/1.4 and sharpen up nicely as you stop them down. If you’re a landscape photographer, you’ll be stopping down most of the time; the Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 and f/1.4 were absolutely excellent stopped down and had the best contrast as did the Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D.

Best Lens Overall (Best Combination of Sharpness, Contrast, AF Speed/accuracy, Fall-off, Bokeh and Price)

  1. Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G (best performance per dollar spent)

Best sharpness wide-open (f/1.4 lens)

  1. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM EX
  2. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G

Best sharpness wide-open (f/1.8 lens)

  1. Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G
  2. Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D

Best sharpness stopped-down (f/4 and smaller)

  1. Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2
  2. Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4

Smoothest Bokeh (wide-open)

  1. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM EX
  2. Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G

Most Nervous Bokeh (wide-open)

  1. Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2
  2. Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D

Best Contrast wide-open

  1. Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G
  2. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM EX

Best Contrast stopped-down

  1. Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2
  2. Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4

Best Build Quality

  1. Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZF.2
  2. Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2
  3. Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.4
  4. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G
  5. Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G
  6. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM EX
  7. Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D

My personal picks (if money is not an issue)

  1. Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G
  2. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM EX
  3. Nikon Ai-S 50mm f/1.2
This entry was posted in Nikon Lenses, [NR] Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Steve

    So, conclusion, buy thee AF-s 50 f1.8. But we knew this already.

    • MysterF


      • 50 is yawn

        get 50 f 1.8, it does all what 50 needs to do.

        that crappy nikkor which focuses slower then P&S cameras is not even worth mentioning.

    • Jules

      The Sigma HSM 1.4 has the best bokeh, also, for portraits, it offers pastel-like colour & excellent skin tones. The Nikon 1.8 AF-sG is the best bang for the money, its construction is very solid, it is small and has a smaller filter tread. Tack sharp @ 1.8 (also excellent corner sharpness) and only 200$.

      • sirin

        +1, Sigma’s bokeh performed really well.

        • Yes, the Sigma was one of the best performers, especially in the bokeh category.

        • I have some explanations for smooth bokeh appearance. Here:

          (Sigma 50/1.4 samples are included)

          • jules

            Thanks for sharing this link “jtra”, very infromative !

          • silmasan

            Wow, thank you! Greatly appreciated.

            The links Nikon’s DC feature are particularly very useful for me, but so is the rest of the article.

            Thanx for sharing!

      • Chrisgull

        I really like my Sigma, got it for creamy bokeh wide open and that’s what it delivers. Most Leica glass cannot deliver a bokeh this smooth (of course you’ll never get a Leica shooter to admit that). Thinking about getting a 1.8G as complement for lighter travel kit.

        Two things this test missed:

        Central 10mm radius of Sigma image is very good wide open, whereas corners deteriorate quite a bit. Specifically, this lens design has significant coma wide open so keep that in mind when shooting lighted christmas trees or street scenes with streetlights at night. Stopped down to f/2 coma is mostly reduced and at f/2.8 the coma problem is gone.

        Like almost all affordable lenses on the market this is not a completely apochromatic lens. There is some chromatic aberration visible in out of focus areas. This is to be expected – all my Nikon glass performs similarly.

        • Chrisgull

          Clarification to my post – coma problem is specifically in corners.

        • Roger

          Leica’s 50mm F1.4 stomps on Sigma’s bokeh. You never used it, that’s why you’re mistaken about this.

          • RH

            one sentence: “Pictures or it didn’t happen”

        • asiafish

          “Most Leica glass cannot deliver a bokeh this smooth”

          Really? I shoot both Nikon (AF-S 58/1.4G and 50/1.2 AIS) and and Leica (50/0.95 Noctilux and 5/2 Summicron) and wide open nothing beats the Noctilux. Stopped down to f/1.4 (wide open on the Nikon 58) its still Noctilux in 1st. At f/2.8 its still Noctilux in first, and ditto for f/4. You have to go to similar exotic glass (Canon 85/1.2L comes to mind) to get equal or better bokeh to the Leica 50/0.95 Noctilux. Of course, for what a Noctilux costs, it’d better be incredible.

      • bert

        Good to see the 1.4 Ais is great at F4-F8. I don’t want cream crackers at 50mm. It is my no.1 documentary lens, and it seems I got a winner for that.
        For creamy portraits, I have my 85mm 2.8 PCE. Boy that is a nasty portrait lens.

    • The invisible man

      LOL !
      I just sold my AF-s f/1.8 to to guy in UK, not enough room in my bag (14-24mm;24-70mm;105mm micro,sb900, D5100)
      It is a nice bright and light lens, very sharp, even at f/1.8.

      • IanZ28

        Personal preferences.

        While I wouldn’t mind owning the holy trinity of Nikon pro lenses I find that carrying around a few small prime lenses is lighter, less cumbersome, and more fun.

        Completely depends on the subject matter, and photographic intentions however.

        • T.I.M

          Everything fit in a Lowepro slingshoot 202AW
          I’m still thinking a way to carry the Af-s 200mm f/2, lowepro lens case or the Nikon case/bag included with the 200mm

          • IanZ28

            Doesn’t change the fact that one can buy a 20mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8g, and 85 f1.8d for the price of just one “pro” lens….. (likely throw in another lens or two as well)

            Just saying it’s not all about having the most expensive glass. Many do much more with much less.

            Options are available…..especially with Nikon.

            • The invisible man

              I 200% agree with you, I have use only primes lenses for 20 years but I now have to use zooms (at least standard zoom).

              For now 6 years I suffer of seizures and It’s dangerous for me to stay with a camera hanging around my neck.

              So I use a “sling” bag in order to have the camera out of the bag for the minimum time, and with the zooms I save time changing lenses, so it’s safier for me.

            • stuff

              Somebody’s got stuff you can’t afford and you get all superior about it.

              Grow the f*ck up.

  • Željko Kerum

    Actually Sigma is around 47mm and other 50mm lenses are 52-53mm. Lens patents should have this data.

    • Interesting. This confirms my findings. I was unaware that it was actually listed in the patent. Thanks for the info.

    • Chrisgull

      Patents might or might not correlate with actual product specifications. Lots can change during product development.

  • Jabs

    Thanks for this Review and the results too.

    Breaks up the monotony here of constant complaints.

    Now to await your Nikon 1 Review or Usage Report.

    Have a great day.

    • @Jabs

      Thanks man! This review was a lot of fun. Stay tuned!

      • Jabs

        Lots of work to mount and unmount all those lenses – congrats.

        I love 50’s too.

        On to the next Review or Usage Report then – be well and the best to your other half too – lol.

  • sirin

    Zeiss bokeh is terrible. i thought they were supposed to have the best glass, nah?

    • There are lot of Planar ZE/ZF 1.4 bashers and to some degree their arguments against this lens are really acceptable… But at the end of the day, this is not the lens for everyone. You have to have other 50 mm lens to support this Planar. If you’ll care to learn its strengths, you will be happy with it.

      • but but but it have this 3D effect and Zeiss Wahnsinn!
        it have to. cause it is pain to use and expensive, so if you have it, you are like a pro you know. Not a mainstream. Just Pro Hippster, focused on the… ART. not really for everyone you know. just for chosen ones. dont dare to compare.
        leica users agree too

        • TaoTeJared

          +1 Zeiss and Leica are the only two lens makers who are focused on the image drawn first, rather than the “Tech” specs.

    • Roger

      Best glass, only according to Zeiss fanboys! 😀

      It’s widely known that Zeiss 50mm F1.4 is a disaster for bokeh. This test simply confirms it.

      • Jonas

        Agreed. I’ve shot a whole kit of Zeiss still glass on a RED w a nikon mount and was very disappointed with the bokeh results … esp. on specular highlights.

        Thanks for the review, but it would have been nice to see the old Nikon 50mm 1.4D in the mix. I made the decision to stick with it after some mixed reviews against the 1.4G.

      • ijoodoe

        After all my years of photography, not once anyone looked at any of my photos and said “too bad your bokeh suck dude!”. Perhaps my backgrounds weren’t stand out enough. What a disaster.

    • Worminator

      Hey hey, not much Zeiss love in the review. Special award for “most nervous bokeh wide open”. :rolleyes

      I own the Zeiss Planar 50/1.4. I love it. Sold my AiS 50/1.4 for it.

      If you are the person for whom the first if not only question asked about a lens is “is it sharp?” and for whom bokeh, if it registers at all, is filed away as a simple binary assessment “smooth? Y/N”, you will hate this lens. Congratulations and enjoy your AF-S 50/1.8G.

      The Planar 50/1.4 is the Jimmy Hendrix of fifty millimeter lenses.

      • I am always open for new opinions – if anyone wants to submit a different comparison with the Zeiss lens, I will be more than happy to publish it online. The above recommendations are based on the test results.

    • Jabs


      Leica and Zeiss both had the typical higher contrast but weaker resolution years ago.

      Nikon’s colors have always been better and more consistent from different focal lengths to me.
      Now, with Nikon’s current coatings, they have surpassed both Leica and Zeiss is color purity and consistency plus now better them in contrast.

      Technology does move on and now allows Computer Aided Designs to easily beat the old designs.

      Leica’s strength to me has always been B+W, but not anymore – passed by even the Nikon 1’s 10-100 aspherical zoom lens.

  • Camaney

    This guy is retarded, on his website he has this dumb statement:

    Equipment List:

    Camera Bodies
    Nikon D7000 DSLR bodies w/ MB-D11 grips (x2)
    Nikon D4 DSLR body (once released)
    We have extensive knowledge of other Nikon camera models and hire them as needed(i.e. D3s, D3x…etc)

    I guess I will get the D5 and D6 too!

    • that is funny

      Yeah… that is hilarious…

      Why doesn’t he just rent the D4 when it comes out… it seems to be more consistent with his style…hahaha Camaney, good catch!! lol

      • D3S Guy

        And why would that be? D7000 is an awesome camera. If you can’t create good images out of D7000, a full frame is not gonna help you at all. And what exactly is wrong renting a full frame when needed?!

        • Andrew


    • Jetfire

      So a person posting on Nikon Rumors is retarded for listing the D4 (once released) as their equipment.

      Why are you coming to Nikon Rumors then?

      • QZTRONIC

        Nice saying! 😉

      • sirin

        nailed it.

      • aetas

        Well said. So the person wants a camera when it comes out. Wow! Shocker. Why do people feel the need to show that they are a ass by putting someone else down needlessly.

    • BartyL

      Look forward to seeing you back here with your own comprehensive equipment review. Just be sure to tell mummy and daddy that you’re using the computer.

      • sirin

        he has a pet mummy? i want one too!

        • BartL

          I thought somebody might comment on that, and you know, ‘very good’. Hoping you’re aware that it isn’t ‘mommy’ everywhere in the English-speaking world though.

    • Hey Camaney, Cary’s website has nothing do to with this review, let’s play nice, ok?

    • Jabs

      Maybe you need someone to explain to you what someone means by – ‘WHEN it is released!’

      It means – the person will add that body to their current arsenal of bodies when Nikon releases it – see, so simple!

      Odd statement, but easily understood as it is like a wish and not a fact.

      You read into too much and maybe fail to understand a simple wish or thrust of a person – LOL.

      Also – what does a camera body statement have to do with anything about this Review or the person’s web site?

      Throwing pot shots at the moon, now in vain???

  • Personally, I would have loved to see the Zeiss 50mm f2 compared here.
    A little pricier, but I am sure it would have stacked well against the group.

    • Agree.

    • Joe

      Yes, I think the Zeiss 50/2 Makro Planar is one of the best 50mm you can buy.

    • Worminator

      Photozone tells you all you need to know. I mulled it over but decided that the 50/1.4 ZF, at half the price and about half the heft, was where I would stay.

      Two different lenses, two totally different characters, but at any rate the Makro-Planar is a big chunk to carry around.

    • Dave

      Yep. I had the AFD 1.4 and upgraded to the AFS 1.4 which other than slightly sluggish AF was the right move on the D3, D700. Then I bought the D3x and could no longer use the AFS50 as it falls apart with the extra resolution. So I got the 50mm f2 Zeiss makro ZF2 after testing it. It’s awesome. I have most of the Nikon A list glass and with exception to the PCE85, it’s the sharpest lens I own! The Zeiss also has a different feel with richer colour and more shadow detail.

  • 12

    I just can’t take this review seriously after viewing his website content…sorry.

    • Camaney


      • big eater


    • AM

      I don’t know what this review has to do with his web site. I didn’t have to go to any other web site to find this review very illustrative and helpful. If you didn’t, why don’t you get all the lenses he reviewed and do your own instead of making useless comments?

  • broxibear

    Hi Cary,
    Interesting article, could I ask you one thing ?
    You own both the 50mm f1.8 AFD and f1.8 AFS G versions…bokeh aside (since bokeh isn’t particulary important for many) Do you think you can differentiate between the same image with these lenses without 100% crops of the corner ?

    • Hello Broxibear!

      Wide-open, I can see the differences easily. Once stopped-down… would be near impossible to tell the difference between the 1.8G and 1.8D, bokeh aside. They are really close in sharpness and contrast once stopped-down.

  • D4ave

    who uses 50 primes anyway? boring focal length…

    • Canuck

      You must be a landscape photographer. If I were only doing that I would agree. Ultra wide and telephoto zoom is all you need. For wedding work a 50 is my most used lens. You cannot replicate the look of a wide open 50 mm with other lenses. The background is neither compressed (as telephoto does), nor is there the distortion and hyper background distance that you get with wide angle. 50 and 2.8 is boring yes. 50 at 1.4/1.8 and (come on Nikon!!!) 1.2 is magic. The 50 and <f/2 on FX is not a repeatable look on any system under 35mm format.

      I agree with the article. My 50 1.4 went in for repair and I bought the 1.8G to fill in. I sold my 1.4 when I got it back.

    • sirin

      i only use 2 focal lengths for pretty much everything – 35mm and 50mm. also got myself a 50mm equivalent for medium format Mamiya.
      subject matter – street photography, portraiture, landscapes, nightscapes, product and gallery shots. ta.

      *SPOILERS* The world doesn’t revolve around you. *SPOILERS*

      • BartyL

        Interesting. I only have a DX camera, but I find my 24mm (35mm equivalent) is my most interesting and useful focal length and often go out with only that.

        Sometimes freeing yourself from the ‘tyranny of choice’ allow you to just focus on the image.

        • sirin

          i have a 28mm and a 14-24, but rarely use them. too wide for me, i prefer to capture parts of the surroundings instead of trying to fit in as much stuff as possible.
          less is more. )

    • D3S Guy

      For low light street photography, a fast 50mm is a must in my humble opinion.

      • peteee

        try a 14mm 2.8, it is wonderful for street photos at very low light. the wide angle seems to pickup all availaible light.

        • sirin

          comparing super wide angle to midrange? seriously?

    • silmasan

      To me, at least, it’s the best focal length for full-length portraits.
      Just like 105/2 for head & shoulder and 85 for three-quarters, (not a rule, just generally speaking, and others may have different preferences still). It’s about comfortable proximity to your subject and the kind of look you want (and what flatters the subject the best really). Sometimes a wider angle will work and sometimes a tele will work, but 50 is definitely part of the staple for me.

    • Chrisgull

      If you think 50 mm is boring, borrow a Sigma 50 and a 77mm ND filter, do some wide-open street shooting in the middle of the day. Most people will be amazed when they see the results.

    • lolly

      Tell Nikon not to sell 50mm anymore because they’re boring … btw, I use it 😛

    • Back in the old days, we cheap photographers could only afford a 50mm. Funny how when you only have one lens you can still take pictures. In many cases, it was better, because we didn’t dither around trying to decide which lens to use or take along. Anyway, nice review; good to see so many lenses compared head-to-head.

  • 50 D

    And you forgott the Nikon 50 mm D

    • silmasan

      And you forgott to type the aperture number

      • lolly

        No, that’s his/her name … no need for aperture 😉

      • 50 D

        1.4 🙂

        • silmasan


  • cockster

    Major fail, where’s the f/1.4 D
    There are more D ones in the street than G’s at the moment, but this whole comparison has been made a billion times and we all know the results…

    • IanZ28

      The 1.4D isn’t very good.

      Poor and distracting bokeh (similar to the zeiss) and tons of CA/LOCA until around f2.8. Sharpness is bad until at least f2.

      I had one and sold it……prefer my old AIS 50 f1.8.

      • silmasan

        Same here, had it and sold it. Bokeh is only reasonably nice at wide open but then even the center is a bit soft. Otherwise it’s quite nice when stopped down further, but the f/1.8 AFS is still a much better alternative unless one really needs f/1.4 on the cheap (I think it’s around $270 used)

      • Curt

        Thanks for playing, pick up your consolation prize at the door.

    • I left out the 50mm f/1.4D on purpose.

      • lolly

        Cary, you left your statement hanging … why ?

      • Can I ask why? Because you knew in advance that you did not like it or just because the list was getting too long?

        • Because the list was getting too long and unfortunately, not all lenses could be reviewed. The 50mm f/1.4D is superseded by the newer 50mm f/1.4G. I wish the size of the article was not an issue, but it’s already a little on the large side as it is. We just didn’t have room for another lens.

          • Leo

            Incorrect. The 1.4D is a current lens and is here to stay.

            The 1.4G’s AF is too slow for me, the 1.4D made a lot more sense to me at 1/2 the price. The D is also a lot faster to manual focus and has an aperture ring so it works with film cameras. Bokeh and sharpness are both excellent.

            Other reviews rate it very highly, so I chose the 1.4D.

          • Curt

            The 50mm 1.4D should have been fourth on your list. It’s not superseded at all by the 1.4G, and is still in Nikon’s catalog, AFAIK.

          • When I say superseded, I’m reffering to lens choice for this test. The 50mm f/1.4G got the nod over the D version. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4D had to get bumped, unfortunately. We couldn’t review every 50mm lens ever made.

            • Plus, lens availability was an issue, too. Not every lens was available at the time of testing.

    • we tried to get as many lenses as possible for this test, unfortunately we could not get all 50mm lenses every produced

  • I use the 50 1.2 extensively and the 50 1.8 ais(same as af-d) quite abit as well. from comparison with the 50 1.4 ais that i ve used on occasion, the biggest thing is advantage to the 50 1.2 is its skin tone rendition which surpasses almost every other lens i ve used. it also has very little LOCA which i believe is a bug bear of the sigma 50 1., tho i ll admit i only used one sample of the latter, which renders images with a sense of ‘clarity’.

    just some insight to the other 50mms i ve used to date:

    Nikkor S 5cm f/2
    first f mount 50mm, renders images with a very ‘retro’ feel. slightly warm and very contrasty with a very rounded bokeh, things seems to melt into the bg. absolutely no CA or LOCA which gives images a very solid, crisp feeling. this is my 2nd most used 50mm after the 1.2.

    Nikkor s 5.8cm f/1.4
    first F mount lens with f/1.4. on fullframe, its borders are next to useless below f4, but it does give you a swirly bokeh which is interesting. wide open contrast is very low, and it feels soft. good for moody portraits but thats about it. at f2 contrast is still low, but has picked up enough to use for emotion-filled street shots. i find this is the sweet spot for the lens, giving a very special feel, but retaining enough contrast to be useful. it represents green very nicely, and has absolutely no CA or LOCA.

    on DX it translates to an 85mm eqv., and the lens’ character can be fully employed without worrying about smudgy borders. its really good on dx. it was my go to lens on the d200, but has been sitting by since i switched to the d700.

    Carl zeiss 45mm f/2.8 (converted from C/Y mount)
    not the sharpest lens, but colours and contrast are fantastic. almost too contrasty at time. flare is very well controlled as well. its a pancake lens and may be tricky to use if you ve got big fingers, but the results are definitely worth it.

    Fujinon-X 50mm(f/1.6 and f/1.9, converted from fujica mount)
    the 1.6 represented greens very very well and was life-like when shooting nature under evening sun. contrast was low wide open though, and sharpness wasnt the best. indoors the lens wasnt special.

    the 1.9 was a real surprise. colours and contrast were outstanding in natural light and sharpness rivaled the nikkor 50 1.8. v resistant to flare as well. again under indoor conditions the lens was just ordinary.

    • silmasan

      Thanks for sharing, Benjamin!

    • jodjac

      How do you get the contax/yashica mounts converted? I never heard of this. Is it very expensive?

      • i convert them my self. simple mechanical steps. sometimes i rearrange the helicoids(as with this zeiss 45) other times i need to file down the flange to bring the lens closer to the image plane. if you know what you re doing its as cheap as an M42-nikon converter(for the mount), a good file and screwdrivers. it took me about 4 hours for the 45mm, one of the faster ones i ve done

        • jodjac

          Color me amazed. You could do a guest post in this, or a “HowTo” video. I don’t think I have the nerve or experience to take a file to my MM lenses. I’m still interested. Live to mount those MM’s on the Nikon.

  • Mimmo

    Yes… but…. D800? Sigh… sniff… Christmas is caming….

    • Jim

      If you don’t happen to believe in the maya calendar there will be a Christmas in 2012 too

  • Thanks for sharing, Cary! Useful comparsion.

    I have Nikkor 50/1.8 G and Helios 44M 58/2. Nikkor 50/1.8 G could perform better open wide. It is tack sharp starting from f/2.4 and further. Helios 44M is a lot sharper at f/2 than Nikkor at the same setting. Bokeh of USSR-made lens is just jaw-dropping and I am not talking about Biotar-style swirly blur. I am talking about Zeissy look at minimum focusing distance, it is really sweet. 🙂

    Nikkor 50/1.8 G is AWESOME against direct light. Lens hood is not needed.

    Now I’m looking for opportunity to acquire 50/1.2 AiS for the sake of fast aperture, nice stopped-down performance and joy of MFing. That’s quite a surprise that ultra-fast lens can perform better at closed aperture settings than the slower one.

    • silmasan

      Slow Gin, could you please give an example of the Helios 44M rendering? I had a look at your web the other day and found a lot of things that I like 🙂

      When I bought the 1.8 AFS, I meant to use it stopped down to f/4-f/8 for studio works but it’s actually quite nice wide open and I can use it at f/2.8 without any worry for sharpness. Definitely better all around than the old 50 1/.4D. Also looking for a used 50/1.2 AI-s, still not sure if it’s worth the full price though I haven’t really seen a lot of examples…

    • @Slow Gin

      Thanks for the comment. The Ai-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 is an amazing lens. One of my absolute favorites. I have some nice sample shots of the 50mm f/1.2 w/D700 on my website.

      Here is one example: – This was shot with a D700, wide-open @ f/1.2 directly into the sun. The skin tones are amazing through this lens.

      • Jabs


        Nice wide open shot from a classic lens – now all you need is the 58mm F1.2 Noct – lol.

        Thanks again for all this timely information, as I love 50mm’s.

        • @Jabs

          I was trying my hardest to get a copy of the 58mm f/1.2 NOCT, but couldn’t find one in-time. What I wouldn’t give to own one. We can dream, can’t we? I’ll settle for the Ai-S 50mm f/1.2; Love that lens.

    • I use the 50 1.2 extensively and its really a fantastic lens. the rendition is completely different from the 1.4 or 1.8 version and is really special on FX. if you have the means i’d say go for it and you ll definitely like it.

      the one thing i would suggest is getting the canon EC-S type focus screen for your camera. really allowed me to focus fast lenses with ease. its about Us$120 from and totally worth it. you could also buy the $40 original EC-S screen and sandpaper it down to the right dimensions

  • photdog

    The results of Zeiss are really disappointing in my opinion. Actually Zeiss is a good maker with a long tradition. But I can’t remember any test in where Zeiss primes had outperformed accordingly Nikon lenses.
    Though a 50mm is arguably the most simple optical construction compared to other focal lengths -especially compared to zooms- it must be tough for Zeiss to swallow, that even the Nikon 1.8/50 for a quarter of their price (in Euro) outperformed their lens in several disciplines.

    Last Photokina Zeiss made a survey asking e.g. Nikon and Canon-shooters what it would take, to buy a Zeiss prime rather than the one of their makers. I told ’em “You haven’t got AF, VR and no weather-sealing. But you ask prices that are 50 to 100% higher than Nikon glass. So your only point could be, to become 50 to 100% better than Nikon. But I can’t see that. I wonder what is going on in your company. You do the lenses for the Sony DSLRs and there you can do AF and you can do zooms as well and some of the lenses deliver really good results. So why can’t you do the same with a Nikon or Canon mount?”
    The answer was, that their marketing will think about that. …they better hurry up!

    • LGO

      Each lens maker makes good lenses and not-so-good lenses. It is the same with Zeiss. If you spend a bit of time knowing the different Zeiss lenses, you will likely avoid the 50mm f/1.4 and get the 50mm f/2.0 instead. You will likely also avoid the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 and get the Zeiss 100mm f/2.0 instead.

      Despite being a manual focus lens, I will never sell my Zeiss 100mm f/2.0. I own an auto-focusing Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G but absolutely love and use my Zeiss 100mm f/2.0 regularly. The Zeiss 100mm f/2.0 is the lens which comes closest to the Nikkor 200mm f/2.0 in rendering and image quality yet small and compact enough to carry everywhere – something not easily done with the Nikkor 200mm f/2.0.

      • silmasan

        The 100 f/2 is stunning. I hate to admit it but it slightly bests my 105/2 DC at wide open (still very happy with it of course :D).

      • IanZ28

        And if one is lucky they can get an AI-S Tokina / Vivitar 90mm f2.5 for roughly 1/5 the price and almost match the optical quality.

        To each their own….. I love my Tokina 90’s though. Amazing lenses.

    • Mark

      It’s not “better.” It’s just different. They have a cool, even tonality that is like medium format. And I actually like the ZF 50mm’s bokeh. I don’t own one but I understand why someone would.

      These tests are stupid, and have been done to death.

    • GeorgeDexter

      @Photodog: Sony makes their own lenses and stamps Zeiss on them (with Zeiss’ permission, for a fee, of course!) Cosina also has a licensing agreement with Zeiss, and makes the Zeiss ZF lenses. Different companies, different factories, entirely different lenses. Incidentally, Cosina also makes the modern Voigtlander manual focus lenses for rangefinders and a few SLR mounts. I find it surprising, actually that Sony doesn’t have exclusive rights to the Zeiss name for SLR lenses, but I’ll bet that’s why Cosina doesn’t make any Sony Alpha mounts.

      Why do they cost so much, but have less features than the other manufacturers? As stated, Cosina isn’t Sony, and doesn’t have the capability to do AF or VR. Or at least they’ve never shown it. I can only guess, that Cosina’s production runs are much smaller, hence higher cost per lens.

  • Shkacas

    Great review. Thank you.
    Hope to see more like this one in the future. 🙂

  • Thanks for your tests…

    I have done mine for years in Film, DX & FX…
    With dozens of lenses…

    From my point of view :the best is not testes here : the Nikon AFD 1.4D
    (similar to the AIS, but with better coating, better contrast)

    Of course this can depend of sample to sample variation
    I have a very good sample of the 50 AFD 1.4 that is slightly ahead of
    other lenses (even of 3 samples of the 1.4 AFS that I have tested

    Best regards


  • AnoNemo

    NR Admin,

    Great post but can you add next time some kind of multi-page breaks. It is really long and it will be after comments.

    I guess you are trying to kill time because there is absolutely no rumors/news from Nikon.

  • jakchces

    why not this Nikon AF 50mm f/1.4D ?

  • Emmanuel

    yes, why not? :-/

  • SkintBrit

    Thanks for the review Cary, as others have said side by side comparisons have been done before, but I for one am always interested in another persons take on a subject (even if it just turns out to confirm what has already been said). Anyone complaining about this review I’m sure would be more than welcome to submit one of their own? Thanks Cary.

    • Thanks SkintBrit! I personally have not seen an in-depth review of these lenses, side-by-side. If there is one, I would be interested in checking it out to see if it confirms my testing results.

      • silmasan

        Yes, I’d also like to thank you Cary for the review, it’s been useful to me as well 🙂 Looks like I have to see more into the Sigma f/1.4 and the f/1.2 AI-S Nikkor.

        Maybe you can check for comparison? I think they have reviewed at least some of those lenses on FX.

      • silmasan
      • Jabs


        Sorry to bug you, but I would really love to see at least the Nikon 50’s on a D3X – that would be sweet to me, as the D3X has the fidelity of color slide and the increased tonality too.

        Probably something you might want to do for your web site instead of repeating a Test here???

        • I could not get a D3x for such a long period. This review took well over a month to complete. I would of loved to review these lenses on the D3x though. Maybe I will do something with the D3x in the future.

    • SkintBrit

      Hi Broxibear, nice to hear from you! Yes that’s one of the reviews I’ve seen, there have been others in the various UK photography magazines, but in fact if I remember rightly, they compared a single lens from half a dozen manufacturers. Cary’s is the first to compare most of the Nikkor options together that I’ve seen. A lot of hard work must have gone into the review, and I was frustrated to hear negative comments about it. Constructive criticism should always be welcome, but not personal slurs and bitchiness from people who probably couldn’t do any better.

      • broxibear

        Hi SkintBrit,
        “I was frustrated to hear negative comments about it. Constructive criticism should always be welcome, but not personal slurs and bitchiness from people who probably couldn’t do any better.”
        Yeah, I think it comes with the territory really. Sometimes people make valid points but they word them in such a way that it comes across as bitchiness. Personally I like to hear opinions but the personal comments I can do without.
        Being honest I’m not a big fan of 100% corner crop type tests, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to criticise someone for doing/posting the test. I find it interesting but it’s not particularly important to me or to the way I take images.
        It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things.

  • The invisible man

    You MUST know something about the November 18th annoucement in France, even if it’s not 99.99% sure.
    Is it about the D800 or new coolpix/F1 craps ?

    • no idea, Coolpixes are to be refreshed in Feb 2012

      • Debrah Downer

        What a surprise…Coolpixes to be refreshed…story of our lives…

  • Probably could have done without testing every lens at every aperture setting. (Though some people would want that comparison.)

    Interesting results. I’ve been eyeballing the Sigma for awhile but the corner sharpness is somewhat pathetic in comparison to even the Nikon 1.8G which is far less expensive.

    Personally, I find the bokeh very distracting on MOST of the lenses, with the exception of the Sigma and Nikon 1.4G and 1.8G models. Then again, I would want something that looks as ‘soft and dreamy’ as my 85 1.4D that gets used regularly.

    Personally, I’d like to see Nikon put out a new F1.2 50mm and am somewhat waiting to make a decision on the thought that it could happen in the next year. (I’ve skipped around owning a 50 prime for this long, I can wait a little longer for something really spectacular.)

  • I shoot Nikon

    Finally a worthy guest post, Admin. Just the right amount of information without any fluff or hidden agenda. Thanks Cary Jordan!

    One thing I didn’t understand though is why the first pick, if the money is not an issue, was the 1.8g and not the 1.4g? Aren’t they pretty much of the same quality, but then you get the extra 2/3 of a stop with the 1.4g? Did I miss something?

    Reason I ask is I’m currently looking for a 50mm. It’ll be mainly used for event/wedding photography on a FF. The price difference is not an issue, though I’m not sure how useful the f/1.4 aperture is, since the depth of field is just too shallow for shooting subjects on the go (though I’m not a prime lens aficionado). From what I’ve read it appears the 1.4g is also slower to focus. Can anyone attest to this and does anyone feel that f/1.4 is a usable aperture and having it over the f/1.8 can make a huge real-world difference and is worth it even at the expense of faster auto-focus?

    • In looking at the samples, I thought the 1.8G had a very slight edge on the 1.4G in some of the tests, and really wasn’t worse anywhere else. Why not save a few hundred dollars if all results point to the less expensive model? I can understand wanting that extra bit of light, but with useable ISO’s in the 6400+ range these days, is that extra bit of aperture for that much more cost really worth it, especially if you give up “better” performance elsewhere?

      Personally, I liked how the Sigma performed with the exception of the extreme softness towards the edges. However, vignetting was considerably better so that is a nice tradeoff. And what is towards the edge of my frame typically doesn’t matter to me anyway.

  • amien

    Hey Cary ! I own 4 Nikon 50mm primes :

    Sigma 50mm 1.4 HSM
    Nikon 50mm 1.8G
    Nikon 50mm 1.4 AIS
    Nikon 50mm 1.8 AIS E Pancake (very cool)

    I also made some tests, which confirm yours : The Sigma is a bit wider, excellent bokeh and very fast AF.

    The 50mm 1.8G AFS is the best value for the money and extremely sharp wide open.

    For video, I mainly use the 1.4 AIS, the manual focus ring is great to use and picture quality is excellent.

    For 50$, the pancake 1.8AIS is just a steal, same picture quality than the 1.4 AIS, but a bit harder to focus manually.

  • Jsa

    Is it really the two off brand lens’ overexposing, or nikon bodies doing different things with off brand lens’ ?

    I have a tokina lens with a lot more stopped down exposure error on my d300 than my d200.

    • Good question. The difference is striking in the images. I am not 100% certain of the test methodology here, but reading between the lines, I am guessing the frames were all taken on Aperture Priority. Is that right? Carey, are saying that with the Zeiss on, the camera chose longer integrations for the Zeiss and Sigma. You are not suggesting the lens is actually a stop faster than it claims to be?

      If I had done the test I would probably have done it all on Manual with a fixed shutter speed so I would never have shown up the effect at all.

      • Jsa

        In my case l am talking full manual control.

        Worst at the middle of the f stop range of the lens, up to about 1 stop of error on the d300 but much better on d200.

        It is as though the body positions the aperture blades differently.

  • paf

    Very well and through review. A lot of work must have went into it – but now that we have a good format, do more of these please!


    • Yes, Cary did a great job indeed. Comparison of 6 different 85mm lenses for F mount is coming next and them maybe we will do 35mm and 24mm. Stay tuned.

      • test the Nikkor O 35 f2 and the Nikkor N 24 2.8 (both pre ai). I ve found those 2 to be the best among their respective ranges for manual focus nikkors =P the 24 is simply stunning

        • Not sure if we can source those lenses, but I will give it my best shot. I would probably need to find a donor to borrow them from, which might be next to impossible.

    • Thanks for the comment. There is a lot more where this came from. 🙂

  • pabs

    I thought this was the Nikon D800 Rumor site! What is all of this lens stuff doing here?

    • Pabs, nothing wrong with some review while nothing else is going on. I have been reporting more than rumors for years.

      • I shoot Nikon

        Lol Admin. I believe pabs was just jokingly pointing out the increasing levels of absurdness and mass hysteria caused by the never-seem-to-be-ending anticipation of the D800. Though I agree- it’s still too soon for the D800 jokes.

        Too soon! You hear this pabs??? Too soon!!!

    • No more rumors

      Dont you see Pabs? this is a rumor, hahahha

  • ncphotog

    Great review! I have been wishing to find one like this for some time. My one bit of advice for future reviews, please just add the lens info to the bottom-left of the slide under the sequence number, I kind of lost track which one I was on when I was clicking through them. Very small gripe though for such a great, straight-up, real life test.

  • After reading similar reviews I bought the Nikon 50mm 1.4D. Nice & sharp, great bokeh, much faster Af than the 1.4S and as a bonus works on my film bodies. Slow AF meant the 1.4S was dropped of the list early on, especially as its double the price of the D.

    For me the 1.4D was best bang for buck by a large margin. YMMV.

    • IanZ28

      The 50mm f1.4D has very bad and distracting bokeh.

      Seriously, the 50mm f1.4d is a perfect lens to use for examples of “poor” bokeh rendition. Harsh strong edges. Octagon shaped rings in specular highlights. Distracting double edges both near and far side of the focal plane. Strong CA and LOCA.

      Useful and cheap lens sure. But, nothing like what you are stating.

  • sigma getting better and better

  • Thanks for the info, Cary.

    I’ve been looking for a 50mm 1.4 that is sharper than my current 50mm AF-D 1.4. It seems the Sigma keeps coming to the top of the list for how I shoot – wide open 99% of the time. I could care less stopped down past 2.0. Corner sharpness isn’t a big concern of mine either since most likely it will be out of focus anyway. Of course, other people have other needs…

  • jake337

    I would have liked to see this test performed again with hoods on the two AIS lens. Especially the f1.2 as both these lens scored highest sharpness/contrast when stopped down. I would like to see their wide open results with proper hoods attached. End results may have differed….

    • I can tell you that the only thing a hood would of changed is the lens flare and resulting loss of contrast wide-open. The Ai-S lenses are still soft, wide-open – regardless of the use of a lens hood. I used the Ai-S 50mm f/1.2 extensively and while it is sharp wide-open, it’s still very acceptable and is a wonderful lens. Like I said in some earlier posts, it ranks very high on my list of favorite lenses in the Nikon F-Mount.

      • Jake

        Exactly! The two areas they lost points in!! I’ve just read about their great sharpness at f2!

        • Yes, the difference between f/1.4 and the small jump to f/2 is like a light switch. There is a drastic difference in sharpness and contrast once you hit f/2 on the Ai-S lenses. If Nikon could make a AF-S 50mm f/1.2G and gain a little more contrast and sharpness wide-open, it would be a must-own prime. It would be easy for Nikon, using the proven Aspherical formula of the 50mm f/1.8G. It wouldn’t take much to destroy the Canon 50mm f/1.2L.

  • Been there guy

    Canon USA Announces Cinema EOS C300 and EOS C300 PL Cameras.

    Nikon fanboies are still quibble over still photograthy function and video function.

    Canon officially tell the world Cinema camera works better with a dedicated COMS sensor. It goes without saying, the still photography works better with dedicated
    COMS sensor better–separately.

    So, Nikon needs to wise up, stop mixing the professional still camera with video stuff.
    The best still camera combine with video camera does NOT equal to a best package for both functions. Please, make the D800 for still photography along and only. Don’t trun it into a jack of all trades.

    • Jabs

      Perhaps you should have read this too?

      And it’s CMOS, perhaps.

    • actually Canon announced a lot of stuff tonight:

      • Jabs


        I am kind of disappointed that Canon chose to basically release a 1920 X 1080 HD high end Camcorder and act like it is earth shattering while showing a proposed 4K DSLR – makes no real sense to me.

        They should have released a 4K camera and then a high end Cinema DSLR last.

        The new camera has about half the resolution of a RED and 1/4 or the Cinema Resolution – grandstanding at best to me. What’s earth shattering about that???

        Great for EOS lens devotees and probably real great lenses but extremely expensive too.

        Now to wait for what RED has to deliver and I saw the pictures of the RED Scarlet too.

        RED is going towards 8K Cinema and we get a glorified EOS Camcorder – shucks, just disappointed after all the hype.

        I feel like the way Sony disappointed me with that A77 teaser and then lousy camera.

        Maybe RED will make my day or perhaps I have to wait for the rumored D7100 and or the D800, D4 and D4X – lol.

        RED’s web site is down, but will know as soon as it is up!

        Maybe you beat me to it – LOL.

        • Jabs

          YUP – RED made my day.

          RED wipes out Canon for a lower price too – LOL

          Scarlet packs a similar punch as her older brother, so she can shoot 5k (5120 x 2700) resolution stills at 12fps, or shoot your next cinematic masterpiece in 4K at 25fps. The Red Scarlet also can use all of the Epic’s accessories and comes with a Canon mount so you have plenty of glass to choose from, too. Best of all, Scarlet can be all yours for the low price of $9,750. That’s right, for the price of a used Honda Civic, you can shoot video that essentially looks as good as those made by pros like Peter Jackson and John Shwartzman. We’re about to get our hands on one, so stay tuned for our first impressions.

          OUCH – this is horrible!

          This changes everything in the Cinematic World for sure now

  • Curt

    I’m confused why you don’t include a Nikon lens that is still on the market, and ranks highly relative to any of these, the 50mm 1.4D. You’ve done a good job comparing, but leaving this awesome (and not expensive) lens out makes no sense to me.

  • I knew I had a gem when I bought my Nikon 50 1.8 AFS-G back when it was only a month or two “out”. I knew I had a REALLY good lens, when it totally SCHOOLED three copies of the Canon 50 f/1.4 USM at f/2 for center and corner sharpness.

    I can only hope that Nikon has plans to come out with equally stellar primes in 85mm and wider around 35 or 28 or 24…


    • Chester B. Tan


      I’m looking forward to an AF-S 85mm f/1.8G since the AF-S 85mm f/1.4G is now available.

  • Curt

    PS: I’ll loan you mine if you don’t have access to one. 🙂

    • We couldn’t review all the 50mm f-mount primes ever made, unfortunately. We couldn’t source all the lenses we wanted to at the time of testing and we had to keep the review limited to 7 lenses. There are already over 130 images in this review as it is.

  • alvix

    now I know why nikon postponed the D800 or whatever announcement…not to be caught in the RED vs Canon war…lot of stuff there…very interesting video related…Nikon ‘d better to wait until there is a relaxed atmosphere…and then “drop the bomb ” if there’s one…

  • Jabs

    RED Scarlet from RED’s web site – sorry to hijack this thread, but this is really exciting.

    My apologies to the LabelGuy – lol

  • shan

    I heard someone said Sigma 1.4 doesnt support autofocus when using live view LCD. Is that true?

    • been there guy

      Anyone here give a rat’s rear end about Sigma?

    • This is NOT true. The Sigma worked just fine in Live View mode on the D700 and D7000.

      • shan


  • Good article, but not howI would choose. I love my 50 f/1.4 G.

    • Image

      Agreed. Good article but I love my 50 1.4G as well. There is a reason it costs much more than some of the others. Those people who dismiss 2/3 stop of light(over 1.8) as worthless because of clean ISO…. are laughable at best.

  • Cass

    Interesting test, I love a good 50mm. The only nitpick I have is that using f/2 instead of f/1.8 would have allowed the ai-s Nikkors to be compared. This is only significant because I’ve seen in other tests that f/2 is the only aperture where the f/1.2 ai-s has an advantage over other 50s. This was clearly visible when comparing my 1.2 ai-s to my 1.4 af-d, but it would be interesting to see if any of the newer lenses have closed the gap. Otherwise an interesting test that puts together more F-mount 50s than any other I’ve seen! Thanks Cary

  • Soft

    Thanks Cary for the detailed review.

    Btw I’m very “wow”-ed at the prices of Nikon DSLR cameras in Hong Kong. The price for a brand new D3S is $33,000hkd ($4,250usd) and D700 is $16,000hkd ($2,060usd)

    • Soft

      My point is a replacement is imminent.

  • FrenchFlies

    Nikon…….its about time to show off the new cam right NOW!!

  • Been there guy

    The latest and best cameras…The best lens Nikon ever made, and it goes on and on…

    Remember, I have not seen the any so called best and latest camera turned a toad into a prince of photography yet.. or ever will!

  • AnoNemo

    Ok, here is the latest from Nikon. A quote, “…and production of digital SLR and interchangeable lenses will return to the normal level by the end of March 2012.”

    This means that no new cameras before June/July 2012. Have a nice Xmas.

    You can read about these:

    Also the latest financials

    • AnoNemo

      What is really striking in the Nikon press releases that they do not say a word about Pro equipment and/or anything that is a new product and or planned product announcement.

    • AnoNemo

      Going through the numbers, this is pretty bad. The expect a drop of 65 billion yen (835 million USD). To put into context for the rest of the year this will be almost 50% of their sales in the imaging business! You can expect massive shortages until Mar 2012.

      All I can say that Nikon put all its eggs in that nice Thai basket … sorry swimming pool. This will most likely have worse impact than the earth quake earlier.

    • just rumors

      I am 99.9999999999% (probality) nikon will release a new model in the next minutes, hours, days, weeks, months but i am pretty sure in the next 10 years, hahahha

      • The invisible man

        @Just rumors
        November 18th

    • AnoNemo

      This looks pretty bad. Going through the volume numbers tell the truth. Basically Nikon is planning to make up some of the losses by selling the Nikon 1 system. On the other hand, if we take out that figure you can see that dslrs sales got hit by a massive 60-70% expected drop. (These are based on production figures.) Now, the good news is that this drop is only expected until December and from that point I can estimate they will have 30% lower production volumes.

      The bad news again, that there is no word of new products in their presentation. This is significant for two reasons, 1) Canon started to push and 2) Nikon did not show anything that ensures believable product strategy for their pro segment. Now this is where Canon hit hard and gathered attention with the 1DX, C300, and new Pro style VDSLR (4k) camera (they showed a prototype).

      So Nikon fans fasten the seatbelts and enjoy the ride of watching the Nikon 1 system promotions.

      This is disappointing to those who are heavily invested in Nikon gear because they cannot properly budget for next year. Again, I think Nikon betrayed its core users by not being open and at least showing some prototypes or concepts for the pro market.

      • AnoNemo

        When I said 30% lower volume I meant cameras like D3100, D5100, and D7000

        It is not bad but it will hit hard the retailers because they will not have proper supply of products. On the other hand, Nikon will be able to enforce the MSRP since the supply will be low. It’s not a major financial impact for Nikon but it seems like they sacrificed the FX line to support the DX line. That is because there is no way they can have this minor volume impact unless they moved production to for example Sendai.

        To make it clear, for the month of November their production will be down by at least 60% (those product that were produced in Thailand) from December my estimation is 20-30% lower production of those same products.

        Now, looking at the money side of the report. It is possible that they might introduce an FX. FX has much higher profit margins at lower volumes. If that’s the case we can see a camera in 2 weeks and sales start in early to mid December. Again, this is highly unlikely but looking at the volume and sales (yen) figures it is possible.

  • SouthAfricaShortages

    This came from Nikon, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Nikon DSLR stock shortages:
    We are totally out of D3100, D5100, D90 & D7000 due to our factory in Thailand been under water.
    We apologize for the stock shortage, but will be out of stock for November
    There may be additional stock available only early December, but this still needs to be confirmed by Nikon
    I only have 20 x D5100 DSLRs available:
    D5100 + 18-55VR + 55-200VR + BAG + 4GB + Adobe Elements
    D5100 + 18-55VR + 55-300VR + BAG + 4GB
    Please let me know if you would like any this week by Friday 4 November the latest, as the stock is going fast
    I apologize for not having D3100 cameras, but we hope to get some early December
    The shortage does not affect Coolpix, Binoculars or lenses

    • broxibear

      I had a quick look to see what the stock levels are like in the UK.
      The three biggest UK retailers Jessops, Jacobs and WEX are all out of D7000 and D3100 bodies, D5100 seems to be in stock.
      April 2012 for a return to normal production in the Thailand factory is a long way away, as I said last week if you were thinking of buying a product that comes from this Thai factory buy it now.

  • AnoNemo
  • MJr

    My personal picks (if money is not an issue)
    1. Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G

    Even if money is not an issue, still takes the cheapest,
    now that’s good work Nikon! Or not =)

    Personally i would’ve loved to see the Zeiss ZF.2 50mm F/2 Macro in this comparison for total completeness, and because that is one hell of a good lens. but then again, maybe it was not in the same price-range. Or the Macro label put em off, but don’t be fooled: it’s a superb all-purpose lens just as much, with of without the label.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the review!

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