Lens review

Nikon Nikkor Z 50 mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Nikkor Z 50 mm f/1.8 S
19 February 2020
Maciej Latałło

1. Introduction

There is a long history behind full frame 50 mm Nikon lenses as fast as f/1.8 – it reaches January 1978 when the first construction of that type was launched on the market, superseding an older, f/2.0 model. Already in 1980 another slightly improved version of that lens was released and, of course, we speak here about manual devices. The first autofocus instrument was released only in 1986 and it didn't have to wait long for an improved successor which was presented in 1990. In 2002 the AF 50 mm f/1.8D model was launched, widely known and liked for its excellent price-performance ratio; its full duel with the first Nikkor S 5 cm f/2.0 from 1959 we presented in an article published in 2009.

Nikon Nikkor Z 50 mm f/1.8 S - Introduction
Gauss-type Nikon 1.8/50 lenses. Photo by M. Górko.

A fast development of digital detectors with a more and more demanding resolution made Nikon take another step in that area. In 2011 the Nikkor AF-S 50 mm f/1.8G was launched and, compared to its predecessor, it features a more complex optical construction (one element more) and an ultrasonic SWM autofocus motor.

All optical constructions, mentioned by us so far, are variations of classic double Gauss lens (its original construction consists of four groups of elements positioned symetrically back-to-back around the aperture). It was a very successful lens formula which debuted near the end of 19th century and was very widespread throughout the whole 20th century. At that time, practically all important photographic market players featured such instruments in their line-up.

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Nikon Nikkor Z 50 mm f/1.8 S - Introduction
1896 Zeiss Planar lens construction

Still the Double Gauss has serious limitations and the launch of full frame, 40-50-milion-pixel sensors forced changes in that design. As a result standard lenses that featured not 6-7 elements but up to 10-12 elements, have mushroomed around. Exactly such an instrument started the new Nikon Z system – in Auguts 2018 they presented the Nikkor Z 50 mm f/1.8 S, equipped with as many as 12 elements. Today we have the pleasure to publish its full review – enjoy your reading!

We've been lent one specimen of the lens for our testing procedures courtesy of the Nikon company – thank you very much!

You are also invited to get acquainted with our test procedure, described in the article "How do we test lenses?" If you feel it’s still not enough, please go to our FAQ section where you can find some further explanation.

Nikon Nikkor Z 50 mm f/1.8 S - Introduction

Nikon Nikkor Z 50 mm f/1.8 S - Introduction

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