This new lens will make many look back with some fondness I am sure. Many of us started photography using our first SLR camera with interchangeable lenses and a 50mm focal length.
Ironically only last week I was reminiscing with another pro photographer at one of my events. We were discussing how for all of its one step forward, one step back approach, just how grateful we were for having learned about photography with film cameras. I often say, then watch the shock on peoples faces that still, the best way to learn, is not with an all singing multi personality digital camera, but with an old manual focus, manual exposure film alternative. Something like the Nikon FM or FM2(N). People would probably have a frustrating time at first, with many mistakes made, relatively few shots to use, and lots to get to grips with. But a few months down the line they would be much further ahead. Something along the lines of no gain without some pain…
And it is a fact that I, like so many, used a 50mm for a long time as my only lens, simply because that is all that could be afforded. In decades past that was the norm. Hard to appreciate now, but that was the case.
The benefit though was that you used that 50mm lens for so much. Travel, landscapes, portraits and often ambient light only, no flash, as that was the second accessory you bought. Add to those subjects portraits and other kinds of people shots including some sports. But you moved your feet, and as the lens was light in weight you held it at higher and lower angles as well as eye level. In short you squeezed all you could from it.
Add a Close-Up attachment lens into the filter thread (Nikon used 52mm back then, the new lens features a 58mm filter thread), and Close-Up shots were had as well.Or use the BR-2A or similar reversing ring for even higher magnifications, also added to the appeal. Fit a 2x teleconverter on the back, and you had your first portrait lens. In short, one versatile lens to learn what you could or could not do, before purchasing with some knowledge either wait for it,,, a wide angle 35mm, or portrait 85mm lens. Not as long ago as it seems, but anyone who may have come into SLR photography seriously, say in the last twenty years may think it prehistoric.
- Ok, enough of the ramble. You can tell I have a lot of respect for this focal length and what it gave me. Over the decades Nikon have made many versions. It is arguably the most refined focal length and aperture design as there have been so many versions and so many sold. And do not dismiss either the AF 50mm f/1.8D Nikkor, the existing full frame option which remains in the line-up. But where does this new AF-S version take us?
- Sadly the AF-S designs are not backward compatible with non command dial cameras as is now commonly understood. But for me the circular diaphragm and smoother out of focus areas that will result under the right conditions, take this focal length and aperture for the first time up to todays anticipated levels of image character. For that reason alone it would interest me.
Small and relatively light, in part due to an ‘aspheric’ element, while it does not seem billed as a ‘pro’ optic it strikes I suspect, that desirable balance of performance, size and weight that many will like if for example, traveling. Personally I think there is more to it as it is also about the ‘way’ you work. I prefer to move myself when possible, rather than adjust a zoom. And as I still manually focus often, so the fast aperture will under some situations come into its own. How many zoom lenses are as fast in maximum aperture terms as f/1.8?
In truth the f/1.4 aperture options have for many people more of a ‘wow’ factor and that could be right for what you need. But in general performance comparisons, while the faster aperture has it’s desirable traits, the f1.8 has performed better when you dont need to shoot wide open and in fact need to stop down to smaller apertures for depth-of-field. And when it comes to close up shooting the latter has less fall off towards the edges which may be important for some subjects.
Supplied with its dedicated hood and soft pouch (these used to be optional extras with older 50mm f1/8 optics). I think that while many will bypass it as it is not ‘sexy’ enough, many could become quite passionate about this lens and its possibilities. That of course depends on how it performs, so check back from time to time to see what we find. The specs look good for many uses however.
One aspect to consider for those shooting DX format though, is the logical fixed focal length alternative option if you want a ‘conventional’ lens, of the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 introduced last year. Again small and light, it will have an angle of view more in line with what many consider that of a ‘standard’ lens (on that format).
That lens performs well enough for some uses, but I found for others, it had a couple of not so desirable characteristics in comparison to alternative Nikkor solutions.
The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G will have a narrower angle of view of course on the DX format than on the FX or 5×4 ratio option (FX format cameras only). But whatever you use, this new lens may take some people back to where they started in focal length terms.