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Is The Nikkor 50mm 1.8D Worth Buying?

Holly is an English graduate who runs a small photography business in Southampton. Writing in third person makes her a tad uncomfortable.

I love this lens so much I didn't even want to use a different one to photograph it, but sadly I had to...

I love this lens so much I didn't even want to use a different one to photograph it, but sadly I had to...

Nikon's 'nifty fifty' - is the cheaper 1.8D version worth buying?

I'm going to save you some time here and tell you straight up; the answer is YES. Yes it is worth it.
Off you go.
Seriously now though, this lens is my absolute favourite to use. When packing my camera bag for family photoshoots I scan over my other lenses and always seem to arrive at the conclusion that this 50mm is all I will bring with me. In studio my hand hovers over my Tamron macro (that set me back a good £200 second hand)... and then goes back to the Nikkor. Even when I do use multiple lenses in a shoot, my favourite images always tend to be the ones I took with this little lens.


Nikon D610, Nikkor 50mm 1.8d, f2, ISO 100, ss 1/500

Nikon D610, Nikkor 50mm 1.8d, f2, ISO 100, ss 1/500

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f2.8, ss 1/500, ISO 100.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f2.8, ss 1/500, ISO 100.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f2.5, ss 1/100, ISO 400.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f2.5, ss 1/100, ISO 400.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f 2.2, ISO 100, ss 1/2500.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f 2.2, ISO 100, ss 1/2500.

50mm - The focal length that does it all!

50mm is a popular focal length in photography because it mimics the human eye. This makes it suitable for all manner of lifestyle shots; take for example the different styles of some of the images above, including one of a baby in my studio and one of a family on location. The sharpness in both images is wonderful. Sometimes you will be pressed right up against your subjects to get them closer - prime lenses are fun like that! - and if you're anything like me you'll be darting around and running backwards and forwards to get your shot. But that's the fun! And while you could use a midrange zoom to achieve the 50mm focal length, you would lose the 1.8 aperture. The exercise is worth the extra f stop, as you can see below.

Examples of Nikkor 1.8D at it's widest aperture

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f1.8, ss 1/640, ISO 100.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D. f1.8, ss 1/640, ISO 100.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm1.8D. f1.8, ss 1/4000, ISO 100.

Nikon D610 with Nikkor 50mm1.8D. f1.8, ss 1/4000, ISO 100.

I took the image of the flowers specifically to illustrate how sharp this lens is and how beautifully smooth the bokeh is at f1.8. This photograph is straight out of camera. The second is a portrait from a recent photoshoot. Both are examples of why I love this lens - the crystal clear details and the smooth bokeh are so effective and delightful, and all from a lens that cost me less than £100.

Why choose the 1.8D over the 1.8G?

If you're considering whether to buy this lens, I suspect you are currently weighing up whether to save some money by purchasing the 1.8D or whether to buy the 1.8G. I purchased the 1.8D at a time when money was particularly tight but I knew photography was my passion and my future, so although the difference in price seems minimal when you have money, when you haven't got money, the difference is significant - it's all relative. The 1.8G is newer and designed specifically with digital photography in mind, unlike the 1.8D, which while released in 2002, is built on the basis of the film version released in 1986. However, the 1.8D is not to be sniffed at - it is still one of Nikon's sharpest lenses. In this review Ken Rockwell sums up the 1.8G - it 'weighs more, costs more, and does the same thing' - he has a point although it's all opinion at the end of the day!
All this said, I'm sure it makes sense to most people that you should buy the newest one if you can; the 1.8G was released in 2011 and the technical image performance is superior.
An important reason you may choose to buy the 1.8G is that your DSLR is not compatible with the 1.8D (ie, the autofocus will not work) - this is true of various entry level DSLRs. Always check your camera model is compatible with lenses before purchasing - you can check here or do a Google search, Nikon also have a very useful and easy to read compatibility chart on their website.
However, if your camera has the all clear compatibility wise and you do not have the funds for the 1.8G, or have perhaps spotted a 1.8D secondhand for a bargain, you will not regret buying it!

Why I love this lens in summary: the short version!

It's sharp
It's lightweight
It's versatile!
And of course - it's affordable!

Nikon 50mm 1.8D