Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D AF – Urban Exploration Review

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 06.01.2011

History of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D AF
In 2002, Nikon released the Nikkor 50mm F/1.8 D AF, an ultra sharp, ultraportable prime with amazing performance and no distortion. This D-type Nikkor lens, like all other Nikkor D- and G-type lenses, relays subject-to-camera distance information to AF Nikon camera bodies. This then makes possible advances like 3D Matrix Metering and 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash.

The lens delivers superior optical performance thanks to the incorporation of high-grade Nikon Super Integrated Coating.This is Nikon’s 50mm lens which replaces the 50mm f/1.8 AF (non D). It sells for only about £100 and is amazingly sharp – image IQ and DOF are excellent. This is a traditional AF lens (not gelded as a G), it works with every Nikon ever made, digital and film, auto and manual focus. The 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor is a highly portable standard lens. It is a lightweight lens that offers the more economical f/1.8 aperture, yet still retains the great advantages of D distance technology, making it affordable and capable.


Autofocus is covered on everything that has a body motor so it won’t autofocus on the D40 or D40x. This lens is an awesome choice for a D3/D700 or even a DX bodies which will give 75mm equivalent. Autofocus is fast, it provides excellent low-light performance and the sharpness is excellent.

Shooting industrial landscapes, empty abandoned rooms, tables and those sort of things on a DX camera (Nikon D200) it allows for shooting great detailed photos. This lens inspired me to experiments with DOF, I was amazed, how crisp and smooth at the same time image can be. Only problem I noticed occurres when focusing in the edge of frame. (subject may be slightly blurred – but very gently unsharpend mask in PS does the job)

AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Specifications

  • Focal length – 50mm
  • Maximum aperture – f/1.8
  • Lens construction – 6 elements in 5 groups
  • Picture angle – 46° (31°30’ with D1-series and D100 digital SLR)
  • Focus distance – 0.45 m to infinity
  • Max. reproduction ratio – 1/6.6
  • Aperture scale – f/1.8 to f/22
  • Attachment size – 52mm
  • Dimensions – Approx. 63.5mm dia. x 39mm (2.5 in. dia. x 1.5 in.)
  • Weight – Approx. 155g (5.5 oz.)


It is one of Nikon’s sharpest lenses ever – zooms cannot touch it. On a D3/D700 it is sharp and contrasty in the center at every aperture. On FX, spherical aberration makes it a bit less contrasty in the corners at f/1.8, and it’s just about perfect by f/4- this is very picky however and not usually noticeable

The only difference between this and the 50mm f/1.4 D and 50mm f/1.2 AI-s is that the faster lenses become sharper at f/2, but all are the same by f/4. The faster lenses also cost two to four times as much and have more distortion


What distortion? Like all of Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8 lenses, this has almost no distortion. None, nada…

Urban Exploration Shots


This is just one of those lenses that you buy, you keep and are amazed at every time you shoot it. Its amazing that this lens sells for around £100 GBP, there are lenses that cost £1000’s and they are not as sharp as this.

Image quality is amazing, as per the 100% crop. The lens has a very simple construction and utilises a classic, proven optical design. Everyone I know has one of these – they are light, small and just work in all lights

You could spend more money and go for the 50mm f/1.4, its your call or you could save the difference and put it towards some strobist gear. Zooming is done using your feet, it helps train your eye and produces high IQ images, you must be mad if you dont own one already. If you need super sharpness and a fast aperture than choose this over any zoom and save yourself the difference.

Would I recommend the 50mm for urban exploration…? 100% yes, UX is not just a photography of buildings as general, it is also (or maybe should I say mostly) lots of those little small details which are creating ”the place” its atmosphere and history

If you are thinking of buying 50mm lens for your DX body (cropped frame) you need to be aware that it won’t be so comfortable to use as on full frame camera. Cropped frame makes it equivalent of 75 mm on traditional SLR (with full frame) – you may want to think about the Nikon 35mm f/1.8

What does it mean to you? It means that this lens on a crop sensor may have a little too much focal length. Instead you will have a perfect tool for capturing amazing details and textures with amazing DOF and this is – in my humble opinion – the biggest advantage of this fantastic lens.

Written by superiwan & sophos9


#1SledgyMarch 1, 2011, 11:07 pm

I’ve used the 50 1.8 and lately my weapon of choice is the AF-S 50mm f/1.4 (unreal for full frame).

Both of these lenses are fantastic in the field.

Ultra portable, tack sharp, really nice bokeh. The 1.4 is my go to lens for most situations lately.

Can not rate it highly enough

#2cpXDecember 25, 2011, 1:19 am

I have used both, the F/1.2 Ai NIKKOR and the F/1.8D NIKKOR.
And i have Sold the F/1.2 Ai NIKKOR !

Why ?
The F/1.8D Lens is much better Coated as the F/1.2.

Regards: Carsten

#3rachana rathoreDecember 26, 2013, 9:30 am

Nikon 50mm 1.4 D shoots in challenging conditions of only available light because it is fast enough for nearly any sort of light. Its the hero for low light photography with its wide aperture and the desired 50mm look.
Making good photographs is the job of the person behind the camera-lens system and not the responsibility of the equipment, which are merely the means to the cause.But having a good equipment at your disposal is always a blessing .

Reference :

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