Best 50mm lens for your camera: Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G
This Nikon is pretty much the same size, weight and price as the Canon 50mm f/1.4. The Nikon features ring-type ultrasonic autofocus instead of an ultrasonic motor, and has a nine-blade rather than eight-blade diaphragm.
Build quality feels a bit stronger, and the Nikon adds a weather-seal ring on its metal mounting plate, which is absent in the Canon design.
Other little luxuries include a lens hood and carrying pouch, which you’d have to pay extra for with the Canon.
The hood is a useful addition: while the front element is deeply recessed when shooting at its infinity focus setting, it moves forward toward the front of the lens barrel as you go through the focus range towards the minimum focus distance of 45cm.
The focus distance itself is clearly visible in a scale that’s positioned beneath a viewing window on the top of the barrel.
Typical of Nikon’s ring-type ultrasonic autofocus lenses, there are M/A (manual-priority autofocus) and M focusing modes.
M/A gives regular autofocus with full-time manual override, while M is for purely manual focusing. In practice, the focus ring enables smooth and precise adjustments in both focusing modes.
Sharpness is particularly impressive at the widest available aperture of f/1.4 and improves steadily with diminishing apertures to around f/8 to f/11. The bokeh, or quality of defocused areas in images, is particularly smooth, helped by the nine-blade rounded diaphragm.
Build quality: 4/5
Image quality: 5/5
Best 50mm lens for your camera: Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
This lens doesn’t feel like a poor relation to its f/1.4 counterpart. Design values include ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, a weather-seal on its metal mounting plate and a focus distance scale positioned beneath a viewing window.
In all these respects, it’s like a similarly sized but lighter version of the Nikon f/1.4 lens. Autofocus is quick and near-silent, and the fact that the focus ring is equally large, smooth and precise is good news. It also offers full-time manual override in single autofocus mode.
Dig a little deeper and there are some notable differences between the two Nikon lenses. The f/1.8 optic has one fewer element in its construction, and only has seven diaphragm blades compared with the nine blades of the Nikon f/1.4.
Even so, that’s two more blades than the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, producing a more rounded aperture. Then again, the Nikon f/1.8 is nearly twice the price of the Canon f/1.8 lens.
Included accessories consist of a lens hood and carrying pouch. As with the Nikon f/1.4 lens, the front element stretches closer towards the front of the lens barrel at short focus distances but, this time, it’s still quite deeply recessed even at the minimum focus distance.
The lens hood is therefore often unnecessary.
The Nikon gives very good performance at the price, with impressive handling and all-round image quality. It’s a much more refined option than the competing Canon lens, and excellent value for money if you don’t need the extra two-thirds of a stop delivered by an f/1.4 lens.
Build quality: 4/5
Image quality: 3/5
PAGE 1 – Overview; Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM ; Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
PAGE 2 – Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G; Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
PAGE 3 – Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8; Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
PAGE 4 – Sony 50mm f/1.4 A; Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM
PAGE 5 – Image quality comparison & Verdict