Best 50mm lens for your camera: 8 ‘Nifty Fifty’ lenses tested and rated

Best 50mm lens for your camera: 8 'Nifty Fifty' lenses tested and rated

Best 50mm lens for your camera: Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8

Best 50mm lens for your camera: Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8

Price: £220
Considerably more expensive than the other f/1.8 lenses in the group, the Pentax isn’t especially strong on features.

There’s no internal autofocus motor, the lens instead relying on a screw-drive from a motor in the camera body to actuate autofocus. There’s also no focus distance scale, and a lens hood isn’t supplied.

On the plus side, it’s the most compact and lightest lens here and, despite weighing just 122g, build quality feels mostly very good.

That said, the mounting plate is plastic, rather than metal, but the lens feels robust overall.

As well as featuring multi-coated elements, the front element has a protection coating to repel dust and water. It’s a shame that the mounting plate doesn’t also have a rubber weather seal, as with both of the Nikon lenses in the group.

Handling is a bit of a mixed bag. The camera-driven autofocus is fast, but noisy compared with most other lenses on test.

The focus ring also rotates during autofocus and it’s quite large, so you have to be careful not to foul its action with your fingers during handheld shooting.

A bonus is that the lens features Pentax’s Quick-Shift focus system, which enables full-time manual override.

The Pentax has fairly minimal barrel distortion and does quite well at controlling colour fringing. Sharpness is good at f/1.8, impressive at medium apertures, and doesn’t drop much at f/16. Overall image quality is pleasing, but the lens still seems overpriced.

Features: 3/5
Build quality: 3/5
Image quality: 4/5
Value: 2/5

Overall: 3/5

PAGE 1 – What is a 50mm lens good for?
PAGE 2 – Features to look for in a Nifty Fifty lens
PAGE 3 – Best 50mm lens: 01 Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
PAGE 4 – Best 50mm lens: 02 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
PAGE 5 – Best 50mm lens: 03 Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G
PAGE 6 – Best 50mm lens: 04 Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
PAGE 7 – Best 50mm lens: 05 Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8
PAGE 8 – Best 50mm lens: 06 Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
PAGE 9 – Best 50mm lens: 07 Sony 50mm f/1.4 A
PAGE 10 – Best 50mm lens: 08 Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM
PAGE 11 – Image quality comparison
PAGE 12 – Best 50mm lens: Verdict


Studio lighting: 4 seriously simple lighting techniques to try at home
Using Autofocus: 9 situations when AF will fail you
How to use autofocus with moving subjects
How to use focus lock on your digital camera

  • Edgard

    The Nikkor 50mm AF-S f1.4 is, by far, the slowest autofocus lens I’ve ever used. This point should be enough to put in on the bottom of the list. The AF-S 1.8 is a little better (considering its cost) but I would never use it for an assignment. For Nikon cameras, right now the only acceptable 50mm lens is the two Sigmas (if you want to shoot wide open) or the old Nikkor stopped down.

  • mikhs1

    “Another helpful by-product of shooting with a 50mm lens on an APS-C format body is that, along with the increased, effective focal length, the depth of field is further reduced. ”

    This statement is 100% false… Crop sensors actually “rob” lenses of their shallow depth of field, because in order to fill the frame with a subject of the same size one needs to either move further back or use a wider lens.