Buying my first Nikon 50mm lens

LevvyLevvy Beginner grinnerPosts: 5Registered Users Beginner grinner
edited May 15, 2012 in Accessories
I've got an older D40 that I've been getting by happily with the VR 18-200 for a while now but I'd like to get something a little faster to start playing around with low light & portrait work. Everyone tells me to get a 50mm prime, so I've been doing a little research and wanted to make sure I understand the options here:

1.8D AF - Cheapest option, auto focus won't actually work on the D40 since it's not AF-S or AF-I
1.8G AF-S DX - Slightly more expensive upgrade of the D, has AF-S so autofocus WILL work.
1.4D - Fast than the 1.8s (and much more expensive) - no auto focus on the D40
1.4G AF-S - Fast AND Auto focus AND expensive.

Am I understanding these options right?


  • time2smiletime2smile Major grins Posts: 835Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 4, 2012
    Welcome to dgrin,

    i think you got it staight, so get the 1.8G
    It's not what you look at that matters: Its what you see!
  • Wink wink, nudge nudge. Posts: 634Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 7, 2012
    Yes, as time2smile said, you got it right. I would get the 1.8G unless money was no object, in which case I'd go for the 1.4G.

    I'd recommend (unless you simply want a new lens) to determine if you really will use a 50mm on your D40. When I got my first DSLR, "everyone" also recommended a 50mm prime, and I went with the 1.8D (the 1.8G was not available at the time), which does AF on my D90. However, it wasn't long before I realized that while I liked the large aperture and general IQ, the focal length was just too long for use as a normal/standard lens on the DX sensor. I wanted to use it as a general lens, to shoot my kids indoors, etc, and I found that I was always having to back up and running into walls, because it's just too long for that kind of shooting.

    Enter the 35mm f/1.8G, which is roughly the same price as the 50mm f/1.8G (~$200) and is a much better focal length for a crop sensor, IMO. That is now the lens that stays on my camera the majority of the time. It just fits the sensor size quite a bit better. On DX, 50mm is more of a moderate telephoto/head-and-shoulder portrait lens than a standard/normal lens. 50mm is the old-gold standard on 35mm film and FX digital, which is why I think "everyone" recommends it.

    So I'd recommend taking your 18-200, setting it to 50mm, and forget that it zooms - just pretend it's a prime to decide if you like that angle of view. Then set it to 35mm and see if you like it any better. The 50mm 1.8D is a very nice lens, and at ~$120 it's not a bad addition to your kit, but just be sure you will be happy with that focal length/angle of view before pulling the trigger. Personally, I'm much happier in general with my 35mm f/1.8G, and I use it a ton more than my 50mm. YMMV.
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  • bfluegiebfluegie Big grins IndianaPosts: 191Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 8, 2012
    I have the D90 and my first two lenses were the kit 18-105 and the 70-300. Both are good lenses, and they cover a lot of my needs, but I was missing the speed of the prime 50mm lens I had on my 35mm film camera. Because of the DX cropping factor, I decided to go with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens to get a comparable field of view to the 50mm lens on my film camera. It doesn't quite get the shallow depth of field of the wide open 50mm for full frame, but it does a better job than either of the zooms with their f/3.5 limit. It is also much lighter than my zoom lenses.

    I suspect, that the recommendation for a 50mm lens came from people with full frame experience. My 35mm f/1.8G gives me the same feel, both through the viewfinder and in my hands, as my SLR film camera with 50mm f/1.7. The 35mm f/1.4G looks like a beautiful lens at 8X the price of the 1.8G. I couldn't make the cost/benefit ratio work out in favor of that lens. ***Sigh***
  • bfluegiebfluegie Big grins IndianaPosts: 191Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 8, 2012
    I also meant to add, that if you have tried the 50mm and like the field of view on the D40, that should be the deciding factor. I would probably go for the lens that has autofocus on the D40, but if you mainly use manual focus, that may not be as much of an issue.
  • DsrtVWDsrtVW Light Stalking Posts: 1,990Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 14, 2012
    AF-S 50mm f1.8G is an incredible lens for the money. Will also handle FX if you go that direction someday.
    A new favorite is Sigma 30mm F1.4 bought refurbished from Sigma. it is a DX lens. Nikon 35mm f1,8 is supposed o nice but have not tried it personally
    Chris K. NANPA Member
  • trooperstroopers Major grins Posts: 317Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 14, 2012
    Keep in mind the 50 1.4 or 1.8 has a focal length 75mm on the D40.
  • bfluegiebfluegie Big grins IndianaPosts: 191Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 14, 2012
    I just reread the original post. Did you mean formal portraits, or candid people shots? The desire to use this lens for portraiture may make the 50mm (75mm FX equivalent) a better choice than the 35mm. I think the 35mm would be a better "walking around" lens, though, and excellent for candid shots. Also, the f/1.4 will blur the background a bit more than the 1.8 if the lens is used wide open. That could be useful for portraits, although the difference between the two lenses may not be huge. I will say again that I am really happy with the 35mm f/1.8G on my D90. I'm not doing formal portraits, though. If I were, I would consider the 50mm f/1.4.
  • pickerbwpickerbw Big grins Posts: 78Registered Users Big grins
    edited May 14, 2012
    I'll second (or third or fourth) the 35mm 1.8G. I have a D90 and it's on my camera 99% of the time. I rented the 50mm 1.4D, and while it's very a nice lens, I found it a bit too long for everyday use and not worth the extra money at the time. If I were to get a 50mm now, I would probably go with the 1.8G. It seems to strike that perfect balance of low cost and high quality. Regardless of your decision, all of the lenses recommended in this thread are high quality.
  • ZerodogZerodog Nikonowhore Posts: 1,480Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 15, 2012
    I think with your D40 you need to make sure these lenses will AF. I believe the new ones will. But a lot of primes are screwdrive focus. I am pretty sure your D40 does not have this. So this kicks you out of the cheaper primes and into the much more expensive newer ones.

    I agree the 50mm on a DX body seems a tad long. Yes you might like it. But it can be tough for just walking around. And very tough inside in a group setting. A 35mm fits the bill perfectly. On DX a 35 is the same as 50 on FX.
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