Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S Review

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S review
Review

Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras introduced a new mount with a diameter of 55mm. That’s an increase from 47mm with the F mount. Consequently, Nikon announced three Nikkor Z lenses with the Z6 and Z7, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4, Z 35mm f/1.8 and the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S. The first two lenses were made available with the Z7 but we had to wait a little longer for the Z6 and Z 50mm f/1.8 S (reviewed here). 

Specifications

The Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S (aka the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S) is constructed from 12 elements in 9 groups. This includes 2 ED elements and 2 aspherical along with elements that have Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coating.

It’s a prime lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 and a minimum of f/16.

Perhaps not surprising given the size of the Z mount, the Z 50mm f/1.8 S is larger than then average 50mm lens. It measures 86.5 mm from the camera lens mount flange and has a maximum diameter of 76mm. However, it accepts 62mm filters.

There’s no stabilisation (Vibration Reduction or VR) built-in, but the Z 7 has IBIS (in-body image stabilisation) so it would be unnecessary. Like the Z 6 and Z 7, however, the lens is sealed against dust and moisture.

I shot with the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S on the Z7, the higher-resolution of the two Nikon full-frame mirrorless cameras for this review.

TypeNikon Z mount
FormatFX/35 mm
Focal length50 mm
Maximum aperturef/1.8
Minimum aperturef/16
Lens construction12 elements in 9 groups (including 2 ED elements, 2 aspherical elements, and elements with Nano Crystal Coat)
Angle of viewFX format: 47°, DX format: 31°30'
Focusing systemInternal focusing system
Minimum focus distance0.4 m (1.32 ft)
No. of diaphragm blades9 (rounded diaphragm opening)
CoatingNano Crystal Coat
Filter-attachment size62 mm (P = 0.75 mm)
Diameter x lengthApprox. 76 mm maximum diameter x 86.5 mm (distance from camera lens mount flange)
WeightApprox. 415 g (14.7 oz.)
AutofocusYes
Internal focusingYes
FocusingAuto, Manual
Supplied accessoriesLC-62B 62 mm Snap-on Front Lens Cap, LF-N1 Rear Lens Cap, HB-90 Bayonet Hood, CL-C1 Lens Case

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S review

Build and Handling

Large, heavy 50mm lenses seem to be in vogue at the moment and at 415g (14.7oz) the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S slips into that mould. The emphasis is on high quality rather than portability.

Of course, as I’ve already mentioned, some of that size can be attributed to the large lens mount of the Z system. At 55mm it’s noticeably bigger than the 47mm diameter mount of the Nikon F system.

The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S has high build quality, with a solid feel and a metal lens mount, which should ensure many years of use.

Thanks to the deep grip on the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7, the lens feels nicely balanced on Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras. However, although it’s possible to use it one-handed, the size and weight of the lens makes two-handed shooting more comfortable.

The broad manual focusing ring consumes much of the space on the lens barrel. This has fine ridges to give good grip and the movement has just the right amount of tension. Although there were no occasions when the Z 7’s AF system failed to get the subject sharp during my testing, it was good to note that the focus throw is wide enough to enable precise manual focusing.

It’s worth noting that there are no stops at the end of the focus range, so you can continue to rotate the ring beyond the closest or furthest focusing point. That’s not ideal, but not uncommon now.

There’s also no focusing or depth of field scale on the lens barrel which could be an issue for anyone wanting to use hyperfocal distance focusing.

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S review

Customisation

One of my favourite features of the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S is the ability to use the focus ring to adjust the exposure compensation or aperture setting.

While I like using an aperture ring, I find the lens ring is a good way to adjust exposure compensation with mirrorless cameras. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) allows you to assess exposure and the ring lets you adjust it very quickly. I find it helps make exposure part of the creative process.

Helpfully, if you do decide to focus manually, the lens ring reverts to its normal service.

Performance

My first impressions of the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S were very good and closer examination of the images hasn’t changed my mind. It’s clear that it’s capable of capturing plenty of detail, which makes it a good match for the 45.7Mp Z7.

The focusing is also fast in decent light. Consequently, I was able to get sharp images of my fidgety dog with his eye in perfect focus and the fine detail of his fur perfectly recorded.

Even at the widest aperture, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is sharp and there’s on slight fall-off towards the corners. Stopping down to f/2.0 brings out a little more detail.

Scrutinising images at 100% on a computer screen, reveals a slight fall in sharpness when the aperture is closed down from f/8 to f/11. There’s another very slight drop in sharpness at f/16, the smallest aperture. But it’s only really by comparison that you’ll spot this, the results are very good indeed.

Chromatic Aberration, Distortion, Vignetting and Flare

The good news here is that the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S keeps chromatic aberration, distortion and flare under very tight control and while there is some vignetting, it’s not bad. I spent time hunting around high raw files with high contrast edges and only found the merest suggestion of chromatic aberration and nothing that would show up at normal viewing sizes.

After shooting rows of brickwork, I can confirm that the Z 50mm f/1.8 S doesn’t suffer from distortion. As you’d expect with a 50mm lens of this calibre, straight lines remain straight.

I shot with the lens when the sun was low in the sky and it’s very resistant to flare. You can force the issue by shooting with the sun in the frame, but even then, it’s controlled very well.

However, if you shoot with the aperture wide open, then you may spot some vignetting. Shooting a subject against a plain, light background makes it more noticeable. However, it’s not excessive and the fall off is gradual. Using the Z 7’s Vignetting Control in its Normal setting effectively eliminates it from Jpegs.

Closing down the aperture a little reduces the corner shading in raw files. By f/3.2 it’s negligible.

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S review

Sample Images

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Nikon Z 50mm F/1.8 S Sample Images

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Verdict

Although it’s quite a large lens for its focal length, the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S seems quite at home on the Z 7 and Z 6. It has weather-sealing to match the camera and it feels well-balanced with the large grip on the camera.

The large maximum aperture also helps the camera’s autofocus system and it gets most subjects sharp very quickly. That makes the manual focus ring largely redundant and perfect for adjusting exposure compensation (or aperture if you prefer).

The best results overall are produced within an aperture range of around f/4 to f/11, but actually, the full range produces superb results. Details look super-sharp and there’s no need to worry about distortion, chromatic aberration or flare. Even the vignetting is more likely to be seen as attractive rather than a flaw.

If you own a Nikon Z 6 or Z 7, the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S is a great addition to your kit, but I’d also be sorely tempted by the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S for its wider angle of view.

 

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S
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