Data sheet: Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8

Pekka Buttler, 09/2022

Side note: A piece of the (plastic) filter ring has broken off (a relatively common occurrence with AF Nikkor lenses). Nevertheless the filter ring remains fully usable.

Specifications

The table below summarizes the lens’ key specifications (measurements based on pictured sample):

Brand:AF NikkorLens name50mm 1:1.8
Focal length(s)150 mmAngle-of-view246°
Maximum Aperturef/1.8In Production1986–1990
Lens mountNikon FSubfamily (if applicable)AF
Length339,5 mmDiameter465,1 mm
Filter ring diameter52 mmWeight209 grams
Lens element count6Lens group count5
Aperture blades (S/R/C)57 SFocus throw150 °
Minimum focusing distance45 cmsMaximum magnification1:6,6
Has manual aperture ringYESHas Manual focus ringYES

Further notes:
• The AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 was among the first Nikon lenses introduced as an autofocus lens. That lens was then moderately revised in 1990 (outwards redesign and rubber focus ring) and upgraded to AF-D specs in 2002.
• Being part of the first series of AF lenses, this lens has many of the features reviled by many (if not most) contemporary commentators (narrow, plastic focus ring; plastic barrel construction; scratchy aperture ring and quirky aperture lock knob).
• Optically, the main difference between this lens and the series E Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 introduced in 1979 is in the more advanced coatings of newer lenses.
• This lens was always the most affordable prime in Nikon’s AF lineup. Some 350 000 copies of this first variant were manufactured (subsequent variants were produced in the millions)
• Nikon’s dedicated lens hood for this lens is the HR-2, a rubber lens hood, but many steel hoods of various generation fifties work just as well. If you’d like a metal hood, you can use (tested) the HS-11 and HN-3 hoods.

History (when relevant)

Nikon is undoubtedly one of the great names in 35 mm SLR photography. The Nikon F mount has been in continuous production since 1959. During that time, the mount has developed/changed in some detail, however without ever fully sacrificing compatibility.

In short (a longer version is here), the development of Nikon’s SLR lenses can be traced as follows:
• 1959–1977: Pre-Ai. Manual focus lenses that use ‘rabbit ears’ to communicate selected aperture with the camera body.
• 1977–1986: Ai and Ai-s. Manual focus lenses that may have ‘rabbit ears’ for backward compatibility, but are designed to communicate selected aperture with the camera body through indentations in base of aperture control ring.
• 1986–today: AF and AF-D. Autofocus lenses that do not have a focusing motor within the lens, but rely on the focus motor within the camera. All AF and AF-D lenses are simultaneously Ai-s lenses (they are Ai-s lenses extended with AF) 6
• 1996–today AF-S and AF-P. Autofocus lenses that have an internal focusing motor and do not rely on the body having a focusing motor.

What camera manufacturer would not have a nifty fifty in their line-up? Interestingly, from the launch of the Nikon F system (1959) ever until the launch of the Ai 50 mm f/1.8 (1978), Nikon’s take on a nifty fifty was a 50 mm f/2 lens (for a run-down of that genealogy, see this data sheet). But with the introduction of this lens in 1978, Nikon upped its nifty fifty to f/1.8, thus gaining parity with most of the industry.

During the following decades a great many variants have been produced. To add some potential for confusion to the mix, some models were made for export markets, other for Japanese domestic markets. There was also a variants that clearly aimed for the ‘pancake’ mould. For a chronological summary of Nikon’s 50 mm f/1.8’s see below:
• 1978-1982 (Ai): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,45 m MFD [data sheet]
• 1979–1981 (E): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,6 m MFD, pancake (all-black design)
• 1980–1982 (Ai-s): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,45 m MFD, pancake, (for Japanese market)
• 1981–1985 (E): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,6 m MFD, pancake (silver ring design) [data sheet]
• 1981–1985 (Ai-s): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,45 m MFD, (for Export market)
• 1985–2005 (Ai-s new): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,6 m MFD, pancake (plastic focus ring)[data sheet]
• 1986-1990 (AF): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,45 m MFD (plastic focus ring) (this lens)
• 1990-2001 (AF new): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,45 m MFD (rubber focus ring)
• 2002-today (AF-D): 6 elements, 5 groups; 7 straight blades; 0,45 m MFD (new barrel design) [data sheet]
• 2011–today (AF-S; G): 7 elements, 6 groups, 7 rounded blades; 0,45 m MFD
• 2018–today (Z): 12 elements in 9 groups, 9 rounded blades; 0,4 m MFD

Adapting

Besides adapting, this lens can be used natively on all current high-end Nikon dSLRs and several earlier medium-to-high-end older Nikon dSLRs. Moreover, if the camera body contains a slot-drive focusing motor, this lens will even auto-focus7. Likewise, if the lens has been retrofitted with ‘rabbit ears’, it can be natively used on all Nikon F-mount film cameras ever produced (without the rabbit ears, it is limited to post 1977 bodies).

Thanks to being a fully manual lens (manual aperture, manual focus), the lens can be adapted to all mirrorless cameras using a suitable dumb adapter (and such adapters are easy to find). Moreover, a large range of special adapters (helicoid adapters, tilt/shift adapters, speed boosters) for using Nikon F lenses on most mirrorless systems are available. Currently no adapters for mirrorless exist that would allow autofocus through the slot-drive screw.

Using Nikon F lenses on non-Nikon SLRs and dSLRs is likewise a distinct possibility. Thanks to the relatively generous flange focal distance of the Nikon F mount (46,5 mm), adapter rings for all dSLR mounts are available as well as for a goodly portion of film-era SLR mounts. Such rings will not allow autofocus, and are unlikely to support auto aperture, but even then the lenses can be used in stop-down metering mode.

Footnotes

1 Focal length is (unless stated otherwise) given in absolute terms, and not in Full-frame equivalent. For an understanding of whether the lens is wide/tele, see ‘Angle-of-view’.

2 Picture angle is given in degrees and concerns the diagonal picture angle. Rule of thumb:
> 90 ° ==> Ultra-wide-angle
70–90 ° ==> Wide-angle
50–70 ° ==> Moderate wide-angle
40–50 ° ==> ‘Standard’ or ‘normal’ lens
20–40 ° ==> Short tele lens
10-20 ° ==> Tele lens
5-10 ° ==> Long tele lens
< 5 ° ==> Ultra-tele lens

3 Length is given from the mount flange to the front of lens at infinity.

4 Diameter excludes protrusions such as rabbit ears or stop-down levers.

5 S=straight; R=rounded; C=(almost)circular at all apertures.

6 There is a further sub-class of AF-D lenses called AF-I lenses that are otherwise AF-D lenses (meaning, fully Ai-s compatible), but have an internal focus motor. Only long tele lenses were made in AF-I variants.

7 As of this writing, the following Nikon dSLRs fully support autofocus, aperture priority and manual metered modes on Nikkor AF/AF-D lenses: D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, Df, D200, D300, D300s, D500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D780, D800, D800E, D810, D850, D7000, D7100, D7200