Review: Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S
1 Introduction and handling
Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S
One of three lenses launched alongside the Nikon Z6 and Z7, on the face of it the Z 50mm F1.8 S might appear the most pedestrian of the group. It's hard to get too excited about a medium-fast 50mm these days, but in its promotional literature Nikon claimed that its latest standard prime is anything but a standard standard. In fact, the company claimed that the Z 50mm S would offer superb resolving power, low aberrations and excellent wide-aperture performance, impressive enough to challenge assumptions about what lenses of this type should be capable of.
The Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 is twice as heavy, twice as large and about twice the price of the company's equivalent lens for F mount - but is it twice as good? We've been shooting with one for a few weeks, and one thing's for sure - it's a radically different lens.
- Focal length: 50mm
- Format: Full-frame
- Aperture range: F1.8-16 (1/3EV steps)
- Filter thread: 62mm
- Close focus: 0.4m
- Hood: Included HB-90, bayonet attachment.
- Length / Diameter: 76 x 86.5mm
- Weight: 415g (14.7oz)
- Optical construction: 12 elements in 9 groups, including Nano Crystal Coating
- Special elements: 2 ED, 2 Aspherical.
Compared to its nominal F-mount equivalent, the Z 50mm F1.8 S is an obvious step up in terms of optical technology. Featuring advanced coatings, almost twice the number of elements (including two aspherical and two ED) and three additional groups, the new prime is substantially more complex. Compare this to the single aspherical element in the F-mount version (itself a novelty when the lens was introduced in 2011) and it's obvious that Nikon has taken the opportunity to completely redesign its newest standard lens for the radically different dimensions of the new Z mount.
Product Photography by Dan Bracaglia
Design and handling
The Z 50mm F1.8 S is as different optically to its F-mount predecessors as it is cosmetically. Somewhat reminiscent in overall look and feel to a modern Sony ZA or Sigma Art-series prime, the new lens is smooth, stylish and simple in design. Constructed from a mixture of polycarbonate and aluminum, the barrel of the 50mm is dominated by a wide and well-damped metal focus ring. A single A / M focus switch is the only other moving part. Since the new Z-series cameras feature in-body stabilization, the lens itself is unstabilized.
'Build quality' is a notoriously hard quality to measure, and one that we have to assess subjectively, on the basis of anecdotal (but as extensive as we can manage) experience. The Z 50mm F1.8 looks nice, handles well, feels neither too heavy nor too light, and appears to be manufactured to a high standard. There is no give in the focus ring, no wobble in the mount, and after weeks of use it hasn't fallen apart in my hands. Etc., and so on.
Less anecdotally - and more importantly - we've put the Z 50mm F1.8 to pretty hard use in the past few weeks. Unusually hard, in fact. I've spent hours with the Z7 and 50mm shooting in extremely wet and windy conditions on multiple occasions recently, working on a photo project on Washington's Pacific coast. In rain heavy enough to somehow soak down, under, into and around multiple layers of waterproof clothing, the Z7 and Z 50mm F1.8 kept on working without any serious problems.
The only issue I had after extended exposure to the elements was a very occasional glitch where the Z7 would switch out of automatic focus and into MF mode. Re-seating the lens in the mount was enough to clear the problem. Whether the issue was caused by moisture getting into the camera (I didn't see any when I looked later) or into the M / A switch on the lens I don't know. Either way it didn't prevent me from working.
We already know from Roger Cicala's tear-down that the Z7 is impressively well-sealed, and while the Z 50mm F1.8 S might not be gasketed to the same standard (we won't know that for sure until Roger takes one apart), it certainly seems very well sealed from my experience.
One frustration - although it's not the optical designers' fault - the new 50mm and 35mm F1.8 Z primes are so similar to one another cosmetically, that they're almost impossible to distinguish in a camera bag. They're almost the exact same size and shape, very similar in weight, and both use a 62mm cap. A Nikon Z shooter carrying both would practically be forced to label them in some way to avoid mixups in the field. Ditto the HB-89 and HB-90 lenshoods, which are mechanically interchangeable and almost indistinguishable (to the extent that I have no idea why Nikon bothered to make two different hoods), but which are frustratingly shy of being exactly identical.
The Z 50mm F1.8 S is an internal focus design (the lens doesn't get bigger or smaller when focusing) and in normal or bright lighting conditions, it focuses quickly and accurately on a Z6/7. Autofocus actuation from the stepping motor isn't as fast as Nikon's snappiest F-mount zooms with more powerful ring-type AF motors, but it's at least as fast as most of the company's older primes and good enough for rapid acquisition of most subjects. The Z 50mm F1.8 S focuses slightly faster than the Z 35mm F1.8 S but there's not much to choose between them.
As well as being rapid, autofocus is effectively silent, too. Video shooters might detect a subtle 'zip' sound on the in-camera audio as the lens makes large focus adjustments, but it's very subtle. Normal video AF movements are slow and smooth enough (this can also be customized) that you probably won't notice it, even if you're relying on the in-camera microphones for sound.
|The large focusing ring makes up most of the length of Z 50mm f1.8 S's lens barrel, and offers fine-geared control over focus via a 'focus by wire' system.|
The Z 50mm F1.8 S uses a 'focus by wire' system for manual focus, which offers very precise control from the wide, nicely-damped focus ring. The movement is speed-sensitive, not linear, meaning that a slow rotation of the ring will result in a similarly slow movement of the focusing group. If you move the ring quickly, the motor will respond more rapidly and make a larger focus movement.
This is great for stills, but some videographers (especially those that use follow focus systems) might find themselves wishing for a linear response, where X degrees of movement of the ring always results in X amount of focus movement. This is less a criticism of the lens, more of the Z system at this point but we're hoping that Nikon can adjust this behavior via firmware. Similarly, it would be nice to have the option of switching the direction of the manual focus ring, for photographers coming from different systems.
Apple has updated its professional video editing app Final Cut Pro X to version 10.4.6. The update brings full 64-bit support, a new feature that helps convert older formats and much more.
Tonight's episode of NBC's Tonight Show, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, was filmed entirely on Samsung's flagship smartphone the Galaxy S10+.
Camera Bits has released the long-awaited update to its photo ingestion software in the form of Photo Mechanic 6.
SmugMug Films has shared its latest film, Streets in Mind, which takes a look at the life and work of London-based street photographer Alan Schaller.
We were in Japan earlier this month for the annual CP+ show in Yokohama, where we sat down with senior executives from several camera and lens manufacturers, among them Nikon.
Sony has released firmware version 5.0 for its flagship mirrorless camera, the a9. The update brings AI-driven autofocus modes, an improved menu structure and other updates.
Night Sight, Portrait Mode and (surprisingly) wide-angle selfie mode are features that we're currently loving about the Pixel 3's camera.
The Auschwitz Museum has asked visitors to be more respectful after an upsurge of pictures posted on social media showing people posing on the train tracks that lead to the main gate.
This week Chris and Jordan take the new Leica Q2 for a spin, and while most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are welcoming spring, they head even farther north than usual to visit ice castles. Because #Canada.
Harvard is facing a lawsuit over profiting from 19th century daguerreotypes that captured the portrait of a slave and his daughter on a South Carolina plantation.
From the detailed textures in rural landscapes to the incredible lighting inside futuristic buildings, the photorealism of Unreal Engine 4 is blurring the lines between fiction and reality...you know...aside from the spaceship.
Facebook has sent out emails to affected users requesting they change their passwords following a discovery that over 20K Facebook employees had access to 600 million passwords.
We've added Panasonic's new Lumix S1 and S1R full-frame mirrorless cameras to three of our buying guides. If you're looking for a quick summary of each model, then have a read.
YouTube channel Photoshop Cafe has shared a video detailing ten tips and tricks you can do to both fix and speed up Photoshop when it's running slow and sluggish.
It's not going to be the banger of the year, but it'll get a few laughs.
DJI has confirmed its drones won't be affected by the GPS 2019 week rollover.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has teamed up with Kodak to release a beer that's capable of doubling as a film developer.
The Diana Instant Square is a retro-inspired camera with manual controls that's fun to shoot in good light, but largely unpredictable in its operation.
Residents of a Paris street plagued by Instagrammers, selfie takers and music video crews are asking the city government for a weekend and evening ban to give them some peace.
The adapter plugs into the Osmo Pocket's USB Type-C port and features a 3.5mm TRS jack to plug in various external microphones.
Checkout allows Instagram users to select products for purchase and make payments directly in the app.
GauGAN as it's known, can create photorealistic images from basic drawings using the power of artificial intelligence.
The EOS RP is Canon's latest full-frame mirrorless camera, with diminutive dimensions and a diminutive price. Find out how it stacks up and get our thoughts in our early review.
Montana judge Dana L. Christensen has ruled the Republican National Committee did not infringe upon the copyright of photographer Erika Peterman after they took a photo from a Democratic candidate's Facebook page without permission and altered it to use in a derogatory promotional mailer.
Nikon has launched updates for three of its programs to address various bugs and glitches that could cause crashes and unwanted results.
LEE Filters has launched the LEE100, its next-generation filter holder that improves the design and looks in all the right places.
With the arrival of some much-needed sunshine and final production firmware for the Panasonic S1, we've been able to get outside and really start putting the camera through its paces.
Importing, culling and tagging photos is about to get a whole lot faster and look a whole lot better with the impending arrival of Photo Mechanic 6.
On its own, the FTZ adapter retails for $250 and when bundled it dropped the cost to just $150. Now, Nikon is offering it for free with all Z6, Z7 purchases in the United States.
Profoto said it spoke with Godox back at Photokina 2018 and continues to contact Godox in an effort to stop it from marketing its V1 light.