Review: Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S
While there are some benefits to wide apertures unrelated to image quality (more light for autofocus sensors being perhaps the main one), most photographers would agree that an F1.4 or larger maximum aperture is only useful if the images taken at those settings look good. And typically, fast primes look great in the center when shot wide open, OK in the middle, and a bit ropey at the edges. There are exceptions, but those exceptions tend to be large, heavy and usually very costly.
Considering typical use-cases for such lenses, the compromises presented by an average 50mm F1.4 or F1.8 aren't really a problem. After all, you're not going to shoot landscapes wide open on a fast 50mm, are you?
Sharpness, flare and coma
Except - wouldn't it be nice if you could?
With the Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 - like Sony's FE 55mm F1.8 ZA, another 'new generation' 50mm - you can pretty well get away with it - at least at 24MP. On the more demanding sensor of the Z7 some softness is visible at theand but even so, there's not much to complain about unless you're really pixel peeping. Across most of the frame there's minimal coma, even at at F1.8. Lateral CA (which is easy to remove in post) is similarly negligible, probably aided by automatic profiling.
Compared to the Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art - an excellent lens1 - the Nikon clearly offersand at wide apertures, before things at f2.8 and beyond. By F5.6 both lenses offer practically the same resolution, but the Sigma delivers description of point highlights.
Shot at F1.8 on the Nikon Z7 (again, on a tripod with Vibration Reduction turned off), this image further demonstrates the Z 50mm F1.8 S's excellent sharpness, even wide open.
The end result is that while there are plenty of great 50mm lenses out there, the Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S is an unusually useful one for low-light, general-purpose handheld photography, where every photon counts. The Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art is a great lens, but it can't compete in terms of resolution at wide apertures. Please note that images from both lenses shown in the above widget (and indeed all of the images in this review) were converted from Raw at our standard ACR settings for lens samples (sharpness dialed back to +25, radius 1, no luminance noise reduction or attempt to correct for vignetting or CA). There's not much you can do to make coma look nice, but files from both lenses can be made to look sharper and cleaner with a little work in a Raw converter.
Long story short - unless you need the additional depth of field of smaller apertures, you can shoot this lens wide open without worrying too much about the usual nasties. This is a major advantage of the Z 50mm compared to any of its F-mount predecessors, and even competitors like Sigma's 50mm F1.4 Art.
When it comes to flare, the Z 50mm F1.8 S also delivers excellent performance. Even deliberately trying to induce flare by shooting without a hood with the sun just out of frame, I can only see it in a handful of daytime shots. The image above, shot after dark, is a real stress test, and shows both flare and a clear 'ghost' image of one of the spotlights - always a risk with mirrorless systems where lens rear elements are so close to the sensor, but of minimal concern here, even so.
Bokeh and LoCA
Of course, image quality isn't just about sharpness and coma. For some kinds of photography - particularly portraiture - other factors come in, like bokeh and LoCA. And they're fun to say in a sentence, because they sort of rhyme.
Bokeh refers to the aesthetic quality of out of focus areas in photographs, and it is the subject of about 50% of the arguments on our forums (the other 50% is an even split between equivalence and how many card slots cameras should have).
You can use the widget below to get a general idea of how the Z 50mm F1.8 stacks up in terms of bokeh compared to several of its 50mm and 55mm peers. Bear in mind that this is a 'stress test', shot deliberately to reveal ugly bokeh and longitudinal CA (LoCA) and by default, we're scaling to ~8MP, to make side-by-side comparison of specific bokeh balls easier. You can take a closer look at 100% by hitting the 'Full' button at upper right.
In terms of bokeh, the Z 50mm f1.8 is neither the best-looking lens out there (Sigma's 50mm F1.4 Art is very pretty indeed) nor the worst. It'sand gives pleasingly soft out of focus areas at wide apertures, albeit with some 'onion ringing' patterns visible in defocused high brightness point light sources. Transitions from sharp to soft are pleasantly smooth in most instances, with only slight 'nervousness' visible occasionally. Importantly for portraits, are rendered very nicely. By most of the lenses we shot for this example give similar rendering. The Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 actually has extremely similar 'bokeh ball' characteristics to Sony's FE 55mm F1.8 ZA, except for one thing: longitudinal chromatic aberration, or LoCA.
LoCA is an abbreviation of 'longitudinal chromatic aberration', which is the purple and green fringing you often see in photographs made using wide aperture lenses, in out of focus areas in front of and behind the plane of focus. This is not to be confused with lateral chromatic aberration (CA) which takes the form of colored fringes around high-contrast scene elements at the edges of an image. You can see LoCA on the Sony lens as green rings highlighting bokeh balls, and as green outlines around some strands of hair in the focus transition zone - which would be far more obvious were the background white. For a closer look at the FE 55mm F1.8 ZA, we published a detailed analysis of that lens back in 2016, which you can find here.
Whereas bokeh is somewhat subjective, LoCA, where it appears in images, is simply unattractive. And unlike lateral CA it is also near-impossible to correct, either automatically using a profile, or post-capture. In short, it's bad news, and it has plagued Nikon's F-mount primes for a long time. You can clearly see that the Sony 55mm and F-mount Nikon 50mm have moderate LoCA, whereas the Nikon 50mm Z has virtually none. This is also true in more realistic, day to day shooting situations - the Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S is extremely well-corrected for LoCA, which is good to see (or rather, good to not see). 2
You might occasionally detect a slight green tinge in some out of focus highlights in backgrounds (tree branches on a white cloudy sky or shiny reflections on a wire fence receding into the background being the classic stress tests) but compared to some of its competitors (and in fact the Z 35mm F1.8 S) it's barely a factor.
This is a very welcome development, since traditionally, LoCA is the bane of Nikon prime shooters' lives. There's an argument to be made that LoCA should be considered part of bokeh (I did say they rhymed) since it's a major factor in how nice (or not) out of focus highlight areas look. Viewed alongside to the green-ringed bokeh balls created by Nikon's older AF-S 50mm F1.4 and the Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA, the Z 50mm F1.8 S's rendering is definitely more attractive, albeit not a match for Sigma's lovely 50mm F1.4 Art.
With in-camera corrections turned off, vignetting is obvious at F1.8 (it's roughly 2 stops at the extremes), much reduced even at F2, and all but unnoticeable beyond F2.8. At no point do corners become too dark to obscure detail. Switching in-camera vignetting correction to 'normal' reduces the effect even further. Distortion is effectively nil, thanks at least in part to automatic correction.3
1). We're comparing against the Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art here, since it is commonly regarded as a benchmark third-party lens, and with the Nikon FTZ adapter, it is fully-compatible with the Z6/7. It gives a slightly wider field of view to the Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S, so when you're looking at the extreme edges in our widget, you're looking at the absolute extent of the Nikon's field of view. The Sigma actually captures a little more on all sides.
2). It's worth noting here that we've shot controlled tests with two samples of the Z 50mm F1.8 S and they have very slightly different bokeh renditions, but neither is 'better' or 'worse' than the other. This sort of variation isn't unusual in lenses that use molded aspherical elements (since manufacturing involves multiple molds and no two molds are exactly identical).
3). If you're reading this thinking "but you said that the Z 50mm F1.8 S was one of the least favorite lenses of 2018!", you're right - and we were wrong. It shouldn't have made that list. A series of mixups and miscommunications among the team lead to some of our conclusions from an early preproduction sample of the Z 35mm F1.8 S being muddled up with our preliminary findings from the Z 50mm F1.8.
|Brown Crown by Nilesh Trivedi|
from brown challenge
|D72_4852_DxO Smug by richpics|
from Aviation Legends: X-Planes
|Ancient Bristlecone Pine by ed rader|
from My Best Picture of the Week
|Everyone look at the camera by cjf2|
from Looking down the lens.
Sony's new 12-24mm F2.8 GM is the widest fast aperture zoom for full frame. Based on our tests it's a worthy recipient of Sony's 'GM' moniker.
Chris and Jordan took the new Sony 12-24mm F2.8 GM to Calgary's eclectic Ingelwood neighborhood. From record stores to spice shops, find out what got their attention when it was time to go wide.
The six prize-winning photographs and four honorable mentions were narrowed down from more than 6,000 entries captured across North America.
Though Thunderbolt 4 remains at 40Gb/s, its minimum requirements include dual 4K monitor support, faster external drive speeds and more.
You can now use compatible Fujifilm cameras with video conferencing software on macOS hardware without the need of a dedicated capture card.
The Epson V600 remains one of the most popular flatbed film scanners on the market. Revisit our review of this affordable and (mostly) easy-to-use option and see how its output compares to local lab scans.
Canon's mirrorless EOS R5 comes with a ton of features and capability stemming from its design inside and out. Come along with us on a guided tour of Canon's new high-end, high-megapixel camera and check it out for yourself.
Announced alongside the EOS R5, the R6 offers a lot of the same technology but in a more affordable, slightly more enthusiast-focused model. Take a closer look.
Alongside the EOS R5 and R6, Canon has announced a brace of lenses, all in the short to long telephoto range. Filling out the 'long' end are one L-series zoom, and two innovative primes.
Alongside a trio of telephoto lenses, Canon also announced a new 85mm this week. The RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is a compact, affordable alternative to the pro-oriented 85mm F1.2L.
The EOS R5 has been a long time coming – we knew it had 8K and we knew it had an AF joystick. But now that's it's here, what is it really like to use? Find out in our initial review based on hands-on time with the camera.
The R6 doesn't promise quite such headline-grabbing specs as its big brother, but it still packs a punch, whether you shoot stills, video or both.
Think you've read everything there is to know about the new Canon cameras? Chris and Jordan share eight important things you may have missed from today's Canon EOS R5 and R6 announcements.
We've been shooting around with the new Canon EOS R6. Initial impressions of image quality are positive, and out-of-camera JPEGs appear similar to that of the gold award-winning Canon EOS-1D X III. Have a look for yourself.
Canon has officially released the long-awaited EOS R5, the company's top-end full-frame mirrorless camera. Featuring a new 45MP CMOS sensor, Dual Pixel AF II system, 8K video capture and 20 fps bursts, this is the RF-mount camera we've been waiting for.
Although the Canon EOS R6 doesn't have the 45MP sensor and 8K video capture of the higher-end R5, it's still an incredibly capable camera with specs that outshine similarly priced peers.
The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM is the company's first super-zoom lens for RF-mount. Despite a relatively slow aperture range, it's very versatile, offering five stops of stabilization, weather-sealing and compatibility with Canon's new teleconverters.
Canon's RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is an inexpensive telephoto prime lens with a minimum focus distance of just 0.35m (14") and a 0.5x magnification. When attached to the new R5 and R6, it offers a whopping eight stops of shake reduction.
Canon has announced a pair of super-telephoto fixed-aperture primes. The 600mm and 800mm use diffractive optics to keep their size and weight down. They'll also be compatible with new 1.4x and 2x RF teleconverters.
Canon has announced a new small-footprint inkjet photo printer, the imageProGraf Pro-300. it will produce prints up to 13 x 19" and it goes on sale later this month for $900. A new textured photo paper will also arrive in July.
The new compression standard is set to reduce video file sizes by half to save space and speed-up transmission, paving the way for more portable 8K footage.
Sony recently confirmed plans to launch a successor to the video-centric a7S II. We don't even know the name of the camera, but Jordan already has a feature wish list for the new 'a7S III' – and it doesn't include 8K.
The Profot B10 is the first studio flash system that can be used when shooting with an iPhone camera.
The Pixii camera is an interesting little rangefinder camera that features a 12MP APS-C sensor and lacks a rear LCD display, opting instead to pair with your mobile device, which can be used to view and transfer images.
Sirui is launching an Indiegogo campaign for a wide-angle answer to its existing 50mm F1.8 anamorphic lens. The 35mm APS-C lens will come in a Micro Four Thirds mount with adapters for other systems.
Sony has added a 12-24mm F2.8 to its top-shelf 'G Master' series of lenses. It's the widest constant F2.8 zoom currently offered for full-frame, with a hefty price tag to match: it will sell for $3000 when it ships in mid-August.
Take a look at the view from Sony's new ultra-wide F2.8 zoom – we paired it with the a7R IV for some initial shooting.
Canon's EOS-1D X Mark III is one of the best DSLRs ever made. With fast burst speeds, great video quality and impressive autofocus, the 1D X III is equal parts cinema rig and sports shooter. Find out how it fares against steep competition in our full review.
Nikon Rumors is reporting that Nikon will announce successors to its Z6 and Z7 camera systems by the end of the calendar year.
Canon says the event, set to take place at 14:00 CEST in two days on July 9, will be its 'biggest product launch yet.'