Saturday, February 10, 2007

Nikon and the 50mm

Back in the old days just before the zoom lens and autofocus came into fashion the standard kit lens was a reasonably fast fixed focal length lens somewhere between 45 and 55mm. For most brands this ment a 50mm f1.8. Nikon was no exception, there's still a 50mm 1.8 in their product range today and more and more people discover this sharp and fast gem of a lens. So many that over here in the netherlands a used one in good condition can easily fetch 80-90% of the going rate for a new one.

Here's my $0.02 on the various Autofocus incarnations of this lens.

My $0.02. on the 50mm AF in it's various incarnations.

The current:

Nothing wrong with this. Build could be better but it does offer a D chip as a bonus. Check current prices whereever you live. I've seen 70% price differences between retailers in my country. This one's being made since early '02

The previous version:

Newer build but without the added bonus of a D chip. When givven the choice I'd avoid this version. Build quality is not nearly as good as the old one and you don't even get a D(istance) chip in return. Build from 1990 up until late 2001.

the old version:

No D chip but built like the current 1.4. Can be found used in excellent condition if you care to look for it. When buying used let it AF from infinity to closest rapidly a few times and see if that works without a coffee grinder sound. Weak point of these is that they're prone to AF gear slippage when dropped. Only made from september 1986 until early 1990.

All three of these are optically identical and very close if not optically identical to their late Ai siblings. Get a hood such as the HR-2 or a HS-1 for extra retro look and don't bother with a UV filter as protection. The front element is deeply recessed already and a good filter will easily set you back half of what you paid for the lens.

There's also loads of the old 50mm 1.8 E-series around. A kit lens from just before AF. Can safely be mounted on your D-series. Since Nikon made about a billion of these they can be found extremely cheap on the used market. You're own your own of course for focussing and metering. Do watch out for fungus on these classics. (spidery vague tendrils on the glass or a structure like water dried on your mirror)

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