Monday, February 28, 2011

Shooting with the Nifty 50mm F1.8 on an FX camera

I've read a lot of articles and blog posts about shooting with 50mm lenses, which is what lead me to buy one shortly after getting my first DSLR 3 years ago. At the time I was shooting with a Nikon D80, which is a DX (crop sensor) camera, which means that the field of view is closer to 75mm. I quickly found the 50mm F1.8 to be a pleasant lens to use for environmental portraits, but considering that I don't do a lot of portrait shooting that mean that my 50mm lens sat in my bag a lot. I found myself wanting to shoot in the "normal" range with my crop sensor cameras and the solution was the Nikon 35mm F1.8G, which gives a similar field of view to a 50mm.

That all changed a few weeks ago when I sold my Nikon D300 and upgraded to the D700, which uses a senor the same size as a 35mm film negative. 50mm is 50mm again and so the 50mm F1.8 has become one of my most used lenses. Although the Nikon 50mm F1.8D is not the sharpest lens when stopped down, this is more apparent on FX than DX, it is still a nice lens to shoot with. I did some testing and found that my old manual focus Nikon Series E 50mm F1.8 is actually slightly sharper, but it also has less contrast. I might upgrade to one of the Nikon 50mm f1.4 lenses as a result of my findings, although that will come down the road, as I don't really need the faster lens now.

One of the greatest strengths of any fast prime lens is the ability to isolate the primary subject through the use of a narrow depth of field. The bokeh of the 50mm F1.8D Nikkor can be a little harsh in bright areas, which means that I try to avoid having bright areas in the out of focus areas of the frame, but of course that is not always possible. Overall the bokeh is smooth, although not totally creamy due to the problem noted above. This is likely due to the use of 7 straight aperture blades. I will be writing a full review of the 50mm F1.8D in the near future. I have written a review of this lens before, but that was based on use on DX Nikon cameras, but the use of the lens and the characteristics on FX are different, so I want to readdress this lens.