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Nikon 50 mm f/ 2 Ai or f/1.8 Ais (early)?

Cliff Gallup , Jun 23, 2005; 10:23 a.m.

I'd be curious to know if there's any noticeable difference in images made from the 50mm f/2 Ai and the early version of the 50mm f/1.8 Ais. I want to pick up a manual focus normal lens for my FE2 (having sold my old, unloved f/1.4) and am considering these two. From what I can tell they are very similar, at least as far as observable sharpness is concerned, but do they have a different "look" (e.g. in out-of-focus areas)? Is there any reason to choose one over the other?

Thanks.

Responses


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Albert Smith , Jun 23, 2005; 10:53 a.m.

I have used every 50mm Nikkor. I have the 50mm f/1.8 AIS Nikkor (larger tube) and find it to be a very fine lens. The f/2.0 Nikkor is also fine optically. For most situations, the difference between f/1.8 and f/2.0 is so close that you can ignore that fraction of a stop. The finder is not brighter with the faster lens, at least not so much that you can see it with the naked eye, and there is not a sigificant DOF difference between these two apertures (take the f/1.8 lens and set it to f/2.0 and then pop the DOF preview lever if you don't believe these points), so one lens does not have a leap in image quality potential over the other.

I chose to go with the f/1.8 lens because it had better coatings than my f/2.0 lenses (had about 5 of these). I shoot slides a lot, and I felt that the contrast was better with my 50mm f/1.8 AIS lens.

I also have a fine 50mm f/1.4 AI Nikkor for times when f/1.4 is an advantage, but I use my f/1.8 AIS lens for technical photography, when I need sharpness, contrast and correction for distortion, and have never been let down by it.

Cliff Gallup , Jun 23, 2005; 11:57 a.m.

Thanks, Albert. Have you noticed any difference in out-of-focus areas? One of the reasons I sold my f/1.4 was that I found those areas a little harsh and lacking the creamy look of, say, the 105mm f/2.5.

Robert Lai , Jun 23, 2005; 11:58 a.m.

I have the f/1.8 AI, which is the same optically as the early AIS. I haven't had experience with the f/2 version. The 50 1.8 AI is a great lens that focuses down to 0.45m. The latest 50 1.8 AIS (flat) and AF versions (same optics) will only come as close as 0.6m.

I would say that the bokeh of the 50mm Nikkors leaves a lot to be desired. I have the 50 f/1.2, f/1.4, and 50 f/1.8. I really am displeased by the bokeh of the 50 f/1.4 AIS that I'm considering selling it. At f/2 and f/2.8, the f/1.4 is actually a sharper lens with greater contrast and fewer aberrations than my 50 f/1.8 AI at those same apertures. However, although the 1.8 lens has similar bokeh to the f/1.4, the OOF highlights are smaller in size, so it's a bit less offensive. I was interested to know that Mike Johnston in his "Lens bokeh ratings" also gave the 50 1.4 a rating of 3/10, while the 50 1.8 got a marginally better rating of 5/10. The reason why I go on about this is that the 50 2.0 has a 6 bladed diaphragm. If you stop down 1-2 stops from wide open where the shape of the diaphragm is reflected in all out of focus highlights in the background, I find regular hexagons to be really annoying. Even more annoying are the pentagons from the Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 SC, but that's another story. MJ gave the Canon 50 1.8 a bokeh rating of 7, which I disagree with!

So, at least for the bokeh, the 50 1.8 should be more acceptable.

Robert Lai , Jun 23, 2005; 12:12 p.m.

To complete my findings, the 50 1.2 AIS has "technically" bad bokeh because they're double line OOF highlights. However, they are rather small circles, and because the depth of field is so shallow at f/1.2 and f/1.4, I don't find it so offensive. The 50 1.2 AIS has 9 blades in the diaphragm, so the OOF highlights do look circular at all lens openings.

The contrast is low at f/1.2, although the resolution is still there when you magnify the image and bump up the contrast. The curvature of field also means that the zone of focus is VERY shallow. By f/1.4, the lens picks up contrast and reduces the aberrations considerably. By f/2.8, the 50 1.2 AIS is quite comparable to the other 50mm lenses. The great fun of the 1.2 is to be able to play with the DOF and the OOF highlights simultaneously by adjusting the aperture.

Barrel distortion is the same between the f/1.2 and f/1.4 lenses.

Technically, the f/1.4 is the superior lens from f/1.4 to f/2.8. It even beat out my f/1.8 AI, as I stated above. But visually, I get a lot more fun and pleasure out of the f/1.2. I can engage in pictorialism with it at wide apertures. If I want a Xerox of nature, the f/1.8 will do nicely. Hence my mulling about dumping my mint, like-new condition f/1.4 lens.

Douglas Green , Jun 23, 2005; 12:19 p.m.

Robert, the bokeh of the 50mm f2 is quite good - clearly superior, IMHO to every version of the 50mm f1.8 that I've had. Because of this, I consider it to be the best of the Nikon 50mm lenses to this day.

DJ Soroka , Jun 23, 2005; 01:50 p.m.

I had 2 50 mm f/1.8 Ai lenses that I sold with an FA and F3, respectively.

I kept a 50 mm f/2 Ai lens over the two other lenses because both of the f/1.8 lenses, I felt, were sharper, I thought the f/2 lens had noticeably better color saturation.

The bokeh of Nikon 50 mm lenses I find uniformly bad, with the exception of the 50 mm f/1.2 lens, which I have shot with twice, but have never owned.

The f/1.2 lens had other limitations compared to the more general purpose f/1.8 and f/2 lenses.

The early Ais 50 mm f/1.8's were identical to the Ai version, as far as I can tell.

As far as coatings go, I never had a problem with any Ai or later lens.

Actually, the most flare resistant Nikon's I have ever shot with are a 1973 16 mm f/3.5 and 1978 16 mm f/3.5 Ai lens. Both pretty ancient from a coating point of view.

Lex Jenkins , Jun 23, 2005; 10:45 p.m.

The 50/2 AI is sort of a cult lens, kinda like the 45/2.8 Nikkors. That alone is good enough reason to have one in the armory if you have a vacancy on the shelf. They don't cost much.

Peter Todd , Jun 24, 2005; 01:51 p.m.

For those of us on the other side of the pond (UK)can you enlighten us as to what the word bokeh means.

Excellent site, full of information

Thanks

Jovan Ivkovic , Jun 28, 2005; 05:36 a.m.

On my disbelief there is difference :)
I find out that 50/2 is beter then f1.8 AF in almost all aspects except
maybe lack of AF, AFD, f22 and 'maybe' ultimative sharpnes on f8~11
but I can't verify this without microscopic examination.

Testing with scaning of film material on fuji frontiera SP3000 with 2400dpi and EpsonPerfection 3170 on 3200dpi.
Has show beter color, contrast, sharpnes altogether with more details then nikkor 50mm/1.8AF and 50mm/1.2 AI.

Go visit:

http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00COgo

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