Nikon 50mm f/1.8G vs f/1.4G – Which Is Better and Why?

When Nikon rolled out the AF-S Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 G back in 2011, the intention was to offer a rapid aperture 50 mm lens for photographers throughout all the niches at a cheap price. Aside from the optical improvements, the lens enjoyed considerable mechanical enhancements.

For instance, the addition of the branded Silent Wave Autofocus Motor results in extremely quiet autofocus performance. It is still available in 2023, which is a proof of the lens’ mechanical and optical design longevity.

The brand rolled out an optically same unique edition variant of the above lens. It was aesthetically designed to complement the vintage style Df. The AF-S Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 G Special Edition was announced in 2013. The both branded 50 mm lenses made especially for the DSLR cameras adds the autofocus Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 D.

This is an affordable, compact prime lens which was unveiled in 2002. If your budget is flexible and you demand the boosted speed, the autofocus Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 G lens is a great idea. This lens was introduced in 2008. Are you ready to witness the ultimate bloodbath of Nikon 50mm f/1.8G vs f/1.4G? Then read this article till the end.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G vs f/1.4G

Size and Weight

Owing to the in-built autofocus motor, the brand new 50 mm f/1.8 G lens is bigger than the last two 50 mm f/1.8 autofocus optics. The bigger diameter of this new entry means that the new filter thread is 58 mm as compared to the 52 mm filter thread in the older models. Not only this, the weight is a tad more now, jumping from 160 grams to 185 grams.

This boosted size of the G lens series means that the rubberized manual focus ring is obviously also bigger than the older models. However, this is an issue because without an aperture ring on the lens, it is unable to be perfectly employed on a manual focus Nikon camera. But it is very handy when working in the live view to guarantee that the subject is correctly in the focus.

Irrespective of being among the most affordable Nikon lenses, the 50 mm f/1.8 G lens does not compromise on the construction quality. The metal lens mount is weather resistant and has a rubber cover which surrounds the body mount and lens when the optic is connected to the camera. In this way, sealing the attached mounts assists in preventing the possibility of dust and moisture.

Similar to the other Nikon AF lens variety, the 50 mm f/1.8 G lens showcases a switch on the side. This switch is utilized to choose either one of the two focus modes – M and M/A. In the M focus mode, the autofocus is totally turned off and the lens is able to be completely manual focus.

And in the M/A focus mode, the lens automatically focuses and when the shutter button is partially pressed, the user can manually adjust the focus. This feature was absent in the older models of this lens.

The FTZ and 50 mm G combination has an identical weight and size to the 50 mm S. To be clear, the 50 mm S has the same weight as the FTZ and G lens combined, which is 415 grams. Many photographers will find it challenging to work with this weight.

For instance, it is difficult to handle compact combinations, such as the 50 mm lens and Nikon D750. However, if you own DSLRs like Nikon Z6, the 50 mm S lens is very compatible with such models. All in all, you will never have a problem in handling the lens.

While keeping the price in mind, the 50 mm f/1.8 G lens boasts a high-quality construction. The only absent function is Vibration Reduction, which is usually irrelevant in the lens of a massive aperture and this focal length.

Focus

The first significant feature of the 50 mm f/1.8 G lens is zero noise during focusing. This is due to the addition of the inner Silent Wave Motor, and such quietness was absent in the previous models. Apart from the noise of the autofocus screw driving the lens focus technique, there is no sound.

The low volume makes it seem as if the 50 mm f/1.8 G lens focuses quicker as compared to the older autofocus variants of the lens. But the only difference is due to the impression. It takes the same time to focus on the subjects some feet away and then to the infinity for all the lens variants.

When employing the D3X high-end DSLR model, all the lenses rapidly focus, which makes this camera ideal for travel and documentary niches. The equivalent 75 mm field of view on the Nikon DX format DSLR makes it perfect for short focal length portraits.

Picture Quality

For anyone who is wondering what the main perks of f/1.8 lens are, read the following points:

  • The large aperture can be closed to f/4 or f/2.8 for the best performance, while still giving a shallow depth of field.
  • The aperture will create a quite shallow depth of field.
  • Finally, the big huge aperture enables you to work in dim lighting conditions.

Although half of the 50 mm f/1.8 optics utilizes them openly, it is also when they will be the worst in the optic department. The improved design is a constant theme in the evolution of the 4 Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 lenses. The brand new G lineup optic comes with the minimum chromatic and coma errors in all the lenses, maybe due to the addition of the aspherical element.

The better multi coating of the 50 mm f/1.8 G lens also boasts an improved performance, which leads to the better contrast level as opposed to the older lenses. This assists in boosting the picture definition, especially while shooting at f/1.8.

But since all the lenses in the market are assessed by the picture sharpness, the 50 mm f/1.8 does not disappoint in this department. The lens displays the same details as the older models, but it results in minimal chromatic error and an improved contrast at a wide aperture. As expected from the fixed focal length lens, it is very precise, catching fine details with superior clarity.

But the new lens also comes with some drawbacks, such as a bit more barrel distortion as opposed to the older models. But this is not supposed to be an issue for professionals, particularly the ones employing DX format sensors.

The reason is because these APS-C sensors utilize the middle of the lens where the curvilinear distortion is not apparent. This distortion can be easily removed in the available softwares. At the maximum aperture, vignette is also evident but it is not too noticeable. This is not a problem for the ones own DX format DSLR cameras.

Filter Thread

The filter threads for the S lens and G lens are 62 mm and 58 mm respectively. Sadly, upgraders will have to buy brand new filters for the 50 mm S in case they own it. The filter thread is currently 62 mm rather than the previous and somehow more popular 58 mm. But this is not a problem if you don’t utilize them.

Contrast and Sharpness

Lens optical designs have observed great transformation. Nikon was not playing around when it claimed that they made the S lens lineup with professionals in mind. The S series is very sharp. Even if you zoom 100% on the image, the separate details will be visible. But if you blow up 100% on the images captured by the G lens, the details are not that clear.

Not only this, there is considerable difference in contrast levels between both lenses. For instance, the G lens appears hazy or blurry, especially in the corners. On the other hand, the S lens lineup boasts a high contrast. Imagine you position your subjects in the middle while the G lens is set at f/1.4 or 1.8. Any professional would be doubtful of placing the subjects in the corners due to blurriness.

But the stellar 50 mm S lens poses no complications with corner sharpness. It shows that the engineers and designers went above and beyond to offer terrific picture quality. The picture sharpness is unbeatable in the S lens lineup.

As stated earlier, professionals can zoom in 100% and still view the separate details on the subjects, and the same applies to corners. Keep in mind that while using the S lens lineup, the picture boosts in sharpness while stopping down from 2.8 to 4. Moreover, photographers do not have to think twice about placing the subjects anywhere.

Fringe

Fringing problem is rapidly erased in Lightroom by adjusting the slider. It quickly and easily eliminates the unattractive purple fringe that often features in high contrast portions.

The S lens boasts an impressive performance regarding this. Perhaps Nikon optimized the software or gave too much thought in making the lens. But their efforts were worth it.

Bokeh

This aspect is primarily subjective, and some professionals do not mind the bokeh emitted by the lens. Immediately after its introduction, Nikon’s f/1.4 50 mm G lens was not a best-in-class for autofocus performance. Even in front of the original AF-S 50 mm f/1.8 G lens, the autofocus speed was the same.

The original D lenses were much more rapid. Nevertheless, there are no complaints regarding accuracy, even while employing the outer AF points. Nikon Z6 users can smoothly use the FTZ and 50 mm G lens.

But the 50 mm S lens lineup is smoother and quicker. Maybe the smoothness is due to the brand new stepping motor added to the brand lenses. When it comes to autofocus performance, the lens is a must for hybrid photographers who want to upgrade. But the only issue is that the focus ring on the S lens is not that impressive.

Even in this age, some professionals prefer manual focus. In this case, good control is necessary. But more than that, professionals want to know that turning the ring will automatically shift the elements in the lens. Although this lack is not a letdown for everyone, the potential buyers should be aware of it.

Wrapping it Up

The 50 mm G lens is a cult favorite among professionals and beginners alike. When the 50 mm S lens was rolled out, no one was pleased to see the 1.8 highest aperture. This disappointment is due to the fact that most people perceive professional standards as a bulky and large lens supported by a big aperture.

Yes, the lens was not too tiny, but it was a portion of the prime S lens lineup which displayed a similar aesthetic and size. As covered in the comparison above, it is comfortable to operate the lens and the performance is extraordinary too.

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