A camera system is nothing unless it has an affordable, solid nifty fifty for photographers to grab and use. Nikon knew this and they got the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S out to the public early in the life of the Z mount. Does this lens justify its $600 price tag, though? Let’s talk about that.

I’ve been putting the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S through its paces for a few weeks now. Paired up with the Nikon Z 6II it has proven to be a reliable nifty fifty that most photographers and creators, in general, will enjoy. I’ll break it all down in our full review.


  • Incredibly sharp
  • Nice bokeh
  • Minimal distortions
  • Weather sealing


  • Inconsistent autofocus performance
  • A little on the large size

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 — Technical specifications

Nikon Z 50mm F/1.8

The technical specifications for the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 are from the official Nikon website:

  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8, minimum aperture: f/16
  • Max angle of view : DX-format 31°30, FX-format 47°00
  • Max reproduction ratio: 0.15x
  • Construction: 12 elements, 9 lens Groups, 9 diaphragm blades, ED glass elements 2, , aspherical elements 2
  • AF actuator: STM (stepping motor)
  • Internal focusing: Yes
  • Min focus dist:1.32 ft, 0.4m, 15.8-inches
  • Filter size: 62mm
  • Approx. dimensions: (diameter x length): 3 in. (76 mm) x 3.4 in. (86.5 mm)
  • Approx weight: 14.7 oz. (415 g)

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 — Ergonomics and build quality

Nikon Z 50mm F/1.8

Overall, Nikon has done a good job with the Z 50mm f/1.8. Off the bat, though, you’ll notice that this is not like the f/1.8 nifty fifties of years past. This is a rather large lens for a moderately fast prime. This is down to the sheer size of the mount and the larger optics. Still, I miss when 50mm f/1.8 lenses were compact. I digress, though. The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 weighs in at 0.91lbs and measures at 3 inches in diameter with a length of 3.4 inches. I used the lens on the Nikon Z 6II and it balanced well.

The lens has a minimal design. The black matte plastic has a slight texture to it which makes the lens feel nice in the hand. There’s just one switch that toggles manual and autofocus. It’s fairly stiff but clunks into place nicely. The manual focus ring is large and turns smoothly when in use. The front element takes 62mm filters. The lens is also an internal focuser, so the barrel does not extend when in use.

From a build quality standpoint, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is solid. The composite plastics feel tough and the lens mount is metal, so there will be no issues there. There’s weather sealing too. There are four seals through the barrel and one fairly thick gasket at the mount. Like other Nikon Z lenses that are sealed, this one will have no problems standing up to inclement weather. Overall the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S has a simple, straightforward design that feels great. It will stand up to heavy use well.

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 — In the field

The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is a great lens and grab and walk out the door with. As well all know, the 50mm focal length is an incredibly versatile one. It’s fantastic for street photography, event photography, documentary photography, portraits, and more. It’s a nice lens to use on the daily.

The lens never got in the way of what I wanted to do thanks to its simple design and its weight of under 1lb. There’s no aperture dial to mess with. The manual and autofocus switch does its thing as needed, though I tended to just half-press the shutter and grab the manual focus ring if I needed to pull focus myself. There’s no stabilization in the lens but the IBIS in the Z 6II made it easy to handhold this lens at slow shutter speeds. There’s no learning curve with this lens. Everyone from beginners to pros can just plug and play. It’s a simple yet very effective lens from Nikon that’s a joy to use.

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 — Autofocus

The autofocus performance of the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is just OK. On the Z 6II, the Z 50mm f/1.8 S focused quickly in good light. However, I can’t say it’s the most accurate lens I’ve used. There were times that the lens would just hunt for no real reason, even in good light. Still, I have to think that this is more to do with the camera than the lens.

There was a definite slow-down when the light got low. You could hear the STM (stepping) motor whirring away as it tried to find focus. It struggled to find focus on my dog who was lying perfectly still on my couch. It was a little frustrating at times. Still, it would eventually find focus, it just took its time.

I found these things to be true when using the camera in single and continuous focus modes and with single focus points and wide areas. The lens did do well when it came to finding human and animal eyes, though. For the most part, the lens focused well. It was pretty accurate and speedy, however, the hiccups were disappointing. I’m interested to see how this and other lenses will perform on the Z 9 and future Nikon cameras with improved AF systems.

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 — Image quality

Nikon Z 50mm F/1.8

One thing you can’t complain about when it comes to the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 is the image quality. Nikon has been knocking the optics out of the park with their Z mount lenses and it’s the same story here. We’ll break everything down in detail below.

Distortion control and vignetting

The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S controls distortions very well. As you can see in the comparison tool above, there’s just a tiny amount of pincushion distortion that is easily corrected with the lens profile turned on in your editing software. In terms of vignetting, there’s a decent amount when you shoot the lens wide-open at f/1.8. it remains in place down to f/5.6. After this, the vignetting eases up significantly. Again, it’s easy to correct with the lens profiles turned on, and of course, JPEGs from the camera will already be corrected,

Chromatic aberration, flares and ghosting

Flaring and ghosting are present when shooting into light sources. The ghosting at times is quite pronounced, still it’s far from the worst I have ever seen. You can also see that contrast levels remain quite high, which is great.

In terms of chromatic aberrations and fringing, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S does exhibit a small amount. In the last image of the statue, you can see some green fringing around the head of the statue. It’s not terrible and you do have to look for it. Sunstars are also quite nice as well. Overall, the Z 50mm performs well.


Yikes! Stop pointing those pictures at people! You’re going to cut someone! Ladies and gents, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is a ridiculously sharp lens. Corners are just a hair soft when shooting at f/1.8 but when you stop down just a bit they become just as sharp as the rest of the frame. When I was editing images in post and I zoomed in, I couldn’t believe how sharp this $600 lens was. You’re not going to have any complaints here.


It should come as no surprise that the bokeh you can create with the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is silky. The 50mm focal length combined with a fast aperture lends itself well to bokeh creation. Wide-open and at the minimum focus distance you can make your backgrounds melt away.

The bokeh is clean, smooth, and the bokeh balls are also pleasing. They remain almost completely round right out to the edges and corners with just a hint of cats eyes. If you create a lot of portraits or do product photography and you want nice subject separation, this lens will give it to you.

Color rendition

Color reproduction is another strong point of this nifty fifty. Nikon colors render a little cool in general. However, the colors from this lens seem to balance things out nicely and they looked neutral. Not too warm, not too cool, just right. I found that colors were perhaps a little over-saturated, but they were pleasing overall.

Of course, you can change colors during post to match your style, and you can pick an in-camera profile to adjust the colors of your JPEGs. All of the images in this review were captured using the standard profile and the only adjustments made to the images were basic exposure changes. So what you see is what you’ll get in terms of colors.

The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 is a solid nifty fifty

Nikon Z 50mm F/1.8

Overall, Nikon has done a fine job with the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S. It’s a well-made lens that, for the most part, performs well. I would say it performs at a level, or just above the level that you’d expect after dropping right around $600 for it.

Aside from a few hiccups with autofocusing and with some slight green fringing, the Nikon delivers images and performance that most will be pleased with. Images are sharp, contrasty, and have pleasing colors. The bokeh you can produce is nice and distortion control is on point. The lens is also solidly built and it has weather sealing. Not bad for the price at all.

If you buy the lens you’ll be beyond satisfied. The Z 50mm f/1.8 is light at just under 1lb, which makes it great for street and documentary photography. It works well with Eye AF which means it’s great for portraits too. It’s a versatile lens that won’t break the bank. If I owned a Nikon Z camera, this is a lens that would be in my collection.

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S

With stunning optics, decent autofocus performance, and a body that can stand up to Mother Nature, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is a fantastic nifty fifty for those who want a standard prime that won’t break the bank. Whether you shoot street photography documentary photography, portraits, or anything else, you’ll be pleased with the solid performance you’ll get from this lens.