Best 50mm Lens for Nikon DSLR (FX & DX)

Are you struggling to zero on to the best 50mm lens for Nikon but is lost for choices? Have you tried looking beyond the options that Nikon itself provides? In this discussion, we shall look at a few 50mm prime options. And we will include both native (OEM) and the third party made lenses.

Best 50mm Lens for Nikon

Quick Answer – Best Nikon 50mm Lens

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

BEST BUDGET 50mm LENS

Filter Diameter: 77mm, Mount: EF-S, Weight: 385g, Size: 84 x 90mm

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

BEST VALUE 50mm LENS

Filter Diameter: 77mm, Mount: EF-S, Weight: 385g, Size: 84 x 90mm

Sigma 50mm f/1.4ART

BEST ALL AROUND 50mm LENS

Filter Diameter: 77mm, Mount: EF-S, Weight: 385g, Size: 84 x 90mm

Nikon 50mm f/1.2

BEST MANUAL FOCUS 50mm LENS

Filter Diameter: 77mm, Mount: EF-S, Weight: 385g, Size: 84 x 90mm

Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8G

BEST VALUE DX LENS

Filter Diameter: 77mm, Mount: EF-S, Weight: 385g, Size: 84 x 90mm

Sigma DX 30mm F1.4 Art

BEST ALL AROUND DX LENS

Filter Diameter: 77mm, Mount: EF-S, Weight: 385g, Size: 84 x 90mm

Why Every Photographer Needs 50mm Prime Lens

The human eye is the basic and the most common perspective. Therefore it is not unusual to see a lot of photographers prefer to capture the world around them from that perspective. If you are walking down the street and see something interesting, let’s say a street magician or a man with an interesting hairstyle or even a moment of perfect juxtaposition (two completely different attributes coming into the frame at the same time), the 50mm prime is probably the best lens to capture those moments for posterity.

Best 50mm Lens for Nikon FX and DX Cameras

1. Nikon FX 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is an obvious choice for a lot of beginner and amateur photographers looking for a 50mm prime for the first time. The reason is quite obvious. It’s the cheapest auto-focusing 50mm prime and is a no-frills attached shooter. That said the 50mm f/1.8D is cheaper but that lens does not have a built-in AF motor and as such won’t autofocus on Nikon’s budget DSLRs.

Why do we like the 50mm f/1.8G? Because having an AF motor means it works perfectly fine with every digital SLR that Nikon currently sells.

This lightweight lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. That is extremely quick and would be able to handle most lighting situations easily.

See the Nikon 50mm f/1.8


2. Nikon FX 50mm f/1.4G

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

The main advantage of the 50mm f/1.4G is that it is a third of a stop faster than the f/1.8G that we discussed here. Getting one stop higher aperture means your Shutter Speed is also going to be one-third stop faster. In low light situations that is a huge advantage. But with this advantage, you have to pay a price.

And that price that you end up paying is narrowing down the margin of error of focus. I will elaborate. You are aware that with a smaller f-number the depth of field of your image gets shorter. With decreasing depth of field, the margin of error between getting an image with where the subject is in sharp focus and one where the subject is out of focus becomes smaller. Even the slightest bit of movement of your hands or your subject can make your subject go out of focus in the final image.

See the Nikon 50mm f/1.4


3. Sigma FX 50mm f/1.4 Art

Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens for Nikon

The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is by far the best 50mm lens for Nikon. Note the Art moniker. It suggests that this is an extremely well-made lens with extremely high-quality glass. Sigma makes a range of Art lenses which they rate as their best offerings. 

A problem with a lot of these fast wide primes is that they tend to show up some degree of chromatic aberrations when used at their highest aperture. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, in an exception. It produces great image quality even when shooting at wide open. As a matter of fact, you would love to consistently shoot at f/1.4 and take advantage of the brilliant bokeh (quality of out of focus effect) that is possible at this aperture.

Please note that we have not discussed the mighty Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 in this discussion. That lens is prohibitively expensive. And yet at nearly 2/3rd the price of the Zeiss Milvus you can get better image quality with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art.

See the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art


4. Nikon FX 50mm f/1.2

Nikon AI-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 Fixed Zoom Manual Focus Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

In this race for the best 50mm lens for Nikon, the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 comes as a ludicrously fast unit. Especially, in terms of the Shutter Speed that you could achieve with this lens. And especially in broad daylight. But really, would you risk using an f/1.2 lens after reading all that I just mentioned above about the difficulty of focusing? With an f/1.2 lens, the chances of getting a sharp image drop significantly. And if the subject is moving even a bit that success rate drops alarmingly.

To compound the problem the 50mm f/1.2 is a manual focusing lens. Sorry, people! Yes, you can enjoy the fast creamy bokeh with the 9-blade aperture diaphragm, but you will have to make do without auto-focusing.

This lens was originally designed for Nikon’s film cameras and back in those days, auto-focusing was not the norm. Photographers who have grown up using film will probably be able to relate to this lens. But those who have always known that half-pressing the shutter release locks focus, they will definitely be struggling with the 50mm f/1.2.

See the Nikon 50mm f/1.2


5. Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

We shall now take a few other non-50mm examples. You are probably wondering why take non-50mm lenses as examples when we are discussing the best 50mm lens for Nikon DSLRs? The reason is Nikon produces both full-frame and APS-C cameras. But they don’t produce 50mm lenses for the APS-C cameras.

I have already explained how the crop factor on DX cameras has the effect of extending the focal length of a lens. That means a 35mm prime such as the DX 35mm f/1.8G becomes the equivalent of a 52.5mm lens when mounted on a DX-format (APS-C) camera.

So, if you have the D7500 or the D3300 or the D90, these cameras can take the advantage of the 35mm prime lens which has been designed for the smaller image circle of DX cameras and make it something close to 50mm.

The 35mm f/1.8G prime is a cost-effective choice and many Nikon APS-C camera owners buy that as their first prime lens. It is fast, comes with Nikon’s Silent wave Motor powered auto-focusing and instant manual focusing override.

See the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G


6. Sigma DX 30mm f/1.4 Art

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art is designed as a versatile everyday shooter for the APS-C camera systems. It is available for a number of popular camera mounts including the Nikon F-mount (DX). Thanks to the 1.5x crop factor the Sigma 30mm becomes the equivalent of a 45mm prime. You could argue that a 45mm prime is not the same as a 50mm prime. But the thing is the 50mm prime, the 40mm prime (pancake lens made by Canon) and the 35mm prime made by a series of manufacturers are all considered as standard primes.

The bright f/1.4 aperture of this 30mm prime lens makes it extremely useful for making images in any lighting conditions. And thanks to the Hyper Sonic Motor powered auto-focusing mechanism the lens is very snappy when locking focus.

But the list of features does not end there. The lens is constructed out of thermally stable composite materials. This ensures that the lens does not expand and or contract when exposed to extreme temperatures. Undoubtedly, this is the best 50mm lens for Nikon if you are using a crop camera considering the crop factor.

See the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art


50mm Lens on Nikon DX Crop Sensor Cameras

Nikon manufactures two different types of DSLRs. The 35mm full-frame and the smaller APS-C sensor powered DSLRs. The latter is also referred to as DX cameras while the former is known as FX cameras. They both use the same lens mount – Nikon’s F Mount.

Nikon allows lenses that are designed for FX or DX cameras to be mounted interchangeably. I.e., you can mount an FX lens on a DX body and a DX lens on an FX body. In the latter situation, the lens utilizes only the central part of the sensor for making its images. This has an interesting bearing on the images. The image appears slightly zoomed in. This happens because of the Crop Factor.

Crop Factor Explained

If you read the definition of crop factor it says that it is the ratio between the size of the sensor of a camera to the size of the sensor of a full-frame or a 35mm film camera. It is always expressed as a number followed by X. Such as 1.5x or 1.6x and so on.

What it means in practical terms is if you attach a 50mm FX lens to crop sensor camera (DX), it will have an actual field of view on 75mm (50mm x 1.5 crop factor).

It also means that to achieve a field of view of 50mm on a crop sensor camera (DX) you need to use a lens with a focal length of 33mm (50mm / 1.5 crop factor)

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