Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition Lens Overview

Along with the highly anticipated Nikon Df camera, Nikon has also introduced the restyled Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition lens. Such a move might be slightly confusing at first, because Nikon already has a new AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens in its line-up. So, are there any improvements with this new lens? In short – no. At least not from the optical performance stand-point.

Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.8G Special Edition lens

Basically, the lens is identical to the regular Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G (read our review). The only difference is the design of the lens. It features the silver ring around the barrel found on classic Nikkor lenses of old, as well as a restyled focus ring (also very much like the one found on older Nikkor manual focus lenses). Nice touches. In my opinion, as far as plastic prime lenses go, Nikon nailed the design with this one. It looks humble and understated, but has sufficient accents to make it memorable and pays due respect to its heritage. It seems to be much better looking than the other plain modern Nikkor prime lenses and I wish Nikon had chosen this design language from the start for AF-S lenses. However, looks aside, if you own the “older” sibling of this lens, there is absolutely no reason why you should upgrade it to this one. Nor is there much reason beyond the mentioned looks for someone to buy this over the regular lens today, because at $280, it is around $65 more expensive. If, however, you do not own a 50mm prime lens and would like to gain a little exclusivity, it will perform admirably. It also suits the Nikon Df very well, which is, of course, the main reason for its existence in the first place.

Despite the fact that this lens goes very well with the Nikon Df, I believe the Japanese manufacturer made a mistake in introducing it. A much better solution, in my opinion, would have been to couple Nikon Df with a refreshed AF-S 35mm f/2G lens. First of all, it would not be a copy of an existing lens, but a much-needed update to an outdated lens. Secondly, it could serve as a first example of a new design language for Nikkor lenses. Finally, the price increase over the current Nikkor AF-D 35mm f/2 would be much easier to stomach. That is in addition to the fact a 35mm focal length is just as well-regarded as a 50mm focal length and even more flexible in some cases. Alas, it would seem we will have to wait a little while longer for a 35mm f/2 class refresh.

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  1. 1) Carmelo
    November 5, 2013 at 5:12 am

    I agree with you. A new AF-S 35mm f/2G would be the much better solution for the Nikon Df.

  2. 2) Pascal
    November 5, 2013 at 5:13 am

    In regards to the 35mm lens, the Sigma 35mm f1.4 is a very good lens and is therefore a perfect alternative for the Nikon 35mm f1.4.
    The Sigma is cheaper and better.

  3. 3) Arne List
    November 5, 2013 at 5:16 am

    Good point with the AF-S 35/2.0. There should also be an AF-S 28/2.8 and an AF-S 105/2.5 in the same style.

  4. 4) Hans Reichel
    November 5, 2013 at 5:30 am

    A 35/2 would certainly have been a better idea.

    Even better with a working aperture ring.
    Why do they make it retro, redesign a lens for it and forget THAT?
    Is it technically not possible to have both options, to use an aperture ring or use af-g lenses with electronic aperture?

    • November 5, 2013 at 5:32 am

      It is possible. Aperture control on Nikon cameras in not electronic (like with most other manufacturers) – there is a lever that connects to the lens and adjusts aperture. That’s how older non-G lenses work. You can adjust the aperture both ways if you want.

      • 4.1.1) Hans Reichel
        November 5, 2013 at 5:36 am

        Thanks for your fast reply! But I think you cannot adjust the aperture on modern Nikon bodies by turning the aperture ring of a older non-g lens. The ring stays in one position all the time, isn’t it?

        • November 5, 2013 at 6:02 am

          It can be unlocked by the user. There is a dedicated switch on such a lens’ barrel, the lock position in marked in orange (same as the minimum aperture of the lens on the aperture ring, and this aperture needs to be selected to lock the movement of the ring).

          If you want to control the aperture using the ring on the lens, you will need to tell your camera that that is the way you will be changing the aperture and not with a command dial. You can only do that on higher-end Nikon bodies, like the D300, D700, D800 and so on. Not sure about D600/D610 or D7000 and up. The setting is located in Menu>Custom Setting Menu>Controls>Customize Command Dials. Switch Aperture Setting to Aperture Ring. Voila! This will only work right in A and M modes, mind you. For the other modes, the camera needs to automatically control the aperture, so you will have to switch everything back and make sure to lock the aperture ring on the lens. Otherwise, if you move the aperture ring away from the minimum setting, it will cause an error and you might miss your shot.

          • Hans Reichel
            November 5, 2013 at 6:15 am

            Thanks a lot for your detailed explanation! :-)

            If it is possible to have both ways it is even less understandable why they didn’t provide the ‘retrolens’ with an aperture ring.

    November 5, 2013 at 5:58 am

    agree 100%.
    Should have been 35mm f/2G, or better 35mm f/1.8G.
    Why? Well because most people don’t go around with one eye shut (monocular, the angle of view of a 50mm on FF), but with bifocal vision the angle of view on 35mm is more NORMAL on FF. Eyes wide open.

    This new 50mmf/1.8G demonstrates the Rolex watch, jewellery, treatment that someone aptly spoke of on this site recently. To be sure its trivial alongside the existing excellent 50mm f/1.8G.

    Whereas the 35mm f/2D really needs some attention. Not everyone wants the gargantuan 35mm f/1.4G.

    I hope you guys like the new df setup.

  6. November 5, 2013 at 6:03 am

    “A much better solution, in my opinion, would have been to couple Nikon Df with a refreshed AF-S 35mm f/2G lens.”

    My words.

  7. 7) Keith
    November 5, 2013 at 8:15 am

    I have to agree re the 50mm.
    It is only a G lens with cosmetic changes, there cannot be that many Nikon users who do not already own a 50mm lens of some description.
    The suggested 35mm F2 would have been far better.

  8. 8) Laszlo
    November 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    My impression is that Nikon enters to the retro mode not only with this camera but with a series of gears. I am 100% sure that we will be able to purchase soon some additional “retro style” fix glasses, such as 35mm and 85mm for the Df camera. The 35mm/f2 special edition might be the 35 mm one .

  9. 9) Jorge Balarin
    November 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    And why not a 35 f/1.8 ?

  10. November 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I´m sure that Nikkor 35/2.0 AI-S will do just fine on Nikon Df ;) . One of my favorite lenses on my D600

  11. 11) EnPassant
    November 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    On older Nikon manual focus lenses a grip ring was needed between the aperature and focus rings. But on G lenses they are not needed as there are a lot of space for gripping the lens. So this is just a silly, meaningless and ugly decoration.
    Considering the lens is a must buy in some regions only selling the Df-kit, not body only, this is an even worse rip-off.

  12. 12) Chris Zeller
    November 6, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Agreed! Nikon has way too many ~50mm primes now, and the last two announcements were of refreshes of 50 and 58mm lenses. A fast and light 35mm would have been a great addition and I think mosty Df customers would really rather have the 58mm instead especially if it also had an aperture control ring.

    I use my 35mm F2 frequently on my D600 and it is a very useful lens for family portraits. I like to get environmental portraits of us doing outdoor sports and travel and this focal length and size is ideal. The sharpness is acceptable but not up to today’s lens standards. An AF-S F1.8 with today’s modern optical design would be ideal. I like the 35mm focal length better than the 28mm. 28mm is too much of a compromise. 24, 35, 50, 85 makes a more useful set than Nikon’s current consumer 28, 50 85 range.
    I do not have a 24-70 so I use the primes to make up for the gap between 14-70 and 70-200.

  13. 13) Luci CJ
    November 10, 2013 at 4:49 am

    If they wanted to sell a camera based on its vintage look, I see no point in the new 50mm 1.8 – which is a G lens. I have the 50 mm f/1.8 and the 60 mm f/2.8, both AF-D lenses, which I use on a Nikon D90. Having an aperture ring is excellent for counting the f-stops: you just count: x2, x4, x8, and adjust the exposure time accordingly. The time-setting wheel on the DF is graded i-stop increments, like on old analogue cameras, so having a similar grading on the lens would have been of greater aid for classic photography aficionados (like me, though I lack the purchasing power for a DF, at least at its launch price).

  14. 14) Daniel Michael
    November 12, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Hi there,

    Can any one tell me if the 50mm 1.8G lens is weather sealed (in either form)? I can’t see it written anywhere. Would be ironic if it wasn’t because we can’t buy the Df in the UK without this lens, and the whole selling point for me is an outdoor camera that “goes anywhere”.


    • November 12, 2013 at 3:49 am


      unfortunately, except for some basic lens mount sealing, the “new” lens is not protected against dust/moisture. And you have a strong point there. If it were weather sealed, that would justify the price increase over the “regular” lens.

  15. December 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

    untill unless you have very specific requirements go for 50mm f/1.8 D for FX format and 35mm f/1.8G on DX format. both of them are very cheap and incredibly sharp. you can refer to for more details. good luck

    Vishal Singh

  16. 16) suraj
    December 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Although now it has been replaced with the newer Nikon AF 50 mm f/1.4 G AF-S but one must know that this lens held its top position for over a decade and is still a more desired and cheaper alternative to the newer model which is just marginally ahead in terms of performance. If the price for even the second hand version of this lens feels like a budget spoiler to you then i would recommend the cheapest yet one of the sharpest and well performing Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D for you. And trust me it not more than a feet behind in the race for image quality.

    Making good photographs is the job of the person behind the camera-lens system and not the responsibility of the equipment, which are merely the means to the cause.But having a good equipment at your disposal is a blessing .

    more more info do check out

    • 16.1) DREW PARNELL
      December 23, 2013 at 7:55 am

      The D lens? not for me.
      I use the AF-S 35mm f/2.0 D and find the whizzing focus ring terrible after the ease of using the G type lens, which hands on you can nudge focus simply.
      In addition the anti-reflection coating is better on modern G lenses, as is the build quality, weather sealing etc.etc.
      Bargains can be a misleading criteria.

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