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.
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 First of all, it would not be a copy of an existing lens, but a much-needed update to an outdated lens.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.