There is a nearly endless parade of number of 50mm lenses on the market, many of which are f/1.8. Below, I will specifically compare this Nikon Z lens against the Nikon F-mount 50mm f/1.8 G – one of the most common 50mm lenses on the market – and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, considered a reference lens at this focal length.
Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S vs Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
First, how does the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S compare to its tried and tested F-mount brother? Here are the Imatest results from both lenses:
As you can see, the Z-mount lens absolutely destroys the F-mount lens in sharpness. The Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S is almost as sharp wide open at f/1.8 as the 50mm f/1.8G is when stopped down to f/4, which is insane!
However, it is not really a fair comparison. The F-mount lens is, again, less than $200. It’s also been on the market for more than eight years. Absent this sort of head-to-head comparison, is actually a very good lens. In our review of it, we said the 50mm f/1.8G “sets new standards in 50mm fixed lens performance for Nikon mount.” That goes to show how much standards have changed in less than a decade. Today’s Z lens was expected to beat the 50mm f/1.8G by a large margin, simply because Nikon and other companies have raised our expectations so much recently.
Another lens, however – the famous Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art – has a much better chance of being competitive. It’s designed for nothing but maximum image quality, throwing caution to the wind in terms of weight to get there. How does it compare?
Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S vs Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art
Here are the Imatest charts from the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art:
As you can see, it’s certainly a closer fight. Keep in mind that the maximum aperture of the Sigma is f/1.4 rather than f/1.8, so the wide-open performance is not as lopsided as it may look. In fact, at f/1.8 and f/2, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art shows slightly better center sharpness in the center frame, which again shows just how good the lens really is. However, once stopped down to f/2.8, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S takes off to a whole new level, demonstrating unbelievable center and mid-frame sharpness the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art cannot match. This trend continues until f/5.6 where both lenses perform equally in the center, although the corner performance of the Sigma is still better. It is important to note that the sample of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is also one of the best we’ve ever tested, so you’re seeing top-of-the-line results from each.
Both of these lenses are awesome. The fact that the Nikon is far lighter than the Sigma (almost half the weight, at 415 vs 815 grams) and less expensive ($600 versus $850) pushes it ahead in my opinion, unless you need the extra 2/3 stops of light that you get with f/1.4. Even then, using the Sigma on the Nikon Z cameras requires the somewhat unwieldy FTZ adapter. Unless you already have the Sigma, I’d stick with the native Z lens.
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