35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX or 50mm f/1.8 D?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by bensgalguerra, May 10, 2009.

  1. I'm pretty new to photography and I recently bought a D90 (about a month ago) along with the kits lens (18-105mm VR) and a cheap 70-300mm. I've been contemplating on buying a prime lens that has a wide aperture which I can use in low light situations as well as in the movie mode of the D90 to get good depth of field.
    I kinda like the range of the 35mm because, as I am using a DX format camera, it is equvalent roughly to a 50mm, which is normal. However, thinking ahead, I cannot use it in case I decide to upgrade to an FX format camera.
    The 50mm, on the other hand, is a full-frame compatible lens, but the DX crop makes the view a bit too 'far' for my taste.
    Any advice?
    I've read that both are sharp lenses. Any opinion on this as well?
    Btw, my budget is only around $200 so these are, I think, my only choices.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I would always buy lenses for your current need, not for some distant future. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to be stuck with a lens that does not meet your current need for a few years.
  3. As Shun said. If you drop DX at some later date you can just sell the lens and get back most of the money. Nikon lenses seem to retain value and sell for good prices on Ebay even if they're a few years old. OTOH, maybe FX will always be expensive and we'll all just stick with DX, save a ton of money and keep using DX lenses - you can't plan for these things.
    I have a D90 and both of those lenses. They're both excellent. Since you seem to want the 35mm focal length, go with that one.
  4. Since they are both relatively inexpensive and both are pretty sharp, this really comes down to focal length. The good news is that your 18-105 can answer your question for you: just force yourself to use it at 35mm for a while, and again at 50mm, to solidly settle yourself on which you like better.

    It's worth mentioning that if you're looking for that really creamy, cinematic-feeling out of focus background, neither of those lenses are going to be stellar (compared to their much more expensive counterparts), but you can certainly provide good subject/background separation with either, and will just have to watch out for bright or high contrast objects in the background, which will produce some funky artifacts. The thing to look at (using your kit zoom) is whether you find a given focal length to be flattering to your subject(s). The longer focal length demands more working room, but also aids in subject/background separation, depending on how you use it.

    You might want to do some thought experiments using this DoF calculator so that you can see how f/1.8 treats different camera/subject/background distances (something you can't experience with your kit zoom). But you CAN use your kit zoom to see how each of those focal lengths treats perspective and working distance.

    I agree with Shun that you shouldn't be fretting over an eventual FX purchase at this point (and at this lens buget level). Get what will help you make the images you want now, not later. If we were talking about fast 200mm lenses, we'd be having a different conversation about the future.
  5. The 35mm lens would be an excellent choice. If you are already comtemplating spending thousands of dollars on camera gear then an inexpensive lens would make no difference anyway as you can sell it easy enough. If you are not the shopaholic type person then shoot the D90. It is perfectly capable of high level professional photography.
  6. I have always loved the short ends of 70 - xxx zooms on full-frame, so I LOVE my 50mm f1.8.
    I plan to get the new 35 soon, as I plan to stick with DX for a long time, because I too love the "full frame 50mm" angle of view.
    In any case, the answer is clear... both. If you can't swing that. Get the 35mm f1.8 first and see if that's all you need...
  7. Thanks for the quick responses.
    A good, creamy bokeh is actually one of the main things I am looking for. Would you recommend a AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 D instead for that purpose? (Though it could take me a bit longer to save up for it.)
    PS: I tried out my camera just a while ago and I'd say I can probably get used to a 50mm focal length.
  8. Frustratingly, Benson, neither the 50/1.4 D nor the more recently released 50/1.4 AF-S are particularly well known for that creamy bokeh. The newer AF-S flavor is a little better, but not much. It's a function of the optical recipe, which hasn't really changed much.

    Alas, you need to get into much spendier Nikon's before things get bokeh-licious, that way. A couple of their f/2.8 zooms do pretty really nice job, and you'd probably love the 17-55/2.8, but even a decent used one is closer to $1k.

    In the middle of another long thread the other day (where someone else was asking about the new 35/1.8 DX), the topic of bokeh came up. I felt obligated to show an example of the differences between the wide-open bokeh rendering from a typical modestly priced Nikon prime, and that of a different lens:


    At the top, a Sigma 30/1.4 HSM (which is a DX-format lens, like the 35/1.8 you mentioned), and below is the Nikon 50/1.8. I deliberately introduced busy, reflective objects into the background so you could see the difference. Unfortunately, the 30/1.4 costs around $400. For a little more, Sigma's 50/1.4 HSM has really nice bokeh.

    Creamy, cinematic out-of-focus blur, alas, costs more. Nikon's 85/1.4 and 70-200/2.8 are quite nice that way, but spendy... and definitely longer than you're after.
  9. Of the three lenses 50m f1.8, 35mm f1.8G, and Sigma 30mm f1.4 (I've owned all three), I kept the Sigma 30mm f1.4. New it is about $400, but I bought one for $255 on E Bay. It's a better lens.
    Kent in SD
  10. it's possible to coax decent bokeh out of the 50/1.8, as long as the background objects aren't too far away
  11. but the sigma 30 is far less challenging to achieve pleasing out of focus backgrounds...
  12. I was getting pretty convinced to get the 35/1.8 until the Sigma was mentioned. It's probably a good thing I don't have the budget for that right now!
    I'm just starting with photography anyway, so I may invest on better glass in the future. For now, I think I can't go wrong with the Nikkor.
    Thanks to all who replied.
  13. Damn you, Matt Laur. I was all set to happily pay $200 for the Nikon 35mm 1.8 to replace my 35mm f2.0 which I recently sold because my new camera (d5000) can't autofocus it. Now I've gotta have the Sigma for twice the price.
    Actually, thanks for the thoughtful and enlightening posts on the subject. Bokeh quality is important to me and you've helped me see that the Sigma really is far superior in that area.
  14. Damn you, Matt Laur

    I get that a lot. :)
  15. Just for fun, here's another instance of the Sigma being used at f/1.4 in the open shade, outdoors:
  16. And you had to post that great picture with awesome lighting and bokeh? That's just great.
    Now I'd have to agree with everything Ron said.
  17. I always use long-nosed dogs for my DoF tests. Here's that Sigma wide open again, this time with a different fine Teutonic canine product, the German Shorthaired Pointer. I was specifically looking to see how those vertical fence boards would render. Me likey.
  18. I think that depth of field is a bit more important then bokeh, in video, The PORTRAIT of the dog is a great portrait, but, could you watch a video of a perfectly focused head with an out of focus body, legs, and paws. Now what happens when the dog steps back or foward, or runs gracefully through a field. Which fast lens is sharpest, when well stopped down, and with the quickest auto focus, should be the issues discussed. Whichever is better will also be the better low light photo lens. FX vs Dx?" Wouldn't the Fx lens used on in Dx be better corrected i every spec, than the Dx design?
  19. Stephen: no, you usually wouldn't be wanting sustained video segments of something with that little DoF as it's used in those two dog shots. But the point is that any fast lens will produce DoF that shallow - it's a simple function of focal length and aperture. The real issue is what that out of focus stuff looks like. So, these are meant to show the absense of the ugly stuff that is more present in some other lens designs. The differences will be less pronounced (or meaningful, anyway) as you stop down, but you'll still see them especially well when there are point sources of light in the background.

    But DoF as shallows as is seen above will look quite a bit different when you back off even a few more feet. Say you were using a 30mm lens and had the camera in the normal (for HD video) horizontal orientation, and were capturing two adults, standing and talking, with a bit of room around them in the frame. Instead of the half a foot of in-focus DoF that you see with the dogs, you'll get enough to keep the two people quite entirely in focus, while the background is nicely out. You might stop all the way down to, say, f/2. But the quality of those OoF areas is still going to really, really jump out at you - especially if you're used to seeing professionally produced video shot with spendy lenses in places like city streets, or where there's restaurant glasswear in the background, etc.
  20. That's a great shot, Matt. But in reality it's nothing that can't be accomplished by the Nikon 35/1.8.
    I think the message here is that both lenses are more than adequate for almost any use.
  21. bmm


    I think the discussion above about bokeh is interesting and great but we also have to balance with the OP's initial comments and his needs - which relate as much to what the right focal length is for a first prime (for DX) and the quality of the in-focus area.
    To focal length, as a DX shooter as well I can tell him that 30 or 35mm is FAR more useful than 50mm due to the crop factor effect putting the latter in a bit of a 'no mans land' short tele range. So my encouragement would be for him to limit his choice to 35/1.8DX, 35/2FX or 30/1.4Sigma.
    From there it becomes a matter of judgement.
    35/2 AF-D for a small size FX-proof option at around $300 (one of my favourite lenses I might add)
    35/1.8 for cheaper DX equivalent and apparently very good optically for the price
    30/1.4 for the speed and bokeh at a price penalty and also perhaps with a need to test more carefully due to front-focus tendancy
    If I was in this poster's shoes I'd go the 35/1.8 DX. Won't break the budget, will be a good first prime, and not such a big investment as to be heartbreaking to replace if even the move to FX does occur (and in any case would be a great little DX prime to sell with the D90 when that time comes).
  22. I agree with Bernard as my heart (and pocket) is wanting the 35/1.8 again and it will, most likely, be the one that I'll buy. As I've said, I think no one could go wrong with getting that Nikkor. Besides, working with a 1.4 aperture might take a bit more skill and experience to get tack sharp and correctly focused photos.
    On the other hand, there's nothing to lose if I drool over images taken with the Sigma, especially when Matt is making a hobby out of posting great pictures of his dogs to make us envy. Just kidding.
  23. I've got nothing at all against the Nikon 35/1.8 - it's just that my radar went off when the specific issue of the bokeh seems to be playing heavily on someone's mind. No question that the D90's non-AF (while making videos) would make using f/1.4 (or even f/1.8) a challenge on close-by or moving subjects. I'm sure you'll get great results either way, and not be sorry. Mostly, just get out there and shoot!

    Of course, I would be remiss without posting yet another handsome, well-executed dog portrait taken with the Sigma. This one was at f/5.6, from about 18 inches. Nikon's CLS system was triggering an off-camera SB-800 strobe, but the commanding strobe's pre-exposure metering flash was close enough to the dog to get her very fast reflexes in on the action by the time the exposure actually happened. So, be amused by - or completely ignore! - the subject, but notice instead the different-looking bokeh that we're now getting from the small point light sources in the background at this tighter aperture. By the time we're at f/5.6, the hard rings that the Nikon makes will have moderated a bit, and look more like this.
  24. I know I love my 50mm 1.4D. I wished I would have bought the G, but I am very satisfied overall. The 50mm is one lens I can safely say I will likely keep it for quite some time. I have a son that I love to take photos of and the 50mm is a perfect candid portrait lens and great in low light. The 35mm would be nice too for a more functional walk around lens depending on the type of photography you shoot. Henri Cartier-Bresson shot exclusively with a 50mm on his Leica, which is roughly equivalent to a 35mm on a DX sensor. It's hard to argue with his results.
  25. Doggie bokeh comparison? Happened to have this one handy....
  26. And crop...
  27. In-Focus area sharp as expected...
  28. Got anything closer to wide open, Glenn? (like that dog, by the way... cattle dog pup?)
  29. Well, now that I think about it, yes.
  30. And a crop...
  31. As a matter of fact, I even have a decent bokeh example from the 35mm f/2.0D....
  32. And another crop...
  33. Oh, the pup is a mix, but part cattle dog, yes - thanks for asking. My wife found him as a stray while doing some work at the Crow reservation in Montana. Personally, I'd say he won the doggie lottery.
  34. One final sample, this again from the 35mm f/1.8, shot at f/8.
  35. 35/1.8 looks fairly sharp at 1.8, but not much bokeh at f/8. cute puppy though.
  36. If you are concerned about going to FX there is the 35mm f2 AF-D with will work on your D90. Otherwise I agree with Shun about current needs first.
  37. Speaking of bokeh, have you tried the plug-in? I love it because I can get just the bokeh I want from any photo taken with any lens. Of course, it's not in camera, and the turnaround's a lot slower. So it's good to have both. What do you do, though, if you have the lens and didn't use it for the photo that needs it?
    And about the 35mm vs. 50mm argument. I personally shoot lots more portraits (including those of animals) and live entertainers and texture details than most anything else. So I find the 50 extremely useful. Before I put the money into a 35mm, I put it into a fisheye...something else I can't find any substitute for.
    In the end, it's what's really important to you that really counts.
  38. Don't forget though, Ken, that the OP mentioned the need for low light (so, faster lens is optically important - you can't make up for that after the fact without increasing noise), and mentioned: "A good, creamy bokeh is actually one of the main things I am looking for" including the fact that he wants it for the camera's video mode (again, ruling out traditional post processing).

    For those that mention after-the-shot background blurring, I should mention that it's quite challenging to do that through software without leaving an unconvincing gaussian looking blur, or masking halos around the forground subjects (or, blurred edges on the subjects, to avoid the halos - still a no-win). If you do a lot of shooting where you're after that isolation, and want the results to look non-fake, the extra dollars for a lens that simply works that way in the first place is going to be far, far less expensive than the untold hours you'll spend on the computer trying to recreate that look in shots that were captured on a slower lens with artifact-producing out of focus rendering. If your time is worth more than minimum wage, it wouldn't take more than dozen or two hours of slaving over such shots to have cost you more than the right lens in the first place. Just sayin'!
  39. As focus and sharpness are critical, you would end up fine tuning your focus manually anyway. Maybe you should consider a couple of legends:
    1. 35mm f2 AIs (the fav of press photogs before they got lazy with autofocus. Lots of award winning shots were made by this lens).
    2. 28mm f2.8 AIs (some claim to be up there with the unobtainable 24/1.4. This my fav lens and its hard to get a better combination of sharpness and usable depth of field.
    Both of these lenses are usually available on eBay or you can get a warranted one from B&H or Adorama. I use both of these on my D300, but you may not be able to get them to meter on the D90. The price range is in the $300 ball park.
  40. 1. 35mm f2 AIs (the fav of press photogs before they got lazy with autofocus. Lots of award winning shots were made by this lens).
    2. 28mm f2.8 AIs (some claim to be up there with the unobtainable 24/1.4. This my fav lens and its hard to get a better combination of sharpness and usable depth of field.​
    I'd really like to see more primes from Nikon, It would be nice to see updates to some of the older primes (AF-S&Build quality). However, I just have this feeling we won't be seeing that. Everything seems to be shifting to either Zoom or DX.

    Personally, I'd love to see a few primes that work well on my D200 and F100 (and hopefully one day D700). I really like the 50 1.4 AF-S because it works well on both the D200 and F100, I also like the silent focusing. My biggest complaint about the 50 f/1.8 was the really noisy autofocus.

    BTW, cute puppy. He's lucky he didn't get eaten by a Coyote out there. Coyote females are pretty notorious for luring in pups and male dogs so the other Coyotes can kill them.

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