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Recently, Nikon announced their new 50mm f/1.8G lens, as revamp of the old 50mm f/1.8D. Here's how Gizmodo describes the difference:

The main difference between this new "nifty fifty" and the almost decade-old ƒ1.8D is that it has an autofocus motor inside. This means you can use it with any current or recent Nikon SLR. The older lens lacks this motor and is instead driven by one in the camera, which cheaper bodies don't have.

I currently use a Nikon D80 (and I don't plan on changing that any time soon), and I've been considering getting such a lens. Is there any difference between the D and the G lenses when used on a D80? I believe that the D one works just as well, since D80's have internal autofocus motors - is that right?

Besides the autofocus motor aspect, is there any other big difference between them? Since the D is priced at around $120 and the G at $220, should I just get the D?

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2  
Just as a side note, I have myself a D80 too and bought a 50mm 1.8. I wish I had taken time to consider a wider angle (35mm for example), because 50mm on a DSLR is not very practical. It's not really easy to shoot inside. –  Matthieu Napoli Apr 29 '11 at 21:31
    
You asked your question too early ;) No one has seen a 50mm 1.8G yet since it has not shipped. Nikon claims an improved optical design too, so it could be a higher quality lens. –  Itai Apr 29 '11 at 21:39
    
@Matthieu That might be because of the crop factor. Your 50mm acts as 75mm on your D80. (I'm still looking for a nice ~60mm for portrait shots for my D90.) –  Leonidas Apr 30 '11 at 12:44
    
@Itai Yeah this question is borderline off-topic, since this product has only been announced, not released. I'd say let it stay; I'll try to remember to revisit my answer once the lens is actually released to the public and/or good review sites. –  Evan Krall May 3 '11 at 1:54
    
@Matthieu You said: It's not really easy to shoot inside. What did you mean here? –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 24 '11 at 8:28

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Well, the 50 f/1.8G hasn't really been released to 3rd parties yet, so it's difficult to say if any of these things are true for sure, but here's a few ways the AF-S version might be better than the AF-D version:

  • Autofocus is quieter. This is fairly certain, as the AF-D version made some pretty audible focus noise, but AF-S lenses are all fairly quiet.
  • Autofocus is generally faster with AF-S, though the similar 35mm f/1.8 DX AF-S isn't known for lightning-fast autofocus.
  • Better image quality, maybe. Again, it's difficult to say at this point, because 3rd party sites like DxOMark and DPReview haven't gotten copies of the new lens yet. Certainly, Nikon is trying to improve image quality, which is why the new version has an aspherical element. The coatings are probably better, as well.
  • Autofocus override. You can adjust the focus after autofocus happens simply by turning the focus ring.

Some other differences:

  • Different filter size. The AF-S version has 58mm filter threads, compared to 52mm for the older AF-D version.
  • Newer lens comes with a bayonet hood and a lens pouch.
  • The older, AF-D can go up to f/22, but the newer lens can only go to f/16.
  • The AF-S lens is an ounce heavier.
  • You can get the older lens today, but you'll have to wait for the AF-S.
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All good answers so far... a few other features include the M/A switch on the lens that can be used for quick switching between manual and auto-focus. Also, I think the aperture blades will be 'rounded' instead of straight on the 'D' version which might improve bokeh (maybe not noticeable :-)). I haven't been able to determine if this lens will have any "nano-coatings" or not.

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As noted in Evan Krall's answer, the substantive differences between the older 50mm f/1.8 D AF and the new 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S are:

  • newer optical formula in the G, with the inclusion of an aspheric element. The 50/1.8 has been around forever (well since the middle of the 70s) but it's generally been regarded as good all those years, so we'll have to wait for the 3rd-party reviews to see if it makes a difference. The MTF charts published by Nikon indicate better performance, and it's possible the out of focus rendering ("bokeh") will be better too. This is an aspect that's been criticized earlier.
  • AF-S obviates the need of a focus motor in the body, as well as providing instant manual focus override. Focusing speed may or may not be affected, the recently released 50mm f/1.4 G AF-S was reported to be on par or even slower than its AF predecessor.
  • Larger filter size, 58mm vs 52mm.

Now to as to why buy a new G lens vs the older D lens.

  • Future-proofing: with nearly all Nikon's current lenses being AF-S (the big holes in the lineup are the 105mm and 134mm DC portrait lenses) it may well be that Nikon will phase out the in-body focus motor in most coming bodies. I predict it will be a legacy feature reserved for the higher end models. You say you're happy with your D80, but there's a slight risk that when you want to upgrade to a similar model it won't have a focus motor. Another factor is that the prospective pool of second-hand buyers is larger, considering that most Nikon DSLR owners are using DX bodies without the in-body focus motor.
  • Price: $100 is not much in the photo gear world ;) I've paid half that for a replacement eyepiece ring on an older body. On the other hand, the new lens will probably drive down the price of the D lens on the used market, so you might get a better deal there.
  • Filter size: not a big concern unless you have an extensive investment in 52mm filters.

Personally, I'd get a G version, as I think the performance will be better and the AF-S features are pretty useful.

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Yes the "D" will work with the D80. Here is a good review about it : http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/5018daf.htm.

I have a D80 and the 50mm 1.8 D, here's a little feedback about it :

  • the focus ring turns when you focus. You can't touch it without disabling autofocus first (as it would be on a G lense), because you could break it. I find this slightly annoying, especially for a wide lens where you need to control your focus.
  • the autofocus is not very fast, and has some trouble focusing on low light (not as worse a the same canon lens that a friend has though).

I hope that the "G" version, with a different autofocus, will correct this. I have another lens that is "G" and the focus ring don't turn when you focus (it's more silent and faster too). This is a plus when you have a polarizing filter, because with the "D" lens the filter turns everytime you focus, so using a polarizing filter with that is hell.

Except that, the 1.8 is a cheap lens, I find it very good for trying something different (fixed focal length brings challenges, you can have great bokehs...) and for portraits.

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