Lunch atop a (Springfield) skyscraper

Lunch atop a (Springfield) skyscraper
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I am planning to buy a Nikon Normal AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Autofocus Lens.

It doesn't autofocus on the D5000 but for the price, I think it's a good choice of lens for portrait.

What do you think? Will I regret the fact that it doesn't have AutoFocus, neither VR?

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Just to let everybody know that this len is the best of all my len! Of course I can't shoot fast because of the focusing but the result is very awesome! – Daok Nov 2 '10 at 18:37
    
I was just playing around with freelensing using my Nikon D5000 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-D. I don't think you'll regret getting this. I love the retro look of the photos I've taken with this lens on this camera. – Frank Hale Feb 23 '11 at 3:27
1  
I used the term "retro" in the context of freelensing. The images I've shot using freelensing techniques have an almost retro photo quality. I am not saying the lens is retro. eg. They don't look like images taken with the lens attached to the camera. – Frank Hale Mar 13 '12 at 0:40
    
+1. Thanks for explaining freelensing, I wasn't aware of the term. – James Youngman Mar 14 '12 at 0:09
up vote 8 down vote accepted

VR: I don't think VR matters at all for portraits, where you can control the lighting to make sure you have a suitably fast shutter speed (1/125 or 1/250) to avoid blur due to camera shake.

AF: This depends on how good you are at focusing manually. For portraits with shallow depth of field (wide aperture), it's critical to make sure that one or both of the eyes is in perfect focus. If you can do this manually, then by all means, go for the manual focus lens.

Before buying, you can try manually focusing on one of the lenses you already have, and then check your focus by looking at the full-size image on your computer. I often find that I've missed by a bit when focusing manually, but some people are quite good.

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Manual Focusing with the 50mm f/1.8 is extremely hard and the depth of field is very shallow when the lens is wide open. The viewfinder on the D5000 is small and the live view doesn't provide enough detail to focus. Often, you will think your focus is correct, but will find that it's slightly out of focus when you get back to the computer.

So, I would not recommend. You could look at the Nikon f/1.4 AF-S version (not the AF), which has a motor, or maybe the Sigma 50mm f/1.4, but they are all more expensive.

Update : There is now a Nikon f/1.8 AF-S which will autofocus. It is a must buy.

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Your suggestion are for 1.4 and they are automatically more expensive because of the lower F. Thank you for your input, I appreciate an other point of view. – Daok Aug 18 '10 at 16:00
    
I also have the 50 f/1.4 AF-S and it works beautifully but then again it's over $300 more than the 50 f/1.8. – Frank Hale Feb 22 '11 at 20:06

Manual focus sounds plausible for portraits, especially if you're on a tripod. If you shoot with a shallow depth of field, obviously focus becomes much more important.

If you shoot tethered, you can check your focus.

If you are motivated you can work on your manual focus technique.

I think your only regret would be in not researching this question until you know very clearly what the tradeoffs are. If you know what the limitations are, and you're willing to live with it, no regrets.

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I have the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-D and I've used it on my D5000 on a number of occasions. The focusing is a bit tricky and I've taken several dozen out of focus shots but then on the other hand I've taken several photos that I really liked. I basically treat the manual focus as a challenge rather than a limitation.

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I started photo school with a Nikon F2s, way back in 1987. I used 3 prime lenses: 24mm f2.8, 50mm f2, and 105mm f2.5. The viewfinder on the F2s is large, bright, and 100% full frame. My prime lenses were all early scalloped non-AI dating between 1959 and 1968. The focus element was very smooth on all the lenses and could easily adjust in a very fine-grain manner. With a max F-stop of f2, f2.5, f2.8 a lot of light came into the camera making manual focusing easy and clear.

I still use those lenses on my Nikon Digital Pro cameras. However the viewfinder is smaller and darker, making fine-grain focus harder to see. Yet, these pro cameras have a range finder focus feature on the bottom left that shows if the focus is correct. It shows < 0 > when the circle is lit, then the image is usually in focus.

I have a Fuji S3 pro. The viewfinder is much smaller and darker. It's hard to see what is in focus. Furthermore, I use the Nikkor 18-55mm on the Fuji. In manual mode the focus element is very light and fast which completely ruins the possibility of fine-grain focusing. And also because the maximum aperture is 3.5, less light gets in to see when I'm in proper focus. The Fuji has a dot without the arrows. But I can't visually confirm if the focus is correct.

With the Fuji and the 18-55, when I'm using manual focus, I frequently have to "refocus" the image on my computer.

Recently I bought a Nikkor 300mm F4.5 first generation lens. It's a lot of fun! I shoot it with the faster shutter action on the D2hs. It's great for shooting birds and dragonfly's! Long distance doesn't focus very well but the image compression is always fun. With the DX sensor, F4.5 - F5 is always the sharpest photo.

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