Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I'm looking to get a prime lens to go with the Nikon D-90 body. I'm looking at 50mm or 35mm and f/1.8 or f/1.4 and AF or AF-S. It appears that VR (Vibration Reduction) is not an option for any of these.

Should I care about AF (Auto Focus) vs. AF-S (Auto Focus silent)? It appears that focus for AF-S is inside lens instead of rotation of outside manual focus ring. Is that a big plus?

Is getting the extra aperture of 1.4 worth spending more on a lens?

For a first lens, does a 50mm or 35mm make more sense?

I notice that the G (Gelded) means that the lens can only be used with newer cameras, should I care and avoid G, does it impact resale value? It appears that the aperture ring is not on lens for G, is this a drawback I should care about?

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The letter G on Nikkor lenses means fully electronic aperture — no aperture ring. I'm quite sure that Nikon doesn't really mean for the G to stand for "gelded". I think that's a Ken Rockwell joke. –  mattdm Dec 5 '10 at 13:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Short answer is that all the 35mm and 50mm prime lenses are good ones.

The difference between AF and AF-S, is that the AF-S has a built in silent wave motor (SWM), whereas the AF lenses require a motor in the camera body to drive the auto-focus. The D90 has a built-in AF motor, so either AF or AF-S is fine. AF-S might focus faster.

Inside focus is nice if you are using a circular polarizing filter (CPOL) because focusing won't change the orientation of the filter after you have set it.

Spending more for the F1.4 versions is really up to you, and how you plan to shoot. If you are shooting in low light, and/or you want more depth of field, it might make sense to get the F1.4, but I think F1.8 is pretty good (especially for the money).

The D90 is a DX (cropped sensor) camera, so the effective focal length multiplier is 1.5x (meaning the 50mm lens is like a 75mm lens on an FX camera like the D3, and the 35mm lens would be like a 51mm lens). Many people call 50mm a "normal" focal length, so on the D90, that leans toward the 35mm with its 51mm effective focal length.

I bought the 50mm F1.8 for my D90. It was really great, but I found that it wasn't as wide as I would like for what I bought it for. I was taking Tae Kwon Do shots at my son's club, and I found that the club was small enough that I couldn't get far enough away to get them in the frame for some shots. The 35mm would work better for me.

I wouldn't worry about the G (lack of aperature ring) unless you plan to be using older cameras.

Best of luck with your decision, and enjoy your D90!

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I have both the 50mm 1.4 and the 35mm 1.8 - I have just upgraded my D90 to a D700 and both of these lenses have always travelled with me

Here is an a few examples of the 35mm on my D90 alt text

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and a few of my 50mm - to give you a different selection alt text

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Beautiful pics! –  Jarrod Dixon Dec 20 '10 at 8:53

I've had a D90 for over a year now and I have the 50mm 1.8 and the 35mm 1.8 DX lenses. I've got to say that for me the 50mm is almost always my go to lens. I mostly shoot portraits though and find the extra mm help to separate the subject and the background. I bought the 35mm to have a a little more FoV when I shot at parties and stuff in low light - it's good for that, but I really don't use it as much as the 50mm. I think for the money, the 50mm 1.8 is about as good as it gets (you need to spend a lot more to get something close). The 2/3rds of a stop that you get with the 1.4 might be useful some times and if you've got the extra $$ then go for it, but the 1.8f is a must have (unless you have a 24-70 or something) for the budget minded.

I can't speak to the AF vs. AF-s differences or D vs. G tho....

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