I am due to purchase a new SLR camera (Nikon n90s or Nikon f100). What I am trying to figure is the choice of the lens. I decided to purchase an auto-focus lens (that is for sure). A friend is selling two lenses: a Nikkon 50mm f/1.8D and a Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8 AF ZOOM-NIKKOR.

The only thing I know is that zoom lenses in most cases are worse than a simple lens. Is the 50mm f/1.8D a better choice than zoom lens in terms of image quality? I am interesting to know about color differences image sharpness and depth of the field blurring effect.

  • Is this question meant to be general or to specifically compare these two items? (Relevant meta discussion, BTW.)
    – mattdm
    Nov 18 '14 at 22:26
  • Can you better describe what you mean by "image quality"? That's a really vague term with a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people. Please also describe image quality for what purpose and in what conditions. The 50mm clearly has better image quality at f/1.8, and the zoom better image quality at 35mm (at least if you believe Descartes on on ontology).
    – mattdm
    Nov 18 '14 at 22:31
  • Generally I love 50mm (I photograph with one 50mm), however I am qurious about 35mm and 70mm. What am I trying to find is the diferences in sharpness, color and dof of both lenses.
    – Jose Ramon
    Nov 18 '14 at 22:45
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    By "dof", do you mean measurable depth of field (which is something you can calculate) or do you mean the appearance of blur due to shallow depth of field? (That is, the subjective bokeh?)
    – mattdm
    Nov 18 '14 at 23:15
  • I mean the second case.
    – Jose Ramon
    Nov 18 '14 at 23:23

While the 50mm lens will indeed have better image quality, the zoom lens is supposedly pretty good as well, and you're unlikely to see an immediately noticeable difference in most cases.

The difference in aperture is also not huge - 2.8 is really good for a zoom.

I'd say that for most people, the ability to zoom will be more valuable than the relatively small differences in image quality and aperture. Maybe you could borrow the lenses from your friend to see which you like better?

And if in doubt, why not get both? 50mm primes are really cheap.


As far as I know, you will get better image quality with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D.

Camera bodies can make a difference, but lenses are important since you're getting more light and better speed with the 50mm, that is going to be a difference you'll notice.

A mid-range zoom like 35-70mm is good to have but that is something you can make a decision on once you're more familiar with how you shoot with your camera.

  • 2
    Both f100 and n90s are SLR not DSLR, what difference could be as far as the body is concerned?
    – Jose Ramon
    Nov 18 '14 at 20:13
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    Both are film cameras from 8-10 years ago. They are the functional equivalent of a full-frame DSLR in terms of image size. In either case, I believe the 50mm f/1.8D will produce a superior result. Please see: photozone.de/nikon_ff/623-nikkorafd5018ff?start=2 "The Nikkor is indeed a typical fast normal prime: small and light-weight, affordable and, yes, bitingly sharp..."
    – chili555
    Nov 18 '14 at 21:28
  • @FereRes I don't know much about film bodies, but I do know that n90s has slower auto focusing than f100. What other differences might they have? Nov 18 '14 at 21:52
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    The differences is in autofocus speed and in metering precise. When it comes to image quality I think than only lens and film count.
    – Jose Ramon
    Nov 18 '14 at 21:54
  • I don't know... with my 50mm prime, I do a lot of walking around. The zoom is super convenient for composing shots on the fly. The prime requires composition work, mostly locating the camera properly - however it does have noticeably better image quality. You're just going to miss some opportunities with it because you'll be in the wrong place. I find myself too close to the action quite often with the 50mm prime and I have to jog back or miss the shot.
    – Jasmine
    Nov 19 '14 at 19:55

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