An Open Letter to Nikon re: the 50mm f/1.8 Lens

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D Lens

Dear Nikon,

I think you are doing a great job with your cameras, lenses and accessories.  The entry-level series that started with the smaller form-factor Nikon D40 through the current D3000 and D5000 has been a real hit.  The D40 is a fantastic little camera that you have continued to build upon over the past several models in this line.  The D5000 is now one of the best bang-for-your-buck DSLR cameras on the market.

I understand that you needed to pull the AF motor out of these camera bodies in order to make them smaller.  I totally get that.  I will also say that you have done a good job with your lens selection since the D40 was introduced.  There are so many great AF-S lenses available now and you seem committed to continuing this trend.  To that end, kudos to you.

That said, we are all missing one crucial AF-S lens that is not in your lineup at this time – an AF-S 50mm f/1.8 lens.

See, the great thing about your current 50mm f/1.8 lens is that is makes the perfect little portrait lens on your DX-format DSLRs . . . and, of course, it’s inexpensive.

The bad thing about it?  No AF motor.

Sure, you’ve done all that you can by giving us focus-confirmation in the viewfinder to help us manually focus with non-AF-S lenses.  (Thanks for that.)  Still yet, that leaves many D40-D5000 camera owners chasing their kiddos around while trying to focus manually on an otherwise perfect companion lens for these entry-level cameras.  Additionally, we’re talking about cameras that are geared toward the consumer end of the spectrum, many of whom have never tried to manually focus a camera.

Before you point me to the AF-S 35mm f/1.8G lens, let me say that you’ve also done a great job with it, and it’s nice to have a “normal” lens for the DX format with a built-in AF motor.  However, it’s just not the same as the portraiture field of view that we get from a 50mm lens on these DX-format cameras.  There are tons of D40-D5000 owners dying to get an affordable 50mm lens for portrait use.

The Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G lens might be an option for some users; however, we’re talking about budget-friendly DSLRs that cost just a little more than 50mm f/1.4 lens, which runs around $430 street.  That’s a tough pill for consumers to swallow – especially when Canon DSLR owners have the option of the EF 50mm f/1.8 lens, which runs about $100 – a real tough pill.

I’m not the only one that feels this way either.  Within the past week, I have had two different conversations with D40 owners about the lack of an AF-S 50mm f/1.8 lens in your lineup, along with points about the stretch required and/or unwillingness to reach up to the $430 AF-S 50mm f/1.4G lens.  Additionally, let me point you to some discussions about this lens deficiency around the web:

  1. Flickr Group Discussion
  2. Forum Discussion
  3. Nikonians Forum Discussion
  4. Amazon Customer Discussion Board
  5. Amazon Customer Discussion Board #2
  6. Photo Malaysia Forum Discussion
  7. Digital Camera HQ Discussion“I purchased the Nikkor AF 50mm F/1.8D Lens – I cant get auto focus to work”
  8. Yahoo Answers Discussion
  9. Yahoo Answers Discussion #2
  10. The Photo Forum Discussion

This is only a small sampling of some of the discussions concerning the lack of an affordable Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8 around the web.  I encourage you to do some searching on this topic and you will find many more similar discussions.

In summary, an affordable 50mm lens with built-in AF is a high-demand lens for Nikon D40-D5000 users for a number of reasons.

  1. The existing 50mm f/1.8 lens does not autofocus with these entry-level cameras.
  2. The AF-S 50mm f/1.4 lens is far too expensive for many entry-level DSLR owners to realistically consider.
  3. The AF-S 35mm f/1.8G lens, while filling a gap for a “normal” field of view, is lacking as a “portraiture” replacement for the 50mm f/1.8 lens.
  4. Your primary competitor, Canon, offers an excellent bargain on its EF 50mm f/1.8 lens at around $100.

As a result, on behalf of many eager Nikon D40-D5000 owners, I urge you deliver such a lens for the large and continually-growing user base.

Best regards,

Eric Reagan



  1. John Lam says

    The 50mm f/1.8 is a good lens and I prefer Nikon to keep this lens as it is.

    One of the import feature that its got is a Aperture Ring.
    Which will allow user to control the Aperture when taken Marco Photo with reversing ring

  2. Jerome Taylor says

    A 50mm f/1.8 AF-S would be a great addition for Nikon. I use the AF-D on my D90 which does have the focusing motor built in. The 1.8D is a refreshing change from the cumbersome, slow zooms. It should be noted that it focuses very quickly on bodies that have the built-in motor. It it is also quite sharp (4.4 on Photodo). Any replacement should retain this sharpness. DSLR shooters with any degree of aspiration or pretension should have some faster primes in their kit. The 75mm equivalent is a very useful lens. Bob Johnston called this length “essential”. Considering what he called most other focal lengths this is high praise. ( You are right, Nikon needs to finish the job with an AF-S version.

  3. Tob says

    Sure, it would be nice, but I believe that there are lenses in the line up, which would make even more sense.
    While a 50mm f/1.8 does have a decent portrait character, but it only marginally separates the object better from the background than, let’s say 135mm at f/5.6, if you take the same picture. Sure you will stand quite a bit further away with the longer lens, but we’re not talking about pros under tremendous time pressure.

    A lens that I’m missing ever since the DX format hit the street is a wide angle prime. Nikons only dedicated wide angle lens for DX has a quite steep price tag, from a D40-5000 point of view.
    So, a 12mm f/3.5 or even 5.6 would be my request for Nikons DX format.

  4. Sky says

    “I understand that you needed to pull the AF motor out of these camera bodies in order to make them smaller. ”
    Errm… WHAT? I mean… take a look at competitors: Sony, Olympus, Pentax, everyone have SMALL bodies WITH autofocus motor, so… how’s that possible that Nikon cannot? They’re using two-stroke engine for AF? Seriously… I think it’s only to pull money from the clients – so that they couldn’t buy used lenses and would have to go to the shop and buy brand new Nikon lens with AF motor inside.


  5. bov says

    thank you eric. this has been my thoughts exactly since i bought a D5000 and found out i could only use AF-S lenses. i like the camera but if i had known beforehand that the 50mm AF-S cost so much i may have gone down the canon route instead.

  6. Greg P says

    I found that 50mm on a DX camera is a bit too short for a portrait lens; simply because you would have some features distorted; the best one seems to be 70mm on DX. In fact, after going digital I found 50mm is not very much used at all. Besides that, I do not think you would see much difference between an inexpensive kit lens (which is AFS) and a fix lens in a portrait session – you would miss f/2-4 shallow depth of field, but it is easily fixable in post; the sharpness of a kit lens is good enough too.

    I think this is the reason why Nikon decided not to proceed with the AFS version in the first place. They would do it with 1.4 because it is not expensive for FX owners and is fast enough for pro use they might have.