Nikkor AF 50mm vs AF-S 50mm

Finally, Nikon came to their senses and released an AF-S 50mm f1.8 prime lens. Why is this important? Well, for starters: it is an AF-S lens so for anybody that has an ‘entry level’ camera such as the D3000, D3100, D5000, D5100, D40, etc. then auto focus will finally be your friend on this one. The 50mm f1.8 prime lens is a very popular lens, especially for portraits. It is also one of their more inexpensive lenses which helped it become on of the ‘cool kids’ on the block.

Now the comparison of the two lenses: AF 50mm f1.8 vs the AF-S 50mm f1.8. Let the battle begin (insert loud stadium announcing voice with crowd cheers here)

Below you will see several test shots of each lens shot at different f-stops.

AF-S 50mm f1.8
AF 50mm f1.8

You will notice the color hue casted over the images, especially the AF-S 50mm. No Photoshopping was done to the image but as you can see, the AF-S 50mm has more of a pinkish color cast on the image. My white balance was set on Auto and the two images were taken within 60 seconds of each other so there was no light change. The clarity on both lenses are supurb on all f stops. With the wide aperture of 1.8 both lenses will perform exceptionally well in low light situations and creates a beautiful ‘bokah’ effect. For the ones that do not know what bokah is, it is an effect where light sources appear as large soft balls of light in the backgrounds of your images. It can only be achieved by using a very wide aperture.

Below are two more examples of the two lenses shot at different f stops.

AF-S 50mm f9
AF 50mm f9
AF-S 50mm f16
AF 50mm f22

One big difference I found between the two lenses is the minimum aperture. On the AF 50mm version it will only go from f1.8 to f22. On the AF-S version it can only go from f1.8 to f16. So, the AF 50mm has a hand up since it allows you to have a greater depth of field. I have found myself using a higher f stop numbers lately and in this case I would go with the AF since it allows me to have that extra depth of field but shooting at f1.8 on both lenses is why you are buying this lens. It is what it was designed for.


Both lenses are very small, compact and light and are some of the smallest in Nikon’s lineup. The AF 50mm is slightly smaller than that AF-S 50mm but not by much. But overall, the size and weight should not be an issue on either lens.

A nice feature and a ‘common’ feature on Nikon lenses nowadays is the switch on the side that allows you to change from Autofocus to Manual which is on the body of the AF-S 50mm. So you do not have to switch to Manual focus through the camera like you have to on the AF 50mm since that lens does not have that convenient switch. Also, do you like Nikon’s SWM (Silent Wave Motor)? If you do then go with the AF-S 50mm because it’s got it. It will be silent as a whisper when autofocusing and not sound as what I like to call ‘a remote control car’ in the old AF 50mm.


Overall, you can not go wrong with either lens. Both performed the exact same, no less than Nikon’s high standards. But they do have advantages over the other. The AF-S 50mm will allow autofocus to work on basically all of Nikon’s digital cameras, even the entry levels. The AF 50mm however will only autofocus on Nikon models D90, D7000 and up. The AF 50mm also has that broader depth of field to play with. The AF-S 50mm has the convenient A/M switch. So you may take your pick. So who won the battle? (Drumroll please!) I am going to say it is a tie. The timer ran out and they both were unable to knock the other out.

Spartan Photo Center has both lenses in stock so you can come in and test both of them out yourself.





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