Nikkor 35mm 1.8G & 50mm 1.8G vs. 18-55 3.5-5.6 LENS COMPARISONS

Heitz

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I'd been meaning to do this for quite some time, finally got around to it. I have the Nikkor 35 and 50mm 1.8G lens, and wanted to compare their sharpness and aberrations (e.g., chromatic, barrel), holding subject constant, versus the 18-55 kit lens. I chose for my subject some old books from undergrad I have in a bookshelf. I chose them because they had various colors and a variety of small print I thought would be good for sharpness tests. I hope that you all find this informative and interesting.

For all pictures, lighting remained constant, ISO was at 100, shot in RAW with no post-processing. No flash. D5100. Pictures were taken on a tripod with remote shutter release. Shot in Aperture priority mode with me varying aperture; camera chose shutter speed.


Here is a screenshot of the FULL image so you can get a sense of how much I was zooming in. Note that for these tests, I am zooming in to max in the middle(ish) of the image, so these can not speak to changes near the borders of the image. Actually, I screwed up the zoom (in Lightroom, that is) on a couple shots, but hopefully this will not terribly detract from the tests.

6709012431_3bb6edd8f9_b.jpg



SET A: 35mm 1.8G vs. kit lens


1) f/5.6. The 35mm begins to reach its sharpest at f5.6, which is near lower-bound for the kit lens. The 35 is the clear winner here.
6708919571_e42fbda3c8_b.jpg



2) The 35mm is pretty amazing. Here it is wide open at f/1.8 versus f/5.6 on the kit lens
6708919653_e678c8e4f1_b.jpg



3) At f/16, the kit lens seems to perform marginally better in sharpness but the 35mm is noticeably brighter
6708919301_e8c8abc3e9_b.jpg



4) And again at f/22, the smallest aperture both lenses had in common. Kit lens seems better here.
6708919477_8eafae64d6_b.jpg





SET B: 50mm 1.8G versus kit lens

1) f/5.6. Like the 35mm, the 50mm 1.8G begins to reach peak sharpness at f5.6, and unsurprisingly, it is a CHAMP
6708919927_9408cc7e88_b.jpg



2) 50mm wide open at 1.8 versus kit lens at f/5.6. This surprised me because the 50mm (my absolute favorite lens) was much poorer wide open than the 35mm, but keep in mind that the change in the image per se is quite different between 35 and 50.
6708919809_f96390144c_b.jpg







3) at f/16, the kit lens appeared sharper, but the 50mm still benefited from a brighter image and better color reproduction
6708920211_a61ccaa8b1_b.jpg


These tests demonstrate pretty much what we already knew: that primes outperform zoom lenses (well, the kit lens anyway), but under certain conditions the kit lens is a good choice, particularly for smaller apertures (f/16 and beyond).
 

KmH

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Good job and a very useful post. Thanks for making the effort.

Now compare the 35 mm f/1.8 to the 50 mm f/1.8, and discover why I didn't own the 35 mm f/1.8 for very long.
 

reissigree

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why didn't you. I recently purchased the 35mm and love it. I couldnt get the 50mm because my D3100 doesnt have a motor.
 

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Thanks for posting.
I love that little 35 1.8. I even use it on my full frames.
I only use it wide open and it is very sharp. It is sharper than my 50 1.8 at 1.8.
 
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Heitz

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Well, a comparison between 35mm and 50mm wouldn't be fair without some tinkering. Since the 50mm is seeing 'zoomed in' relative to the 35, its going to occupy more real estate on the sensor, so it will appear sharper. I could move the 35mm that much closer to equate, but just didn't care to. @KMH, I agree the 35 has lots of problems, particularly CA, but for the price I'm not complaining. I was going to complain, but then I did these tests and I'm satisfied until I find a few thousand dollars around.
 
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@Reissigree, the 50mm 1.8G has its own motor. I'm shooting with a D5100, which does not have an internal (if only I could go back in time and get the 7k...)
 

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I sold my 35 1.8 because of the mad CA. Yeah most of it can be removed in post, but I took so many night shots I couldn't bear it.
 

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Nice comparison, thanks for positing. Just curious, but why didn't you keep the same shutter speed between the two shots (other than the wide open comparison with different apertures)? Not really an apples to apples comparison as most of the images with the zoom are at a faster shutter speed and more under-exposed. The wide open 50mm results are interesting though probably not noticeable unless you are pixel peeping... it be interesting to see how the 1.8 non-G compares to the 1.8g.
 

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I've been happy with my 35mm, CA hasn't been much of a problem for what I use it for, mainly casual indoor photography. For anything setup I prefer the focal range of the 50mm.
 
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Heitz

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@ulrichsd, I shot in Aperture priority mode, so the camera adjusted shutter speed to maintain a constant exposure. If you mean, why didn't I control for shutter speed between the two lenses at a comparable f-stop, you have to keep in mind that the prime lenses are going to let in more light than the kit lens even at equivalent aperture and shutter speed settings. imagine the world's biggest telescope at f/16 versus the worlds smallest lens at f/16. yea, both are at the same ratio given focal length, but the telescope will still let in more light. According to the camera (shooting in Aperture priority mode), both were exposed 'properly'
 

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@ulrichsd, I shot in Aperture priority mode, so the camera adjusted shutter speed to maintain a constant exposure. If you mean, why didn't I control for shutter speed between the two lenses at a comparable f-stop, you have to keep in mind that the prime lenses are going to let in more light than the kit lens even at equivalent aperture and shutter speed settings. imagine the world's biggest telescope at f/16 versus the worlds smallest lens at f/16. yea, both are at the same ratio given focal length, but the telescope will still let in more light. According to the camera (shooting in Aperture priority mode), both were exposed 'properly'

Sorry, but that's not correct. The aperture determines how much light passes through the lens, and the same aperture, at the same focal length, is the same for all lenses, regardless of how big the front element is (discounting any loss of light through a difference in the number of internal lenses or filters). A giant telescope probably has a greater focal length than a 35mm lens, but f/22 for a 35mm prime is the same as f/22 for a slower zoom lens. The difference between an expensive fast lens is that it can go to f/2.8 where a slower, smaller lens can only go a maximum aperture of, say, f/4-5.6 or so. At f/8 both lenses would have the same aperture and allow in the same amount of light to the sensor, regardless of the size of the front element. Not saying the bigger lens will be more or less sharp, but that is a different issue. You can see by your photos, for instance the first one, that even a difference between 0.4 sec vs 1/3 sec ( or 0.333 sec) both at at f/5.6, that the faster shutter speed of 0.333 sec is darker/underexposed compared to 0.4 sec.

The reason that the camera selected 0.4 sec vs 1/3 sec is just because the camera has a little variation when measuring light and did its best to expose for the situation. As you can see the camera didn't expose them the same in any of the photos.
 

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ulrichsd said:
Sorry, but that's not correct. The aperture determines how much light passes through the lens, and the same aperture, at the same focal length, is the same for all lenses, regardless of how big the front element is (discounting any loss of light through a difference in the number of internal lenses or filters). A giant telescope probably has a greater focal length than a 35mm lens, but f/22 for a 35mm prime is the same as f/22 for a slower zoom lens. The difference between an expensive fast lens is that it can go to f/2.8 where a slower, smaller lens can only go a maximum aperture of, say, f/4-5.6 or so. At f/8 both lenses would have the same aperture and allow in the same amount of light to the sensor, regardless of the size of the front element. Not saying the bigger lens will be more or less sharp, but that is a different issue. You can see by your photos, for instance the first one, that even a difference between 0.4 sec vs 1/3 sec ( or 0.333 sec) both at at f/5.6, that the faster shutter speed of 0.333 sec is darker/underexposed compared to 0.4 sec.

The reason that the camera selected 0.4 sec vs 1/3 sec is just because the camera has a little variation when measuring light and did its best to expose for the situation. As you can see the camera didn't expose them the same in any of the photos.

Yeah, I agree with u.

Thanks anyways for the comparison.

Sent from my iPad using PhotoForum
 
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Heitz

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Yea, I realized the error in my logic as soon as I posted that response. Thanks for calling me out on it. But shouldn't it still be the case that in Aperture mode, the camera adjust shutter speed to equate the exposure between the lenses? the lighting was identical between them; I can't see why this should be the case.
 

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It would be nice if the camera was perfectly precise, but when you half click that button two times in a row, sometimes you will get slightly different settings. The camera doesn't know that the light didn't change, its just trying to get a good exposure. For whatever reason, the camera seems to favor a slightly faster shutter speed with the zoom compared to the primes. Who knows, maybe its trying to adjust for the sharpness or color detail...
 

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