Well, this group hasn't been very active, so I though that I'd post a review of the Nikon 50mm lens that I use. While I'm not exactly "qualified" to do a review, but I think I've used the lens enough to form an objective opinion, with my own first hand research. Anyway, here it goes...
At $180AUD (~$120USD) the Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D is a bargain, yet it is also one of Nikon's best lenses, combining a great price with great performance. It feels solidly constructed and it doesn't weigh very much at 155 g, so it using it all day is a breeze. The lens might be a little too small for my liking, it's a little tricky to get a stable grip on it without touching the focus ring (more on that later).
Its wide f/1.8 aperture produces very nice bokeh and shallow depth of field, this is what makes it great for indoor, low-light photography and portraits. This lens is a prime lens, which means it has a fixed focal length of 50mm, "No zoom?!" you say, well, as long as you have room to move, it's not a problem, plus I think I take better photos with this lens. Sure, zoom lenses may have more versatility in terms of focal length, but, for photography purists, prime lenses will be your weapon of choice.
This lens is also very sharp at every aperture setting, reaching it's sharpest point at aperture f/5.6. Distortion is basically non-existent on this lens, you'll probably never notice it, unless you specifically enlarge a photo and look for it with a magnifying glass.
Auto-focus is extremely fast and accurate under normal lighting conditions, but can slow down and "hunt" under very low light (say a club), unless you use your camera's AF assist lamp. Auto-focus is slightly nosier than AF-S lenses and is achieved through the camera body's AF motor, so this lens won't AF on any of the entry level consumer cameras: D40/D60/D60/D3000/D5000. The focus ring is nice and smooth to use, although manually focusing on something moving at f/1.8 is very difficult. Furthermore, the focus ring on the camera rotates while the lens is auto-focusing, so you'll have to keep your hands off of it. It focuses down to 45 cm which is quite impressive, but ultimately not that useful.
This lens will work on both FX (full frame) and DX (APS-C) format DSLRs, as well as 35mm film SLRs, courtesy of its aperture ring. Basically, it will work on any Nikon F-Mount camera. On a DX format body, the equivalent focal length is 1.5x at 75mm, which can be a little tight for general photography, but is fine if you have room to take a step or two back. This lens won't do macro shots, but for under $200AUD, I'm not complaining.
In short, if you shoot with a Nikon camera and want a cheap, fast lens, this is the way to go. It's an excellent lens to shoot with. I'd pass on the 50mm f/1.4D, unless you shoot in very, very low light, or have an extra $150 you need to get rid of. Although, the 50mm f/1.4G has the benefit of having AF-S which means that the focus ring doesn't move during auto-focus.
- Fast aperture and auto-focus
- Virtually distortion free
- Focus ring moves while auto-focusing
- A little tight for general use on a DX camera
- Focal length: 50mm
- Maximum aperture: f/1.8
- Minimum aperture: f/22
- Lens construction: 6 elements in 5 groups (Double Gauss)
- Field of view: 46° (31°30' DX format)
- Minimum focus distance: 45 cm
- Maximum reproduction ratio: 1:6.6
- Diaphragm blades: 7
- Filter size: 52mm
- Diameter x length: 63.5 x 39mm
- Weight: 155g
P.S. I've also used Canon's 50mm f/1.8 EF II lens on a friend's camera, and I have to say that the performance is pretty similar.