47 comments on “Lens Review–Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Series-E

  1. Matthew, great site and great reviews. I recently switched from a Canon DSLR to a NEX-7 and am still getting used to it. I use the Sigma 30mm 2.8 as my walkabout lens and I have the LA-EA2 PDAF adapter and Sony 35mm 1.8 that I use for taking indoor “action” shots of my toddler. I found he is too quick for the contrast AF of the NEX-7. I would like to start using some of these older Nikon MF lenses and based on your review think I will start with the 50mm 1.8 E. Can you reccomend a reputable place to purchase these lenses online?

    • Hey there Michael, glad you found my site and are finding it helpful. Always good to hear from another DSLR “convert”, as well as your smart moves with the Sigma and Sony 35mm f/1.8 (both are stellar lenses). Keep in mind that the Sigma is SUPER sharp, lensrentals.com actually confirmed that it is the sharpest lens available in e-mount at the moment. This means that pixel-level results with pretty much any other lens (unless they are crazy expensive ED Nikkors), results may not be what you are expecting.

      This would be the case with the 50mm f/1.8, hopefully though you may be interested in this lens just for its feel and shootability, as I describe in the review. For that, it is a lens I’m keeping.

      As far as a reputable place online, you can be safe on eBay. I know, I know. It can be unnerving to give your money to someone (even via PayPal) you don’t know, nor will ever see. However, eBay’s buyer protection is excellent, and has you covered. However, to assure that you don’t run into a scammer, try to only buy from sellers that have a high feedback percentage (99.8% or above), ship from your country (watch out for out of country sellers and the import fees), and don’t throw around too many loaded words in their descriptions (don’t buy from someone who types in all caps, uses mint condition too much, etc etc.).

      You should be set after that. Keep checking back here for more lenses you may want to get into! The 100mm f/2.8 I’m working on right now is promising.

  2. Thanks, that’s good info on what to expect in terms of IQ with the older lenses. I am fine with using eBay, but wasn’t sure if there were some better alternatives. I sold all of my Canon gear on eBay so I should drink my own medicine.

    When I was researching e-mount lenses to use, I did go with the 30mm due to the good reviews. Of course it was really just the 30mm or expensive 24mm to choose from in that were prime and in that focal length range. lol. I have to say that my initial reaction to the image quality of the NEX-7 with the 30mm 2.8 was not as good as I expected. I was used to being able to place a focus point on my son’s eye using my Canon t1i w/50mm 1.4 lens and get tack sharp focus. Using the flexible spot focus on the NEX-7 got me close, but not as consistent until I purchased the adapter. I also noticed that at ISO 1600 which is a common ISO I shoot at on my t1i, the images coming out of the NEX-7 looked much noisier than I was used to. I had scoured the various NEX forums before making my purchase so I knew that there could be a perceived ISO problem when looking at the NEX-7 images at 1:1 scale given the much higher pixel count. I haven’t taken enough low ISO photos with the 30mm to really get a feel for what the IQ should be and what the camera is capable of. In general I think a lot of my “issues” are related to the learning curve of doing things a little differently than on a traditional DSLR. I am impressed by the great action shots you’ve gotten using MF. I never used MF before, but now I see that using FP and MF Assist on the NEX could be very helpful tools to accomplish what I want.

    Regarding using the Nikon MF lenses I see you are using the Fotodiox PRO NF-Sony adapter. There is another Fotodiox adapter that is compatible with the Nikon lens that is much less expensive at $19.99. I am trying to figure out what the difference is. Here is the link to it on Amazon. Do you know?


    • whew, okay, I’ll respond in order:
      1. Yep, eBay to your heart’s content, just remember to keep an eye out for shady buyers (you’ll be able to pick up on who those are after a few rounds of searching).

      2. Your experience with the Sigma so far makes sense, it sounds like you are using auto ISO, which the NEX-7 is limited (unfortunately) at 1600. Here’s what I recommend: following the 1/35mm focal length rule, the Sigma 30mm has a 45mm field of view on an APS-C (NEX) camera. That means in order to get sharp results consistently, you need to have a shutter speed of at least 1/50th (1/45th isn’t a value) when shooting handheld (with good technique). Good news is memory is cheap. Take advantage of this by always shooting in one of the two burst modes (4 fps or 10 fps) and in aperture priority. Set the aperture to whatever you like, and adjust the iso manually until you get around 1/50th. You’ll pick up pretty quickly on what situations will call for what ISOs. In other words, try to keep your ISO as low as possible.

      Reason I mention shooting in burst is you can get away with slower shutter speeds. You see, when you depress the shutter, that is a movement that causes camera shake. When you hold down the shutter, there is no movement (relatively), and if you do a 3-5 shot burst handheld at 1/25 (or slower), I’ll be willing to bet at least one of those shots will be tack sharp.

      Let’s take a situation, say you are trying to take a picture of a static subject and are in low light. You already have the aperture set to f/2.8, so it can’t be opened up anymore. Even wide open, the camera is selecting 1/50 when you go down to ISO 400. Pixel-level noise becomes visible at this ISO, so let’s see if we can cheat. If you turn down the ISO to 200, the shutter speed will be 1/25. However, let’s cheat a little more. Brace yourself against a wall (or take a breath), and shoot at 1/13 at ISO 100. Do a 10 shot burst with the speed priority burst mode, and in post-processing, look at that, you got a tack-sharp picture at ISO 100!

      I may write an article on this sometime, but on the NEX-7 it is critical to try to stay in the ISO 100-400 range as much as possible. Any more than that, and pixel-level (though not image-level) detail starts to go away. If you nail focus (discussed in point 3) at these ISOs, you’ll be blown away at the sharpness.

      3. If you don’t have manual focus assist turned on, where it automatically zooms in to 100% when you touch the focus ring, turn it on. What you do is focus with the autofocus first, then immediately after “lock” turn the focus ring a bit to zoom in and confirm that you have nailed focus. Once found, DO NOT RELEASE THE SHUTTER. Go ahead and take the picture. If you release the shutter for any reason and depress it again, it’ll refocus, thus ruining your efforts. Btw, thanks for looking through my previous stuff, those sports shots were a blast to capture. Parents of the players loved them too.

      4. The main difference is the regular adapter is cheaper-made, is more prone to “play” (lens/adapter wiggles when mounted), and doesn’t look as good. Funny enough, the non-pro version actually has more functionality, as you can use “G” lenses that do not have an aperture ring thanks to the in-adapter aperture control. In fairness, though, the manual focusing of the G lenses sucks compared to the silky smooth focusing of AI-s’. Keep a lookout on Amazon for the pro to drop in price. I got mine when it went on sale for $50, when it was $60 (like it is now).

      • I really appreciate the detailed response. I actually never use AUTO ISO. Over the years I’ve learned what ISOs work best for the environment that I am shooting in. Most of the time I use aperture priority or manual but I will sometimes use shutter priority so I can set the shutter speed to make sure it doesn’t go below the focal length based on the rule. That way I don’t have to think about it if my shooting conditions change.

        I like your tip of shooting in continuous mode to get past the camera shake of pressing the shutter button. I will try that at the lower ISOs and see what happens. I am also continuing to experiment with using FP and manual assist. I think my problem was that I was releasing the shutter after FP instead of taking the photo.

        I will purchase the PRO version of the adapter and keep an eye out for good lens bargains. Keep up the great work. I would love to see some reviews on wider angle lenses such as the Nikon 28mm 2.8 AI-s.

      • Good to know you’re out of auto then, and yes that continuous tip does wonders for all cameras, DSLR or mirrorless. It works even better for the heavier cameras since they have more mass to distribute any shake.

        Will do on the reviews, and I just ordered the 28mm f/2.8 Series-E. Not the AI-s, yet, but it’ll do for now.

  3. I’ve been familiarizing myself with the different Nikon lens designations and was reading about E and AI-s. You mentioned that you are getting the 28mm Series-E, not the AI-s. However, on Ken Rockwell’s site he says “All Series E lenses are AI-s, and likewise fit every Nikon SLR camera, manual and auto focus.” He also says “The operation and compatibility of the Series E lenses is identical to the other manual focus AI-s lenses, which makes sense because they are AI-s.” Now I’m confused. http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/nikortek.htm#e

    • Ah, yes. I remember reading that paragraph and being confused as well.
      There are different kinds of AI-s lenses (technically, AI-s isn’t a name, it’s a designation. the AI stands for Auto-Indexing. Forgot what the S stands for, as there are many just “AI” lenses). You have your AI-s Nikkors, which are all metal, and you have your AI-s Series-E’s, which have some to a lot of plastic. You also have any other AI-s lens made by any other manufacturer.

      Clears it up any? For instance, the OPERATION of the 28mm f/2.8 E may be the same as the Nikkor version, but the optical quality, build, and price will vary.

  4. Nikon 50 mm F/1.8 Series E was suppose to work om d3000 but thr screen says no len attached. Do you know what could be the problem?

    • Unfortunately on the lesser Nikon DSLRs, such as the d40/d90/d3000/d5000, AI-s lenses (which the Series-E’s are of AI-s mount-spec) will not meter with the camera. You should still be able to take photographs, but will be limited to guessing your own exposure. Sorry, the same thing happened to me when I first went out with this on an old d40. 😦

    • With manual lenses – put your Nikon on manual mode (M). Then you can shoot with any lens you can put on. It is also a very good training to learn how to control shutter speed, iso and all the other things. Hope it helped. Your camera should be able to take any nikkon or nikkor lens back to the ’60 or something

      • Yes, many of the upper-end DSLRs will actually automatically meter with these lenses, such as the d300. My NEX-7 works great in this regard as well with live exposure preview. 🙂

  5. Hey, everyone:
    Because of the sharpness problems, which really didn’t seem too bad at 100%, would I be able to use this for landscape photography? I’m not worried about zooming. I just enjoy a fixed focal length for scenery.

    • Hey Gideon. If you use it at f/2.8 and above, I would imagine it would work great for video (even without de-clicking the aperture. on my copy, the aperture clicks are smooth and silent). Just make sure you have some sort of stabilizer or tripod, as handholding 50mm without camera shake is extremely difficult.

  6. Hi There,

    Great review thank you so much. Acutually I’m going buy this lens tomorrow so I was looking for someones review and I have a found your review.
    Again, Thank you

  7. Thanks for the lovely and detailed review. I just got this lens with a Nikon FM2N today. While I’m sure it’ll be fine for the FM2N, I was curious to see if it was worth getting an adapter for it and my Nikkor 35mm f2.8 AIS on my Sony a6000. Sounds like fun!

    • Hey Anthony, as I replied in the email you sent, the lens works okay for street shots, but can be a little tight and is somewhat difficult to zone focus.

  8. Matthew, I just purchased this lens (the black one) from Keh. Is there much difference between this version and the NIkkor version ? The Nikkor version seems a bit difficult to find although although after I made my purchase, I located one on Ebay in Japan for 140.00. I paid 115 for my Keh purchase with both caps.

    Thank you for the review by the way.

    • Hey there Ken. The Series-E version is built a little less hardy, and likely has a tad lower image quality. However, the differences are likely nil, as the Series-E is much smaller and lighter than the AI-s counterpart. Makes for a much better take-with-you-lens.

  9. I just bought one of these on ebay due to your very positive review – I’m not sure it’s quite right. The aperture blades do not form a regular shape at any aperture: what I imagine should be a perfectly regular heptagon is flattened on one edge at smaller apertures, and at larger apertures, a small nick appears between two of the blades like the point of a star. Presumably this is a duff lens?

  10. Hey Matthew,

    I’m shooting with an a6000 and I just got this lens. Which adapter did you use or recommend me using?

    Thank you!

    • Hey there David, hope the lens treats you well on that body. It’s been so long since I purchased my original Fotodiox adapter, but given all the other stuff I have purchased from them, I would still recommend the Fotodiox PRO adapter. The new version they have seems to allow aperture control of Nikon G lenses if you ever get any down the line (my “original” pro is only for AI-s style lenses). The new version lacks a tripod mount on the adapter, if that’s something that’s important to you. Metabones has an adapter that is more expensive, though it has a tripod adapter and ‘may’ be a bit better built. I don’t know since I’ve had the same adapter through thick and thin on my NEX.

      Good luck either way you go.

      • Thanks for the quick reply man!
        I really appreciate it and I’ll definitely try out the fotodiox PRO adapter.

      • Let me know how it works out for you, I may be getting another adapter soon as mine is finally starting to show a bit of wear (hundreds upon hundreds of mounts/dismounts in bad conditions…).

  11. Hi great review! I would like to buy one, and found out there are two models of this pancake lens… is that right? And do you have any experience with this lens on the nikon fm2?

    • Hello! Sorry for such a late reply, I just got internet at my new place. I believe there is only one Series-E version of the lens, optically speaking. There may, however be different “versions” with slightly different coatings. I have never used these lenses on film cameras, though I imagine they will do much better than on digital.

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