If you are looking for the sharpest 50mm lens from Nikon, you might be wondering which one of the three models you have is the best choice. The 50mm f1.4D, the 50mm f1.8D and the 50mm f1.8G are all popular lenses that offer good performance and image quality. However, some differences between them might affect your decision.
The 50mm f1.4D has a fast aperture of f1.4, which allows you to shoot in low light and create a shallow depth of field. However, it also has some drawbacks, such as lower contrast, more chromatic aberration and more distortion than the other two lenses. It also lacks an autofocus motor, which means it will not autofocus on some Nikon cameras that do not have a built-in motor.
The 50mm f1.8D AF is the cheapest and lightest of the three. It has a slightly slower aperture of f1.8, but it still performs well in low light and produces a nice bokeh. It has better contrast, less chromatic aberration and less distortion than the 50mm f1.4D, but it also lacks an autofocus motor and has a noisy and slow autofocus mechanism.
The 50mm f1.8 AFS G is the newest and most advanced of the three. It has a silent wave motor (SWM) that enables fast and quiet autofocus on any Nikon camera. It also has an aspherical element that reduces spherical aberration and improves sharpness across the frame. It has the best contrast, least chromatic aberration and least distortion of the three lenses, but it also has a higher price tag and a larger size than the 50mm f1.8D.
So, which one is the sharpest? The answer depends on several factors, such as your shooting conditions, your camera model, your aperture setting and your personal preference.
However, based on some tests and reviews, the general consensus is that the 50mm f1.8AFS G is the sharpest of the three at most apertures, especially at wide open and stopped down to f5.6 or f8. The 50mm f1.8D AF is slightly less sharp than the 50mm f1.8AFS G, but still sharper than the 50mm f1.4D at most apertures. The 50mm f1.4D is the least sharp of the three at wide open and only becomes comparable to the other two at smaller apertures, such as f11 or f16.
Of course, sharpness is not everything when it comes to choosing a lens. You might also consider other aspects, such as colour rendition, flare resistance, build quality, weight, size and price. Ultimately, the best lens for you is the one that suits your needs and budget.
The images here were taken with the Nikkor 50mm f1.4D at between f4 and 5.6 certainly not my sharpest lens.
I own and use all three of these lenses and in my opinion, the cheapest of the bunch gives me the best result for the way I make pictures.
Nikon D800E + Nikkor 50mm f1.4D @ f4