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Best Cheap 50mm Lens for Nikon Cameras

Best Cheap 50mm Lens for Nikon

With its lightweight build, razor-sharp optics, and affordable price, the best cheap 50mm lens for Nikon full-frame is the Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G. However, if you want even more bang-for-buck, the older and smaller Nikon AF-D 50mm F1.8 offers almost as much for even less money.

On the other hand, if you own a DX DSLR such as the Nikon D3500, you would be crazy not to pick up a Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G. Not only is this sub $200, 50mm-equivalent lens razor-sharp, but you can use it to blur your backgrounds to oblivion.


What’s a cheap 50mm Lens?

Known as the ‘nifty-fifty’, the humble 50mm has long served as an affordable entry point for those looking to get the best out of their camera.

Not only is the 50mm sharp, but it’s also practical. With its small, compact form, and 47-degree field of view, the nifty fifty is ideal for everyday photography. Read about Focal Length.

And it gets better since even the cheapest 50mm lenses feature large, light-absorbing, F1.8 apertures. And as a result, the AF-S 35mm provides your camera’s sensor with up to 8 times more light than your average 18-55mm kit lens. Read about Aperture.

Of course, this is awesome news if you shoot in low light and with such a large aperture, you can also reduce your depth of field and blur-away your subject’s background. Read about Depth of Field.

As you can see, owning a nifty-fifty comes with a lot of benefits. In fact, I’ve owned all three lenses on this list. Therefore, if you are still using your kit lens, step up and try a 50mm. You won’t regret it.

Don’t have a Nikon? Read about the best cheap 50mm lenses for your Camera

The best cheap 50mm lens for Nikon FX

The Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G is the best cheap 50mm lens for Nikon Full-Frame DSLR. Although the older Nikon AF-D 50mm F1.8 is smaller and cheaper, the newer lens is worth the extra money. In fact, I own and use this lens with my Nikon D750.

Performance and Handling

The Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G is noticeably larger and heavier than the featherweight AF-D 50mm. However, the AF-S 50mm handles so much better.

The larger AF-S 50mm F1.8G includes an in-built auto-focus motor and a deeply recessed front lens element making it less effected by lateral light sources.

For instance, the AF-S 50mm’s autofocus is entirely internal whilst the AF-D’s focus ring spins through your fingers. Furthermore, autofocus on the AF-S can be manually overridden at any time by turning the focus ring – a feature the older AF-D goes without.

And whilst autofocus on the older AF-D lens requires a camera with an in-built autofocus motor, the AF-S 35mm features its own internal autofocus motor.

As a result, the AF-S lens will still auto-focus on motorless camera bodies such as the Nikon D3500. In contrast, the older Nikon AF-D will be manual focus only.

Image Quality

First of all, the new Nikon AF-S 50mm is much sharper. While both lenses are equally sharp at smaller apertures, the newer lens is far sharper when shot wide open at F1.8.

The 50mm focal length is very versatile and works very well as a portrait lens.

Furthermore, the Nikon AF-S 50mm is more resistant to stray light and even comes packages with a lens hood. On the other hand, the older Nikon AF-D does not come with a lens hood and is a lens flare-magnet.

At F1.8, the depth-of-field is so shallow that only the eye is in focus.


Overall, I recommend you save up a little more money and buy the newer Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8. In my case, I bought the older Nikon AF-D 50mm lens only to upgrade to the AF-S 50mm later.

Related Reading: Best Lenses for Nikon Full-Frame DSLRs

The cheapest 50mm lens for Nikon FX

The older Nikon Nikkor AF-D 50MM F1.8 is one of the cheapest lenses you can buy for Nikon full-frame. It is also one of the sharpest and smallest, despite its large F1.8 aperture. In fact, it is so small, I spent years carrying it around in my jacket pocket.

Performance and Handling

Aside from size, I also like the AF-D’s aperture ring. Assuming your camera is compatible, you can switch aperture control from the camera to the lens. Whilst doing so has no practical advantage, it does feel tactile and satisfying.

However, if you are considering the older lens, you should be aware it won’t autofocus on motorless Nikon DSLRs such as the Nikon D3500 and D5600. Nor will it autofocus when attached to Nikon Z mirrorless cameras via the FtZ adapter.

Tiny but packs a punch

Image Quality

Although the Nikon AF-D 50mm F1.8 is a little soft at its largest apertures, it does produce lovely looking images. For instance, contrast is very neutral and it renders beautiful skin tones. However, stop the AF-D’s aperture down to F4 or smaller and it becomes pin-sharp.

Super sharp with neutral colors, contrast, and skin tones make the AF-D 50mm great for portraits.

Besides lens flare and ghosting, there’s nothing wrong with the AF-D’s image quality. However, the Nikon AF-D is exceptionally vulnerable to stray light and will cost you shots as a result.

Once I removed the UV filter, things improved. But since I use my 50mm so often, I got fed up and upgraded to the new Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8.

The 50mm focal length and bright F1.8 is ideal for shallow focus lending a sense of depth to images such as this.


Overall, the Nikon AF-D 50mm F1.8 offers a lot for little, and it feels mean to be critical about it. However, the Nikon AF-S is better in many ways. Not only is the AF-S sharper and more resistant to stray light, but it’s also compatible with more Nikon cameras.

Therefore, the AF-D 50mm F1.8 is a great budget option, but the more expensive Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G presents better value overall.

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The best cheap 50mm lens for Nikon DX

The Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G provides Nikon DX users with a similar field-of-view (44 degrees) as a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera. Thus, the Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G is the perfect everyday-lens for cameras such as the Nikon D3500, D5600, D7500, and D500.

Performance and Handling

The Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G handles much the same way as the Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G. Both are similar in size and weight and both have a single control ring and a switch to toggle between auto and manual focus.

Like the 50mm, the Nikon AF-S DX 35mm features a built-in focus motor and will autofocus on motorless bodies such as the Nikon D3500 or the Nikon Z50 via the FTZ adapter. If you want to override autofocus, you can tune your focus manually by turning the control ring.

Image Quality

The Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8 produces sharp images at its largest aperture and becomes even sharper once stopped down a little. Additionally, contrast is good, as is its resistance to stray light and flare.

In reality, you won’t get any better unless you spend much, much more.


I wasted years using my Nikon 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens. Only when I bought my AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G did I realize what my camera was capable of.

At first, I thought the 35mm would be an occasional supplementary lens to my more versatile kit zoom. But once I got used to the AF-S DX 35mm’s image quality and background blur, the kit zoom never left the draw.

Therefore, if you have been wondering whether you should buy the Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G, you should.

Related Reading: Best Lenses for Nikon DX DSLRs | Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G Review

Best Cheap 50mm lenses for Nikon Compared

AF-S 50mm F1.8AF-D 50mm F1.8AF-S DX 35mm F1.8
Price$220 USD$140 USD$200 USD
Dimensions72.1 x 52.463.5 x 39mm70 x 52.5mm
Image QualityVery GoodGoodVery Good
Field of View47 Degrees47 Degrees44 Degrees (on DX)
In-built AFYesNoYes
Filter Thread58mm52mm52mm

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