Vienna Ball and the Nikkor 50mm F1.8G SE

Another outing with the Nikkor 50mm F1.8G special edition (the one with the silver ring), this time the Vienna Ball Bangkok. It’s a solid no-nonsense performer with buttery smooth bokeh and reasonably fast autofocus. Very light with just 190 grams, it doesn’t feel like a cheap build at all.

Knurling used in manual-focus lenses is adopted for the focus ring, which is always a welcome plus. Add the leather-tone exterior finish, giving the lens manual retro feel… The optical system packed into this compact and light standard prime lens employs an aspherical element. For not even $300, it’s really a no-brainer. It’s a good allrounder and people lens for full-frame bodies with the contrast and snappiness you’d expect, be it when paired with the Nikon Dƒ or any other Nikon DSLR.

Nikon's probably best standard 50mm prime lens, the Nikkor 50mm F1.8G
Nikon’s probably best standard 50mm prime lens, the Nikkor 50mm F1.8G
As Nikon doesn’t have a 50mm F1.2 with autofocus, the alternative would be the 50mm F1.4G. That’s a heavier and actually newer design than the F1.8G, costs quite a bit more and produces a similarly smooth bokeh as its slightly slower sibling.

In short, the “cheapo” F1.8G outperforms pretty much any other Nikon 50mm lens, including the more expensive Nikon 50mm F1.4G. The F1.8 prime offers great performance wide open throughout the frame. Stopped down to F2.8, the bigger F1.4G cannot match its results.

If you don’t have a Nikon 50mm lens yet, get the F1.8G. If lens looks don’t matter that much to you, and why should they, go for the normal 50mm F1.8G edition without silver ring and retro add-ons. You’ll have to spend a mere $200 for the exactly same performance.

If, however, you already have the F1.4G, there’s no reason to let go of. It’s a great lens with good contrast and nice neutral rendition. Wide open there might be some very marginal deficiency in comparison to the F1.8G, such as purple fringing, but if the camera is handled properly that’s something anyway only lab rats see.

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz

Vienna Ball -- Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz
Vienna Ball — Nikon Df with Nikkor 50mm F1.8G | Daniel Kestenholz




  • Omer

    Nikon did a great job with the recent f1.8 G primes, including the 50mm. I have the 28, 35 & 50 (normal,) and all are quite good. As you point out, the bokeh on the 50 is smooth, as it is with the other lenses as well. I use them on a Df also.

    Well done keeping the folks in focus. Did you use AF or manual focus?

  • Wolfgang Lonien

    These are really beautiful – congratulations Daniel!

  • Omer

    Sorry, forgot to say that I’m asking because it appears some of the folks are dancing, which is not only challenging to photograph but especially so when using a wide aperture. Again, well done.

  • Glad to hear you like the set, Wolfgang.

  • Yes Omer, while shooting manual Zeiss most of the time, I enjoy the ease of autofocus for a change. The manual focusing of this 50mm is really easy to use, the focusing ring feels great, it’s definitely one of the nicest AF lenses to use manually. And yes, people were constantly moving (except for those female backs…), so I went with C-AF and nine focus points in the upper middle, most of the time.

  • The third candid portrait is just lovely Dan. I imagine a situation like the Vienna Ball offers great opportunities of taking nice photos.
    Well done!

  • Appreciate, Marco. Got lots more of these partial portraits that leave much up to the imagination, but as with so many things: less can be more…