Everything You Want to Know About Camera Lenses: Part 6-50mm 1.8 vs 1.4

50mm 1.8 vs 50mm 1.4
Have you wondered what is difference between the 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4? Wondering do you need to invest the extra money in the 50mm 1.4 or would the 50mm 1.8 be a better fit?

When I first started to learn about manual mode my friend, Megan Cieloha, told me it would be really hard with my kit lens and recommended I purchase the 50mm 1.8. I remember thinking “$100 for a lens, oh my goodness, that is expensive!” Little did I know that was the most inexpensive lens I would buy.

I think the 50mm “nifty fifty” is a fantastic lens to start with. It is inexpensive compared to many of the other lenses out there, it’s a prime lens, and it’s aperture can go as wide as 1.8. The lens packs quite a punch for it’s price tag.

My 50mm lives on my camera most of the time. It really is a great everyday lens. I kept my 50mm 1.8 for 2 years before I updated this past December to the 50mm 1.4D. I was even able to buy a refurbished one from a reputable company. Personally, I love the 50mm 1.4! It is a little heavier which for some reason makes me believe it is better quality. However, once I started to upload my images I could see a difference in the color quality and sharpness.

I had big plans to get some portrait shots for you to see the 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4 in comparison but when I tried to do that this morning I dropped my camera with the 50mm 1.8 on it. Yup, that is right, I dropped my camera and broke my lens. Double check your camera is locked on your tripod prior to moving the tripod. Also, remember that post I did on insuring your equipment. This is why!

I did take these two shots a couple of days ago so sorry I don’t have more for you to see side by side.

Settings: f/2.0, ss 1/200, ISO 100 – these are SOOC (straight out of the camera)

Not all the 50mm lenses are the same. In Nikon alone there are 4 = AF 50mm 1.8, AF-S 50mm 1.8, AF 50mm 1.4D, and AF-S 50mm 1.4G. Below is some stats about Nikons 4 50mm lenses.

Nikon 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4-D version

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF
-Price – $100-130
-Weight – 5.5 oz (156g) the lightest of the lenses
-Mount – plastic
-Blades – 7 (this affects the roundness of your bokeh)
-Aperture – f/1.8-f/22
Note: This lens does not autofocus on the Nikon D40, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000

Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF
-Price – $325-350
-Weight – 8.1 oz (230g)
-Mount – Metal
-Blades – 7
-Aperture – f/1.4-f/16
Note: The D version does not support the D40, D60, D3000 and D5000

Nikon 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4-G version

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S
-Price – $200-$225
-Weight – 6.6 oz (187g)
-Mount – Metal
-Blades – 7
-Aperture – f/1.8-f/16
Note: This lens will autofocus on the entry level cameras and has a silent wave motor

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G
-Price – $450-500
-Weight – 9.9 oz (280g)
-Mount – Metal
-Blades – 9
-Aperture – f/1.4-f/16
Note: This lens will autofocus on the entry level cameras and has a silent wave motor

If you are a Canon owner, your choices are a little easier since there are only two to choose from the 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4

Canon 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
-Price – $100-125
-Weight – 4.6oz (130g)
-Mount – Plastic
-Blades – 5
-Aperture – f/1.8-f/22

Canon EF 50mm f1.4
-Price – $350-400
-Weight – 10.23oz (290g)
-Mount – Metal
-Blades – 8
-Aperture – f/1.4-f/22

Examples of the images from the AF Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF

f/2.2, ss 1/800, ISO 160


f/1.8, ss 1/125, ISO 1000


f/2.0, ss 1/2500, ISO 100

Examples of the images from the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF

f/2.5, ss 1/400, ISO 100


f/1.6, ss 1/20, ISO 800


f/2.5, ss 1/200, ISO 800

If you would like to read more and see a lab comparison of the 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4 check out this post – 50mm Lens Shoot-Out: f/1.8 or f/1.4?

Read the whole series: Everything you want to know about camera lenses
Part 1: Understanding the writing on the lens
Part 2: What lens should I buy next?
Part 3: Our Favorite Lenses
Part 4: Lens on crop vs. full frame sensor
Part 5: Comparing different lenses
Part 6: 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4

Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. What does that mean? Basically, if you loved the information and decide to purchase anything through the link that the author of this post will receive a small percentage of money from the company at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance if you do decide to make a purchase :)

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Comments

  1. Canon offers a 50mm L 1.2 ($1000-1200) and a 50mm L 1.0 (crazy $$). For the super serious consumer. ;)
    I have a 1.8 and would like to upgrade, but thinking about saving up for the L 1.2. Since I use this lens 90% of the time, I know the investment would be worth it. Now to just get that money. :/
    Kim recently posted..Easter Baskets for Far Away Family

  2. Hi Courtney!

    Thanks so much for this clarification. I’m still learning the different lens capabilities (I’m also a Nikon girl). I have a question about my D7000. I didn’t see it listed on the AF lens list as incompatible for autofocus so does that mean it is compatible with AF versions (of any lens) and the autofocus function does work on it?

    • Glad you found this post helpful Amanda! Yes, the 50mm 1.8AF will work with your D7000 and autofocus! So get shopping :O)

  3. I’m a Canon user. First I owned the 50mm 1.8 and like it. Upgraded to the 50mm 1.4 and love it. The 1.8 seemed slow to focus and extremely noisy, not to mention feeling like a cheap toy. The 1.4 is much quiter, and in my opinion faster to focus. If I could do it over, I’d forget about the 1.8 and probably spring for a Sigma 50mm 1.4. It comes with a case, a lens hood, and is built like a tank. I also own the Sigma 30mm 1.4 and have it on my camera 100% of the time inside my house.

    • Dave what Canon Camera are you using? I have 60D and want to take baby pictures inside.
      Driving me crazy with all the reviews I have read.
      Was going to get Canon 50mm 1.8 but really thinking going down to 30 or 35 mm
      with a 1.4 or 1.8 but do not want to spend over $500 on a lens,
      You really like the sigma 30mm 1.4 and does it produce much distortion of closeup facial
      pictures? Thank You Joe

      • I’m using the 60d as well. Love the Sigma 30mm for it. I use the EX DC version which is the older lens. The newer one is great too from what I’ve read. Only drawback with the 30mm is that it doesn’t work on full frame. Otherwise I highly recommend it. I don’t see much distortion up close. The 50mm 1.4 is great too, and allow you to step back an extra foot or so, so the shutter doesn’t wake baby up. Plus it will work on FF too. Either lens is great. Good luck.

        http://drobertsrn.smugmug.com/Roberts-Family-Pics/Pics-from-2012/Jan2012/i-ph88TF9/A

  4. I went and bought my 50 mm 1.8 Canon lens for my birthday—barely 4 weeks since I got my hands on my dslr. I should have waited and just saved up for a 1.4—-the images are tack sharp! But having said that I have had lots of fun with my 1.8 only because it’s heaps better than my kit lens, which is the only other lens I own. *sniff*. The lens series has so been helpful Thanks for putting it together Courtney!
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  5. Great comparison–I am a Nikon girl and have the 1.8. Hopefully one of these days I will be upgraded to the 1.4 :)
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  6. Thank you so much for doing this lens series! I have been wanting a 50mm, and almost bought the 1.8 but after reading, I think I’m gonna wait and save up for the 1.4. I’m super excited about it! I have jumped the gun before on new lenses before I really knew much about them and just sprung for the cheaper one and was totally disappointed! For example, my first zoom didn’t have a stabilizer on it! I thought the pictures were fuzzy because I was doing something wrong. Actually. . . buying a zoom without a stabilizer was the bad choice.
    My photos are getting better each day because of blogs like yours! : )
    Amy recently posted..You Capture – White

    • I’m so glad your photos are getting better :O) I’m sure they are fantastic! Yes, deciding on a lens is hard and buying the wrong one is unfortunately a mistake so many of us make.

  7. thanks so much for this group of posts. Just a question…is the difference from D to G just older vs newer versions?
    Mimi recently posted..Tones on Tuesday

  8. I bought the Canon 1.4 because I read EVERYWHERE that it was an awesome lens. And it is, I love it. But what I didn’t read was on a crop sensor it was going to be hard to take photo’s inside – quick candids of the kids because it is too close! (in the size of rooms in our house anyway). I am borrowing a sigma 30mm 1.4 and this focal length is way better inside. I love the 50mm outside. I can’t have both though, and I can’t decide which I would prefer!!

    • Yes, the 50mm can be tight if you do the majority of your shooting inside. Have you looked into the 35mm 1.8? I know a lot of people love that one for indoor shooting. I haven’t checked out the 30mm 1.4 yet but I bet it’s wonderful. Good luck deciding :O)

  9. Courtney OMG your camera!!! Is it ok??? I felt a stab of pain for you straight to the gut when I read that..

    Thanks for this series – it’s a world of difference between the 1.8 and 1.4 (I’m Canon). Definitely worth saving for the 1.4 to anyone contemplating. I know it’s hard when you first buy the camera and the added cost of the lens but it makes so much difference!

    • Yes, it’s is okay :O) Don’t worry I had a pain in my gut too :O) I’m so glad you have found this series useful!!

  10. Great post! I love how the 1.4 images look! I have the 1.8 for Canon and really don’t like how far back I need to stand to take pictures at the 50mm focal length and the fact that wide open, the images aren’t that great. But it’s a great lens to learn with :) Can’t go wrong with $100! LOL
    Mama Monkey recently posted..Council Bluffs, IA

    • Yes, definitely can’t go wrong with a $100 lens :O) Have you tried the 35mm 1.8 if you are looking for something that isn’t going to be so tight indoors? I have several friends who have that one and love it :O)

  11. Oh, how sad – I can’t believe you broke your lens! I would be in tears. I have the Canon 50mm 1.8, and I love it. I’m still a beginner, so it’s my only lens besides the kit lens. There is a drastic difference between it and the kit lens, for sure. I try to use that lens whenever I can, but end up having to switch a lot, because I can’t always move myself back far enough to get everything I need to in the picture (especially when taking group photos inside).
    Laura Jane recently posted..What a Budgeting Book Taught Me about Weight Loss

    • Have you thought about getting the 35mm 1.8? I know a lot of my friends with crop cameras love that one for indoor shots since it gives them some more space to back up. Plus it’s aperture can go to f/1.8 which is a plus :O)

  12. Hi Courtney.
    I am a new blogger. My strengths are not in technology or photography. And the comment section from the Pinterest challenge are closed. I just wanted to tell you that I refer back to your Pinterest articles from the challenge all the time. They are so helpful. Thank you.
    Laura recently posted..3 ways to bless a friend going through divorce

    • Hey Laura!

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment! I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed the Pinterest Challenge and found some useful information there! Welcome to blogging as well!! Please let me know if you have any questions along your journey, in photography or blogging :O)

  13. Great article. Thank you so much.

  14. I am new to photography and your information has helped a lot.I bought the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S from your link. Now to practice(: Thanks so much.

    • Thanks so much for purchasing the lens through the link! I truly appreciate your support!!! Can’t wait to see what you can capture with this lens!!!

  15. This is the post that brought me to your blog!! love the series and everything on your blog, thanks for sharing so much knowledge!

  16. I’m saving up for a 50mm, and am debating saving a little bit longer so I can get the 1.4– was googling the difference between the two and found your post– I should have known to start here first!
    Dana recently posted..Sandy: The Aftermath

  17. Your website is extremely helpful! I’m trying to learn how to use my camera quickly and you really have the basics without a lot of extra information. Thank you! I see that you are recommending the 35mm 1.8 because your friends like it. Is there a certain brand they have? Do you have any reviews on the 35 mm lenses? Thank you so much!
    Kelley recently posted..Groovebook: Free Photobook App

  18. I have the 1.8 lens but my pictures never seem to come out quite as clear as yours! Any tips?!

  19. Twins. I had my 50mm 1.8 on my backup body that I took w/ me on a date night with my husband. I put it in my purse and forgot. Needless to say, my two year old pulled it from the console table this morning and broke my nifty fifty. I would have cried if it was my 1.4.
    Maria @ Craft Crazy Mom recently posted..What To Wear For Family Pictures

  20. Hi Courtney. I have just discovered your blog. Thank you so much for all of the information. I am about to purchase my first DSLR and lens and I’m researching like crazy. The information you provide is so easy to understand, thanks. I hope you can clarify this for me though please: I am wanting to be able to take close up shots in limited light (usually indoors) having control over background blur (I love background blur!). I was going to invest in a macro lens but have since decided that a 50mm is more within my budget to start but after reading the above comments I’m now concerned about indoor shots. I’d also love to be able to take decent shots outdoors of the flowers fields/gardens etc., I haven’t made up my mind about Canon/Nikon – thinking a canon eos7d or a nikon d300s or d7000.
    It’s all so confusing!!!

    • Hey Kate!

      Congrats on getting a new lens and camera :) I definitely recommend getting a 50mm as a starting lens. A macro is a fun lens too but a bit more of a challenge for your everyday shots, plus it would be really tight when you are in doors. See if you can go to a camera store and play with those cameras and that lens to see if you like the way it feels :)

  21. Courtney,
    I just got the 50mm 1.4D and to my surprice the lens does not auto focus with my Nikon D3100. I’m having issues finding the focus point manually and I was wondering if you have any tips? What metering is the best to use for these types of lenses?

    Love your site! very helpful!

    • That is odd that it is not auto focusing with your d3100. It should be. Do you have the lens set to “AF” or “MF”? You want it on AF for autofocus. As for the focal points, if you are using manual focus than you don’t need to worry about the focal points. You just turn the focal ring to get what you want in focus. What do you mean by what metering is best for this lens? I use spot metering but that doesn’t change for my lens choice. It depends on what I want to capture. Hope this helps :)

  22. I do a lot of low to very low light action shots. (Dance recitals, Friday Night Football) I use a Nikon D90 I have 2 prime lens. a 50mm 1.4D and an old 85mm 1.8.. I’m confused on what I should be setting my ISO at. I also shoot mostly in Manual. The I’m not allowed to use a flash due to the interference with the programs I’m shooting. any advice would be helpfull. I’m also looking into purchasing a 70-200 2.8 more than likely a Tamron due to the cost of Nikons. Should I spend the extra $$ and the VR or save my money. ALso may purchase an older 80-200 2.8 Nikkor.

    • avatar Courtney Slazinik :

      Hey! Your ISO really depends on the light available. I’m sure for a dance recital you would need at least 1600 but I wouldn’t be surprised if you needed to go even higher. The important thing is having it high enough so your photo is not under exposed – http://clickitupanotch.com/2010/12/iso-dont-be-afraid-to-raise-it/ As for whether to get the VR or not. I have the VR on the Tamron 18-270 and I really like it. However, I personally have not turned it off so I wouldn’t know how it works with out it. I do keep the VR off on my 105mm Nikon Macro though. Good luck!

  23. I have a Nikon D60.
    Am I able to use : Nikon 50mm 1.8 OR 1.4- g version?
    Or what could you suggest for my “nifty fifty” on the D60?
    Your blogs are very helpful! Thanks!

  24. Hi Courtney!

    I love your blog!

    Quick question: I currently have the Nikon D50 and want to eventually upgrade to the D700, however, I want to buy the 50mm 1.4D lens. Will this lens work with both cameras?

    Thanks!

  25. Muy bueno el aporte que das, tengo el 1.8 d en una d3100 y la verdad que me cuesta mucho el tema del foco al no tener motor de enfoque. Conoces algun truco mas alla de la luz testigo que aparece en el ocular?

    Saludos!
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  26. Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this article together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and commenting.

    But so what, it was still worthwhile!
    samsung recently posted..samsung

  27. I have a Cannon body & bought the sigma 50mm 1.4 & it is fantastic! It is much bigger & heavier than the Cannon lens & has more glass. It’s a great investment!
    Sarah SB recently posted..camera strap makeover

  28. Love this article. As much as I ‘knew’ this information, I needed reminded!!!

  29. This was a great article, I just had to buy a new SLR…I bought a Canon and a 50mm 1.8 lens (recommended by the salesperson). Am not so sure how to get the most out of it so your article was timely. Photography is a passion for me but I know very little…it helps me to appreciate the little things in life each and every day.
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  30. Thanks so much for sharing this post. I am just getting into photography and was wondering what lens would work with the Nikon D5200? For a beginner would you recommend the 50mm 1.8 lens? Thanks for your help.

  31. Hey Courtney,
    I own a Nikon D3100 with the Kit Lens I just recently read your Article about how you should first buy the Body and then the Lense Second! I wish I would have seen this a few months ago anyway I was just wondering what Nikon Lens I should Upgrade too??? I only shoot in Manual I’m still learning my Setting Though. Also do you think I should keep my Kit Lens or Try and Sell it???

  32. Hello and Thanks a looooot for that very helpful review.
    I am going to buy my first prime lens today, and I was wondering how far away from the subject should i be if i want to use the 50 mm. I shoot newborns and kids basically and my studio is not very big.

    Thanks!

  33. avatar Victor Rivera :

    I appreciate the info on the 50mm f1.4d vs 1.8..I have the nikon d3100 and have a nikon 50mm f1.4d and I must say the pictures come out nice but at times I have an aperture adjustment issue. . I’m not an expert, ..just starting out in the realm of photography. .. I’ll keep experimenting, Thanks again. .

  34. avatar savanna martin :

    I’m trying to figure out what 50mm lens I should get for my d3100. See there’s one that fiesbt auto focus. Do you have a suggestion on one that does? Thank you for all your information!

  35. Hi I have a Nikon D5100 so I was wondering if I can purchase the 50mm 1.8 AF or does it have to be the AF-S?

  36. i just came across your site today. Wonderful communication of technical information. I was a dry sponge absorbing every drop of your insights in each article. I’ll be using it on a daily basis.

    As a novice and a Nikon D610 user, which of the two 1.4s would you suggest?

    Can’t wait to go all manual!!!

    Thank you again for your expertise and generous spirit.

  37. I’m so glad I found this post! I’m a beginner Nikon user and have been working with my kit lenses for about a year now. I’m looking to upgrade, though, and the 50mm lenses sound awesome. I have a D5000 – would the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G work on it? Thanks!
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    • Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m reading mixed reviews when I googled it. If I were you, I would call a company like B&H Video or Adorama and talk with their people who work with these lenses all the time. The question would be if that lens will autofocus with your camera. Good luck.

  38. avatar Arielle Nichols :

    Hi Courtney!
    I was wondering if you could tell me what you recommend :) I have a Nikon D3200 and was wondering which of the 50 mm 1.8 you would say works best? The 1.8D or the 1.8G? Thanks so much!! :)

    Arielle

  39. Your posts help me so much with my photography skills. I pin and share them all as I find new ones. Thanks for sharing!
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  40. Hello
    You recommend a 50mm as first prime lens.
    Does this mean that for a full frame, you’d recommend a 85mm ? (I have a canon 5 d mk1)

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