Hands-on Review: Nikon 18.5mm 1-Nikkor Lens

Yucca amongst the names, Garden of the Gods, Colorado. I used the 18.5mm f/1.8 1-Nikkor lens for this shot, hand-held at f/2.0.

Along with the Nikon 1 V2 announcement in October 2012, Nikon also released a new 1-Nikkor prime lens, the 18.5mm f/1.8 1-Nikkor. This lens, designed for the Nikon CX-format sensor has an angle of view roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera body.

With the Nikon CX format, fast lenses are important for two reasons. First, the small format makes depth of field control hard, so anything with a fast aperture will help to deliver subject isolation and soften backgrounds. Second, while the ISO performance of the Nikon 1 cameras is excellent overall, these cameras are still noisier than large-sensor DX or FX DSLRs. That means anytime you can shoot with a faster aperture, your camera will be able to use a lower ISO for any given shutter speed. Read on for my review…

Handling and Use

It’s very light. Lighter, in fact, than the 10mm f/2.8 1-Nikkor “pancake” lens. Carrying this around on a Nikon 1 V2 is a breeze. Put this and the 10mm in your bag and you’ve got a very nice, compact kit!

The 18.5mm f/1.8 1 Nikkor (second from left) is smaller and lighter than the kit zoom lenses.

Autofocus is fast, partly because the Nikon 1 cameras have an excellent AF system, and partly because the fast aperture allows for better focus accuracy.

The lens does not include a hood. You can purchase the HB-N104 lens hood as a separate accessory for about . The hood is plastic and mounts via a bayonet attachment. On a positive note, the lens cap can be attached to the front of the hood during storage. The lens hood is not reversible.

The HB-N104 lens hood is small and permits a lens cap to be attached for storage.

Evaluating Performance

Sharpness

I took some test shots across the full aperture range of the 18.5mm 1-Nikkor to judge sharpness. The lens is very sharp wide-open, and sharpness peaks around f/4. Beyond f/5.6, you start to see evidence of diffraction caused by the small photosites on the V2 sensor. Here are 100% (1:1) crops of my test shot. The moiré is from the halftone printing on the product box, and is a good indication of sharpness.

Depth of Field

The relatively large f/1.8 aperture of this lens really helps throw the background out of focus, especially if your subject is fairly close. For the softest backgrounds, use the lens at f/2.8 or wider. Here, I had Otter pose for me at f/1.8-f/5.6. By f/4 the background elements are no longer soft.

f/1.8
F/2.0
f/2.8
f/4.0
f/5.6

Bokeh

Out of focus highlights are rendered nicely with the lens wide-open. To get the softest backgrounds, use the lens wide-open or at f/2.0.

Out of focus highlights are rendered smoothly, most likely due to the lens’ rounded aperture blade design.

Close-focus Ability

The 18.5mm f/1.8 1-Nikkor lens has a close-focus distance of 0.2m (about 8.4 inches). Combined with the wide-aperture, this feature really lets you throw the background out of focus. It’s not quite a macro lens, but it does do well with close-ups.

The 18.5mm f/1.8 1 Nikkor lens focuses as close as 20cm.

Chromatic Aberration

Almost all lenses show some form of color-fringing when shooting back-lit subjects, especially when used wide-open. The 18.5mm 1-Nikkor is no exception. Color fringing is noticeable when the lens is used wide-open, but this phenomenon can be easily corrected if you shoot RAW and use CA removal tools. The axial CA removal tool in Nikon’s Capture NX2 works well, and so does the CA removal feature in Lightroom. CA is eliminated at apertures of f/2.8 and up.

Here are some sample 100% crops showing the color fringing in the lens, and how easy it is to remove in post.

Wide-open, the lens exhibits purple color-fringing on back-lit edges. This is normal; even my expensive 85mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens exhibits this characteristic.
If you shoot RAW and use CA correction tools, you can totally remove the color-fringing. This shot is the same as before, with CA removal enabled in Lightroom.
By f/2.8, CA pretty much disappears. This shot had no CA removal applied to it.

Conclusions

Your camera is only as good as the lenses you use with it. The original lineup of 1-Nikkor lenses was targeted towards the casual user. The 18.5mm f/1.8 1-Nikkor is something many photographers have asked for: a fast prime lens for portraits and low-light conditions. The 18.5mm f/1.8 1-Nikkor lens is a welcome addition to my Nikon 1 kit. It’s small, light, and very sharp. Nikon has done a great job delivering a lens that can be used in low-light conditions with the 1-series cameras. I eagerly await the release of the still under development 32mm f/1.2 1-Nikkor lens (roughly equivalent to an 86mm lens), which should be wonderful for natural-light portraits with superior depth of field control.

The Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 1-Nikkor lens is available from site sponsor B&H photo for around $187 US.

Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 1 Nikkor Lens Specifications

  • Focal length: 18.5mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.8- f/16
  • Format: Nikon CX
  • Angle of view: 46° 40″
  • Design: 8 elements in 6 groups
  • Diaphragm blades: 7 (rounded)
  • Focus: Autofocus via Nikon 1 cameras
  • Focusing or aperture rings: None
  • Filter size: 40.5mm
  • Dimensions: 56x36mm (dia/length)
  • Weight: 70g (2.5 oz)
  • Optional Accessories: HB-N104 lens hood

Get the complete guide to the Nikon 1 V1/J1 cameras from Luminescence of Nature Press

 

2 thoughts on “Hands-on Review: Nikon 18.5mm 1-Nikkor Lens”

  1. Thanks for this great review Jason, I need you “help” deciding what lens should I buy for portret using my new V2, I have the Ft1 adapter and I was thinking for longer reach to buy the 50mm 1.4G lens, so what’s your opinion between these two lenses, 50mm 1.4G, or nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8? I saw you own both…

    many thanks for your help

    Nycko

  2. Get the 18.5mm lens as it allows full compatibility with the V2 (multi-point AF, etc.) and is small and lightweight (easier to pack). Alternatively, I’d consider the 50/1.8 Nikkor if you want the longer reach. It’s far less expensive and is equally sharp.

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