Review: 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8

Hello, everybody! I love a good Whopper, so much that I had a double (with cheese) last night after drinking several tall glasses of beer. The flavor of flame-grilled beef patty is hard to beat and the extra onions that I requested certainly did the job. I woke up in the morning with a mild hangover and my breath smelled of the delicious meal I had just before I caught the last bus home. I believe that this is the best way to enjoy a good burger, its value is hard to beat. Today, I’m going to show you something that has great value. Like the Whopper, many people love this lens and it will stay as one of Nikon’s best for the system that it was made for. Read the whole article to find out what this is.

Introduction:

The 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 was sold from 2012 and it was discontinued when Nikon retired the Nikon 1 system. It was a popular lens when it was still being sold, that remains true even today as almost every Nikon 1 shooter owns one. Since this is 18.5mm you’ll get an equivalent field-of-view of 49.95mm which is practically the same as what you would get in a 50mm lens when shooting the 35mm or full-frame format. Despite that, you’ll still get the same characteristics of an 18.5mm lens when shooting with it and the nominal f/1.8 constant aperture will probably get you something closer to f/4.5 in real-world use. Even with that, this is still a “fast” lens and only the expensive 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 will allow you gather more light to help the tiny sensor of the CX format in lowlight situations.

It’s a tiny lens, it’s light-weight but it performs great. The barrel seems to be made from anodized aluminum. This is the black version but it’s also available in white and silver. The mount appears to be made from a zinc or nickel-based alloy which feels like plastic but I am not sure about that. It has a grooved collar but it’s merely there for additional grip, this isn’t something that will turn despite looking like a focusing-ring.

It has an 8-elements-in-6-groups formula with one of the elements being aspherical. This is impressive for a cheap lens of this class. The iris has 7-blades which are curved so the iris stays round and not angular which helps in giving a nice, smooth character to its bokeh. It could focus quite close, about 0.2m so you could take close-up photos. This is useful, I wish it could focus closer. If that’s going to be an issue you will want to buy a Nikon N1-CL1 close-up lens for it. I don’t like to add additional glass to my lenses so I didn’t bother to look for one.

It’s still compact even when mounted to the Nikon 1 J4, it makes for a great “standard-lens” equivalent. There are lugs at the front so it is able to accept the Nikon HB-N104 which is sold as a separate item, it has a conical shape so people gave it the name “barnacle-hood”. The attachment ring is 40.5mm which seems to be the standard for 1 Nikkors as far as I know.

Ease-of-use and being light-weight is the main theme for the Nikon 1 system, it’s so convenient that little hands won’t have any problem operating it. This focuses rather fast and silent even my daughter could operate it with no problems at all. The whole setup is so light that a child could carry one all-day without straining.

Learning how a lens performs is key to maximizing it. You’ll learn how to utilize its strengths and avoid its weaknesses. This knowledge helps in determining which lens to bring on an assignment. I shot these from f/1.8f/2.8 and f/4 since these are the most common apertures that people would want to use this and we’ll see the most changes happen with these values. These photos were shot with my Nikon 1 J4, some of the photos were cropped close to 1:1 magnification so we can see the details better.

Since this is basically an 18.5mm lens with the field-of-view that mimics a 50mm lens you’ll get loads of distortion as expected. It isn’t the best tool for taking photos of architecture or anything that requires straight lines to remain straight.

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Vignetting is heavy wide-open, it somehow gets better by f/2/8 but the corners remain dark. You’ll even see some of it by f/4 which is rather surprising since I expected it to get a lot better by this point.

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It’s somewhat resistant to flaring but the same couldn’t be said for ghosts as you’ll get blobs in your frame when you’re not careful. I don’t think using its hood will be helpful in these cases but it will certainly do a great job when your strong light sources all shine at an angle.

This is probably the worst that I could get it to flare, I’m not bothered by it at all but I am more concerned by the high amounts of chromatic aberration which we’ll get to in a while.

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The character of the bokeh is rather pleasant in most cases but it has a tendency to produce rough-looking details when you give it things that will trigger it such as twigs and foliage. Stopping it down to about f/4 helps but you’ll lose a lot of blurriness as a trade-off for cleaner-looking blurs.

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The high amounts of chromatic aberration is this lens’ biggest problem in my opinion. It’s awful wide-open in severe cases, stop it down to f/2.8 to alleviate most of it but it’s still visible in extreme scenarios. You’ll still see some of it by f/4 which is a shame, this level of performance is quite bad, it may have to do with the limits of having a smaller sensor. Here’s something to give you a little bit of consolation, you won’t see much of it when you don’t have areas of high-contrast in the scene, the bad news is this isn’t easy to avoid in a practical sense.

This is how bad it looks, if only this was handled a bit better then I think this lens is exceptional.

Here’s a closer look at the ugly purple-and-green mess that you’ll get. Be mindful of this and you should be fine. This is corrected with Nikon’s in-camera JPEG engine and is easy to fix in post but that isn’t an excuse if you ask me.

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The center appears sharp even wide-open and the resolution isn’t bad at all. The corners aren’t the best specially at the extremities, they’re not unusable but they’re far from nice. Stopping it down to f/2.8 will give you very sharp center performance thanks to the improved resolution. The corners look better but still noticeably behind the center in terms of resolution and sharpness. Stopping it down to f/4 will give you peak-performance at the center and the corner begins to look a lot better, too. They won’t approach what you’ll see at the center even at f/1.8 and I don’t think they’ll look any-better by stopping it down tp f/5.6 because this is where you will start to see the effects of diffraction kick-in. This lens does seem to perform a lot better at closer distances, the performance is going to deteriorate once you get closer to infinity.

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It won’t allow you to focus as close as a macro-lens would but it’s close-enough for taking photos of small things and it performs admirably at closer distances which I think is its best trait. You’ll be amazed at how sharp it is even at f/1.8 and you’ll want to use it at this setting often as it can get really addicting.

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If you love taking photos of flowers then this lens is for you. I think it’s great for moderate magnification. Rendering is nice but it’s not on-par with Micro-Nikkors that were made for 35mm photography. Despite being labeled as an f/1.8 lens you won’t get similar results as you would with a full-frame system, I think it’s practically closer to f/2.8 if you ask me.

It could render beautifully but there’s something missing, I think this has more to do with the limitations of a smaller sensor. There is no “magic” to speak of despite this photo being nice in the technical sense.

This photo reminded me a lot of my old Fujifilm X20 in the sense that it looks rather “flat”, making it look a bit cheap. People who say that sensor-size doesn’t matter at all could make great salespeople. Getting this result isn’t the fault of this lens entirely, it’s just a mix of several factors all coming-together.

Despite having a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture and a field-of-view that’s close to 50mm you won’t get that characteristic look of the classic standard-lens. Of course, this is merely an 18.5mm lens that’s posing as a 50mm of some sort but we all know that. People who are new to photography may not be aware of this and may dismiss this as a poor lens which it is anything but.

The poor high-ISO performance of the Nikon 1 system makes it a bad choice for lowlight photography but this lens will make sure that you could squeeze every bit of light available to you. If only this or the camera has VR then it would have been much better.

Food photography is a nice application for this little lens since it’s really a wide-angle lens so you’ll get the perspective of one. It’s great because your food photos won’t look like miniatures due to the effects of foreshortening.

There are times when chromatic aberration can help make your photos look a bit more interesting, adding a bit of “organic” touch to an otherwise boring photo.

You’ll see some chromatic aberration here, I wasn’t expecting to see much of it in this photo since I’m used to shooting with larger formats like 35mm and 6×6.

Focusing and tracking are the best traits of this system and they work magically even in challenging situations such as this. It’s fast and silent, making it stealthy.

The amount of detail you could get from this little thing is amazing, this is the best-value lens for the Nikon 1 system.

One of the ironic reasons for owning a Nikon 1 is its grainy results which is great for simulating that unique look of film grain. It’s the best that I have used so far, a lot better than the ones you could get from the other brand that prides in their film-presets. If you do not shoot with film you’ll only look at the colors and not the texture of the actual photo. In my opinion, the Nikon 1 creates noise that has the closest look to film grain. It still looks ugly but it a good way.

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Here are more photos for you to look at. I enjoyed shooting with this little lens, it’s versatile and the results you could get from it is amazing specially at closer distances. The rendering is nice as well despite not being on-par with lenses that were made for film or full-frame, it is what it is and it does its job beautifully despite all of the physical limitations imposed on its development.

One of the reasons why people buy this lens is for taking photos at night where the “bright” maximum-aperture helps a lot in keeping shutter-speeds to a manageable level. Sure, the 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 is faster but that will cost you an exorbitant amount of money and it’s not going to be as wide, too. This lens is what you’ll need if you’re on a budget.

It’s a great lens for shooting at night not only because of its “fast” maximum-aperture but how it renders things will be helpful, too. The character of the bokeh is nice so you won’t get any harsh rendering or a sudden shift in the blurry bits which could give you an impression of a “wall-of-focus”.

This is probably a better example when illustrating the character of its bokeh when shot in this context. There’s no ugly or rough-looking details that could distract your viewers and the sharp details of what’s in-focus makes this photo an excellent example of what it could do as an artist’s tool.

Vignetting will be a problem when shooting wide-open. This isn’t much of a problem in usual cases but it could be an annoyance when you want the whole frame to appear evenly-lit.

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Here are more photos that I took that night. It’s able to reliably track my subjects despite being dark and even when it had to guess where it went after something obstructed my subjects from view. This has more to do with the ability of the camera’s AF-module more than the lens but if a lens wasn’t able to give responsive feedback then it would not be useful at all.

I highly recommend this to anybody who owns a Nikon 1 camera, these are inexpensive today, I got mine for $80.00, a nice price for an item with warranty from a shop, you could get one for even less if you are lucky. For that price I got an amazing lens that’s sharp and a lot of fun to use. If you own a Nikon 1 camera but you still don’t have one of these you are missing a lot of fun that the system offers. Having said that, be careful when buying these or any 1 Nikkor lenses, it is common knowledge that these have fragile apertures which are known to cause crumple or malfunction. This affects the cheapest kit-lenses the more but even the expensive 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 isn’t immune to this, I consider it a scam. Check if it focuses silently and perfectly. The optics should be clean and clear, too. If you could get one with the hood, the better. Just be patient and you can get one of these for a nice price, Happy hunting.

Thanks for following my work, if you liked this article please share this with your friends so it will get more views. This site earns around $0.40 a day, we are totally reliant on views. You could also support this site, it helps me offset the cost of maintenance and hosting. You are also helping me purchase, process and scan film. This site promotes the use of film so we are all in this together. See you again in the next article, Ric.

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Maintaining this requires resources and a lot of time. If you think that it has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the site’s upkeep, you can make a small donation to my paypal.com at richardHaw888@gmail.com. Money isn’t my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

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