For a long time I was considering to write a review of the Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 lens, but wasn’t able to find the time. Busy work schedule and taking photos with the lens, instead of writing about it, kept me from doing it. But now, after more than 8 months of use, I’ve finally managed to sit down and put my thoughts on paper.
What is it about this lens that makes it so special in the Nikon 1 realm? It is a relatively fast standard prime, which comes at a reasonable price point. At the time of writing the price in EU is around €180. I’ve paid €200 in February 2013 and found the price more than justified considering the very fast autofocus action, the very good optical performance at wide open apertures and some unique features of the N1 cameras which increase the usability of this lens greatly in comparison to any other standard prime. I will go into more detail on that later, the point that I’m trying to make is that people who compare the 18.5/1.8 to a much larger and material intensive 35/1.8, and whine about its price, are simply wrong. The 18.5/1.8 is one hell of a lens, which is worth every penny.
What you will often read on forums is that the 18.5mm f/1.8 is cheaply made. In my opinion this is plain wrong. True, the 18.5mm is made of light materials and is therefore a light lens, which may give you a cheap first impression. But at second glance, you will discover that it is very solid. It is in fact as robust as any I have ever owned, including the hefty Zenzanon E II 75mm f/2.8 and the highly-regarded Zeiss 45/2 for Contax G. Just look at the images below.
The lens has a metal mount, since it’s so light, I’m guessing the lens barrel is made out of aluminium alloy and a paint-job extremely resistant to abuse. After 8 months of intensive use mine still looks like brand new. There are not many lenses out there, which are able to withstand the ravages of time this well. And mine even fell from the desk down to the floor a couple of times. No dent, no scratch, nada!
For the price the 18.5/1.8 delivers excellent optical performance. It is very sharp straight from maximum aperture, between f/2.8 and f/3.5 sharpness reaches excellent levels. At f/5.6 it is still very good, beyond that, diffraction begins to take its toll. At f/1.8 purple fringing can be quite visible on edges with extreme contrast, like branches in front of an overcast sky. Stopping down to f/2.5 and beyond corrects this problem and makes it a non-issue. Worth noting is that PF can be remedied in post processing quite easily, in fact Nikon 1 cameras do it automatically when shooting JPGs. Vignetting and barrel distortion are moderate, but considering the price point, these flaws are well controlled. Check out the reviews on photozone.de, dxomark.com and slrgear.com for more technically oriented tests of image quality, performed under lab conditions. Or take a look at my link collection with links to all available technical and non-technical reviews, samples and videos.
Having a hybrid-type AF system employing both contrast and phase-detect sensors, Nikon 1 cameras and lenses are known for their super-fast and precise focusing. The Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 is no different. It focuses fast, very fast. People who own many of the other N1 lenses claim that it is one of the fastest. I can’t comment on that, since I only own the 10-30mm and a couple of MF C-Mount lenses. What I can say is that the 18.5mm is faster than the 10-30mm and much faster and much more confident in low light. If you are familiar with the way C-AF works, which is the mode N1 cameras switch to under low light, you will most likely never encounter a situation, in which the 18.5mm won’t be able to acquire focus. Just place your focus-point on vertical lines with strong contrast and you will be fine.
The AF motor is not only fast but also utterly silent. Only by placing you ear on the lens barrel will you be able to perceive the faintest noise. Switching to electronic shutter and sticking to f/1.8 will enable you to shoot in a stealthy way, paralleled by no other camera of this type or class. This is good news if you are into street photography. Stopping down, however, results in moderately loud noise coming from the aperture blades closing down.
When capturing Full-HD video, the AF is silent and smooth. AF hunting, which can spoil any video, can be observed under very low or otherwise tricky lighting conditions. That being said, the AF is even capable of using face detect successfully to focus smoothly on faces right up to lighting levels as low as f/1.8 at ISO1600 or ISO3200. This should suffice for most applications. Since the lens has no vibration reduction, you will however need a tripod or a steadycam.
Combined with some very nice features of Nikon 1 cameras, the 18.5/1.8 exceeds the usability of many other standard primes on their respective cameras. Most cameras can’t expose shorter than 1/4000th of a second. Some DSLRs and more expensive mirrorless cameras can go up to 1/8000th. Nikon 1 cameras can go as short as 1/16000th of a second. Most cameras neither can achieve 10 or 15 frames per second while still being able to use autofocus, the Nikon V1 and V2 can. What this means is that unlike any other lens on other cameras, you can use the 18.5/1.8 wide open even under most intensive sunlight, without needing to add bulk and weight by using an ND filter on your lens. Combined with the fast operation, especially the AF, and the high burst rate this results in an enjoyable shooting experience (fast shooting with a light and small yet capable camera/lens combo), unparalleled by any camera or lens combination on the market. Regardless of how much money you are ready to spend.
The Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 is one very light, small and capable lens. The build quality is great, the image quality excellent keeping the price point in mind, the AF among the speediest and the usability factor unsurpassed by any lens and camera combination on the market. To top it all off, with a price of around €179 in Germany ($186 in US and £175 in UK) at the time of writing, this lens is a bargain and a must-have for any Nikon 1 user.
You can view all my images taken with the 18.5/1.8 on my Flickr set. Below are some of the nicer pictures I have taken with the lens in the past 8 months.
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[…] My own review after 8 months of use […]
nice review and photos!
Thank you Bruno! 🙂
Lovely, lovely images taken with a good system and a competent photographer. Well done !
Thank you very much Jacques! 🙂
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Hi Ivan, your review is very nice and useful for me. I am just considering about this lens. Your photos are nice. On Friday i will buy this lens too. Honza, Czech Republic
Than you Honza! I’m glad that you like my photos. I wish you loads of fun with the new lens!
This review is the reason i bought the 18.5 f1.8, thank you! And now for me to produce some nice pics aswell ;).
Thank you Ben for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment! 🙂
Keep me posted.
[…] you are contemplating buying a Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8 read my review, which I have written after 8 months of use, and also consider making your purchase through […]
[…] found the price more than justified. Should you need more info on the lens, check out my long term Review of the 18.5mm f/1.8 after 8 months of use and my flickr set with loads of […]
Hi Ivan, thank you for the review. Besides the fact that I really enjoy your photos it’s the sharpness of the images that intrigues me. I own and shoot a D300, 35/1.8 and 60 AFS but have been using a Lumix G3 for 6 months as the Nikon is too big to take with me every day.
I’m now at a point where I want to choose a system, and the Lumix just isn’t giving me sharp enough results – trying out my Nikon the other day I got super sharp photos and have begun to despair. Until I saw your post here. The V1 and this lens appear to give similar results in terms of sharpness and colour.
Thank you Eyal!
I can’t comment on the sharpness of the G3, because I have 0 experience with that camera. I would assume that it is just as sharp as the V1. Provided that similar lenses are used on both cameras. Which lenses did you use on your G3? 20mm f/1.7 would be somewhat comparable to the 18.5mm f/1.8.
I’m using the kit zoom at this stage as I have only been experimenting with the G3 to see if a smaller sensor, body would meet my needs. Im now at the point where – with a budget of $800 US – I am wondering what to do next.
Option 1 buy the PL 25/1.4. Too big a profile (i.e not a pancake) but (I assume based on the test shots I took) stellar IQ even wide open. But will that be enough to lift the average high ISO performance of the G3?
or.. go with the Nikon 1 V1 – the “Tetris camera” + 18.5/1.8 lens for super fast AF and decent IQ and ability to use my Nikon primes… albeit with D80 ISO level performance.
I don’t have much experience with mFT. But if you want a pancake style standard prime, why not try the Pana 20/1.7?
Regarding N1, at this time it is not clear what Nikon plans to do next. There is no V3, meaning that they might just as well drop the N1 system or butcher it beyond recognition. I would wait until the CP+ show in February if I were you. If Nikon doesn’t announce the V3 then, it will be a bad sign for the future of N1.
I appreciate your detailed write-up. What is nice to see is how much “subject/background separation” you are able to achieve with an 18.5mm lens, I suppose that the f/1.8 aspect helps a lot with that.
A couple of questions: are these out-of-camera JPEGs, and if so, what are your picture control settings? They look far better than what I typically get with my Nikon J1. (I use the “Standard” preset with sharpness bumped up to 6.)
Hi Larry! No, these are not OOC JPGs. I’m an RAW only shooter who uses Lightroom 3.6. I’ve written a long comment about my post processing here.
Thanks for the information. Incidentally I found an 18.5mm f/1.8 for $100 second-hand but in great shape, pretty good price wouldn’t you say? It’s white & thus matches my white J1. Anyway–size-wise, how does the 18.5mm compare to the 10-30 (collapsed)?
I hope you got it. At that price it’s a bargain.
Regarding size: even collapsed 10-30 is around 4mm longer and 2 mm wider than the 18.5mm.
The pictures you made with the Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 look sharp and contrasty with excellent skin tones. Absolutely nothing wrong with them. Well done. I still think the Nikon V1 is kind of a modern classic for (street) photography. I recently bought my second V1 (10-30mm kit) for only 250 dollars. Brand spanking new, sealed, boxed, unopened, fresh smelling and with a two year warranty. Can you believe it? Street photography is fun nowadays as almost everybody can afford a vey capable camera like the Nikon 1 V1.
Thank you very much Frank. You are very kind.
I was passionate about street photography years ago, now I mostly shoot cats, dogs and people I know and care about.
Sounds like an excellent deal. I love the V1, especially the elegant design, but I would like to see a V3 with better sensor, better EVF, more advanced features and some new lenses. I would really love to see that 18.5mm f/0.7 and that 70-300 native tele hit the market. Nikon has patented designs for both these lenses. Those would be my dream lenses for N1 and I would be prepared to pay a lot for them.
[…] one of the three sharpest lenses overall. The other two are the 18.5mm f/1.8 (which I have reviewed here) and the 32mm f/1.2. Being right up there with standard and portrait primes in regards to image […]
[…] with the cheap 25mm f/1.4 C-Mount lens on the V1. I was quite busy shooting with the 18.5mm f/1.8 (my review) and reporting on all the new 1” releases, like the Nikon V3 and Samsung NX mini. But finally […]
[…] myself and my family with pictures. Not just any pictures, but those taken with the Nikon V1, 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8, 50m f/1.4 C-Mount and 25mm f/1.4 C-Mount. Let’s begin with me, the admin of this blog. My name […]
[…] After a pause lasting two months, over the course of which I’ve been shooting with my Micro Four Thirds gear, I took the Nikon V1 with the 25mm f/1.4 C-Mount lens for a spin. Unlike the 50mm f/1.4 C-Mount, the 25/1.4 is not a lens I enjoy shooting a lot, which is why I still haven’t gotten to writing a review. I simply haven’t taken enough photos with it to be confident enough to pass a final verdict. I hope that it won’t take 8 months, like it did with the 18.5mm f/1.8, until I’m ready to sit down and write a proper review. Btw. you can read my long term review of the 18.5mm here. […]
[…] writing a review. It took me four months to review the 50/1.4 C-Mount and a whopping eight to do a review of the Nikon 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8. Despite having the 25/1.4 and using it for such a long time, I don’t have that many photos to […]
just one thing … the lens mount is made of plastic as is the mount of the kit lens (10-30) !!!
I’ve read that on forums as well, but the mount of the 18.5mm doesn’t feel like plastic to me. More like thin aluminium.
i have the 10mm f/2.8. I wonder if I get the 18.5mm, will it make the 10mm redundant ?
I don’t think so. Unless your only reason for using the 10mm is the added light gathering power in comparison to the 10-30 and other slow zooms. 10mm and 18.5mm are quite different in regard to field of view and “look”.
Nice shots, all of them! I love the cats, the people, and the rest!
I love my 7.9/2.0 lens (a slightly modified 10/2.8), which I use a lot, more than the 18.5/1.8!
How did you modify it?
Very late reply, sorry: I added a Panasonic wide-adapter to mine, so now its roughly 8mm instead of 10!
What can you tell me about image quality of that particular setup?
Your photos are quite fantastic; I was stunned to see the quality of your images! Did you use a Nikon 1 V1 body with this lens? I am asking because I have that particular body. I am very excited to know what is possible with the 18.5 1.8 lens. Can you please tell your method for shooting the images? Did you use auto mode, or aperture or shutter priority? Thanks again for sharing!
thank you very much for the compliment. Yes, I shot these photos with a Nikon 1 V1. I use aperture priority 95% of the time. I almost never use auto. I prefer to use the electronic shutter, set ISO manually and use single point AF. All images were shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 5.7.
Thank you so much for this wonderful review! I’m totally sold!! Going to buy this one!
A magnificent review indeed! I noticed in your review that this lens has no VR. So is a tripod required always for low light high ISO shots. Also how is video quality in low light. I am worried about motion blur. Thanks in advance for your kind clarification.
Thank you Kunal!
No, despite not having VR this lens is very much usable in low light. That being said, you are limited by the 1″ sensor’s high ISO performance and by only having f/1.8 instead of having f/1.4 that standard prime lenses for other systems (like for example the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 for M4/3) offer.
As for video quality in low light, this really isn’t the right system for that sort of thing. I would recommend getting one of the Panasonic M4/3 bodies (GH4, G70/G80, etc.) or one of the Sony A7 versions for that.