Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S (FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 77mm filters, 12.5 oz./354g, 0.66'/0.2m close focus, about $797). enlarge. I got mine at Adorama; I'd also get it at Amazon, at B&H or at Crutchfield. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these lenses when you get yours through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you take the chances of buying elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.
Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AF-D (1989-today)
Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AI-s (1984-today)
Not for: I wouldn't bother with this on a DX camera. I'd use any DX lens, like the 18-55mm VR II kit lens, instead. With this 20mm, you're paying a premium in price for the ultrawide FX coverage, which is wasted on a DX camera. For speed on DX I use the 35/1.8 DX, for wide on DX I use the 10-24mm and for 20mm I use that setting of the 18-55 kit lens.
Sample Image Files
Ryan flies a Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar," 28 November 2014, Friday. Nikon D810, Nikon 20mm f/1.8, f/1.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 1,100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or camera-original file to explore on your computer.
The 20/1.8 is so fast that we can shoot it out moving taxi windows at night at ISO 100 for ultra-clean professional images.
West 30th Street looking west at night, New York City, 06 October 2014. D750 in HDR mode, 20mm f/1.8, f/2.8 at 5 seconds at ISO 400, hand-held against tinted hotel window, Perfectly Clear. Full-resolution (13 MB JPG).
Extremely sharp even at f/1.8!
This new Nikon 20mm f/1.8 FX is Nikon's sharpest fixed ultrawide lens. Not only is it over a stop faster than any previous Nikon ultrawide lens or zoom, it's ultrasharp (even wide-open), it focuses super-close, has no ghosts, has great sunstars and only minimal distortion.
You can read the rest of this review if you like, or just do as I did and get yours now and just start shooting. I can't find anything wrong with it; it even works great with two stacked filters with no vignetting on full-frame!
It's ultrasharp, ultrafast, and small and light. Nikon hasn't updated the optical design of its other 20mm ultrawide lens in over 30 years since the original 20/2.8 AI-s lens of 1984, so this new 20/1.8 is a real eye opener in what Nikon has learned in 30 years. This new lens makes any old 20/2.8 look broken by comparison, especially at large apertures (the AF, AF-D and AI-s lenses all have the same optical design).
You may turn the focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon ever made, both FX and DX, from the best Df, D4s, D810, D750 and D610 to Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, D5200 and D5300.
The incompatibilities for older or cheaper 35mm cameras are that:
1.) It won't autofocus with the cheapest new AF 35mm cameras like the N55, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. Even if you lose autofocus, these cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.
2.) Late 1980s ~ early 1990s AF cameras like the N90s, N70 and F4 will focus and meter perfectly. You'll have Program and Shutter-priority modes, but you won't have Manual or Aperture-priority since you have no way to set the aperture on the camera or on the lens.
3.) You're really pushing it with the oldest AF cameras like the N2020, N6006 and N8008. You'll have no AF and confused exposure modes. Manual focus is fine, along with electronic focus indications.
4.) Since it has no aperture ring, it's just about useless with manual focus 35mm cameras. It will shoot every shot at its minimum aperture.
See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I" and "G" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a deliberate handicap which removes features and compatibility
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S. enlarge.
Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED N SWM RF Aspherical ∅77.
AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave Autofocus Motor.
NIKKOR: Nikon's brand name for all their lenses.
ED: Magic Extra-low Dispersion glass for reduced secondary chromatic aberration.
N: Magic Nano-crystal coating, meaning a coating which varies its index of refraction continuously to achieve even greater reflection reduction. It's probably only on one surface, and is used mostly for marketing purposes.
RF: Rear focusing; nothing moves externally as focused except the rear element.
Aspherical: Specially curved glass to give even sharper pictures.
∅77: 77mm filter thread.
MADE IN CHINA: Offshored to be made as efficiently as possible.
13 elements in 11 groups.
2 are of ED glass.
2 are aspherical.
One surface, usually the inside rear of the largest element, is Nano-crystal coated to eliminate ghosts.
It's multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Super Integrated Coating.
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S at f/16.
Rounded at large apertures, heptagonal at medium and small apertures.
Stops down to f/16.
Focal Length top
Angle of View top
74° on small-format DX.
Close Focus top
7.5" or 19 cm from the image plane, measured.
5" or 125mm from the front of the lens, measured.
Nikon specifies 0.66 feet (8" or 0.2 meters) from the image plane.
Minimum Working Distance top
5" (125 mm) from subject to front of lens.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.
Focus Scale top
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Not really, only one pair of ticks for f/16.
Infra-Red Focus Index top
Aperture Ring top
Filter Thread top
77 mm, plastic.
Does not move, ever.
Nikon specifies 3.2" (82.5 mm) diameter by 3.2" (80.5 mm) extension from flange.
12.488 oz. (354.05g), actual measured.
Nikon specifies 12.6 oz. (355 g).
Hood, Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S.
The plastic bayonet HB- 72 hood is included.
CL-1015 pouch, included.
77mm front lens cap.
LF-4 rear cap.
Made in China.
5 years, USA.
Midnight, 12:01 AM, Thursday, 11 September 2014, NY City time.
Available since top
Shipping since late September 2014.
Nikon Product Number top
Price, USA top
$797, May~November 2016. The price has never varied since introduction.
$800, September 2014.
Box, Nikon 20mm f/1.8G.
In the box is the lens and hood in a translucent plastic holder. The folded pouch lies on top, while the paperwork is tucked away on the side, behind a cardboard wall.
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S internal packing.
The Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S is a total winner. It's optically and ergonomically near perfect.
Typical for ultrawide lenses, AF is very fast and always accurate.
Manual focus is also superb; just grab the ring at any time for instant manual focus override with perfect speed and feel.
Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is superb.
As an ultrawide lens, backgrounds are rarely out of focus.
The only way to get backgrounds out of focus with this lens it so have the subject very close (like one foot/30 cm) and shoot at f/1.8. Otherwise, as with all ultrawides, everything is always pretty much always in focus.
If you want out-of focus backgrounds, use a normal or telephoto lens — not a fast ultrawide.
The color rendition is the same as my other Nikkor AF lenses.
Coma (saggital coma flare) often causes weird smeared blobs to appear around bright points of light in the corners of fast or wide lenses at large apertures. In lenses that have it, coma goes away as stopped down.
This aspherical lens has nearly no coma; that's now a thing of the past.
The Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S has very mild barrel distortion. It's much less than I had expected.
The good news is that recent digital cameras like the D90, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300, D7000, D7100, D4, D4s, D600, D610, D750, D800, D800E, D810 and Df can be set to correct the distortion automatically in-camera — so long as you have the latest camera firmware installed in your camera!
My D810, purchased before this lens was announced, already has the ability to correct the minor distortion. Nikon was thinking ahead.
In-camera correction does a great job. With in-camera correction on my D810, there is no distortion.
Without in-camera correction, what little distortion there is can be corrected for critical use by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2014 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
* Slight waviness remains
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S. enlarge.
Ergonomics are perfect; just grab and go.
Most of the lens is the perfect manual focus ring, and the bell-shaped front end comfortably keeps my fingers out of the way.
Most modern DSLRs correct for this automatically.
If you turn of the correction on FX or are shooting on 35mm film, falloff is minor to moderate at f/1.8, and gone by f/2.8.
I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.
There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick filters.
On full-frame I can shoot with two stacked filters with no vignetting.
With three stacked filters on full frame I get vignetting — but not at the closest focus distances!
The filter ring never moves.
Don't use a polarizer on this or any ultrawide lens, unless you want weird dark bands appearing in your skies. Nature's polarization varies with angle, so with lenses this wide, weird things happen if used with a polarizing filter.
Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image from the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S gets larger as focused more closely.
With the Nano coating, there are no ghosts. If you want little colored blobs in the image from the sun, use the old 20/2.8 AF-D instead.
Here's the worst I could get from this new lens, shooting the direct noonday sun on one side and the darkest black on the near side.
Worst-case flare and ghosts at f/8 on full-frame D810.
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S with included hood.
The hood is included.
It's not needed, but if you like hoods, this one is reasonably tough and will help keep dirt and salt spray out of your lens.
There are no lateral color fringes on the D810, which corrects any automatically.
If you push it shooting into the light, there are some very slight blue fringes, but not anything to worry about.
It gets right up to 5" (125mm) from the front of the lens.
It gets very close, so close that this lens will never limit your point of view when you want to get very close and blow proportion all out the window for creative effect.
Omega Constellation on full-frame at close-focus distance.
Crop from above 36 MP image at 100%. If this is 6" wide on your screen, the complete image printed at this same magnification would be 75 x 50." (6 x 4 feet, or 2 x 1.25 meters!)
Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S. enlarge.
The Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G AF-S is all plastic on the outside, with a metal mount.
Plastic; rubber covered.
Mounting Index Dot
White plastic ball.
Sticker glued into a recess on the bottom of the lens.
US Model Signified by
"5 years" sticker on outside of box.
Yellow Nikon USA warranty paperwork inside box.
Serial number is not prefixed by "US."
Moisture seal at mount
Noises When Shaken
None; hit it against a demonstrator or a rock, and it should be fine.
While amateurs waste time worrying about lens sharpness, pros know that lens sharpness has little to do with making sharp pictures. This said, the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S is the sharpest Nikon fixed 20mm ever made.
It's super-sharp even at f/1.8, even at 36 MP. It's a little less contrasty in the far corners, but still super sharp. The corners are just as good as the center a stop or two down, and there's nothing limiting sharpness on 36 MP cameras until diffraction limits performance at the smallest apertures.
Nikon 20 1.8 MTF.
Spherochromatism, sometimes mistakenly called "color bokeh" by laymen, is a minor aberration which can add slight color fringes to out-of focus highlights.
It has some at close distances wide open. Background highlights might have slight green fringes, and foreground highlight might have slight magenta fringes. No big deal; this helps smooth background bokeh.
Yes! Its diaphragm becomes reasonably straight-edged at medium and small apertures, so the Nikon 20 1.8G makes great 14-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.
It does well at reasonable apertures, although the sunstars are a little softer than with the older 20/2.8 lenses:
Sunstars at f/8. bigger.
If you stop down to f/16, you can get big, sharp sunstars like this:
Sunstars at f/16. bigger.
The Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S is tough.
The only thing that could likely be a future problem is if the AF-S motor dies and Nikon can't supply the part. No worries, it will still work as a manual focus lens, so by all means this ought to be a reasonably safe long-term buy.
M/A - M Switch
Nikon goofed. This switch is supposed to be labeled "A - M."
The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because you also can focus manually simply by grabbing the focus ring in this position.
The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because back in the old days, when Nikon had almost caught up to Canon who had been doing this for ten years before, Nikon was trying to show off that you could focus manually while in the AF position.
Paint over the extra M if you're easily confused.
Versus all 20mm lenses
At f/1.8, this is the world's fastest serious 20mm lens with no serious competition.
Sigma has made a 20mm f/1.8 for years, but pros won't trust their work to Sigma.
LEICA makes a 21mm f/1.4 lens, but that's not a 20mm lens, and LEICA is shot mostly by rich people, not by serious photographers. The LEICA 21/1.4 is bought by impressionable amateurs, not realizing that it's not as sharp as the LEICA 21/3.4, and the LEICA 21/1.4 is so huge it blocks the LEICA finder! Pros generally chuckle amongst themselves after some rich guy comes over to brag about his 21/1.4, with no photos to show for it. Oskar's spirit lives in the SUPER-ELMAR-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH, not in the bloated SUMMILUX.
Versus Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AF, AF-D and AI-s
This all-new lens is optically and ergonomically superior to the old 20/2.8 lenses. There is no comparison.
Versus Nikon16-35mm VR
The 16-35 VR is a completely different lens.
The 16-35 is much slower, bigger and much more expensive than this 20/1.8.
The 16-35 is for people who want a zoom, aren't shooting action and don't mind the size, weight and expense of the 16-35.
The 16-35 is for nature and landscape shooters who don't mind carrying a ton of gear. This 20/1.8 is for guys like me who travel light, and want the fast speed for low light and action. Of course this 20/1.8 is superb for astronomy.
Each of these two lenses is about as sharp (and each is very sharp), but the 16-35 zoom is loaded with distortion.
Canon 16-35mm IS
The Canon 16-35 IS (2014-today) is the same as the Nikon 16-35 VR.
Versus Canon 20mm f/2.8 USM
The Canon 20mm USM (1992-today) is better made mechanically, with a metal filter thread and hood mount and front barrel, but its optics can't compare to this new Nikon lens.
The big old Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZF (2008-today) was hot stuff in its day, back before Canon made any super-sharp ultrawides. Today, the Canon 16-35mm IS replaces the old Zeiss for Canon shooters, and the Nikon 14-24 and 16-35 VR zooms are as good as that old Zeiss as well.
Today, this new Nikon 20/1.8 renders the old Zeiss completely obsolete. This new lightweight f/1.8 lens is half the size and weight, easily takes two filters on full frame without vignetting, and is less than half the price and over twice as fast.
Not only are the optics of this new Nikon lens at least as good as in the huge old Zeiss, this Nikon lens has fast autofocus with instant manual override — while the Zeiss has no autofocus.
Auf Wiedersehen, Zeiss!
As you may have guessed, this is a flawless lens. It is so far ahead of Nikon's old 20mm lenses that it's not funny.
If you want a super-fast, super-sharp, super easy to use ultra-wide lens, this is the best Nikon has ever made.
If you want the best possible protective filter, the 77mm Hoya HD2 Protector is ultra multicoated, repels dirt and fingerprints and made of shatter resistant glass.
If I was working in nasty, dirty areas and don't want to spring for the HD2 filter, I'd use an uncoated 77mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.
I would leave the hood at home.
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30 September 2014