Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI Lens Review

Written by Richard D.

Introduced in 1977, along with the AI 1.4, the 50mm f2 ai was only available for a short time but marked the start of the AI era and due to it's relative low cost sold in large numbers. Optically it was essentially unchanged from the pre-AI version.

It's a classic Nikkor of the period, very solidly built with a precise well marked focus ring that exhibits the lovely smooth viscosity of the best Nikkors. Aperture stops are firm with no looseness.

Fact Sheet

Vendor name Type Product year
Focal Min(mm) Focal Max(mm) Focus Min(cm)
Aperture Max Aperture Min. Barrel length(mm)
Elements In Group Diaphragm action Weight (g)
4 in 6
Filter Size (mm) Push on diameter (mm) Angular field

User Comments

IMHO, it's on the short list of the best Nikon lenses ever, along with the Gauss version of the 105mm f2.5 and the 180mm f2.8 ED.

(Douglas Green)

I have Nikkor 50mm f2.0 AI -"K" version from midle 70's wich I converted to, so that I can use it with f90x and F70.
It is the best and far the CONTRASTEST 50mm lens.
Virtualy withoud edge fall off, far more sharpest on f2.0 and f8.0 than 50mm f1.8AF.
Real kicker!

(Jovan Ivkovic)


The front element is deeply recessed making the lens fairly flare resistant even with the relatively simple multi-coating. Widely regarded as one of Nikon's sharpest lenses, I've compared it with f1.8 and f1.4 versions and at f2 it is the sharpest of the three, giving very good sharpness wide open and superb sharpness at f5.6 and beyond, although on my D200 I've found at minimum aperture (f16) diffraction sometimes softens the image slightly. Colour rendition is typical Nikkor, with strong bright, but not unnatural colours. Contrast is fairly high, bokeh is okay but nothing special. It works well with a reversing ring to give about 1:2 maginfication.

I've owned this lens since I bought my first Nikon FE many years back and it remains one of my favourite lenses on my D200, with the crop factor making it a good lens for portraits and detail shots.

Available cheaply secondhand, if you don't need the extra speed of the other 50mm Nikkors this is a superb choice.

(Richard D.)


Comments (3)
Better than a zoom!
3Sunday, 22 July 2012 15:46
This lens occupies a distinct position between wide-angles and telephoto lenses. The angle of view and absence of distortion (mostly seen on wides apart from 35mm) mean that it is a lens you an use for 90% of your shots. The 50mm lens was supplanted by mid-range zooms a few years ago but, photographers are beginning to take a fresh look at it. Unlike zooms that are very slow - f4.5 is typical - the f2 is very useful wide open. Contrast, bokeh and rendition are in abundance and the lens is surprisingly cheap to but. The quality of build is staggering and really old ones still keep working. You have bear in mind that the best zoom lens is your legs! You move in or draw back instead of standing rooted to the spot. As a professional portrait photographer, I use mine, made in 1960, when taking environmental portraits that show my sitter in a particular setting. I would be lost without it!
Nikkor 50mm F 2 AI
2Monday, 18 July 2011 03:39
Ditto to everything that has been written. Simply fantastic on my D700 and D5000.
nikkor 50mm f/2
1Monday, 01 March 2010 09:06
i can only second anything that is above here. i bought it for 15 euro's from a guy who wasn't aware that you can also make great photo's with non autofocuslenses.
but it's an easy to focus lens, i can almost focus it as fast as my camera can focus an autofocuslens.
with the cropfactor it's a great lens to make overviewphoto's of a basketballgame if you're on the sideline (which is easy since i'm assistent of the coach) and i hit problably one out of three if their really close to the basket and i hit almost anytime when they're around the threepointline.

hope this helps

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