Quite a while ago I wrote a short test on the little cheap gem amongst the Nikon lenses; the 50mm F1.8 D. This looked promising enough to test the lens for real under the stars. Let’s look at how this lens is performing with astro photo’s.
Using the Nikkor 50mm F1.8 for astrophotography
In the test I noticed that the lens seems to be sharpest when used at F2.8 so I used this setting to test it out. Below you see a single shot of 230sec. of the milky way:
At first glance this looks very good in my opinion. No barrel nor pin-cushion distortion, no noticeable coma, just a nice wide field picture of the Milky Way.
Let’s take a closer look at the corners and center of the image at 100%;
If you look really close the upper corners have very little distortion of the stars, but the center and bottom cuts look just fine. My guess would be that this is a very slight astigmatism. But nothing to worry about since you can only notice it in the corners when viewed at 100%. And let’s be honest, how frequently do you view 3280 x 4948 pictures at 100%?
Furthermore we can see the stars are nice and clean; no halo’s and very very little purple fringes, only on the brightest stars. So also from chromatic abberation perspective, the Nikkor 50mm F1.8 is an excellent lens!
Let’s take a look at another example. Here is a wide field view of the constellation Cygnus. Again the Nikkor 50mm was used at F2.8. This image is a stack of 9 frames of 300secs. each.
Again the quality of the image looks perfect in terms of absence of distortions and nice pin-point round stars. But, we only will know for sure if we inspect the image at 100%. So let’s take a look at the corners and center of the image:
Inspecting the stars in the corners and the center of the image at 100% gives us the same distortions like in the previous image, although the slight distortion of the stars is situated top left and bottom left this time due to the different orientation of the frame. The center gives us a perfect star and the others sides are fine as well.
Conclusion on using the Nikkor 50mm for astrophotography
For me this lens is just a perfect little and affordable lens to do wide field astrophotography with. When used at F2.8 it produces an image for wich the quality is absolutely fine when viewed on ‘normal resolutions’, although we can see some distortion of stars in two of the corners when viewed at 100%. Whether this is common in all Nikkor 50mm F1.8 lenses or if this is just a minor issue with mine we don’t know (at this moment) of course.
Considering the price of around $129,- for this lens, I can highly recommend adding this lens to your astrophotography gear!
If you own the Nikkor 50mm F1.8 yourself I would be very interested in your results and experiences! Lets hear it in the comments…