This is one of the first lenses i put in my bag, whether i’m shooting a gig, going for a day out or a weekend away. What’s the lens best used for and why do i love it so much? Let’s take a closer look…
This is one of my favourite lenses and as soon as i first put it on my camera i knew it was going to be perfect for a lot of different applications. The AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED as it’s officially known is classed as being a wide-angle and even sometimes a super wide-angle lens, the focal length of 20mm will give you a field of view equivalent to roughly 94 degrees. The maximum aperture of the lens is f/1.8 making it perfect for use in low light without having to worry too much about motion blur or using a flash.
The lettering in the product name refers to a number of the main features this lens offers, firstly AF-S means that the lens features autofocus capabilities and does so with minimal noise, secondly the ED refers to a special type of glass used in the construction (extra low dispersion) which is used to avoid chromatic aberrations or ‘colour fringing’, i’ve not noticed a single instance of chromatic aberrations since i’ve been using this lens, which is great. The ‘G’ after the aperture number indicates that the aperture is set by the camera and not manually on the lens, all Nikon lenses should now be shipping with ‘G’ lettering so this should be fairly standard.
The lens is nice and light but still feels pretty sturdy at the same time, mines taken plenty of bumps and been splashed a few times and still works perfectly. It has a 77mm filter ring on the front and because i tend to use mine in unpredictable environments i attached a protective filter to it, i haven’t noticed any reduction in optical performance or focussing speed / accuracy when using the filter, the front element is quite large so it makes me more confident when shooting at gigs knowing i’ve got some extra protection.
This lens is a prime lens meaning it has a fixed focal length, you can’t zoom in or out and if you want to recompose it means you need to move yourself either closer or further away to the subject, to some this will be an annoyance and is often the reason a lot of photographers choose to have a wide-angle zoom lens instead. It’s also worth noting that a focal length of 20mm is probably considered too wide for traditional portraits, you’ll tend to notice some distortion and barreling, this is to be expected from such a wide lens and can be easily corrected when processing, sometimes it can even add to the feel of the image.
Nikon do offer 14-24mm and 16-35mm zoom lenses but both are far heavier, larger, more expensive and don’t offer as large maximum aperture as this 20mm prime, partly the reason for me picking it up. As you can see from the below image it looks great on the camera body and even has a gold ring around the front element, often used as a nod to Nikons professional grade lenses. If you want to see some more detailed specs then head over to the official Nikon product page, here.
Whilst the lens supports auto focus, there is a manual override, so as soon as you touch the manual focus ring you can take creative control over the focussing, i rarely use this but it can come in handy if you need to tweak the focus a little. As well as having manual override you can use the lens in complete manual mode and it does have a distance meter window to show where the lens is focussing, this is helpful if you’re setting it manually and want to get the range right, or know where the ‘infinity’ focus point is, i’ve used this a couple times when taking photos of the night sky or at gigs when it’s really dark.
The lens focusses very quickly when set to autofocus, this is partly due to the fact it’s distance range is from 0.66 feet at minimum focus and everything past 1.3 feet is considered infinity, perfect for shooting in situations where you need to grab focus really fast. The lens is also very very sharp, images look crisp and really sharp even at f/1.8 and past that they get better and better, the sweet-spot being around f/4 and f/5.6, couple this with the wide field of view and you’re looking at a brilliant lens for architecture and landscapes. The close focussing distance is amazing as well and you can almost produce macro style results with it.
Let’s take a look at some sample photos to show the different uses of this lens, as you can see it’s great in low light, perfect for architecture and brilliant and getting the most out of a tight situation.
In summary i’d say this is a brilliant lens, if you’re happy having a fixed focal length then this could be the right lens for you. I thought about getting the 16-35mm but it was just too large for me to carry around easily, the 16-35mm also has a max aperture of f/4 so it wouldn’t be as useful when shooting in low light which is something i do a lot of. The 20mm can be picked up for around £579.00, i got mine from Calumet where i was able to test the lens quickly which helped make my decision.
When i’m out and about i’ll often pair this lens with another favourite of mine, the Nikon 50mm 1.4 which gives a couple great options for shooting in most environments.