Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 vs. Nikon Z 40mm f/2: A Detailed Lens Showdown for the Discerning Photographer

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Have you ever found yourself pondering the subtle nuances of your next lens investment, lost in the sea of choices Nikon offers in its brilliant Z-series line-up? Are you a keen observer of life, capturing the fleeting moments in portraits or the grandeur of architecture, or perhaps an ardent explorer of the great outdoors with your trusty camera at your side? If so, join us as we delve into an intriguing comparison of two stellar performers – the compact Nikon Z 40mm f/2 lens and the versatile Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer venturing into the world of DSLRs or a seasoned professional looking for a new lens to add to your arsenal, understanding the strengths and idiosyncrasies of these two lenses will pave the way for more informed decisions and better photography outcomes. This article aims to scrutinize every detail, from the sharpness, bokeh quality, to the weight and size, that could make all the difference in your photography journey.

By navigating this comprehensive comparison, you’ll be able to discern which lens best fits your style, demands of your genre, and level of experience. We assure you that this exploration could possibly save you hours of scrolling through forums and countless review pages. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s embark on this journey of discovery, empowering you to capture the world around you in new and exciting ways. Unleash your creativity, refine your skills, and let these two lenses reveal their true potential.


Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F1.8 S
Max ApertureF2F1.8
Aperture TypeFixedFixed
Focal Range (mm)4050
Mount TypeNikon ZNikon Z
Max Format35mm FF35mm FF

Beginning with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, its maximum aperture stands at f/2, qualifying it as a lens capable of admitting a moderate amount of light. Being a fixed aperture lens, the 40mm lens retains its f/2 aperture throughout its focal range, delivering consistency in exposure and depth of field control. However, in comparison to wider apertures, it may not perform as well in low-light conditions or when aiming for pronounced background blur.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 boasts a wider aperture of f/1.8, giving it a considerable advantage in capturing more light and thus enhancing its low-light performance. Like its counterpart, it is also a fixed aperture lens, maintaining its f/1.8 aperture regardless of focal adjustments. This wider aperture aids in creating a shallower depth of field, enhancing the potential for isolating subjects and creating pleasing bokeh effects.

Shifting to the focal range, the 40mm lens, having a shorter focal length, is more oriented towards a wider field of view, making it a preferable option for scenarios demanding more context such as street or environmental photography. The 50mm lens, with a longer focal length, provides a slightly narrowed field of view, making it a more appropriate option for portraiture and other scenarios that benefit from tighter framing.

Concerning mount type, both lenses are designed for Nikon Z, signifying that they are compatible with mirrorless cameras using the Nikon Z mount. Their maximal format, 35mm Full Frame (FF), suggests their ability to cover a full-frame sensor completely, supporting high-quality imaging in both cases.

Finally, delving into aperture in the context of lens types, both lenses, being fixed aperture, offer consistent performance across the focal range, with better low-light capabilities than their variable aperture counterparts. Being prime lenses, they potentially yield higher image quality and a more compact form factor compared to zoom lenses, although their versatility might be less due to the fixed focal length.

Overall, if low light performance, shallow depth of field, and a slightly narrowed field of view are your priorities, the 50mm f/1.8 lens emerges as the superior option. However, if your photographic pursuits require a wider field of view with a relatively lower cost, the 40mm f/2 lens may be more appropriate.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F1.8 S
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀70×45.5mm⌀76×86.5mm
Weight (gr)170415
Filter Thread (mm)5262
Weather SealingNoYes
Distance ScaleNoNo
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedNoYes

The Nikon Z 40mm f/2, with its dimensions of 70mm diameter and 45.5mm length, is noticeably more compact than the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8, which measures 76mm in diameter and 86.5mm in length. In terms of weight, the 40mm lens weighs a light 170 grams, considerably less than the substantially heavier 50mm lens at 415 grams.

These dimensional and weight differences can greatly affect the user experience in various aspects of photography. The compactness and lightness of the 40mm lens contribute to its portability, making it a more convenient choice for photographers on the move or those involved in lengthy photo sessions. Its less intrusive size and reduced weight make it less noticeable and easier to handle, especially for street photography where discreetness can be paramount.

The balance of a camera setup can be significantly influenced by the lens weight and size. In this context, the 40mm lens is likely to provide a more balanced feel, especially on smaller or lighter camera bodies, avoiding the potential front-heaviness that can be experienced with larger, heavier lenses like the 50mm lens. This balance can be crucial for comfort and ease of handling during prolonged shoots.

When considering storage and lens swapping, the 40mm lens’s smaller footprint gives it the advantage of taking up less space in a camera bag, enabling the storage of additional gear. Furthermore, its lighter weight simplifies the process of lens swapping in fast-paced environments, allowing photographers to adapt quicker to changing scenes or conditions.

In conclusion, while the specific photographic requirements and preferences may vary from photographer to photographer, the 40mm lens, owing to its compactness and light weight, offers a more portable, balanced, and unobtrusive choice compared to the 50mm lens.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 employs a plastic lens mount, which is a deviation from the traditional metal mounts usually seen on lenses. This plastic construction may be more susceptible to wear over time, particularly when used with metal bayonet cameras like the Nikon Z. Additionally, it lacks a rubber gasket, a feature that provides protection from dust and moisture. In contrast, the 40mm lens mount features a hard plastic lip, which aims to prevent the ingress of foreign materials, but may not be as effective as a rubber gasket.

When it comes to the lens barrel, the 40mm lens continues with its plastic construction, contributing to its lightweight and compact design. This not only enhances its portability but also makes it a more budget-friendly option. However, the downside lies in the long-term durability concerns that some users might have. In terms of aesthetics, the 40mm lens barrel presents a clean, simple exterior with specifications laser engraved on the bottom, reflecting its straightforward design philosophy.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 boasts a metal lens mount that ensures a robust connection to the camera body. It includes a rubber gasket that offers additional protection against dust and moisture, making it a reliable choice for diverse environmental conditions. In contrast to the plastic mount of the 40mm lens, this metal construction is less prone to wear and tear and provides a secure attachment without lens wobble.

As for the lens barrel, the 50mm lens showcases a sturdy construction that merges high-quality metals and polycarbonate, exuding a premium feel. The engraved and painted moldings further enhance its detailed appearance. This combination of materials strikes a balance between weight, durability, and cost, while giving the lens a professional, high-quality feel.

In the final analysis, the 50mm lens, with its metal lens mount and robust lens barrel, offers superior durability and a premium feel, making it a superior choice over the 40mm lens, especially for photographers valuing long-term durability and professional quality. However, for those prioritizing portability and budget, the 40mm lens, with its lightweight plastic construction, may be a more suitable option.

Weather Sealing

Comparing the weather sealing of the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 to the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8, there are significant differences in their protective measures against environmental elements that could potentially affect their performance and longevity.

The 50mm lens offers comprehensive weather sealing, ensuring a solid defense against dust and moisture infiltration. The lens mount is complemented with a rubber gasket, which promotes a tight attachment, as well as an additional safeguard against environmental detriments. Moreover, the lens structure incorporates extensive weather sealing, which enhances its resilience under a myriad of environmental conditions. This resilience has been tested under challenging weather circumstances such as rain, wind, and sand, with no discernable negative impact on the lens’ performance or integrity.

An important point of consideration is the lack of a fluorine coating on the front and rear elements, a feature common in high-end zoom lenses to repel dust and moisture. Therefore, a bit more care may be required to keep these glass elements clean from dust, fingerprints, and moisture. On a positive note, the rear focus design of the lens, which doesn’t have any moving parts on the outside, further amplifies its toughness under adverse environmental conditions.

On the other hand, the 40mm lens does have some degree of weather sealing, but it doesn’t offer comprehensive protection against the elements. Internal seals are present at the focus ring and front of the barrel for drip resistance, but the plastic lens mount lacks a rubber gasket, a crucial feature that provides protection against dust and moisture. This absence potentially exposes the lens to harmful elements, particularly during heavy outdoor usage or under severe weather conditions. However, one should note the presence of internal focusing, which mitigates the risk of air or dust intrusion during operation.

Although weather sealing is not crucial for photography genres which are often used indoors or in controlled settings, it can still be a valuable asset for those shooting in unpredictable weather or outdoor environments. It not only offers a layer of protection to your lens but also gives you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on capturing the perfect shot without worrying about potential damage to your equipment.

Based on these factors, the 50mm lens, with its robust weather sealing, is superior in terms of weather protection. Its advanced sealing features make it a more reliable choice for outdoor and unpredictable conditions, offering photographers more flexibility and peace of mind during shoots.


Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it is fitted with a single control ring, by default serving as the focus ring, situated towards the lens’s front. The ring, covered with a rubberized material, offers a secure grip for an improved tactile experience and user command. At 16mm wide, the ergonomic design of the ring promises ease of use for various hand sizes and allows for smooth rotation. However, its responsiveness can be overly sensitive, potentially causing unintended changes in settings.

Additionally, the control ring can be customized to control different features like aperture, exposure compensation, and ISO on some camera models, demonstrating its multifunctional nature. Lastly, while the plastic construction of the ring might not feel premium, it contributes to the overall lightness of the lens, promoting portability. But, some users might perceive plastic as less durable than metal alternatives.

Contrarily, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 features a broad, 38mm wide control ring positioned at the front end of the lens barrel. As a focus ring, it boasts a design promoting ease of use with a finely knurled metal surface. Despite its lack of rubberization, the ring is engineered for super smooth operation, enabling one-finger handling. The ring allows for swift manual focus adjustments and can be set to control aperture, exposure compensation, or ISO settings when set to autofocus. However, it does not provide physical feedback when the end scale of any assigned function is reached, which is particularly noticeable during manual focusing.

With the lens in manual focus mode, the ring takes precedence over other camera settings. When in autofocus mode, the ring’s function can be altered via the camera’s menu. The focus ring operates on a ‘focus by wire’ system, where it sends electronic signals to the motor rather than being mechanically coupled to it. As such, the focus motor responds proportionally to the speed of the ring’s rotation, enabling quick focus changes with quick movements and precise fine-tuning with slow ones.

In summary, the 50mm lens, with its wide, multifunctional control ring providing a high level of precision and control, seems to be superior. The ring’s non-linear response and ability to adjust key settings with a smooth, easy-to-handle design create a versatile tool for photographers. The metal construction also indicates a higher durability.


Examining the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, it carries a decidedly minimalist design, eschewing additional buttons or switches typically seen on some camera lenses. Notably, it lacks an Auto Focus/Manual Focus (AF/MF) switch, requiring users to navigate to the AF settings on the camera itself to disable autofocus. Absent too are other features such as a focus limiter, Image Stabilization (IS) switch, stabilizer switch, in-lens stabilization, focus or depth-of-field scales, an infra-red focus index, and focus lock buttons. Moreover, there are no buttons for any advanced functions. This dearth of controls does, however, contribute to the lens’s lightness and compactness, making it an ideal companion for travel or extended use.

In contrast, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 possesses a similarly pared-down design, but with the addition of an AF/MF switch. This switch, generally found on the lens’s side, allows for quick and easy toggling between Auto Focus and Manual Focus modes. When set to ‘AF’ (Auto Focus), the focus ring can perform additional functions, adjusting focus or other camera settings depending on the setup in the camera’s menu. However, the switch does not offer physical feedback when it’s toggled to its limit, which could be challenging in low-light situations or when the user isn’t looking directly at the camera. While the minimal number of physical controls contributes to a sleek design, it could require a period of adjustment for photographers accustomed to lenses with more tactile controls and feedback.

In conclusion, while both lenses subscribe to a minimalist design philosophy, the presence of an AF/MF switch on the 50mm lens gives it an edge. This added functionality provides more on-the-fly control over focusing modes, potentially enhancing the shooting experience. However, the ultra-light and compact design of the 40mm lens, resulting from the lack of physical controls, is an appealing feature for photographers on the move or those who prioritize portability.

Filter Thread

Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it boasts a 52mm filter thread that is generally compatible with a multitude of filters on the market. The plastic construction of the thread keeps the lens lighter and more affordable, which can be advantageous for some photographers. While plastic might lack the durability of metal, it does have a degree of resilience in case of accidental drops. The 40mm lens’ thread does not rotate during focusing. This non-rotational feature is important when using polarizing filters or graduated neutral density filters, which require a fixed orientation to operate correctly. Plus, the lens’s internal focusing feature preserves its physical size throughout the focusing process, eliminating any potential issues when filters are attached.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 has a 62mm filter thread, predominantly crafted from metal. This metal construction imparts a superior durability and longevity. Similar to the 40mm lens, the 50mm lens also exhibits non-rotational front element and filter thread during focusing, ensuring uncomplicated usage with specific filters. The 62mm filter thread size is a standard among various filters, promoting the lens’s flexibility for different photographic effects. Additionally, this lens can accept filters of its size or even adapted down to 39mm without causing vignetting, amplifying its versatility.

However, considering factors like compatibility, availability, and cost of filters, the 40mm lens with a 52mm filter thread is more practical. It offers a balance between wide availability of filters and affordability. In contrast, the 50mm lens with a 62mm filter thread, although broader in compatibility and constructed with a durable metal, might lead to higher expenses for filters and increased overall weight.

From a material standpoint, the metal thread of the 50mm lens is certainly more robust and reliable, appealing to professionals or those prioritizing durability. But the plastic thread on the 40mm lens offers weight advantages and is kinder on the budget, which may suit hobbyists or those with a preference for lighter gear.

In conclusion, when determining superiority between these two lenses based on filter thread, it heavily depends on individual preferences and requirements. If durability and wider filter compatibility are your priorities, the 50mm lens is a superior choice. However, if affordability, weight, and standard filter compatibility are key, the 40mm lens has the upper hand.

Lens Hood

Analyzing the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, it is evident that the lens does not include a lens hood in the package. Nikon’s omission of this component is likely a strategy to keep the overall price of the lens within an affordable range. Thus, photographers wishing to employ a lens hood for reducing glare and providing extra protection for the lens would need to acquire a compatible aftermarket hood that can fit the lens’s 52mm filter thread.

Switching over to the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8, it comes equipped with an HB-90 lens hood included in the package. The hood is made from sturdy plastic and expertly designed to prevent unwanted peripheral light from entering the lens. An additional advantage is its user-friendly bevel, which eases the process of attaching and detaching the hood. The incorporation of a bayonet mount further smoothes this operation by facilitating rotation during application or removal. Moreover, the hood is reversible, allowing it to be attached backward onto the lens, enhancing storage convenience when it’s not being utilized.

When compared, the major difference between these lenses is the inclusion (or lack thereof) of a lens hood. The convenience of having a tailor-made hood available straight from the box gives the 50mm lens an edge. The HB-90 lens hood’s features, such as the ergonomic bevel and bayonet mount, add to its user-friendly nature and secure attachment, minimizing the risk of accidental detachment. Conversely, the 40mm lens’s lack of an included lens hood could be a downside, as users would have to source a compatible hood separately, adding to the overall cost and potentially creating compatibility issues.

However, the need for a lens hood largely depends on the shooting conditions and the photographer’s style. Lens hoods can reduce lens flare and offer extra protection, which could be beneficial for outdoor or harsh lighting scenarios. If these aspects are important to you, the 50mm lens with its included, durable, and convenient-to-use HB-90 lens hood stands superior. However, if a lens hood isn’t a significant factor in your photography, or you prefer to source a specific aftermarket model, the absence of a lens hood in the 40mm lens package might not be a deal-breaker.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F1.8 S
AF MotorStepper motorStepper motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.29m0.4m
Max Magnification (X)0.170.15
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

Exploring the focusing performance of the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, this lens shows a speedy and largely precise autofocus performance, enabling it to focus from infinity to 0.46m in roughly 0.3 seconds when coupled with a Nikon Z7 camera. However, it might display some reluctance when trying to focus from a minimum object distance, an issue that might worsen in dim lighting conditions. The barely audible whirring sound from the autofocus motor is favorable for videographers.

The lens also allows for manual focus override simply by rotating the focus ring. The design of this lens ensures internal focusing, keeping the length constant during focus adjustments. While there is focus breathing, it’s barely noticeable and unlikely to be disruptive during video capture.

Conversely, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 is highly appreciated for its fast and accurate autofocus performance, accomplished using an efficient stepping motor. This lens can focus from infinity to 0.6m in about 0.5 seconds, demonstrating minimal focus variation in well-lit conditions. The manual focus override feature of this lens is integrated seamlessly, providing precise control that adjusts based on the speed of the focus ring’s rotation. Although the lens shows some focus breathing, it’s slight and unlikely to affect most photographic scenarios, becoming virtually unnoticeable for video shoots.

This lens also ensures constant length during focus adjustments with its internal focusing design. One caveat is the barely audible buzz produced during autofocus operation, which might affect video recording using the built-in microphone, potentially necessitating the use of an external microphone for optimal sound capture.

Comparing the two lenses, both show rapid and accurate autofocus performance, with the 40mm lens demonstrating a slightly faster focusing time. However, the 50mm lens offers smoother manual focus override control. Both lenses also show some focus breathing, but it’s minimal in both cases and unlikely to impact the quality of videos significantly. Noise produced during autofocus operation is a commonality, but the sound is barely audible, thus not a significant factor for most users. However, it might be more noticeable for videographers using built-in microphones, particularly with the 50mm lens.

In summary, if autofocus speed is a primary concern, the 40mm lens has the upper hand due to its slightly faster focusing time. However, for photographers or videographers who prioritize manual focusing or have diverse lighting conditions, the 50mm lens, with its precise manual focus override and less focus variation, is the superior choice.

Optical Stabilization

Turning our attention first to the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it’s important to note that this lens does not feature built-in optical stabilization. Instead, it leans on the In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) found in certain Nikon camera bodies, such as the full-frame Z-mount bodies. The level of stabilization afforded by this feature is equivalent to roughly three stops, allowing you to utilize shutter speeds approximately three times slower than would typically be possible without causing blur from camera shake.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 also lacks built-in optical stabilization, but effectively leverages the in-body stabilization found in Nikon Z cameras, providing an impressive 3-stop advantage. To be more precise, with Vibration Reduction (VR) enabled, shots remained sharp down to 1/12 sec (2 stops), and the results at 1/6 sec (3 stops) were comparable to 1/50 sec with VR disabled. However, image quality noticeably deteriorates beyond this point, with around 30% of the images blurred at 1/3 sec (4 stops), and virtually no usable images at 0.6 sec.

Comparing the two, the 40mm and 50mm lenses both rely on IBIS, provided by Nikon’s Z series bodies, as neither has in-built optical stabilization. Both lenses offer similar stabilization effects, providing an advantage of around three stops. However, the 50mm lens holds its sharpness slightly better when shooting at slower shutter speeds with VR enabled, although the advantage is minimal.

Image Quality

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm F1.8 S
Special Elements2 aspherical elements, Super Integrated Coating2 aspherical + 2 ED elements, Nano Crystal Coat
Diaphragm Blades99


Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it exhibits discernible chromatic aberration, more specifically longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCA). This results in the appearance of purple and green halos transitioning from sharp focus to background blur, which becomes more noticeable at wider apertures like f/2.0 and f/2.8. Fixing this in post-processing can be a challenge, especially under high-contrast conditions.

In terms of spherical aberration, or spherochromatism, this lens shows a significant degree, causing color fringing on out-of-focus objects when used at larger apertures. While these aberrations could be an issue, Nikon’s Z cameras offer in-camera corrections that effectively handle lateral chromatic aberration and offer solutions for distortion, diffraction, and falloff.

In contrast, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 shows exceptional control over chromatic aberration, especially with regards to LoCA. The presence of color fringing around out-of-focus areas is minimal, particularly between f/1.8 and f/2.8, matching up to lenses like the Zeiss Otus and surpassing others like the Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA and Nikon 50mm f1.4G.

Coma aberration, an optical defect that can distort point light sources, is superbly managed, even in challenging conditions such as direct sunlight or high-contrast night scenes. While some spherochromatism, a form of spherical aberration, is present, its impact on image quality is minimal and improves when the lens is stopped down. Moreover, any lens-profile corrections, including for distortion, are effectively managed by the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras that this lens is designed to work with.

Comparing the two, the 50mm lens exhibits superior control over various forms of aberration compared to the 40mm lens. While both lenses suffer from LoCA and spherochromatism, these aberrations are better controlled and less intrusive in the 50mm lens. Additionally, the 50mm lens outperforms the 40mm lens in handling coma aberration, further enhancing its overall image quality. Although Nikon’s Z cameras offer in-camera corrections for both lenses, the 50mm lens’s inherent ability to manage aberrations gives it a clear advantage. Thus, in the context of aberration control, the 50mm lens is the superior choice.


Examining the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, it delivers a commendable performance concerning sharpness across diverse apertures and distances. Its central sharpness is remarkable, starting from an open aperture of f/2 and consistently maintaining high standards up to f/11. Although diffraction somewhat limits sharpness at f/16, the lens continues to capture a reasonable level of detail at the center.

Moreover, corner sharpness is noteworthy; despite the slight sagittal coma flare at f/2 in the far corners, sharpness greatly improves by f/2.8, and from f/4 onwards, the image appears sharp from edge to edge. Optimal corner sharpness can be achieved in the f/5.6 to f/11 aperture range according to the Imatest results, proving the lens’s broad-based strength in sharpness, particularly at the center and edges from f/5.6 and beyond.

In contrast, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 demonstrates extraordinary sharpness. Notably, it delivers an impressive performance in the center even at a wide-open aperture of f/1.8, rivaling the performance of higher-end lenses such as the F-mount 28mm f/1.4E. This central sharpness remains superb even when narrowing the aperture to sizes like f/2.8.

The lens also displays commendable corner sharpness at f/1.8, an area where many lenses tend to struggle. Some slight softness may be detected at the corners when shooting at 45MP, but this is generally not perceptible, especially given these areas might be obscured due to falloff or not in focus due to the shallow depth of field at f/1.8. At f/5.6, the lens achieves excellent border sharpness, and it sustains its sharpness even at narrower apertures like f/8 and f/11. The lens’s sharpness remains consistent across various shooting distances, enhancing its versatility for different photography styles.

While both lenses perform admirably in terms of sharpness, the 50mm lens exhibits a slight edge due to its remarkable sharpness at wider apertures and consistent performance across varying distances. Its impressive central and corner sharpness, even at wider apertures like f/1.8, make it particularly suitable for situations requiring a shallow depth of field or low-light conditions. Hence, considering sharpness, the 50mm lens would be the superior choice.

Bokeh Quality

Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it provides a bokeh that is primarily smooth and pleasing, specifically when shooting closer subjects at a wider aperture such as f/2. This characteristic is particularly desirable for achieving effective subject-background separation, thereby rendering a softer and more aesthetically pleasing out-of-focus background. The lens’s nine-blade diaphragm enhances this smoothness, imparting a more rounded and even appearance to the bokeh.

Nonetheless, there are some limitations; the bokeh may become slightly busy and distracting in moderately out-of-focus areas, and this tends to be more noticeable when the out-of-focus background isn’t sufficiently distant from the subject. Additionally, mild longitudinal chromatic aberration can occasionally be visible on bokeh highlights under challenging lighting conditions, although this is not overly pronounced and does not substantially impact the overall aesthetic appeal of the image. Despite these minor caveats, the lens’s bokeh can be described as largely pleasing.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 generates a smooth and pleasing bokeh, exhibiting excellent command over background blur. Offering a uniform focus across the aperture range, this lens can create soft out-of-focus areas, especially at wider apertures, a characteristic sought after in portrait photography. Even though the bokeh might show minor ‘onion ringing’ in defocused high brightness point light sources and occasionally display a mild ‘nervousness’, the lens beautifully renders transition zones, giving sharp elements a pleasing softness. Stress tests of this lens have revealed its ability to create bokeh balls that are softly textured and slightly compressed at the corners, adding to its aesthetic appeal.

The lens also exhibits good control over longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCA), ensuring that out-of-focus highlight areas maintain a pleasing quality. Minor issues include slight brightening around the edges of bokeh balls and the subtle presence of a cat-eye effect in off-center highlights. Moreover, the lens tends to render highlights with a defined outline and, in certain circumstances, can reveal ‘bullseye’ patterns within specular highlights. However, despite these minor challenges, the overall bokeh performance of this lens remains quite impressive.

Upon comparing both lenses, while the 40mm lens provides a generally pleasing bokeh, the 50mm lens presents a superior bokeh quality. It achieves a smooth and controlled background blur, creates soft transition zones, and handles issues such as longitudinal chromatic aberration well. Its ability to provide an appealing aesthetic despite minor challenges, positions it as the superior lens in terms of bokeh quality.


Analyzing the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, it does exhibit some degree of flare and ghosting when positioned against a strong light source. In conditions where the light directly hits the lens, it generates visible ghosting and flare artifacts. Yet, it is noteworthy that areas outside of these phenomena remain fairly dark, maintaining a decent contrast ratio in the overall scene. As we observe flare across different aperture settings, we find that a distinct amount of flare, particularly a red dot, becomes apparent at an aperture of f/16.

Additionally, there’s a rainbow-colored flare originating precisely from the light source across various aperture settings. Despite these findings, the lens generally performs admirably. When it comes to ghosting, the lens showcases a noteworthy performance. In many cases, the images captured have minimal ghosting. Despite some significant instances of flare and ghosting, the lens as a whole effectively manages these optical artifacts under most shooting conditions.

In contrast, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 showcases impressive flare and ghosting management. Nikon’s utilization of both Nano and Super Integrated Coating significantly mitigates these optical issues. The lens also includes a petal-shaped lens hood, which effectively restricts direct light rays from reaching the front element of the lens. Even when positioned against a robust light source as intense as the sun, the lens delivers exceptional performance, producing images with minimal ghosting and flare. Even under more challenging conditions, such as when light sources are shining directly into the lens or located just outside the frame, the lens manages flare and ghosting quite effectively.

It’s also noteworthy that the lens surpasses the Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus in handling flare, ghosting, and glare, particularly when the light source directly hits the lens at an angle. However, the intensity of these effects is contingent on several variables like the aperture and the light’s angle. Therefore, strategic positioning against a strong light source can either provoke or reduce flare and ghosting effects. It’s also crucial to maintain the cleanliness of the rear lens element, as smudges or dirt could potentially compromise the lens’s flare and ghosting control abilities.

Comparing the two lenses, the 50mm lens demonstrates superior flare and ghosting control, largely owing to Nikon’s implementation of specialized coatings and the inclusion of a petal-shaped lens hood. Despite minor instances of flare and ghosting, the lens manages to produce high-quality images even under challenging lighting conditions. Consequently, when it comes to the management of flare and ghosting, the 50mm lens is the superior choice.


Observing the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, it exhibits a certain degree of vignetting, particularly noticeable at larger apertures such as f/2. The corners of the image darken more prominently when taking shots at infinity focus. Despite this, vignetting isn’t significantly disruptive, even with default vignette correction intentionally disabled.

Furthermore, the lens can accommodate multiple stacked filters without introducing additional vignetting. While present, vignetting with the 40mm lens is typically manageable and doesn’t dramatically affect the overall image quality. When the lens is set at narrower apertures like f/2.8 or f/4, vignetting becomes considerably less noticeable, especially with the assistance of software corrections. Additionally, in conditions involving bright light sources, a slight increase in contrast drop at wider apertures can be observed, but this is more attributable to lens flare than vignetting.

Conversely, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 presents noticeable vignetting at larger apertures, particularly f/1.8 and f/2. At f/1.8, it measures about 2 stops at the extremes but diminishes significantly even by f/2, becoming virtually unnoticeable beyond f/2.8. Even at its most severe, the vignetting doesn’t obscure detail. Activating the in-camera vignetting correction to ‘normal’ can further reduce this effect. For Nikon Z series camera users, the option to apply in-camera peripheral illumination correction is available at three levels: Low, Normal, and High, along with an off setting. Even with normal correction applied, vignetting remains visible until f/2.8.

However, this can be effectively managed in post-processing with tools like Adobe Lightroom or CaptureOne. The choice of lens profile can also influence the level of vignetting correction. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the use of a 62mm filter doesn’t appear to induce any noticeable vignetting. Thus, while vignetting is present, especially at larger apertures, there are multiple ways to mitigate it effectively.

When comparing the two lenses, the 50mm lens exhibits a higher degree of vignetting at larger apertures than the 40mm lens. However, it also offers more robust in-camera corrections and is less likely to be influenced by external factors such as filter usage. Despite some vignetting, both lenses perform effectively under most conditions, and the vignetting that does occur can be easily managed in post-processing. Given these factors, neither lens could be considered superior solely based on their vignetting characteristics.


Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it displays a very low amount of distortion, gauged at a minor 0.62% barrel distortion, under controlled testing conditions. Any existing distortion can be effectively neutralized by Lightroom’s built-in lens profile for this specific lens. As such, under normal circumstances, this distortion may not even register, even when capturing subjects with straight lines, such as architectural elements.

However, in scenarios where you are capturing images in Raw format without applying distortion correction, a degree of barrel distortion might become evident. Yet, this can be easily mitigated by enabling auto-correction. It’s essential to note that these distortion issues are typically more apparent during lab testing than in most real-world photography scenarios. As such, although it’s beneficial to be conscious of these aspects, they are unlikely to considerably impact the overall lens performance in typical photography use cases.

In contrast, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 manifests an even smaller level of barrel distortion, measured at just 0.57%. This subtle degree of distortion is hardly perceptible unless you’re closely examining the image with precision tools, like a ruler. This makes it a negligible concern unless your photographic subjects involve precise lines or architecture.

If you’re aiming for absolute correction, you can utilize the Auto Distortion Control feature on your Nikon camera or leverage software solutions like Photoshop’s lens correction filter. However, even without implementing these corrections, the distortion remains inconsequential to the majority of users. Therefore, irrespective of whether corrections are applied or not, this lens’s distortion is unlikely to pose a significant concern in most shooting scenarios.

In comparing the two lenses, the 50mm lens exhibits a slightly lower level of distortion compared to the 40mm lens. Both lenses demonstrate such a minor degree of distortion that it’s unlikely to be discernible under typical shooting conditions. However, in the quest for near-perfect image capture, the 50mm lens holds a slight edge in terms of reduced distortion.

Final Verdict

Considering the multitude of aspects compared and evaluated, let’s consider the suitability of both the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 and Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 for various photography genres and the level of photographer experience.

Starting with portraiture, the superior bokeh quality, exceptional sharpness, and low-light capabilities of the 50mm lens make it an outstanding choice. Its ability to render a smooth and controlled background blur contributes to aesthetic portraits. Therefore, this lens is more suitable for intermediate and professional photographers who value these characteristics.

For architectural and landscape photography, where a wider field of view and distortion control are crucial, the choice is more nuanced. The 40mm lens offers a wider field of view and faster autofocus, which may be beneficial in dynamic outdoor scenarios. However, the 50mm lens has a slight edge in distortion control and aberration handling, which are also important in these genres. Given the minimal difference in distortion between the two lenses, the choice could depend on personal preference and whether the photographer values field of view or distortion control more. Both lenses could serve beginner to professional photographers well in this genre, considering other factors such as budget and portability.

For street photography and travel, the compact and lightweight design of the 40mm lens could make it an appealing choice, offering a blend of portability and performance. However, the 50mm lens’s robust weather sealing provides extra protection in unpredictable outdoor conditions, and its superior control over flare and ghosting may prove advantageous when dealing with varied light situations. Thus, the 40mm might be preferred by beginner to intermediate photographers prioritizing portability, while the 50mm could appeal to professionals who can leverage its advanced features.

In terms of experience level, the 40mm lens, with its fast autofocus and minimalist design, could be an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate photographers. It offers user-friendly features and reliable performance at a relatively lower cost, allowing photographers to focus on developing their skills.

The 50mm lens, on the other hand, with its premium build quality and advanced features such as the multifunctional control ring and an AF/MF switch, is more suited for intermediate and professional photographers. It allows for a high level of control and precision, and its durability makes it an investment for long-term use.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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