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New to the Kit Bag: The Nikon 20mm 1.8g Lens Review

This blog post is apart of my BLOG-FEBRUARY Project, where I write a blog post for everyday in February.  

 

A few years ago, when I decided to switch to all prime lenses, I purchased the Nikon 20mm 2.8 D on the recommendation of Ken Rockwell.  “It’s a great lens!” Ken said, “It’s one of my favourite lenses in my bag”, Ken said…  I don’t listen to Ken anymore.

The 20 2.8 D was a terrible lens.  It flared horribly whenever there was a light source in the frame, it wasn’t sharp, and the colours where off.  Perhaps I had a bad copy, but the lens quickly fell to the bottom of my bag where it was unloved, unused and unwanted.   But part of me still yearned for  a fast, wide angle, light prime lens, but I knew the 20 2.8 D was not it.

So I was very excited last year when Nikon announced their new 20mm prime to their line up of 1.8 prime lenses.  However, being as it came out at the end of last years “wedding season”,  it hasn’t seen as much use thus far.  But I have shot 6 weddings with it in my bag, so it’s had it’s chance to impress me.  Here are my thoughts:

 

Oh that sexy, sexy distortion: 

On top of just being a wider point of view, wide angle lenses distort the edges of the image and make everything seem further apart.  If you’re not familiar with this concept, check out this excellent visual here.  The 20mm gives a beautiful distortion that can really enhance architectural elements.  It gives a bit more drama, but doesn’t go too crazy like a wider, fish-eye lenses.  It’s dramatic, without being over the top.

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0022.jpg

Camera settings: ISO 400  F 6.3   1/800

 

 

Low Light Focusing: 

The lens feels zippy when it focuses.  I don’t find myself getting frustrated with it or switching it into manual focusing.  I’ve used this lens on my DF as well, and I’ve found it just as zippy as it is on my D4.

Probably one of the best tests of low light focusing at a wedding is the “sparkler exit”.  These shots are notoriously hard, as it’s dark with fast moving subjects.   On top of that, the lighting changes fast as sparklers are being lit and dying down.  The 20mm combined with the Nikon D4 focusing system passed this test with flying colours.  It pretty much nailed every frame in this set- which is quite the feat.

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0020.jpg

camera settings: ISO 5600   F 2.2   1/100 sec

 

 

Build Quality: 

I also own the Nikon 28mm 1.8 G, which has a very similar build quality and look.  I absolutely loved the 28mm when I bought it a few years go.  I loved it so much that it has taken a rather severe beating.  I’m genuinely surprised I haven’t completely broken it yet.   Despite my abuse, the 28 is still rocking it out.  I think the 20mm will fair a bit better then the 28 did as it’s probably not going to see as much heavy use.  It appears Nikon forgone the appearance of a hefty build in favour of weight.   Which I’m sorta ok with.

The new Nikon 20mm 1.8 next to it's well-loved brother, the nikon 28mm 1.8. Despite my abuse, the 28mm is still a good lens.

The new Nikon 20mm 1.8 next to it’s well-loved brother, the nikon 28mm 1.8. Despite my abuse, the 28mm is still a good lens.

Price: 

This lens is currently selling at about £680 on amazon.  Which may seem expensive, however when you compare it to the Nikon 12-24 2.8 at £998 and the Nikon 24 1.4 G at £1390, the lens suddenly appears a bit more reasonably priced.  I’ve used both the 12-24 and the 24, but I don’t own them currently, so I’m not your girl if you want a side by side comparison.

 

Verdict: 

For me, it’s not a “story telling” lens, It’s an “architectural drama” lens.  So that makes it GREAT for a handful of shots, and then not really useful for everything else.  But it’s a great addition to a prime lens kit bag, and worlds better then the 20 2.8 D.

Surprisingly, I’ve actually haven’t used this lens that much since I’ve owned it.  I still shoot a majority of my images with 35mm or 50mm lens.    It does makes me glad that I don’t own it’s more expensive siblings (24mm or 12-24), as I don’t really want that wide of a focal length for a majority of my images.   However, when I do want a dramatic, wide shot, this lens is exactly what I need and I’m glad I have it in my bag.

Want to see more? Here’s some shots from some recent weddings with the new Nikon 20mm 1.8 G:

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0025.jpg

Camera settings: ISO 640   F10   1/250

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0016.jpg

Camera Settings: ISO 12800   F 3.5   1/60

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0017.jpg

Camera settings:  ISO 4000   F 1.8   1/15

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0018.jpg

Camera Settings: ISO 400    F 5    1/1000

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0019.jpgCamera Settings: ISO 800   F 2.8   1/1250

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0023.jpg

ISO 5000 f 11 1/60

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0024.jpg

ISO 500 F 8 1/60

nikon 20mm prime lense review_0029.jpg

ISO 3200 F 3.2 1/60

End of 2016 Update: I’ve now had the Nikon 20mm 1.8 G for two whole wedding seasons, and it’s still going strong.    It’s still quite fast and sharp but it’s still not the most used lens in my bag.  I did purchase the Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art earlier this year, however because of build quality I had to return it.  If you’re looking for a fast wide prime, I’d still recommend this lens over the Sigma Art.

It’s definitely my go-to lens for dancing and night shots.

Here’s some more images that I’ve since taken with this lens:

nikon 20mm 1.8g lens

F2.0 1/60 sec ISO800 with off camera flash on right

Nikon 20mm 1.8g lensF2.0 1/500  ISO 12,800

Nikon 20mm 1.8 g lens

F2.0 1.200 ISO 220

Nikon 20mm 1.8g lens

F2.2 1/60 ISO 12,800

Nikon 20mm 1.8g lens

F1.8 1/80 ISO 2500

 

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