The Nikon 20mm f/1.8G updates a classic prime lens with modern technology

Past their prime? Nikon has some great classic fixed focal length lenses, but they're getting old

Not everybody wants zoom lenses. That's where Nikon and other lens makers have been concentrating their efforts in recent years, but photographers are also rediscovering the appeal of fixed focal length 'prime' lenses, which is why the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 is so significant.

The old 20mm f/2.8D is a nice lens. It's small and gives a really wide angle of view on a full-frame Nikon. But it was designed for previous generations of cameras – the autofocus is slow and the aperture ring on the lens is redundant now and potentially confusing, since aperture control is handled by the body on modern Nikon D-SLRs.

New and improved

This new 20mm f/1.8G is a different beast. It uses Nikon's Silent Wave autofocus motors, so the focus is both fast and whisper-quiet. It also has Nikon's latest Nano Crystal Coat technology to cut ghosting and flare, together with two ED (extra low dispersion) and two (AS) aspherical lens elements.

Best of all, it has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, which is over a stop more than the old f/2.8 lens. This means the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G will be especially good at low-light documentary style photography, and when it's used wide open you should get attractively defocused backgrounds. It can focus right down to 0.2m, too.

The Nikon 20mm f/1.8G goes on sale on September 25 for £680.