Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF - £100/$125
This unassuming little lens is some 20 years old now, so there's nothing remotely modern about it. It has an aperture ring that would suit film cameras from way back when, and it lacks a built-in autofocus motor. With cameras such as the D7000 and D300s, which have a screw drive to operate autofocus, focusing is quick but a little noisy.
The front element extends from the body at shorter focus distances, but doesn't rotate. As such, filters such as circular polarisers are easy to use. The lens isn't supplied with a hood, although one is available for £34/$20, but it really doesn't need one - the front element is recessed deep within the lens barrel. There's plenty of physical protection, as well as good shielding from stray light.
At 63x39mm and just 155g, this is the smallest and lightest lens in the group, but it produces razor-sharp images with fabulous contrast. The diaphragm has a reasonably generous seven blades, which helps add a pleasing softness to defocused image areas. Small, bright subjects can take on a hexagonal shape, though.
Impressive even at its largest aperture of f/1.8, this old-timer is top of the entire group at f/8.
Sharpness at f/2.8: 1587
Sharpness at f/8: 1947
Sharpness at f/16: 1605
There's more colour fringing at the very largest aperture settings, but it's nothing to worry about.
Fringing at f/2.8: 0.27
Fringing at f/8: 0.15
Fringing at f/16: 0.19
With only the barest hint of a barrel effect, this lens is second only to the Sigma 50mm Macro in terms of distortion.
Image test verdict
This is the cheapest lens in the group by far, but the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D's image quality is absolutely excellent, making it a real bargain.