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Review by Markus Stamm, published May 2016
When Nikon started upgrading its range of affordable fast primes, probably every Nikonian had its own personal wish list of fairly outdated AF-D primes that' he'd like to see a modern age equivalent to soon. The AF-D 20/2.8, design-wise dating back to the good-old days when autofocus was still something really exciting, must have been on many of them.
Nikon eventually announced the long-awaited AF-S 20mm ahead of photokina 2014, making it much faster than the previous offering (f/1.8 instead of f/2.8), adding a silent-wave AF drive to make it compatible with all current Nikon DSLRs and even added their Nano Crystal Coat on top.
Regarding build quality, there are no surprises for anyone who has handled any of the recently announced AF-S f/1.8 primes, which means the lens is based on a metal mount with a barrel made of high quality plastics. Physically, it's much larger than the older AF-D 20/2.8, which doesn't come as a surprise, since it's also considerably faster. Due to its fairly low weight (for its size), the lens doesn't feel like a high-end premium product (which honestly it isn't), but it's also far from feeling cheap.
The large and rubberized focus ring is nicely damped and operates smoothly.
Oh, the focus ring... regular readers already know what's coming now, and we feel with you, actually are as tired of writing it as you are of reading it, but still: there's a little play, not in the focus ring itself, but the coupling with the actual focus unit. When changing the focus direction, it takes a few millimeters of movement until the focus unit actually follows the focus ring. If you primarily rely on autofocus, it's not something you need to worry about. But if you sometimes appreciate or simply need the ability to carefully focus manually, this behaviour has the potential to drive you nuts.
Thanks to an IF (inner focus) design the length remains constant regardless of the focus setting and the front element does not rotate. So, using a polarizer is therefore no problem.
The lens features a Silent Wave ultrasonic drive allowing for a near-silent autofocus and manual override at all times. As another consequence, the AF speed is quite fast.
The AF-S 20 is a G-type lens and thus does not offer an aperture ring.
|Optical construction||13 elements in 11 groups, incl. 2 ED, 2 aspherical elements and Nano Crystal Coat|
|Number of aperture blades||7 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.2 m (max. magnification ratio 1:4.3)|
|Dimensions||82.5 x 80.5 mm|
|Filter size||77 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Nikon HB-72, petal-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information to the camera, Silent Wave AF motor|