Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX Review

Nikon launched this lens back in 2009 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Almost all his life he used one Leica camera and the same 50mm lens to create masterpieces that keep on inspiring photographers even today.

A 35mm lens by Nikon is somewhat similar to the 50mm Cartier-Bresson used. It’s made for use with DX cameras, meaning that its 35mm focal length equivalent is 52.5 mm, which is really close. Apart from it, this tiny lens is fast, light, and very cheap. Let’s see what Nikon made for us this time!

This 35mm baby that weighs only 200 grams and is 7 cm long and a bit over 5 cm wide, having 52mm filter size. This is well enough to be considered as one of the most universal lenses in the Nikon DX production line-up. What does it mean?

Since the lens happens to share the same focal length as most of film cameras, it can be used for a wide variety of purposes. It’s an all-in-one lens that will let you make close-to-perfection street, portrait, food, and product photographs.

When you fix the lens to your camera and look through the viewfinder, everything seems to fit in perfectly.

Extreme sharpness on most of aperture settings adds its value, too. The lens is sharp almost all over at f/1.8—but who needs corner sharpness on f/1.8 when there’s bokeh?—getting better at f/2.8 and extremely sharp at f/5.6. However, the chances that these changes in sharpness will be noticed either by the photographer or the customers are close to zero.

We mentioned bokeh above and would like to say a few words more about it. Though the wide aperture of f/1.8 makes bokeh that this lens creates pretty good, the short focal length still leaves a lot to be desired. It’s pretty difficult to get the background completely out of focus even if you’re standing far away from the subject. Just like on this photo above.

A 50mm f/1.8 lens would do this a lot better, but that’s understandable because it was meant especially for making portrait photograph. The 35mm lens is more of a universal thing and that is why the average bokeh should be forgiven.

The lens doesn’t have an aperture ring but only a focusing ring. The 35mm lens can be used in two focusing modes, M/A and M, but there’s a catch to it. Actually, M/A mode is more like A mode because even if you adjust your focus manually in it, another half-pressing of the shutter release button will make the lens refocus automatically.

In order to make it work you will either need to adjust the focus manually while half-pressing the shutter release button or lock your focus with back button focus and then focus manually using the focusing ring. Seems too complicated.

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX focuses really quickly and almost never misses. Furthermore, thanks to one hybrid aspherical optical element as part of its optical system of eight elements in six groups, it has literally no chromatic aberrations.

The same cannot be said about distortion though. The lens has a lot of barrel distortion irrespective of the distance between you and your subject. Obviously, it can be easily fixed in Photoshop, but sometimes it gives your pictures—especially portraits—a cozy look and it’s completely up to you as to whether consider it as a drawback or an advantage. Vignetting is present but is not too heavy as to mention in more than one sentence.

The lens is made primarily of plastic but still has a metal mount and partially metal insides. Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX comes together with a lens cap, rear lens cap, lens pouch, and lens hood and may be purchased from various online photography equipment vendors for $196.95 as of March 2016.

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