The Small, Light & Fast AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED

Nikon and Nikkor lenses have had a stellar reputation for several decades. For good reason, too. Nikon optics are sharp and very well made. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens for full-frame (FX) cameras is among the best lenses of its type.

The Basics

In full-frame 35mm format, 35mm is one of the most useful focal lengths. Apart from the ‘Nifty 50’, the 35mm focal length is also often considered a normal focal length option. Since the actual focal length formula for full-frame 35mm format is around 43.5mm, then either 50mm or 35mm is very usable as a normal lens.

There is a small, light, and inexpensive 35mm f/1.8G AF lens for Nikon’s DX format (APS-C) cameras, but there wasn’t a similar offering for full-frame. Of course, due to crop factor, the two lenses don’t really compare. Since the 1.5X DX crop factor makes the 35mm DX lens act similarly to how a 50mm would in FX, there really isn’t a lot in common. Still, Nikon FX users looked longingly at the size and price of the DX lens, wishing for something like it for FX.

Nikon has a 35mm f/1.4G AF for FX that is professional caliber and quite expensive. Sigma came in with an ART lens 35mm f/1.4 that has been very well received at its extremely competitive price point. Nikon has also had an AF-D 35mm f/2.0 for some time, but it was an older design.

What’s Special About This Lens

The AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED, introduced in 2014, is a fantastic lens, usable in all types of photography. Street photography, portrait photography, wedding photography, commercial photography, and any general purpose photography.

Mounted to one of the more compact Nikon FX DSLRs, such as the Df, D750, or D610, the 35mm f/1.8G is perfect for street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the early pioneers of street photography, used the 35mm focal length for the vast majority of his ground breaking work. A small, fast, slightly wider than normal lens, this G-series lens could be the new standard for many street photographers.

In portrait photography, the 35mm focal length is great for full length or ¾ length views. Being close to normal, the focal length doesn’t cause any distortion effects when used at medium distances. The faster lens aperture allows for selective focus at these medium distances as well.

These same aspects also work well for wedding photographers. Having a camera ready to go with this lens should allow for capturing some great medium distance shots and candids.

Since it is near the normal focal length for FX format, the 35mm f/1.8G will be very usable in commercial photography. Whether a product shot, realty images, or even industrial photography, it is sharp, fast, and somewhat heavy duty. This also makes it a good choice for any general purpose imaging, including video recording.

Specifications and Features

At just under three inches in both diameter and length and a little less than 12 ounces, it is fairly small and lightweight, but not so much so that it feels like a kit lens. A large part of the construction is high quality plastic with a fair amount of metal as needed. The lens mount is metal.

Filter diameter is 58mm as are many of Nikon’s FX lenses. In film days, so many of Nikon’s lenses had a 52mm filter size that made it easy to purchase multiple filter types. The slightly bigger 58mm size on this lens will allow filter stacking with little danger of vignetting. The filter ring does not rotate with focusing, so polarizers and special effects filters are not affected.

For autofocus, a silent wave ultrasonic motor (SWM) provides quick focusing with virtually no audible noise. Focusing is accomplished by the lens moving only the rear elements (RF), which helps speed up focusing and means the lens size doesn’t change. It snaps into focus almost instantly and can be overridden by turning the large focus ring or by flipping the switch on either the lens or camera. SWM and RF are also wonderful for video recording without focus motor noise.

The excellent image quality is achieved by means of special design elements such as extra low dispersion glass (ED), aspherical elements (AS), and multi layer lens coatings (SIC). Field of view on FX is 63° and it is 44° on DX cameras.

The aperture stops down to f/16 and is a seven bladed iris. Seven blades creates a fairly round shaped hole as it stops down. This helps limit diffraction effects when stopping down for greater depth of field. It would have been nice to have f/22 available for more depth of field and exposure options. Bokeh on this lens is very pleasant at wider apertures.

It is a G-series lens, which means it is specifically designed for the newest generations of Nikon digital cameras. It also means it isn’t fully compatible with older cameras due to the electronic only actuation of lens aperture. While that makes for faster operation and more accuracy, it also limits backwards compatibility. With older film cameras, it will manual focus, but the aperture will be stuck at f/1.8 and there isn’t any way to change it.

Bottom Line

This is an excellent lens for all around use for anyone wanting superb sharpness, a fast f-stop, and a slightly wider than normal field of view in a lightweight package. Wedding and street photographers will especially appreciate how it instantly snaps into focus with no focus hunting, even in marginal lighting conditions.

Marginal lighting is one of the reasons photographers look for lenses like this. At f/1.8, it is a full 1 one-third stops faster than an f/2.8 lens, two full stops faster than most kit lens zooms, and only two-thirds stops slower than f/1.4. At about half the price and weight of the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 lens, many Nikon shooters will be happy with this lens.

The silent focusing and natural field of view will also be extremely well appreciated by Nikon photographers who use their camera’s video capabilities to the full.

Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED lens is small and light, focuses quickly and accurately, has excellent image quality, and is attractively priced. This slightly wider than normal lens is a tool that many Nikon FX shooters will be happy to have. Averaging a little under $600 from retailers, it is still a little expensive, but much less pricey than Nikon’s fast zooms or any f/1.4 lenses.

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