When the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G was released, was the first 35mm Nikon lens with autofocus at the top end of the quality range. Updated optics and a Silent Wave Motor means fast focusing at a focal length that can be a happy alternative to the standard 50mm. Although the lens is a few years old now, it’s still a fantastic performer and good for a variety of situations.
As with many high quality prime lenses, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G isn’t exactly lightweight, coming in at 600g; it’s much heavier than its predecessors. The outer shell of the lens is made of solid and tough plastics with a 67mm filter thread up front. Some would expect a solid metal barrel for this price, but everything is very solidly made on this lens.
The lens body is sealed against dust and moisture. Inside are ten elements in seven groups, which includes one aspherical element, with nine rounded diaphragm blades. The aperture range goes from f/1.4-f/16.
Focusing is internal which is good news if you want to use things like polarizing filters. All autofocusing is done with a Silent Wave Motor (SWM). The lens is also compatible with both the FX and DX formats.
A wide rubberized focusing ring dominates the lens barrel with a simplistic layout that includes an auto and manual focusing switch, distance scale, and limited DOF scale with just f/16 marked. No aperture ring on this lens as it’s all handled in-camera. No Vibration Reduction or focus limiter either. A HB-59 lens hood is also provided. In total, a simple and straightforward layout.
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G in Use
As for sharpness, fully wide open, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G is extremely sharp in both the center and the edges. Stopping down from f/2 onwards gets progressively more sharp, only starting to diminish once you approach f/16. In other words, you won’t have any problems capturing detail in both manual or auto focusing modes.
When the lens is wide open there is some definite light falloff in the corners. Stopping down to f/5.6 cleans things up nicely, but at the least, it’s not distracting, just obviously present. If you want to get close up with this lens, it’s not really designed for macro work with a minimum focusing distance of 30cm, but when you nail focus, images come out very sharp and crystal clear which can be then cropped down.
As for background blur or bokeh, having an aperture of f/1.4 and nine rounded diaphragm blades means achieving those creamy smooth backgrounds is an easy feat with this lens. Highlights are nicely rendered thanks to the diaphragm blades and as long as the background isn’t too busy, colors pleasantly merge into each other. Sun stars can also be rendered quite well, producing defined points of light with little ghosting.
Chromatic aberration or blue or purple fringes only start to appear on very high contrast edges. The same with Longitudinal chromatic aberrations, but these can easily be reduced in postprocessing.
As for general image quality, the lens renders images extremely well wide-open and can definitely be regarded as being excellent across the board.
How Does It Compare?
If you’re in the Nikon camp and want a 35mm prime lens, there are a few options. If you want to go really old school then there is the 1970 Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s. This is a fully manual lens with a 52mm filter thread. Being an older lens, it will need stopping down to get the best results and it doesn’t quite have the same sharp optics as current lenses.
The Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2 is a possible option, which is a good standard for landscape photography. It has high-end optics with a price to match.
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A has a lot going for it at this focal length. It’s not just a cheaper lens, but also at the top of the Sigma range with great optical abilities.
There’s also the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX which is at the other end of the price spectrum. Great for use on DX format cameras, but for an FX camera, the 50mm f/1.4 AF-S maybe a better choice.
Also, being an older lens, it’s advisable to try one of these things out first before you buy. This, along with some of the competitors as the expense of this lens may be a deciding factor for many. The lens is designed to be as sharp as possible wide-open and work on the FX format, but you will have to pay for that privilege.
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G||Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM|
|Optics||10 elements/7 groups||13 elements/11 groups|
|Blades||9 rounded||9 rounded|
Although the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G is getting on a bit in years, there is still lots to like. Optically, the lens renders images with great contrast and sharpness is very high, even when wide open. Stop down from f/2 and sharpness can be said to be excellent. Bokeh looks extremely nice on the lens, with nice creamy backgrounds and only a spot of vignetting to spoil the party. However, stopping down past f/5.6 seems to do the trick.
Autofocus is fast, not instant, but good enough for most applications. Working especially well on FX and DX bodies, but the caveat here is that if you are a DX body owner and have no plans to go full-frame, then the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G could be a wiser choice, considering the large differences in price and this is where the big caveat lies.
This is an expensive lens and although it produces fantastic images, there are also other options on the market. However, if you don’t mind the price point and the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G ticks all your boxes, then it will produce for you some outstanding images.