To fulfill the needs of digital photographers owning Nikon cameras with DX-sized sensors, Nikon produces the 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX Lens.
This lens produces an angle of view similar to what a 50mm lens would produce on a full-frame/FX camera and thusly functions as a “normal” lens. Prior to the digital explosion, most shooters would begin their exploration into the world of photography with a “normal” lens with a large maximum aperture.
A lens of this type is the traditional standby for low-light shooting, careful composition, and street shooting. This 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens recreates that experience for DX format shooters who have been seeking a comparable “normal” lens.
Fast “Normal” Lens
The 35mm focal length closely matches a 50mm lens in the FX format. This is perceived to be a natural lens as it provides an undistorted angle of view that is similar to what the unaided human eye perceives.
A desirable lens for low-light, travel, environmental portraiture and overall general photography.
Contains an Aspherical Lens Element
The incorporation of an aspherical element minimizes coma and other lens aberrations, further improving image integrity.
Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
This lens coating enhances light transmission efficiency and offers superior color consistency with reduced flare.
Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
The motor embedded in the body of the lens enables fast, accurate and quiet autofocusing.
A rounded iris produces a more natural rendering of out-of-focus image elements.
The 35mm f/1.8 AF-S can focus as close as one foot.
Conclusion – Pros
- Excellent image quality when stopped down just a little
- Fast and accurate autofocus with full-time manual override
- Generally attractive rendition of out-of-focus regions (‘bokeh’)
- Resistant to flare
- Low price
Conclusion – Cons
- Slightly soft and low in contrast wide open
- Lateral chromatic aberration somewhat higher than traditional 50mm ‘standard’ primes
- Prone to purple fringing and bokeh chromatic aberration, most visible at large apertures
The AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.8G DX is a lens which certainly caused a degree of dismay on its release, with many Nikon fans disappointed by the decision to make it compatible with the DX format only. However the main benefit of that decision is plain for all to see – even at its introductory price the lens costs rather less than the venerable AF-Nikkor 35mm F2.0D, despite the addition of an AF-S motor to allow autofocusing on Nikon’s entry-level D40 / D40X / D60 bodies. It’s also less than half the price of the few other DX format standard primes currently on the market (such as the Pentax 35mm F2.8 Macro, Tokina 35mm F2.8 Macro and Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM), so Nikon has managed with this lens to produce the first genuinely inexpensive (sub-$200) fast standard prime designed specifically for digital SLRs.
Within this context, the lens’s performance is very impressive. It produces finely detailed images at all apertures (although with somewhat low contrast wide open), focuses quickly and accurately, and handles well in a small, light package. In particular, it’s much sharper than typical DX standard zooms such as the Nikon AF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 DX VR or Nikon AF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 DX VR. The fast maximum aperture allows pictures to be taken hand-held in low light levels, while maintaining relatively fast shutter speeds to avoid blur from subject motion (a key advantage over image-stabilised, but slow, kit zooms when photographing people without flash indoors). The slightly less tangible aspects of image quality – such as resistance to flare, and the rendition of out-of-focus regions of the frame – are also dealt with nicely.
If the lens has one major flaw, it is a certain propensity to show chromatic aberration, of both the lateral kind (which can be corrected by the in-camera JPEG processing of the D90 and D300), and the longitudinal (which cannot). To be fair the latter is a pretty well unavoidable with a fast prime, but the 35mm F1.8G DX suffers from it to a rather high degree, and in particular can give some unpleasant purple fringing effects if you’re not careful.
Overall, though, it seems almost churlish to complain about these flaws in a lens so inexpensive, which gives otherwise such fine results. It’s good to see Nikon finally addressing the lack of purpose-designed, inexpensive fast primes for DX format DSLRs, and we hope they – and other companies – continue with this trend. As it is the 35mm F1.8G DX is, for its winning combination of high image quality, large maximum aperture and low price, a lens which deserves to be on many a Nikon shooter’s shopping list.
The Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 G ist able to deliver very sharp pictures wide open already. The bokeh, one of the primary aspects for a fast prime, is well developed and generally pleasing (at least slightly stopped down). There are some drawbacks, though, especially rather high distortions and CAs, both lateral and longitudinal. And allthough it’s sonic wave driven, the AF is not really a speed demon.
Nonetheless, given its affordable price, the lens performs on a very high level and is a welcome addition the limited range of lenses that can be used as normal primes on DX cameras.
This is a wonderful lens, and for only $200, every DX shooter deserves one of these.
This could be the only lens you ever need for a DX camera.
FX shooters deserve either the 50mm f/1.8 D or, ideally the 50mm f/1.4 AF-S. It makes no sense to get this lens to shoot at the DX setting of an FX camera; just get an FX lens.
Ignore some of the press information which claimed that this 35mm f/1.8 is the fastest DX lens; its not (any FX f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens is faster and also covers DX), nor is it the first single-focal-length DX lens: that’s the 10.5mm DX fisheye which came out in 2003.
The only reason not to get one of these 35mm f/1.8 DX lenses is if you plan to upgrade to FX and if you already have a DX camera with a built-in focus motor, like the D50, D70, D80 or better. If you do, the older 35mm f/2 AF-D will autofocus on your camera today and do the same thing as this new 35mm f/1.8 DX, and the 35mm f/2 AF-D will also work great on film and FX cameras when you do upgrade.
That caveat aside, this 35mm f/1.8 has better optical and ergonomic performance than the older 35mm f/2 AF-D.
Fortunately, the 35mm is a fast performer and finds focus easily in optimum lighting; in dim situations the AF assist beam works in conjunction with the lens which provides responsive and accurate focusing in under a second. Edge-to-edge sharpness across the frame is excellent, exhibiting all the pleasing properties that we have come to expect from prime lenses. Naturally, the lens is most sharp around 1.5/2 stops from its maximum aperture.