Long Term Review: Nikon 35mm f1.8 G

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It has been a long, uncanny road with this lens. I have had it since 2009. The AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G was the first lens I purchased beyond the kit lens that came with my Nikon D90, my first DSLR. When I researched the D90, the Nikon 35mm 1.8 G kept popping up as a must have. It was first announced around March 2009–which is when I started studying photography. At its price point, it fit into my budget, and it was a fantastic purchase. If I could do it all over again, I would have purchased my Nikon D90, body only, and the 35mm 1.8G lens. Over the years, it has served me well. I still use this lens when producing reviews. I also use it when I just want to go on a photo walk with a lite kit.

 

Pros and Cons

Pros

– Light & fast

– Inexpensive

– Works with a full frame camera in FX mode

– Extremely versatile

– Internal and silent focusing

– Comes with a lens hood

Cons

– None to me

Gear Used

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This lens has been a bit slutty. It has been on a Nikon D90, D60, D3100, D3200, D5100, D600, and a D700.

It’s been in every bag I own. It’s very easy to just keep with you as a back up lens.

Tech Specs

Nikon 35mm F1.8 DX G Specifications from Adorama

Construction 8 elements in 6 groups (with one hybrid aspherical lens)
Camera Mount Type Nikon F
Format Compatibility Nikon DX
FX in DX Crop Mode
Angle of view DX Format 44°
F stop range 1.8-22
Closest Focusing Distance 1 ft. (0.30m)
Maximum Magnification 0.16x
Filter Size 52mm
Dimensions (Length x Diameter) 2.8×2.1 in. (Diameter x Length) – 70×52.5 mm (Diameter x Length)
Weight 7 oz

Ergonomics

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This lens is very simply built, with a badge on the top of the lens and a 52 mm lens thread. The exterior is characterized by a textured material that is present on many of Nikon’s lenses. It still feels very good in the hand. The badge has maintained its luster.

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On the side of the lens you’ll find the M/A M button–which controls the auto-focusing. In the early days, I never touched it. But these days, I shoot more with more manual focusing–so I use it more and more. However, it can also be overridden just by touching the focusing ring. These buttons have never warn out. It simply works. You hands don’t  have to reach to use it and it’s a decent size.

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Luckily, the lens has a hood that can be easily reversed  when you want the lens to be kept more low key. The hood snaps on with a nice click and is also textured to match the lens’s body. The lens hood stays on. It’s never loosened over time. It has been in many bags. The writing on it has not worn off at all. For plastic, it’s very well constructed.

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When you’re ready, you can twist the hood back off and back on into its rightful position again to protect the lens. This is the recommended position when manual focusing because otherwise, the focusing ring is blocked. As this lens has a small size, the focusing ring itself is also quite small. Yet it’s in a good spot, so it’s easily accessible when exposed. Having the lens hood out makes the lens feel like you have a better grip on the camera.

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The mount is metal and plastic. No external screw is needed since the focusing motors are internal–a characteristic of Nikon’s G lens lineup. The motor is very silent and quick. Since the focusing is all internal, the lens keeps it’s shape.

Additional contributions were added in by Chris Gampat

Build Quality

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Compared to every other prime lens I have used, this is one of the best in terms of pure, solid build quality. The Nikon 35mm f1.8 G is made from a combination of metal and plastic. It is very minimalistic. It has no aperture ring or depth of field scale. The text is painted on. After all the abuse I have put the lens through, it has not come off. This lens has been in rain, blizzards, comic book conventions, beer festivals, coffee expos, and around children and has survived everything. The Nikon 35mm f1.8 G is very light in the hand. It’s a beauty to carry on long photo-walks.

Autofocus

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The autofocus speed of the Nikon 35mm f1.8G is quick and quiet. The lens has a minimum focus distance of about a foot. I got great close up shots with this lens. It’s not a macro lens like the Nikon 40mm f2.8, but it does a great job. I find that the lens has always been accurate, and it is always spot on when subjects are moving–which means that it never needed to be calibrated. The manual focus ring is just right. If your lens is in autofocus you can override it by touching the focus ring so you do not have to hit the M/A –M button. I only hit if I plan to shoot manual focus only.

Ease of Use

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There is one switch to worry about and beyond that there is nothing to mess with. This is one of the lenses I wish Nikon would offer as an alternative to their kit lens for DX cameras. I eventually sold my kit lens, but not this one. This lens is very easy to use and there is no learning curve.

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This lens has been useful in every form of photography I have ever shot. I have created many coffee photos with this lens. It is also great for food photography as its size is not intrusive. I have also created landscape images with this lens. The 35mm f1.8G has a wide enough angle of view to get a lot of info in. Portraits with this lens are also decent. You have to get a little close to your subject but the lens does not distort the face too much–which is quite a relief. On a photo walk, this lens is fantastic. You really don’t need another. Just walk to zoom and your fine. This lens allowed me the freedom to really develop my eye.

To that end, it is also extremely straightforward and simple to use.

Image Quality

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This is a very sharp lens. The 35mm f1.8 G performs great at f1.8, fantastic at f5.6, and the rest of the f-stops are good as well. This lens has always had great and true color. Skin tones are nice with this lens. I love it in black and white, because it has great contrast. The bokeh is decent, but not anything exciting in my eyes.

If you are shooting in extremely sunny days, you’ll be happy to know that this lens does not suffer from major flare.

Bokeh

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The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX lens has smooth bokeh, and I learned what bokeh was with this lens. Before I owned this lens, I had never shot with a lens this fast. I have to admit this lens was a shock to the system at first. Once I learned what shallow depth of field  really was with this lens I was hooked on it.

On Photo Walks

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The Nikon 35mm f1.8 DX is particularly interesting on Photo Walks. It’s basically perfect. Wide enough to get a great view and quick enough to get any shot, from portraits to food. Its almost a perfect lens for photowalks on a Nikon DX camera. Its wide allowing for a great view of your environment. It also fast allowing for better low light photography. You can shoot with this lens in a city and never get bored.

Food Photography

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I have always loved shooting food with this lens. Its size lends itself to being used in restaurants, particularly on a camera like my D90 or anything of that size. The 35mm f1.8 G can focus pretty close, and focus rather quickly making one quite unobtrusive. Its angle of view can get a nice size plate or bowl efficiently. Again, the speed of this lens makes it fantastic for food photography situations.

Events

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This is a proper lens for events on a DX camera. You can easily get up close to your subjects, get your shot, and move on. You can get quick portraits of event attendees. Overall, using this lens at events has been a treat.  I’ve been called a ninja with this lens and that is incredible because I am huge. That said, at an event this lens simply allows you move around a room  quickly get close up on subjects to compose interesting and unique images.

On an FX camera

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DX or Crop mode

A while ago, my friend Scott Wyden introduced me to the idea of using Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX lens on a full frame camera.  Leaving the camera set in FX mode on a D700 is normal for me. I do not have auto DX mode turned on. I have to manually set it.   In DX mode on the D700, the image quality is very nice.  I love being able to shoot at f1.8 at a shutter speed of 1/8000. The only DX cameras that can do that are the Nikon D300S, D7100 and the D7000.

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FX or Full Frame

In FX mode there is vignetting, but it’s not that severe. It’s best to shoot with the lens hood and any filters off. You get a decent image and can crop if need be. Ideally it is not a proper lens for a full frame camera, but it is fun to play with.  If you need a proper 35 mm for a full frame camera I would suggest a Rokinon 35mm 1.4 which is manual or a Sigma 35mm 1.4 which is auto focus.

Conclusions

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It’s a lens that has consistently stirred my soul. Even though I have gone full frame mostly, I still enjoy using the Nikon 35mm 1.8 G in DX mode or FX mode.  Because this lens is just so good, I will keep it. I do have a manual Vivitar 35mm 1.4 which is also great, but it is not as generally awesome as the Nikon 35mm f1.8 DX. When I am doing a review and need a self-portrait of myself using the product, it’s my go to lens. I know exactly what I am going to get, which makes everything so much more efficient. That puts a massive smile on my face.

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If you are a Nikon DX shooter, you should own this lens. It is a fantastic tool that will never let you down. The lens is extremely versatile and can travel anywhere.  Out of all of my photography purchases, so far, this has been one of the best. Even though I shoot full frame more often now, the Nikon 35mm f1.8G is still in heavy rotation. It is a work horse and it’s brilliant. When I have to show some fellow Nikonians why they need to move on from their kit lens, I let them borrow the 35mm 1.8 for a bit. They are generally hooked after that.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.