Review: Nikon 35mm f1.8 G ED (Nikon F Mount)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 lead image (1 of 1)ISO 1001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Nikon released their 35mm f1.8 G ED lens earlier this year, and when it was announced it whetted the appetites of full frame lovers everywhere. Though not a direct replacement for the company’s previous lens offering, it was designed with the full frame customer in mind. We believe the 35mm focal length truly shows what the human eye sees and it is a lens that can be used for anything like street photography, wide portraits, events, weddings, candids, food, etc.

With the ability of focus as closely at 9.84 inches and housing seven aperture blades, 11 elements in 8 groups, and weighing 10.76 oz, it is a lens that will probably be on the camera of many a photographer looking to step up their game and become more serious with their craft.

And while we’re confident that this lens will satisfy most customers, we also know that later on you’ll want so much more.

Pros and Cons

Pros

– Pretty darn sharp for an f1.8 lens

– Lightweight design and build

– Fast to focus

– Nice bokeh

Cons

– Still a bit too expensive for our tastes

Gear Used

We tested the Nikon 35mm f1.8 with the Nikon D800 and the Adorama Flashpoint Streaklight.

Tech Specs

Taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens

Performance
Focal Length 35mm
Comparable APS-C Focal Length: 52.5 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/1.8 – 16
Camera Mount Type Nikon F
Format Compatibility Nikon FX/35mm Film
Nikon DX
Angle of View 63°
APS-C Picture Angle: 44°
Minimum Focus Distance 9.84″ (25 cm)
Magnification 0.16x
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:6
Elements/Groups 11/8
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread 58 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.83 x 2.81″ (72 x 71.5 mm)
Weight 10.76 oz (305 g)

 

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm product images (3 of 6)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 3.5

Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 is much like many of the company’s other lenses. For what it’s worth though, it is one of the larger f1.8 prime lenses that we’ve seen and tested. It is a tad larger than the company’s 50mm f1.8 but smaller than the company’s 85mm f1.8–both of which have been reviewed by us.

When you first look at the front, you notice the 58mm filter thread and a modestly sized lens hood.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm product images (2 of 6)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 3.5

The lens is characterized by a massive (for its overall size) focusing ring. It takes up around half of the body while the lens’s distance scale is behind this. Like many autofocus lenses, almost no depth of field scale is present. At a focal length like this, we sure would have liked one.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm product images (5 of 6)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

The side of the lens is home to the single control on the lens, which switches it from manual focusing to autofocusing with manual override. The lens has no other switches or control otherwise, given that this isn’t a macro lens nor does it have VC built in.

Build Quality

Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 is built fairly well, though nothing like what we’re used to in comparison to Nikon’s higher end glass. Granted, the lens isn’t marketed or stated to be anywhere near this level of quality, but we wouldn’t be fibbing at all if you said that the company’s 85mm f1.8 and 50mm f1.8 felt better in the hand.

To be fair though, we took it out in a light rainfall once and had no operational issues with it at all.

Ease of Use

Nikon’s 35mm lens is one that you slap onto your camera, point, focus, and enjoy the results. This lens wasn’t designed with much of a depth of field scale and in our tests we much preferred using the autofocusing for candid photos rather than using zone focusing.

Autofocus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 review images (11 of 12)ISO 4001-800 sec at f - 2.5

 

This is one of the parameters of the Nikon 35mm f1.8 G ED that we really, really loved. The lens is fast to focus and when coupled with Nikon’s already great and smart focusing system, there is just so little to complain about. The focusing worked consistently in low light and normal lighting settings and is often never off focus. Candid and event photographers will greatly appreciate this.

Image Quality

ALL IMAGES HAVE EXIF DATA IN TACT. YOU CAN FIND IT IN THE FILE NAME OR BY CLICKING THE IMAGE AND CHECKING OUT THE HYPERLINK

The image quality from Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 G ED is really, really good–enough to make any Canon shooter want to convert over right now. For the price point and being an f1.8 lens, the sharpness is better than most things that we’ve seen at this price point that will fulfill the needs and wants of most pixel peepers. To be fair though, we never encourage pixel peeping because in the end, all that matters is the final image.

For those among us that totally understand this statement and realize that there is a heck of a lot more to photography than looking at MTF charts all day: know that you absolutely can’t go wrong with this lens. In terms of how the bokeh looks, know that it isn’t as creamy as competing models but that it still surely does have an appealing look to it.

Also note that the color rendition and color fringing are both leaning on the favorable side of things. While the colors look great, we wish they were a bit more vibrant–though they do pretty well with skin tones.

Sharpness

Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 G ED is a lens that you can’t really complain about when it comes to sharpness. As always though, the sharpness is best when a flash of some sort is used. When coupled with the Nikon D3800, we were able to pull in some amazing details that we didn’t think would be possible.

Wedding photographers, enthusiasts, and photojournalists will all be more than happy with the sharpness that this lens can deliver in the right situations.  Granted, this lens is most targeted at the enthusiast, and we feel that as far as sharpness goes this is the best that you can get.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 other review images (3 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 4.0

Big thanks to Virginia is for Lovers for this one and many other photos in this post.

The bokeh on the 35mm f1.8 G ED isn’t what Sigma or Canon’s offerings are, but it isn’t terrible in the right situations. We also believe that the bokeh on the company’s f1.4 version of the lens will be more pleasing for most folks. While you’ll get those smooth and round bokeh balls that everyone talks about, the still overall quality of the bokeh is still hazy and not creamy. And when working with a 35mm lens, this is something that we really wish were different.

Still though, we could surely be asking for too much–and the bokeh isn’t terrible or distracting; just too hazy.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 review images (12 of 12)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 1.8

Here’s where we think that Nikon could have really done a better job. While the colors are true to life in the scenes that we shot, we wanted more vibrant colors and instead you’ll need to rely on Nikon’s RAW file versatility to really massage the files and get better colors.

Sorry JPEG shooters, this is one where you’ll need to switch to RAW.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 review images (3 of 12)ISO 32001-8000 sec at f - 1.8

In our tests, we didn’t see any color fringing from this lens except in the most extreme of contrast situations–and even that was after we turned the contrast up even more. Nikon should be praised for doing this.

Vs Sigma 35mm f1.4

Sigma 35mm f1.4 and Nikon 35mm f1.8

During the review process, we put this lens up against Sigma’s 35mm f1.4–which is more expensive but still under $1,000. We found the Sigma lens to be sharper, but Nikon tended to control distortion better. It’s worth heading over and checking out the full informal test.

Extra Image Samples

Here are some extra image samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 review images (10 of 12)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 review images (8 of 12)ISO 1001-320 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 review images (7 of 12)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 other review images (8 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 other review images (7 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 other review images (6 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 3.2

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 other review images (5 of 8)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 other review images (2 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 5.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 other review images (1 of 8)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 4.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (15 of 16)ISO 8001-100 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (14 of 16)ISO 8001-60 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (13 of 16)ISO 8001-320 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (11 of 16)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (8 of 16)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (7 of 16)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (10 of 16)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (6 of 16)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (5 of 16)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 3.2

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (4 of 16)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (3 of 16)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 1.8

Conclusions

Likes

– Sharp

– Fast to focus

Dislikes

– Wish the build were better

– Wish the bokeh were a bit creamier

The-Phoblographer-Editor's-Choice-Award-Logo

Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 G ED is a lens that won’t excite those us that always reach for higher hanging fruit, but it will surely satisfy the appetites of those that are looking for a fairly affordable 35mm prime lens. Best of all, this lens is designed for full frame cameras as opposed to the last one which was for APS-C DSLRs. The company’s lens is sharp enough for most uses, has fairly good bokeh, color that can be reworked to be even better due to Nikon’s RAW file versatility, and contains focusing motors that really made it a joy to use all around.

As for the build quality, we wish that it were better: but again it isn’t aimed at the higher end audience. And for that we once again think that the lens will make most folks happy.

That’s why we’re awarding Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 an Editor’s Choice award–because it will make most users going for it more than happy and in the right hands it will make clients all over very happy customers.

Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Nikon 35mm f1.8 G wins our Editor’s Choice award and cour coveted five out of five star rating. Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 G ED usually goes for $599.99 on Amazon, but at the moment of publishing this piece it is a bit discounted.

Recommended Cameras and Accessories

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon 35mm f1.8 first samples (16 of 16)ISO 64001-50 sec at f - 2.8

– Nikon D610: Nikon’s D610 is a camera that is aimed at the enthusiast that wants a full frame camera. This lens is the best option for them.

Nikon 50mm f1.8 G ED: If you’re going to get the 35mm f1.8, we recommend the three prime trifecta: and the company’s 50mm f1.8 is a very good option indeed.

Nikon 85mm f1.8 G ED: Finally, we’d be stupid to not recommend one of the best portrait lenses that we’ve tested to work in conjunction with the company’s new semi-wide angle lens.