Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f1.8G Review

August 27, 2009 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | |

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f1.8G from around the web. »

Among DSLR shooters, there are two types of people: photographers who prefer using zoom lenses and photographers who prefer using primes. I am most certainly a member of the latter group. Prime lenses use a fixed focal length, meaning you cannot "zoom in" or "zoom out" when composing your image, but most prime lenses offer superior image quality and a wider aperture range than zoom lenses. I've switched from one camera brand to another over the years, but regardless of which brand of camera I was using a prime lens was the first lens I purchased for every camera.
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The AF-S Nikkor 35mm F1.8G DX is Nikon's latest lens, announced in February for PMA 2009. Its introduction came as something of a surprise to many observers, not because it's an updated 35mm lens with a built-in autofocus motor, but because the 'DX' designation indicates that it's designed for use on DX format bodies, and isn't fully compatible with Nikon's growing FX format camera range. According to Nikon, this has allowed the company to design a lens that is smaller, lighter and cheaper than it would have been had it offered full coverage of the FX image circle. In effect, the lens is primarily targeted as an inexpensive, large aperture option for users of the entry-level (D40 / D40X /D60) series of DSLRs.
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For a $200 lens, the 35mm ƒ/1.8DX provides surprisingly good results. With the lens set to its widest aperture of ƒ/1.8 overall image sharpness is quite respectable, with a sharp central region of 1.5 blur units, and slightly soft corners approaching 3 blur units. Image sharpness improves slightly at ƒ/2. At ƒ/2.8 we see excellent results, under 1.5 blur units in the center and under 2 blur units in the corners. Things get marginally better as you stop down further, reaching an optimal setting at ƒ/5.6. But for practical purposes things are about as sharp as they can realistically get at ƒ/2.8.
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The Nikkor AF-S DX 35 was announced at PMA 2009 and caught many by surprise. Not only because it was the only SLR related product announced by Nikon for this year's show (unlike widely expected, probably a reaction to the economic slowdown). With the currently available FX cameras on one hand and the aging range of fast Nikkor primes on the other hand many were expecting (or longing for) new full frame glass. Instead we got Nikon's second DX prime.
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