on February 11, 2014
I've owned every autofocus 35mm lens for Nikon. First the 35/2D, then the 35/1.8G (DX, on both DX and FX), then the 35/1.4G, most recently the 35/1.4 Sigma, and now I just received the brand new 35/1.8G FX. The Sigma is still the best of the bunch in terms of image quality and build quality, but this one is my new favorite because I value the smaller size and lighter weight. I've only had it a few hours, but I've run through a battery of image quality and autofocus tests, and this lens excels.
If I run into any problems I'll update this listing, but for now I can confidently say that Nikon has impressed me again with their f1.8 primes, of which this is the perfect compliment to the 85/1.8G.
on September 23, 2014
I am a 35mm lens aficionado. Thirty-plus years of film shooting with Nikon SLRs and Leica rangefinder cameras has allowed me to explore many examples of this focal length in many generations from 1950s Leica models to that brand's more modern offerings, and the original f/2.8 Nikkor from the 1960s to the AIS version of the 35mm f/1.4 model. When I moved into Nikon auto focus in the late 1980s, the then new 35mm f/2.0 AF was the first lens that I bought for this new type of Nikon camera. That same lens (replaced several times) is what I have been using on my full frame D700 for several years now. I tried to use the 35mm f/1.4 AIS on the DSLR, but focus was hit-or-miss due to the screen which is less than optimal for manual focus, especially wide-open. So the little f/2.0 has been my go to 35mm lens for digital. I never had a complaint about the image quality of the 25 year old f/2.0 design. I'm sure that in some lab test, flaws can be measured, but when I come back and examine photos made in the real world, it was fine.
FWIW, while I am aware of the 35mm f/1.4 AF-G Nikkor, it is too much of a jump in size, weight and cost to gain a stop of lens opening. I like prime lenses because of the size advantage over a high quality zoom, and I can be less obtrusive with a petite lens, so I never considered the f/1.4 for my needs.
So, enter this new lens. I did buy the AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED, with hopes of enjoying a more modern design, both optically and mechanically, over the f/2.0 lens. In a short statement, yes, I do like this new lens more than the older model. So I will compare this new lens to its closest Nikon alternative.
Lens speed to me is pretty much a wash in actual use, as the variation from f/1.8 to f/2.0 is not dramatic enough to be a deal breaker, especially with a step-less shutter in aperture priority. More important is the question not of how fast the lens is, but can you actually use it at that aperture? The lens used at f/1.8 is more than usable, it is very good in terms of sharpness and contrast at full aperture. There is a very small amount of light fall-off, but it is only noticeable when you review two images shot at f/1.8 and then stopped down to about f/2.5 side by side. In comparison, the older f/2.0 lens was O.K. wide-open, but only in the center, with the edges not so good. In some situations this is not a problem, since when focusing centrally on a 3D subject in an environment, the edges would be lost to DOF anyway, but this is not good for flat subjects. The look from this new lens used wide-open is making me get a lot of use from my camera's 1/8000th of a second top shutter speed which allows me to isolate a subject from the background with a moderate wide angle look in good light.
The physicality advantage of the two lenses would have to go to the older lens in terms of size. The f/2.0 with the proper HN-3 hood is much smaller than the f/1.8 lens with its hood mounted. However the weight is not an issue, and it didn't take long to ignore the larger size after a couple of decades with the smaller lens. The functionality advantage has to go to the newer model. It is so nice to be able to tweak focus instantly without having to find a switch and rotate it to manually adjust the focusing ring. Additionally, this same function means that I don't have to worry about keeping my fingers off of the focusing collar which I do with the f/2.0 model lest I prevent free movement of the mechanism. Without a way to scientifically measure, my feeling is that the older f/2.0 lens focused faster, but this might just be that I can hear and feel it as the screw-jack spins the collar very quickly and surely to the focus point. The new lens is silent and without any noticeable mechanical sensation. Even if the older lens is faster, the newer lens has never seemed slow, and I have caught some nice moving subject shots with it.
So after many decades of use of the 35mm lens as my most used lens, the AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED is now my lens of choice. The only thing I can't review here is longevity. I stayed with Nikon because I have 24 lenses in my collection and 95% of them function as well as the day they came out of the box. If this lens lasts ten years, that 600 Dollars will have put thousands of images on my hard drive.
FWIW 2, My older f/2.0 lens now sits on my D7100. It gives me a nice normal lens for the crop sensor camera, and the lower quality edges fall outside of the capture area of the DX sensor.
Edited on Nov 6, 2014: After many weeks of use now, I am still very happy with the optical quality of this lens. I have however found a weak point in the design that may or may not be important to you. The focus scale is very compressed, and the DOF marks are limited to one aperture. This makes zone-focusing pretty much impossible which is a shame, since a zone focused 35mm lens is the classic street shooter's tool of choice. With my old film era lenses, I could set a zone of say, 4ft to 11ft between the two aperture marks for a moderate aperture and then simply move to put a subject within that zone and shoot from the hip. I have used this technique for many years with great success, but this past weekend I employed this new lens for this task, only to find it impossible with the limited information on the distance scale... infinity comes on very quickly from any moderate distance. I like prime lenses over zooms because of the ability to use zone and hyper-focus setting via the scales on the lens, and this lens does not allow for this classic street-shooter trick. As a a work-around, I focused at an object 6 feet from from me, and then turned off the auto-focus. I set an aperture of f/8 and tried to keep my subjects within 5 to 10 feet. This was O.K., but I busted the zone much more than I use to with my old classic Nikkors with comprehensive DOF scales and a more moderate distance shift.
on July 13, 2014
I have a variety of good Nikon glass, including my standby 2.8 24-70 FX zoom. This has become my go-to lens though. I have a 50mm which I felt was a little too long for some situations and a little too short on others, on my D800 FX sensor camera. This works great - wide enough to capture most anything I want to within reason, and sure, it isnt long enough to get in real close to everything, but for traveling or family shots, it works great. Sure, carrying this plus a longer lens or a zoom sort of defeats the purpose of traveling with, say, the 24-70, as it is two arguably smaller lenses versus one large, heavy one... But if you know your limitations and accept them, this sure makes great shots that also travels much easier. The 50mm lenses are smaller and travel better, but I believe the 35mm is a better compromise for travel and family shots, even on full-frame.
This is a lightweight (relative to zoom lenses) lens that is great for getting those sort-of-wide, but not-too-wide shots. As many people have said, it is a great walkaround lens. It is suitable for group shots, street photography, and landscapes.
It is not really a portrait lens though because you can't get in tight enough faces without creating distortion of the nose. Also, background blur and bokeh are hard to get with a lens at this focal length, unless you get up close. Interestingly enough, I was surprised at the foreground blur between me and my subject (who was at a distance) that I was able to achieve with this lens. It creates an interesting look and effect.
I have also used it for light painting and long exposures at night because it is a 1.8 lens.
This lens is sharp and create beautiful images.