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My Review of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX

I posted some thoughts and pictures right after I got my new lens, The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX arrives – First Impression, and now that I’ve used it for several weeks I wanted to post a follow up review.

For St. Patrick’s Day we had dinner and hung out with friends and babies. Lighting was fairly low with a chandelier fixture in the dining room and one floor lamp bouncing off the ceiling in the living room. Even wide open at f/1.8, AUTO ISO was getting bumped up to keep the shutter above 1/40 second in some shots. Combine that with babies who don’t politely sit still for pictures and you have yourself a difficult shooting situation. With one of the kit lenses or even the 18-200mm VR, most of these shots wouldn’t have been possible. I had some ISO to play with on some, but most of them are hitting 1600 or 3200. If I stepped up to a minimum f/3.5 lens, my shutter would have dropped even more and my “keeper” rate would have dropped from 10% to maybe 3-5% without adding flash.

I’m extremely pleased with the lens. I swore off pixel peeping so I’m not going to go into boring details or shooting test charts. All I cared about initially was if the lens let me get indoor shots without using flash all of the time. If you’re happy with the DX format (and happy not spending thousands more on a new FX body and lens) then I suspect you’ll find the image and build quality of the lens more than satisfactory. What surprised me is that I’m starting to like the 35mm f/1.8 more than the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR AF-S DX .

One thing to consider with lenses is the size and weight. Compared to the 18-55mm the 35mm isn’t a whole lot smaller or lighter, but next to the 18-200mm it is night and day. I got the 18-200mm as a walk around, jack of all trades lens and now the size and weight have become deterrents to taking it out with me. The 18-200mm weighs 1.23 lbs. The 35mm weighs 0.45 lbs. The D90 weighs 1.6 lbs by itself. That’s a lot of weight to carry around all day on vacation or on a night out and I’d rather have 0.78 lbs less most of the time. The other difference is the 35mm situates it’s weight closer to the body of the lens. The 18-200mm is front heavy and more awkward to carry around, it usually ends up pointed straight down with the zoom fully extended when I hang the camera on my shoulder.

I could never use the 50mm f/1.8 as a walk around lens because it was simply too long. I use the wider end of the 18-200mm more than I use the long end so I don’t think I’ll miss the extra reach. The 35mm f/1.8 isn’t perfect, but it is such a well rounded lens that it might replace my 18-200mm and never leave my camera. At $200 I think it packs the best bang for your buck in the entire Nikon DX lens line up.

I got my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 at Amazon.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX arrives – First Impressions

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 was created specifically for the DX shooters who were lacking the classic 50mm “normal” focal length fast prime. The 50mm f/1.8 is a great lens, but is just a tad too long for normal use. The 35mm and 50mm are pretty comparable in size with the 35mm being just a bit wider around, but both are dwarfed in size and weight by the 18-200mm:

Nikon 35mm, 50mm, 18-200mm size comparison

The 50mm becomes a 75mm with the DX crop factor and the 35mm becomes a 52.5mm. The difference between the two focal lengths is quite apparent when viewed side by side:

35mm view50mm view

Getting up close and personal with a subject is a little easier now since the 35mm focus 5-6 inches closer than the 50mm. That difference more than makes up for the difference in focal length.  Here we can see the 35mm (top) was able to reproduce a slightly larger view of my lamp:

35mm view50mm view

So far I’m very happy with the lens. It’s lightweight, pumps out some great pictures wide open and focus quickly. I love my 18-200mm, but I see this spending a lot of time on my D90. Focus noise is also much lower. The 50mm f/1.8 is fairly noisy and when it hunts for focus it can give a nice thud when it hits infinity. 52mm UV filter is on my list to buy to protect the front glass. Look for some more pics and comparisons coming up.

New Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX lens

Nikon just announced the AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G this week. I promptly placed a preorder at Amazon.

If you own a D40/D40x/D60 then this little $200 lens should be on your list. Previously the 50mm f/1.8 was the only affordable way to get a fast prime from Nikon, but without the AF-S you don’t get autofocus on these cheaper cameras. Also, on the DX cameras, the 50mm becomes 75mm which is a bit long. The 35mm becomes a 52.5mm which is much closer to the traditional “normal” 50mm on a film camera.

This lens focuses closer than the 50mm (less than 1ft vs about 1.5ft) and should be noticeably wider. Looking forward to its release in March.