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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 7:07 pm 
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Having received the brand spanking new Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G I came back to this unassuming little lens which has been my companion on many walks in mother nature: The Nikon AF 35mm f/2.0 D.
It's focal length on my D300 is equivalent to 53mm (which was deemed "normal" in ye olde tymes) and it's close-up power reaching to 1:4.2 was very practical for my photographic needs. Combine that with a not too shabby f/2.0 aperture for dof isolation and it made for a very practical little walk-about lens.
So when wielding the new 35/1.4G-monster (with regard to size and price and expectancy) I finally decided to do at least a quick review with all the comparative material I had collected over time, to give a little more background on a lens that now has to compete with the new kid on the block.

I'll be showing the standard Siemens-star test-targets from a D300 and a D700 (!) so you can judge it's performance on both DX and FX bodies. If you want to see it compared to the Nikon 35/1.4G head over here.

I've left this thread unlocked for your C&C&Qs. So go ahead...


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 7:25 pm 
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===facts from the catalog===

Image

This lens is on the market since March 1995 (!) and is the direct successor of the AF 35/2.0 (w/o "D") built since 1989. So the design is now more than 20 years old. Nikon still thinks it will sell although their latest and hopefully greatest 35/1.4G lens is now out, but if you look at the prices, their hope is certainly well founded :wink:

Size: 65x44mm = small :) only half of the new 35/1.4G.
Weight: 205 g = :) One third of the new 35/1.4G.
Optics: 6 elements in 5 groups = simple design. Much simpler than todays modern designs. But less elements and less groups are good for minimizing reflections and increasing transmission. Looking at the cross-section you see a very simple design with no aspherical elements or ED elements:
Image
Closest focus distance/max.magnification: 0.25m / 1:4.2 :) This is pretty good for my purposes, the DX Nikkor 35/1.8 reaches only to 1:6.2.
Filter-thread: 52mm = small
IS: No = what do you expect from such an old lens?! Oh and btw.: The new one doesn't have IS/VR either
AF: AF driven by AF-motor in the body, so does NOT AF on D60/3100/5000-bodies :( , focus ring turns when focusing :(
Covers full frame/FX or smaller = very good :) The Nikon 35/1.8 is only covering DX although some report that it can be used on FX with only some corner shading
Comes with a no pouch, only front and rear cap :?
Price: around 300 EUR new (incl. 19% VAT) = pretty cheap :) The 35/1.4G is around 1600 EUR, the Nikon 35/1.8G DX is only 170 EUR.
The lens-caps are standard Nikon's :D The others still play catch-up
Distance information is relayed to the camera, so the Nikon body can do all the advanced exposure-related stuff with this lens :D But this is true for all the alternatives too.
Aperture ring = yes, :) some people and some applications (using a bellows or reverse-mounting require it
NO Lens-shade included :(
Sealing: Nope, this was only invented later :(
Performance:
Image
Uh-Oh, when you look at the wavy ups an downs and the gaps between the sagittal and the meridional curves and the precipitous decline in the corners, you'd expect a mixed bag of performance. But we'll see later.

Motivation:
Large aperture lenses are for isolating your subject plus the nice close-up performance makes this an ideal lens for many occasions. Plus add a reasonable price.

Alternatives:
- The new Nikkor AF-S 35/1.4G: A very good lens but expensive, large and heavy.
- The Nikkor AF-S 35/1.8 DX: great, cheap little lens for DX bodies. reaches its limits on FX bodies --> vignetting, corner sharpness


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 7:41 pm 
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Now here's the results from the the sharpness test based on Siemens-stars.
I present center results on a D300 (first row) followed by borders on a D300 (almost corner) plus borders on a D700 as added bonus! Btw.: The pixel-pitch of the D300 is roughly equivalent to a D3x.
Processing was done in CaptureNX2 at standard settings, with white-balance adjusted to a neutral white and some exposure compensation to make the brightness match. CA-removal is ON. Focus was achieved live-view based with a little optimization by hand and it was done separate for the center and the corners because the lens has some field curvature. So you cannot achieve optimal sharpness on flat test-targets.

These are 100% crops!

Center (D300):
Image

Border (D300):
Image

Border (D700):
Image

Looking at the results, the lens shows satisfying performance in the center of the image circle (approx. 10mm diameter) even wide open. The Contrast at f/2.0 is a bit low but sharpness is there to work with.
near the DX corners, IQ at f/2.0 and f/2.8 is not good enough for pixel peepers, but gets quite good by f/4.0. From f/5.6 onwards even pixel peepers will be satisfied.
The disappointment comes when you mount this on an FX-body, even a D700 (or D3, D3s by the way) with its very forgiving large pixels. I really had problems to optimize focus in this case and field curvature is very prominent so don't judge the concentric circles too harsh. Concentrate instead on the little Siemens-star and the text at the bottom.
Performance is not good below f/4.0 and you need f/5.6 or even f/8.0 to be satisfied.

Summary:
A nice performance on a DX-body, very sharp e.g. for landscap-shots at f/5.6. Could be outperformed by the Nikon 35/1.8G DX, which is even cheaper.
On a FX-body performance near the corners is disappointing below f/5.6. So shooting wide open is only recommended when corner-performance is irrelevant. Don't ever put it on a D3x or shoot flat targets below f/8.0!


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:10 pm 
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Now some of you may ask, how these insights from test-targets translate into reality? Here's a side-by-side comparison of two shots executed within a few seconds: left at f/2.0, right at f/5.6. You see the upper left corner here. Have a close look at the top of the fence:

Image
Reproduced here at 50%. To see the 100% crop click through the image and select "view all sizes" from the "Actions"-menu.

There's a halo at f/2.0 that covers everything in its radius with a haze that reduces sharpness, contrast and definition of details. I also had to add+2/3EV for the left image which is still darker than teh f/5.6 version. So the light drop-off in the corners at f/2.0 is at least 1 stop compared to f/5.6.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:45 pm 
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Now I don't want to finish this quick review on such a sombre note. Let's think positive and see what this small lens can do for us budding photographers. So I've collected some of the photos I like from this lens. Those are all done on my D300, so avoid the problems outside the smaller DX image-circle.
When looking at those images you will find that some of them are heavily processed. And you may complain that this makes it hard to see the performance of the lens. Well, I've included those images just as a reminder that a good/interesting photo is not necessarily defined by the gear you use. Hint: some of those belong to my all time favorites.
So here we go:

Image...Image
Sunflower 27540_52.jpg @ f/8.0, Sunflower Field 27536_13.jpg @ f/8.0

Image...Image
Way ahead 25337 @ f/8.0, Mushrooms 23092 @ f/4.0

Image...Image
Snowtrees 21311 @ f/8.0, Morning Light 19498 @ f/11

Image...Image
SnowAlley 21302 @ f/8.0, Hazy Autumn Morning 19507 @ f/22

Image...Image
Ira 18372 @ f/5.6 - isn't she cuddly?! Wooden Face 17584 @ f/5.6

Image...Image
Tulip 12022 @ f/8.0, Needles&Drops 11287 @ f/2.0

Image...Image
Fly 13259 @ f/4.0, Crocus 11430 @ f/2.0

Just remember: Gear is not everything :idea:

---
All the images in this review (and some more) can be found here.
Considering buying this lens? Support Camera Labs by using the links on this page.
Check the price of the Nikkor 35/2.0D lens here!

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Dec 20, 2010 9:46 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 9:10 am 
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Thanks for sharing so many beautiful pictures.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 9:46 am 
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This and my 85mm 1.4D is my camera's best friend.

btw, here's a gallery of photos taken with this lens.

http://www.cameralabs.com/forum/viewtop ... 0396#30396

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:30 pm 
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Dear Thomas

Marvellous photos. It is indeed all about what a good photographer can do with the equipment - the most important thing really.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:47 pm 
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Thank you, Hilary!
I didn't know how many of my favs I had shot with this lens until I researched for this article.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:16 pm 
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This is proof that you can shoot award-winning photos with this lens (and a D700): Samuel Aranda from Spain won the World Press Photo of the Year 2011 with this image taken on a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 35mm f/2D AF lens. (thanks www.NikonRumors.com!)

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:42 am 
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Thanks for the review Thomas. Great photos!

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