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Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G Gordon Laing, June 2010

More results : Sharpness / 35mm vs 16-85mm / 35mm vs 18-105mm / 35mm vs 18-200mm II / Geometry / Vignetting

Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 Real-life sharpness in the corner and center of the frame

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To compare real-life sharpness in the corner and center of the frame, we shot this scene with the Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G mounted on a Nikon D90 body at all apertures.

The D90 was set to RAW to avoid in-camera JPEG corrections; all files were processed in Nikon's Capture NX 2.2.3 with lens corrections disabled and the default sharpness of 3. Magnified assistance in Live View used to confirm the focusing and eliminate lens calibration errors.

The image above was taken with the Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G mounted on a Nikon D90 body at a sensitivity of 200 ISO. The crops taken from the areas marked with the red squares for presentation here at 100%.

The Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G follows the usual pattern for lenses where the image quality steadily becomes sharper and more contrasty as the aperture is closed from the maximum, before reaching a peak sweetspot, then becoming increasingly soft again at smaller apertures, albeit this time due to diffraction. The big surprise though is just how good the lens performs even with its aperture wide-open, as while the quality noticeably improves a few stops-down, it starts-off very respectably.

At its maximum aperture of f1.8, the lens may be lacking the crispness and contrast you'll see later in the range, but viewed in isolation or against zooms when they're fully open, it isn't at all bad. There's only a small reduction in sharpness as you reach the far corners, with the entire frame delivering a respectable degree of fine detail.

With lens corrections disabled, there's a tiny amount of visible fringing, but little to be concerned about even if left uncorrected; suffice it to say it disappears with lens corrections enabled, or on in-camera JPEGs recorded by recent Nikon DSLRs. Vignetting is also respectably low with an average light fall-off of 65.2% in the corners at the maximum aperture; certainly there's little darkening in the corners to worry about. So a great start for the DX 35mm f/1.8G, but remember the best is yet to come.

At f2.0, there's essentially no difference to what we saw at f1.8, but by f2.8 the image has noticeably perked-up with visibly greater sharpness and contrast across the frame, and better defined details in the far corners. You'd be forgiven for thinking this visible improvement represents the lens's sweetspot, but we're not quite there yet.

At f4.0, the lens becomes sharper and crisper still, delivering a superb result for the money. It looks great here, even without the relatively modest performance of a zoom alongside for comparison. At f5.6, the contrast is fractionally lower, but the corner detail a tad better. As such we'd place the sweetspot for the Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G (at least for our tests focused at infinity), roughly between f4 and f5.6, with a personal preference for the f4 end of the scale. But again between f2.8 and f5.6, most people would be very happy with its performance.

At f8, the quality is still very good, but the lens has visibly begun the decline into diffraction with reduced sharpness and contrast. So any photographers who blindly dial-in f8 expecting the best performance should adjust their technique with this lens, opting for a value between f4 and f5.6 for the crispest results when a specific depth-of-field is not a priority.

Overall, the Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G delivers excellent results, made all the more impressive by its affordable price. The quality is very respectable even with the aperture wide-open, so there's no need to mask any serious corner deficiencies with small depth-of-field compositions. Close it to a stop either side of f4 though, and the crispness will equal the best professional zooms we've tested.

One of the big questions for any potential buyer of this lens though is how well it performs against an existing zoom set to the same focal length. To find out, we tested the DX 35mm f/1.8G directly against the DX 16-85mm VR, DX 18-105mm VR and DX 18-200mm VR II to reveal what benefits you can expect. Let's start with the DX 35mm f/1.8 versus the DX 16-85mm VR.

Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G corner sharpness
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G center sharpness
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G corner crop at f1.8
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G center crop at f1.8
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G corner crop at f2
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G center crop at f2
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G corner crop at f2.8
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G center crop at f2.8
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G corner crop at f4
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G center crop at f4
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G corner crop at f5.6
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G center crop at f5.6
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G corner crop at f8
Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G center crop at f8

Now let's see how the Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G compares against a variety of Nikon general-purpose zooms at the 35mm focal length. We'll start by comparing it with the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR.

More results : Sharpness / 35mm vs 16-85mm / 35mm vs 18-105mm / 35mm vs 18-200mm II / Geometry / Vignetting

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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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