Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor
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April 19, 2011
by Andrew Alexander
In the leadup to Photokina 2010, Nikon announced (among other things) a new wide-angle prime - the 35mm ƒ/1.4G. The new lens isn't a replacement for the 35mm ƒ/2, which (at the time of writing) has not been discontinued, but rather complements it as a larger, more exotic optic.
The lens was designed to fill the FX sensor (or 35mm film) frame, unlike its DX cousin, the 35mm ƒ/1.8. When mounted on a DX body, the 35mm ƒ/1.4 provides an equivalent field of view of 52mm.
The lens takes 67mm filters, ships with the petal-shaped HB-59 hood, and is currently available for approximately $1,800.
Mounted on the sub-frame D300s, the 35mm ƒ/1.4G produced soft results wide open at ƒ/1.4. Slightly sharper performance was obtained by stopping down to ƒ/2, showing decent sharpness in the center and tapering off to light softness in the corners. It isn't until ƒ/2.8 that we start seeing very sharp results throughout the frame, with only very light softness in the corners; stopping down further provides only marginal improvements, as maximal sharpness is obtained at ƒ/4 and onwards. Diffraction limiting begins to appear on the D300s at ƒ/8, but it isn't until the lens is fully stopped-down at ƒ/16 that there's any practical impact on sharpness, where it still produces sharper results than when used wide open at ƒ/1.4.
Results were similar when the lens was mounted on the full-frame D3x, with some interesting twists. At ƒ/1.4 the lens is still fairly soft across the frame, but with more pronounced softness in the corners. Stopped down to ƒ/2, there's a slight improvement in central sharpness - the pocket of sharpness in the center improves - but this is at the expense of corner softness, which also increases slightly.
Continuing to stop down this lens on the D3x improves performance, as excellent results begin to appear from ƒ/2.8 onwards. However it's interesting to note at ƒ/2.8 and ƒ/4 that both the central region and the extreme corners are sharp, but there is light softness in the areas inbetween. It probably isn't enough to get too worried about, but for images where edge-to-edge sharpness is paramount, you'll want to stop down to ƒ/5.6, the sharpest aperture for this lens, where the effect is minimal.
Diffraction limiting seems to set in at ƒ/8, but again, there's no real impact on performance until the smallest aperture setting of ƒ/16, where (similarly to DX performance) the edge-to-edge sharpness is better than noted at ƒ/1.4.
There is a fairly high amount of chromatic aberration present in images shot with this lens, noticeable more at aperture settings below ƒ/8. CA takes the form of purplish-blue fringing in areas of high contrast.
Corner shading isn't really a problem on the sub-frame D300s, with the only noteworthy results being extreme corners that are 1/3EV darker than the center, when set to ƒ/1.4. At any other setting, light falloff is insignificant.
On the full-frame D3x however, it's somewhat more significant: at ƒ/1.4 light falls off to make the extreme corners almost a full stop darker than the center; at ƒ/2, this falloff lowers to around 2/3EV. At ƒ/2.8 and smaller apertures, falloff results are a quarter-stop or less, which isn't really significant.
The 35mm ƒ/1.4G does fairly well to restrict distortion, showing a consistent +0.3% barrel distortion in the corners when mounted on the D300s. On the D3x, there's slightly more distortion, with a maximum result of +0.5%.
The 35mm ƒ/1.4G uses an AF-S focusing motor, making it compatible with all modern Nikon camera bodies. Autofocus is fast, about one second to slew through infinity to closest focus, and is near silent. Autofocus results can be overridden at any time by just turning the focus ring.
The 35mm ƒ/1.4G isn't designed as a macro lens, but provides 0.2x magnification when used at its minimum close-focusing distance of just under 12 inches.
Build Quality and Handling
The 35mm ƒ/1.4G is fairly large for a prime lens, at 600 grams (just over 21oz). The balance feels good on larger cameras, but on smaller bodies, the weight of the lens makes the combination a bit front-heavy. The lens mount is metal and the 67mm filter threads are plastic.
As the price point will attest, Nikon views this lens as fairly exotic, however it doesn't sport many premium features other than top-notch build quality. That said, it probably doesn't need things like a focus limiter or vibration control. Its only switch is an autofocus / manual focus selector; other features include a windowed distance scale, with a depth-of-field marking for ƒ/16. There is no infrared index, but the lens will focus past infinity. As you would expect, attached 67mm filters will not rotate on the front element.
The 3/4-inch wide focus ring is rubber, a series of ribs running parallel to the body of the lens. A slight increase in resistance lets you know you've reached the end of the focusing distance, but the ring will continue to turn. There is no lens extension during autofocusing. The lens uses nine rounded diaphragm blades to make up the aperture, which should produce pleasing out-of-focus elements.
The HB-59 lens hood around 1 5/8 inches in depth. The hood is a bayonet-mount that reverses onto the lens for easy storage, but denies access to the focus ring in this configuration. The lens is nicely resistant to obvious flare from bright light sources such as the sun, but the hood works well to reduce generalized veiling flare.
Nikon 35mm ƒ/1.8G DX ~$200
While it's not technically a full-frame lens, hard vignetting only shows up in medium to long distances, or when the lens is stopped down. It's actually sharper and offers better performance for CA at the wider apertures than the ƒ/1.4, while having about the same distortion and light falloff. The largest advantage is price, being fraction of the price compared to the ƒ/1.4 - you pay a lot for the extra 2/3 stop of light-gathering ability.
Nikon 35mm ƒ/2 ~$390
We haven't managed to get copy of this lens to test yet, but this was the full-frame 35mm lens for Nikon, and only one-stop ''slower'' than the new ƒ/1.4G.
Carl Zeiss 35mm ƒ/1.4 Distagon T* ~$1,800
We haven't yet tested the Carl Zeiss 35mm ƒ/1.4, but we imagine it would be a high-quality object, without autofocus.
Sigma 30mm ƒ/1.4 EX DC HSM ~$490
Similarly to the Nikon 35mm ƒ/1.8 DX, the Sigma 30mm ƒ/1.4 does work on FX Nikon bodies, albeit with much more noticeable circular vignetting. The lens has much more corner softness than the Nikon, but is slightly sharper wide open; stopped down, it's quite similar. CA performance is better, corner shading is slightly worse, and distortion is about the same; the price is drastically lower.
For this lens, it comes down to essentially one qualification. If you're a Nikon shooter who needs the absolute fastest 35mm lens, either for light-gathering ability or for the ability to put the background way out of focus, then for $1,800 it's either the Carl Zeiss or the Nikon 35mm ƒ/1.4G. It's not perfect - we had hoped that $1,800 would buy a bit sharper performance at ƒ/1.4 - an aperture this lens will probably spend most of its time set to - but it's still very good, and when stopped down a bit, becomes quite excellent indeed.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor User Reviews
6 out of 10 points and not recommended by Prime Minister (40 reviews)Sharpness, contrast, focus speed, build quality, speedAuto focus accuracy and speed, CA, price
The image quality of this lens is great. Sharpness, contrast are very good straight from the maximim aperture. Bokeh is good too. Unfortunately there is rather a high amount of CA.reviewed July 4th, 2012
The auto focus speed is fast enough, but not as fast as the 24-70mm f/2.8G. Personally I expected a better performance for this price. Also, it is a hit or miss in low light. Very disappointing and the main reason why I returned this lens.
The build quality is fine. The lens feels sturdy and it has a nice weight to it. I’m not bothered by the 67mm filter thread, but I understand why it can be a nuisance for other photographers.
I would not recommend this lens to photographers that need fast or accurate autofocus in low light. For all other use I think it's a fine lens.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by iffo (7 reviews)Large aperture, High resolution, Low distortion and latera; chromatic aberrationWeight, Price, Longitudinal chromatic aberration
Tested this lens mounted on a Nikon D800E. Longitudinal CA is typical for many lenses with an aperture larger than 2 and can easily be corrected in Lightroom or Capture NX2reviewed May 20th, 2012
10 out of 10 points and recommended by lalitjee (13 reviews)simply beautiful, sharp and fast focus,gemexpensive,
my main lens for weddings.outstanding qualityreviewed November 26th, 2011
9 out of 10 points and recommended by mskitty (4 reviews)Sharp, Very Sharp!!!! IT is smooth as Butter.Price....
The Nikkor 35mm 1.4 G is an outstanding Prime Lens. The performance of this lens is perfect, smooth like butter. I recommend Nikkor 35mm 1.4 G.reviewed July 3rd, 2011 (purchased for $1,750)
IF you have love using low natural light...This lens is perfect. Used it in Las Vegas at night. Beautiful results.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by ShutterMan (2 reviews)Sharp, Contrast, BuildPrice
Best Uses : Street, Event, Low lightreviewed January 24th, 2011 (purchased for $1,799)
I have read people complain in forums that this lens is inferior to the 24mm AF/S. The perspective between the 24 & 35 are vastly different. It's not a matter of which is sharper, more important is which perspective is needed/preferred.
Many are quick to judge this lens because Nikon did not use ED glass ala 24mm and only uses one aspherical element. These are special glass elements reserved for overcoming difficult obstacles in extreme lens designs. Which a fast 35mm is not that extreme, these elements do not automatically make a good lens great, if it were that easy then every lens manufacture would just pop one or two ED elements and walla!
1.) This lens is Sharp! I do not know if the first batches had difficulties or if these people did not micro adjust AF on camera body, but my copy is razor sharp. Compared it to 17-35mm, 24mm 1.4, 35mm 1.4 ais, 24-70mm 2.8, 50mm AFS 1.4. At F/1.4 the 24mm AFS appears a tad sharper (center only). Stopping it down 1/3 stop (1.6), yes just 1/3 makes it sharper from that point forward than all of the lenses tested.
2.) Vignetting is well controlled, better than 24mm & 50mm 1.4's at same F/Stop
3.) Excellent flare resistance, if not that I do not intend to use a protection filter, I would probably not use the hood.
4.) No AF adjustment needed on D700 (YMMV)
5.) Sharpness in corners from 1.4-2.0 is very good, 2.8 and above is excellent
2.) 67mm filter thread
3.) Barrel distortion a little high (No Adobe LR3 or ACR Lens Profile)
1.) AF speed is not blazing fast, but still good
If you are a hobbyist and want a fast lens to capture your rugrats, get the 50mm 1.4 and save a bundle. If you are a Pro and need help deciding between this and a 24mm, then maybe you are not as Pro as you might think. You should know which you need and not go to forums asking people for their advice. You will either need the 24mm, 35mm, or both, but only you can answer that.
0 out of 10 points and recommended by jtorral (9 reviews)fastNot as sharp as I had expected. Will wait on the Zeiss version
To see hundreds of photos with this lens and compare to others look here:reviewed January 19th, 2011
You can get an idea of how this lens performs with different camera.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by 3systemuser (19 reviews)super sharp wide open , very good flare resistance , almost no CA.Lo-CA.
this lens is superb but the 24G is a bit better.reviewed December 6th, 2010 (purchased for $1,700)
but still , this is the best super fast 35mm lens ever in any mount.
the AFS of this lens is faster than the 24 and 85, with very high AF hit rate.
and this lens seldom flares but unfortunately this is not my lens yet, I have been using my friend's one.
and waiting to get my own lens (I paid already for it).
I think this + the 85G makes a great kit but I am still debating either go with this one or the 24GED (I can still return either one).
The 24GED can go closer and it is sharper then this 35 at the center of the FF but in the corners , I think the 35 f1.4G is a bit better lens.
The 24 G has a bit warmer color cast ,and I think I prefer the cooler color tone of this 35f1.4G a bit better than the warmer color tone of the 24GED.
Only one optical issue of this lens that I can think of right now is minor Lo-CA issue (bokeh fringe) and I think Nikon should have used a couple of ED elements , to avoid it.
but still it is the best 35mm lens to date and I highly recommend this one.
I may use this lens on my Canon 5D2 too.
My 5D2 is now like a Manual Focus camera with Nikon lenses and Zeiss lenses , only my Canon lenses are longer than 85mm primes and the famous Canon 70-200f2.8LISMk2SUM.
Now , I am using my 16-35f4GEDVR , 24-70GED and 24G on my Canon 5D2 and Nikon D3S and I may get this 35 for my 5D2 and upcoming D800.
I think you cannot go wrong with this super prime.