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Design

The 35mm F1.8 follows Nikon's new design idiom for AF-S primes, and bears a distinct family resemblance to the AF-S Nikkor 50mm F1.4G (although it lacks the distance scale seen on that lens, presumably in a bid to reduce costs). Build quality and finish is of a standard that belies the relatively lowly price; the lens feels sturdy and well put together. The barrel is made from black plastic, with a metal mount, and one nice touch is the addition of an 'O' ring around the mount to help prevent dust and water entering the camera (note though that the lens is not described as weather-sealed).

Compared to Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm F1.4G and Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM

Here we see the 35mm F1.8G between two other modern primes. On the left is the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm F1.4G, a fast standard prime for the FX format released just a few months earlier, and one the right is the lens's most obvious competitor, the Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM (this particular example is in Canon mount). As can be seen, the 35mm is the smallest of theses lenses, although not by much; it's also the lightest and the cheapest. Of course against that it gives up two thirds of a stop in brightness compared to the F1.4 lenses, and sacrifices the focus distance scale.

On the camera

The 35mm is a relatively small and compact lens. The addition of the SWM autofocus motor makes it larger than many of Nikon's older primes (including the full-frame AF-Nikkor 35mm F2D), but it's still much smaller than the AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm F3.5-5.6G VR kit lens. It therefore handles well on all of Nikon's DSLR bodies, from the largest (the D300, above left) to the smallest (D40 / D60 series, above right). The slim focusing ring is easily accessible at the front of the barrel, and the focus mode switch perfectly placed for operation by the left thumb.

Autofocus

The lens uses a ring-type 'Silent Wave Motor' for autofocus, allowing it to focus on all of Nikon's DSLRs, including the entry-level D40 / D40X / D60 bodies. This system also allows focus to be tweaked manually after autofocusing, when the lens is set to the M/A mode. In use the focusing works extremely well - the motor is fast and almost completely silent. Focus accuracy we generally impressive too, although we did detect a slight tendency towards rear-focusing at intermediate distances (ca. 5m), most visible when shooting at large apertures. As always, it must also be noted that focus speed and accuracy is dependent upon a number of variables, including the camera body used, subject contrast, and light levels.

Lens body elements

The lens uses Nikon's venerable F mount, and will fit all of their DSLRs, both DX and FX format. It communicates with the body electronically via an array of contact pins, with mechanical control of the aperture using a metal lever.

A rubber gasket around the circumference of the mount provides a degree of protection against dust and moisture ingress into the camera.
The filter thread is 52mm, and does not rotate on focus - a bonus for users of filter such as polarizers and neutral density gradients.
The bayonet-mount HB-46 lens hood has a matte black finish on the inside to minimize reflection of stray light into the lens, and reverses neatly for storage.

Sadly though it's just 24mm deep, much shallower than that on the new 50mm F1.4G (36mm), and similar to what we'd expect for a 35mm for FX. It's almost as if Nikon's engineers forgot they were designing a lens for DX.
The focus ring has an 8mm wide ribbed-rubber grip, and rotates about 120 degrees anti-clockwise from infinity to closest focus. The action on our sample felt slightly 'rough', but this had no negative impact on achieving precise manual focus. There's no distance or depth of field scale though.

The angle of view decreases slightly on focusing closer, as is common with prime lenses.
A conventionally placed switch on the side of the lens barrel selects between auto and manual focusing modes. The 'full-time' manual focus design provides the ability to tweak the focus setting when the lens is set to the M/A position.

Reported aperture vs focal length

This lens allows an aperture range from F1.8 to F22 to be selected.

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Comments

BobFoster

Hey, I just stumbled across your site and am extremely grateful to you for the time and effort you have put into the whole site. I have used a Nikon for work on auto-everything and have done well by mediocre standards required for what I do (surveillance photos using long range f2.8 lenses at 300mm..), but am going away on vacation with my family and want to buy my own camera/lenses appropriate for the task at hand. Again, thanks!

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