Back with the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 G

Started Jul 21, 2016 | Discussions thread
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MisterHairy Senior Member • Posts: 2,486
Back with the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 G

Back when the D700 was my main 35mm camera, I owned, used and loved the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 G lens. In fact, one of them was permanently mounted on one of the D700s which was permanently mounted on my shoulder, or so it seemed.

Just a fabulous lens; perfect clarity and evenness across the frame when stopped down and enough in-focus/out-of-focus separation for environmentals with some real pop wide open. Lovely colours, pleasing vignette, precision AF - just the whole package. A perfect lens. Just perfect.

Then came the D800Es, intended as more versatile (for us!) replacements for the 700s and there began the problems. AF with the 35/1.4G lenses (we had three of them at one point) went to poop and although they were always sharp enough for my tastes, if the shots are not in focus, they're no use. Not just slightly out of focus either - so out that it was clearly visible in the viewfinder and no pattern either. Focused in front of or behind the subject in equal measure. Just badly unreliable so that was the end of that and on the shelf they went. Enter a number of alternatives including Sigma, Zeiss and eventually the Nikkor 35/1.8 FX lens which functioned well on the D800Es.

Next came the D810 and oh, how I hoped that the AF issues which plagued the 35/1.4 and D800E combos (and indeed 24/1.4 and 85/1.4 too) so badly (for us) would be a thing of the past. Sadly, it was not to be and so, reluctantly, I sold the 35/1.4 lenses (one D700 had died and the other had one foot on a bar of soap).

The thing is though, the Nikkor 35/1.8 FX just never quite did it for me. Sure, it is sharp, and it gives accurate focus and it is small, light, reliable, effective and really, it makes great sense as a safe choice, but it does nothing for me. Nothing. The images that it produces are cold recordings of the scene unfolding in front of itself with nothing at all that reaches out of the image and touches me. It does not give a sense of life to the photographs.

So, predictably, my addiction for the 35/1.4G finally went "Hey, remember me? You used to love me. Let's have another fling." and I gave in to temptation. A day later and the new lens was mounted on one of the D810s and you know what? It is working for me. AF needed a +3 adjustment, and that is good for all focus distances as far as I can currently tell. Wide open accuracy is maybe even better than it used to be on a D700; it is just nailing it every time with all but the outermost AF points. And oh, the colours, clarity, character, and beauty of the lens are all as good as I remember.

God, I love this lens. It's lenses like this one which remind me why I still do my own photography outside of "the office". It's lenses like this that deliver that same feeling of the first shot you ever took with every shot you ever take. Just sublime.

So why eulogise here and now, especially after all of my past carping about the failings of the f/1.4 lenses (24, 35 & 85) on the D800Es? Well, it's precisely because of my past carpings about the aforementioned lenses that I feel that I ought to add a little balance and say something wholly positive about this latest experience in case someone else is considering making a similar purchase and has been put off by previous commentary. For what it's worth, my 85/1.4G also now shows dead dick on autofocus performance on the D810 that I have recently tested it on (so does the 58/1.4G but I never tried that on a D800E). As for what changed, maybe it was a recent camera firmware or maybe, Nikon have updated the 35mm lens' firmware now. Either way, I'm glad; it feels like an important moment to me. Isn't that funny? It's just a lens, after all.

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Really beautiful photograph!

 MisterHairy's gear list:MisterHairy's gear list
Fujifilm X100F Sony a7R III Nikon Z7 Nikon Z6 Sony a7R IV +21 more
Nikon D700 Nikon D800E Nikon D810
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