The AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G was announced at the beginning of 2014. It joins a growing family of modernised full-frame primes from Nikon with the same maximum aperture, alongside the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G, AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G and AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. At around $600 / £500 at the time of writing, it looks well matched to 'budget' full frame cameras like the Nikon D610, on which it will offer a classic moderate wideangle view.

The 35mm f/1.8G can also be used on DX format cameras, on which it will give a 'normal' perspective similar to that of a 50mm lens on full frame. However for DX shooters, Nikon also offers the confusingly similarly-named, but rather cheaper ($200 / £150) AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, which we liked a lot when we reviewed it back in 2009 (note the extra 'DX' in its title). At the opposite end of the scale, Nikon also makes the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G, which is half a stop faster and substantially more expensive (£1250 / $1620). The other lens which should be on any potential buyer's radar is the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM, which deservedly won our Gold Award in our review, and at around $810 / £670 costs only slightly more.

Click here for a detailed specification comparison of these Nikon-mount AF 35mm primes

Clearly there's plenty of choice in this area, albeit across a wide price range. In this quick report we'll look at how the 35mm f/1.8G stands up against its peers in terms of lab test data. We'll mainly look at how it performs on full frame cameras, but we'll also take a quick look at how it compares to the cheaper DX lens.

Headline features

  • 35mm focal length
  • F1.8 maximum aperture
  • 'Silent wave' focus motor with full-time manual override
  • F mount FX format lens, works on both DX and FX format Nikon SLRs

Lens test data

The 35mm F1.8 returns excellent test results on the D800. It's impressively sharp, exhibits relatively low chromatic aberration and distortion, and has acceptable levels of vignetting. If anything it looks a touch sharper here than the more expensive AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G when compared like-for-like, and is very close to the benchmark Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM, which is one of the sharpest lenses we've tested.

Sharpness Central sharpness is already very high wide open, and while the corners aren't quite so great, they're still perfectly acceptable. The lens sharpens up quickly on stopping down, reaching its overall peak at F2.8. There's then little practical change at apertures through to F8, beyond which diffraction starts to soften the image. But even F16 should be sharp enough for most purposes, especially when extended depth if field is desirable.
Chromatic Aberration Lateral chromatic aberration is reasonably well controlled for a 35mm prime. It's not lowest in class, but neither is it excessive. Nikon SLRs will remove any resultant colour fringing in their JPEG processing anyway, as will the company's own Raw processing software. However if you use third-party Raw converters you may notice some red/cyan fringing towards the edges of the frame. But again, it usually takes just one mouse click to correct it.
Vignetting Vignetting is pretty much as we'd expect for this kind of lens, at a maximum of 1.7 stops falloff in the corners, when shot wide open on full frame. The gradual falloff profile means it's unlikely to be visually intrusive most of the time, in comparison to lenses which show abrupt darkening in the corners. Stop down to F2.8 or smaller aperture, and vignetting drops to visually insignificant levels.
Distortion The 35mm shows modest barrel distortion, with re-correction at the corners to help keep straight lines at the edge of the frame looking right. It will likely only need any software correction for the most highly-geometric of compositions.

The 35mm F1.8 generally compares well to other full frame 35mm primes. It perhaps can't quite match the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM for sharpness and lack of CA at the same apertures, but it's close enough that you'd probably struggle to see much difference in a print. On the other hand, compared to the more expensive AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G it actually looks a touch sharper in these tests, although again we're not completely convinced you'd easily see that in real-world use. It is however a clear improvement over the much older AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D.

Comparing the lens to its cheaper DX counterpart, it's similarly sharp both wide open and stopped down to F5.6 (apologies for the lack of in-between data for the DX model). The full frame lens does however show distinctly lower lateral chromatic aberration when stopped down to ~F5.6, and slightly lower distortion. But on balance, we'd still consider the cheaper lens to be the obvious choice for users of DX SLRs, unless they're seriously planning on moving to full frame in the near future.

Another interesting comparison is with the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, which is a touch slower in terms of maximum aperture, but on the other hand has image stabilisation built-in. There's very little between the two lenses optically; the Nikon has perhaps slightly sharper corners at large apertures, but the Canon has lower CA. This means that Canon users pay no significant penalty in terms of image quality for the benefit of image stabilisation (and right now the lenses are similarly priced, too).

Summary

From the lab test data, the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G looks a like a fine lens that compares pretty well with other recent 35mm primes in terms of optical quality. Indeed these results show it to be right in the middle of the pack - perhaps not quite up with the very best, but not all that far behind either, and notably better than older lenses. It therefore looks like it should be a good choice for Nikon FX shooters who don't want to shell out for its F1.4 sibling, or DX users who have an eye on upgrading soon. However we'd also recommend looking very closely at the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM if budget permits.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G specifications

Principal specifications
Lens typePrime lens
Max Format size35mm FF
Focal length35 mm
Image stabilizationNo
Lens mountNikon F (FX)
Aperture
Maximum apertureF1.8
Minimum apertureF16
Aperture ringNo
Number of diaphragm blades7
Aperture notesrounded
Optics
Elements11
Groups8
Special elements / coatings1 ED glass element, 1 aspheric element
Focus
Minimum focus0.25 m (9.84)
Maximum magnification0.24×
AutofocusYes
Motor typeRing-type ultrasonic
Full time manualYes
Focus methodInternal
Distance scaleYes
DoF scaleYes
Physical
Weight305 g (0.67 lb)
Diameter72 mm (2.83)
Length72 mm (2.83)
Filter thread58.0 mm
Hood suppliedYes
Hood product codeHB-70
Tripod collarNo


This lens review uses DxOMark data thanks to a partnership between dpreview.com and DxO Labs (read more about DxOMark and our partnership with DxO Labs). DxOMark is the trusted industry standard for independent image quality measurements and ratings. DxOMark has established this reputation with its rigorous hardware testing, industry-grade laboratory tools, and database of thousands of camera, lens and mobile test results. Full test results for this lens can be found at www.dxomark.com.