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Nikon has spent the last year steadily filling out its Z-mount lens range, and a handful of further optics should expand the line to nine native options by the end of the year. But the Z 35mm F1.8 S is one of a trio of optics unveiled right at the start of the system – and with a classic focal length and usefully wide aperture, its appeal should be broad.

As with the Z Nikkor 50mm F1.8 S that was launched at the same time, Nikon is keen to stress that this isn’t any ordinary 35mm F1.8 lens, but rather one that’s been designed specifically for superior optical performance to match high-resolution sensors, such as the Z7’s (and presumably those of future bodies). It’s neither the smallest lens of its kind nor the cheapest, but being part of a new generation of optics, we should perhaps expect it to deviate a little from what we’re used to.

This is currently the widest prime lens available for the Nikon Z system, although it will soon lose that status to the Z 24mm F1.8 S, on Nikon's roadmap for later this year.

All pictures by Matt Golowczynski unless otherwise noted.

Key specifications

  • Focal length: 35mm
  • Aperture range: 8-16 (In 1/3 EV stops)
  • Filter thread: 62mm
  • Close focus: 0.25m (0.82ft / 9.8in)
  • Maximum magnification: 0.19x
  • Diaphragm blades: 9 (rounded diaphragm)
  • Hood: HB-89 petal-shaped hood (supplied)
  • Length / Diameter: approx. 86 x 73 mm (3.4 x 2.9in)
  • Weight: approx. 370g (approx. 13.1oz.)
  • Optical construction: 11 elements in 9 groups

In contrast to Canon's cavalcade of pro-grade, big, pricey, fast aperture L-series lenses for its new RF mount, Nikon seems intent on courting enthusiasts with a solid lineup of smallish, fairly affordable (all sub-$1,000 so far) F1.8 primes (plus the more pro-focused Z 24-70mm F2.8 S). With the just-announced Z Nikkor 85mm F1.8 S joining the F1.8 lineup, and the 24mm and 20mm F1.8 both also in the pipeline (the 20mm is slated for 2020), it's clear that Nikon believes F1.8 is a sweet spot.

Nikon cites four factors in particular that should make the Z Nikkor 35mm F1.8 S’s overall optical performance shine. The first is high resolving power, which is credited in part to the optics used but also to a multi-focusing system to keep things consistent wherever you happen to be focusing in the scene.

There’s no Vibration Reduction system in the lens itself, but both current Nikon Z-series bodies offer in-camera stabilization

A pair of extra-low dispersion elements help to banish chromatic aberration, as well as three aspherical lenses to combat spherical aberration and distortion. Those low-dispersion elements are also behind the second claim, namely reduced axial (longitudinal) chromatic aberration, which is often an issue with fast-aperture prime lenses of this sort.

The third claim is superb point reproduction of point light sources at night (ie minimal coma and spherical aberration) while the final claim regards natural bokeh, with nine rounded diaphragm blades in the design to help keep out-of-focus points of light circular. Incidentally, these are the same four claims made for the Z 50mm F1.8 S that was developed and launched at the same time, late last year.

The Z 35mm F1.8 S is sealed against dust and moisture at several key points (shown here in yellow).

Nikon’s venerable anti-reflective Nano Crystal Coat technology has also been employed in order to boost light transmission and minimize flare and ghosting, and this is joined by multi-layered Super Integrated Coating that serves much the same purpose.

There’s no Vibration Reduction system in the lens itself, but both current Z-series bodies (and presumably most if not all future models) have been furnished with their own sensor-based Vibration Reduction systems. In the absence of any VR switch or programmable buttons on the lens barrel, that also means that Vibration Reduction is controlled through the menu (you can’t assign this to any function or customizable buttons).

The lens comes with a petal-shaped hood as standard, and a lens wrap is thrown into the box too.