Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nikon AF-S 35mm F1.8G DX Lens: Hands On Preview

I mentioned last week that I would be doing a lens review soon, and this is just a heads up on what I'm working on right now. Over the last few years I've discovered that I shoot at a few focal lengths often, and that low cost zoom lenses don't offer the image quality I desire. What can one do when that conclusion is made? One solution is to switch to prime lenses, and that is what I am slowly working towards with the prime lenses that I have purchased this year. The latest addition to my collection being the Nikon AF-S 35mm F1.8G. It is not the newest lens on the market or high end like the 35mm F1.4G, which is too expensive for me to justify buying, but it will suite my needs as long as I am using a crop sensor camera like the D300.

I've had the lens for almost a month already, but I have been rather busy testing the Nikon Coolpix P7000, so I haven't spent much time with the 35mm F1.8G yet. I am impressed with what I have seen so far though. The build quality is the same as the AF-S 85mm F3.5G VR Micro DX lens that I purchased earlier this year, in other words not great, but not bad for the price. The build quality is superior to the 50mm F1.8D, without a doubt.

Physically speaking the 35mm F1.8G is slightly larger and heavier than the classic 50mm F1.8D, but on the D300s, D7000, and D3100 the lens gives you a similar perspective to that of the latter on a full frame (35mm) camera. Due to the size and weight, the 35mm F1.8G is a great walk around lens for a D40(x), D60, D3000 or D3100.

As the 35mm F1.8G is designed for use on crop sensor Nikon bodies, mounting this lens on a full frame camera (D700, D3(s/x) leads to vignetting. Some samples photos I've seen from this lens mounted on full frame bodies shows that it is still usable, with a little cropping. The 35mm F1.8G has seven rounded aperture blades, like the 50mm F1.8D, in order to make the out of focus areas (bokeh) at wide aperture creamy. If the out of focus area is bright the bokeh can look a little harsh, in some areas, when wide open, but is very pleasing when stopped down to F2.8.

The auto focus motor is quiet, although it seems a little bit squeaky at times (very low pitched), much like other low cost lenses with AF-S motors. Auto focus is not overly fast, the 50mm F1.8D focuses at least two times as fast on my D300. I haven't noticed one being any more accurate than the other, so the speed seems to have little to do with accuracy. The likely cause is the small space in which Nikon had to cram the focusing motor into. Considering that the lens can be had for around $259 Cdn (or less) one cannot complain too much. If you have a entry level camera this lens will focus far faster than the 50mm F1.8D, simply because the latter is manual focus only on such cameras.

Some of you who read my preview of the Nikon P7000 preview will recognize this image, which is one of the first I took with the 35mm F1.8G.  The effects of the wide F1.8 aperture are clearly seen here. I'll have more to say, along with more sample images, about the lens when I post my full review in three or four weeks.