Nikkor 35mm f/2D

bythom nikkor 35mm f2
  • FX coverage
  • Autofocus (no in-lens focus motor), rear focus
  • 6 elements in 5 groups
  • 9-blade rounded aperture diaphragm
  • smallest aperture is f/22
  • 52mm filter ring
  • 11" (0.25m) minimum focus; 1:4 maximum reproduction ratio
  • 1.7 x 2.5" (44.5 x 65mm) long, diameter
  • 7.2 ounces (205g) weight
  • optional HN-3 screw-in hood, optional CL-0715 lens pouch, caps
  • US$390
  • Model Number 1923
  • Announced pre digital era

Thom's Mini-Review: What do you expect from a fast prime? Well, lots of light, but historically, poor wide open performance. Autofocus is a D-type lens driven by a screwdrive in the camera. It does not focus as fast as the AF-S lenses you may be used to, but since it's a simple lens design, it isn't exactly slow to focus, either. Very acceptable focus performance.

Sharpness: For a modest cost lens, the optical performance is still good, especially for DX users. In the center of the frame this lens is reasonably sharp across all apertures. There's little benefit to stopping down for more center sharpness. Corners on DX are a bit of a different story. Wide open, the lens is a poor performer in the DX corners. Stopping down to f/2.8 makes a big improvement, but it isn't until f/5.6 that the corners get up to what I'd call "good." Indeed, f/5.6 is probably the optimal aperture for DX users.

For FX users, the same story repeats, but in spades. The center is good and hits near optimal performance by f/2.8. But the corners are trash at f/2. Even at f/5.6 and f/8 the corners are still lagging visibly, though they're at least in an acceptable range.

Light falloff: Surprisingly low in vignetting on DX. By f/2.8 vignetting is completely ignorable, but even at f/2 it amounts to less than a stop in the corners, which is good performance. On FX bodies the vignetting is still good, with a bit more than a stop wide open. It also quickly gets controlled as you stop down, but isn't completely removed at f/11. On most modern Nikon bodies, though, this level of vignetting is totally correctable with the Vignette control option on both DX and FX bodies.

Chromatic aberration: I was surprised to find that lateral chromatic aberration (side to side) is pretty well controlled on this lens. Usually very simple lens designs like this that are wide angle and don't have ED elements tend to suffer from chromatic aberration. On DX, I'm not sure there's enough to worry about correcting. On FX it's still pretty low, though clearly visible at the corners at the aperture extremes (hint: try using f/2.8 through f/5.6--chromatic aberration is lowest at f/4).

On the other hand, longitudinal chromatic aberration (front to back) is clearly visible and nearly impossible to remove. This is true for most "fast" prime lenses, and the 35mm f/2 doesn't escape this trend. Simply put, neutral objects in the background of the focus point will tend to go green, while in front they'll go magenta. Solution: don't use the widest apertures if you can avoid it.

Flare: Not really an issue that I can see. The hood does an okay, but not perfect, job of keeping stray light from the front element (the hood could be even more aggressive, I believe).

Distortion: There's only a very small amount of barrel distortion (less than 1%). On DX bodies the distortion is low enough that it probably wouldn't be visable in all but situations where you have repeating, obvious straight lines, and even then I'd probably ignore it. On FX bodies the visibility is a tiny bit more pronounced, but still within the realm where I rarely bother to correct it.

Bokeh: The seven-blade aperture diaphragm in my sample is superbly regular in shape, though it does not have rounded blades. This produces perfectly formed septagons in out of focus highlights at apertures smaller than wide open. Longitudinal chromatic aberration is present, though, and makes the edges of the out of focus areas slightly distinct. Not a terrible bokeh, but not a pleasing one, either.

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