At one time, the 35mm lens was considered to be the first wide-angle lens to go in for. Later on, photographers started preferring wider coverages and the 35mm lens seemed to go out of fashion.
Nikon is probably trying to bring back this focal length with the super-fast f/1.4 version. The AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G was announced just before Photokina 2010 and started to ship by the year end. Incidentally, this is the third f/1.4 prime lens recently offered by Nikon!
Design & Build Quality
The Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G is designed for the full-frame format (FX) but of course, it can be used on the DX format. It offers a very good build quality, is quite heavy (600g) and feels exactly like what a pro lens should feel like. The lens mount is made from metal and the outer shell is made from weather-sealed magnesium alloy. 67mm filters can be mounted if needed, but the filter threads appear to be made from plastic.
The Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G has been designed for low-light photography. It is constructed from 10 elements in 7 groups and includes one aspherical glass element to reduce chromatic aberrations. The lens uses Nano Crystal Coat on its elements to reduce flare and ghosting. A Silent Wave Motor (SWM) provides quick and accurate autofocus. The ultra-fast f/1.4 aperture further helps in achieving quicker and accurate AF (as well as manual focus), especially with modern D-SLRs using cross-type AF sensors. Since this is a G-type lens, it does not have an aperture ring; apertures are controlled from the body. A yet another feature of this lens is that it incorporates a RF (Rear Focusing) system in which only the rear lens group moves to achieve focus. This design technique makes autofocusing operation smoother and faster. Being an IF design, the lens’ length does not change during focusing and the front element does not rotate, making it easier to use polarizing and graduated neutral density filters. Also, this lens permits manual override during the AF operation. A rubber ring around the lens mount keeps dust and water spray from creeping into the body. The diaphragm consists of 9 blades which helps in achieving a smooth bokeh.
The Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G was attached to a full-frame Nikon D700. The combination felt heavy but then the D700 body is no flyweight. The combination balanced very well and the lens was very easy to use. The autofocus can be manually over-ridden.
On the D700, the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G autofocused like a dream, even in low light. Overall, the lens produced sharp results throughout, but wide open, as expected, one could notice a slight difference. At f/1.4, images were comparatively ‘softer’ which, by f/2.8, was difficult to observe. Also, corner sharpness was a bit lower, specially noticeable at wider apertures. We would say that for such a ‘fast’ lens, the performance was very good. The Nano Coat seemed to be doing its job well as flare was well controlled and was not very evident unless the frame included very strong light, like from the direct sun. Similarly, some amount of chromatic aberration was noticed in direct against-the-light shots. There was no evidence of coloration due to the lens coatings, which is good. Barrel distortion was noticeable and so was corner darkening with the lens wide open.
How would the lens perform on a APS-C body? Corner darkening should improve, and the slight corner softness may not be noticeable, but financially, you may be better off buying a DX lens.
Value For Money
The Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G can upset your bank balance and could be hard on your heart. It is available at an MRP of Rs.1,22,450. But then, if you need quality, you must learn to smile and pay for it!
+ Sharp lens
+ Very fast
– No VR
– No ED elements
Design and Build Quality 17/20
Key Features 16.5/20
Distortion Control 3.5/5
Darkening of Corners 4/5
Extra Features 3/5
Value for Money 14/20
Grand Total 86.5/100
The Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G is definitely a possession you would be proud of – that is, if you can afford it. Though excellent, price-conscious prospective buyers are bound to compare it with Nikon’s 35mm f/2D which is only 1-stop slower and retails at Rs.18,415. Take my word for it – the two models are poles apart. The f/2D does not have the sophistication or the image quality of the f/1.4G. If your profession demands that you shoot without flash, the 35mm f/1.4G would be indispensable.