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AF Nikkor 35/2.0D Review

by Patrick Hudepohl, August 2002


Truck used to deliver concrete slabs for the building process, Broekpolder

The 35mm f/2D AF Nikkor is a small, fairly fast, light-weight moderate wide-angle lens. It is a viable alternative to the standard 50mm lens, offering a slightly wider view and allowing handheld photography at a longer shutter speed.

You might complain that the 35/2 is boring (and say the same about a 50mm). It lacks the dramatic wide-angle coverage of lenses like the AF 24/2.8 and it does not have the "automatic clutter removal feature" of a telephoto lens, such as the AF 80-200/2.8 zoom. While that may be true, I think it simply takes a good photographer to effectively use any lens, boring 35s and 50s included.

Pick up a copy of John Shaw's Landscape Photography and browse through it. You will notice that your landscape photography skills need quite a bit of practice and that John Shaw uses a wide variety of lenses for his photos. There is an impressive Turret arch at 20 mm, a great capture of a single juniper tree against red sandstone with a 105 mm lens, but also a very rich autumn scene with a Nikon 35 mm lens. I agree with his statement that "there is no single correct lens for landscape photography."

Before I bought my 35/2 lens, I considered some alternatives. I put my thoughts into writing in a short article on my personal website. It may be an interesting read if you consider buying a 35 or 50 mm lens yourself.

Wood used during concrete pouring, Broekpolder Beverwijk Container at Broekpolder building site Street light and apartment building, Beverwijk

Specifications

Dunes, vegetation is appearing at a two-year-old pond
Construction 6 elements in 5 groups
Picture angle 62°
Minimum aperture f/22
Maximum aperture f/2
Minimum Focus Distance 25 cm / 9.8 inch
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1 : 4.2
Filter Size 52mm
Dimensions (diameter x length) 64.5 x 43.5 mm / 2.5 x 1.7 inch
Weight 205 gram / 7.2 oz

Note that on Nikon D1, D1X, D1H and D100 digital SLR cameras, the view is cropped to an effective 53 mm. On these cameras, this lens could be regarded as the new standard lens.

Most Nikon wide-angle lenses are equipped with CRC (Close-range Correction), which should improve optical quality when focussed at short distances. The Nikon lenses brochure (Dutch 2000 edition) specifically mentions CRC for the AF 20/2.8D, AF 24/2.8D, AF 28/1.4D but not for the AF 28/2.8D and the AF 35/2D.

Keukenhof, The Netherlands Keukenhof, The Netherlands

Handling

I had not tried this lens in a photo shop before buying it and when it finally arrived, I was pleasently surprised. As expected, the lens is light and small. It looks a bit cheap with an all-plastic exterior except for the metal lens mount, but in this case, looks are certainly deceiving! After mounting the lens on my F100, I noticed how bright the viewfinder is with a fast lens. This is indeed much better than with slower zooms; my AF 70-210/4-5.6 seems horribly dark by comparison.

Autofocus (tested with modern cameras such as the F100 and D1H) is very fast and accurate: the picture snaps into focus. Manual focussing is the best I have yet experienced on an AF lens, safe perhaps the AF-S zooms which are also much more expensive. The aperture ring has clearly defined stops and feels very solid.

Apartment building, Beverwijk Apartment building, Beverwijk

Currently, I mostly use my two AF-S zooms, the 17-35/2.8 and the 80-200/2.8: they are versatile and offer very high quality optics. They are also very big and heavy. Every once in a while, I remove the MB-15 grip from my F100, mount the 35/2 and load an ISO 400 print film. The result is a wonderfully light and still very usuable package. I recommend it wholeheartedly. The 35/2 combines very nicely with the 24/2.8 and 105/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lenses into a relatively affordable and useful Nikon setup, very much comparable to the 24, 50 and 105 system I suggest in my 105/2.8 Micro-Nikkor review.

There are numerous reports on the Web regarding sticky aperture blades on this lens, necessitating a fairly expensive repair. I have owned my 35/2 for almost two years now and everything is fine. Maybe Nikon has fixed this problem, maybe I am just lucky -- I'm not sure.

Apartment building, Beverwijk Apartment building, Beverwijk Apartment building, Beverwijk

Image quality

Roof plating on an old barn, Dutch polder

There is not a whole lot to be said about the image quality of this lens. I find it perfectly acceptable throughout its range of apertures. This lens produces excellent, sharp images. I only noticed a bit of flare under some extreme conditions and there seems to be a slight tendency to barrel distortion. Other than that, I am very happy with this lens.

On www.photozone.de the AF 35/2 scores a 4.07 ("very good"), better than Canon's EF 35/2 (3.5 or "good") or Minolta's AF 35/2 (3.45 or "good"). Most notably is the fact that the Nikon AF 35/2 is beaten by the cheap Nikon AF 50/1.8, which is given a 4.19 ("very good") score.

The MTF grade for this lens on www.photodo.com is a 3.9, the same grade the Canon EF 35/2 receives and only marginally worse than Minolta's AF 35/2 lens, which scores a 4. The Nikon AF 50/1.8, Canon EF 50/1.4 and Minolta AF 50/1.4 receive top marks in this test: 4.4.

Entrance to old apartment building, Beverwijk Scooter, Beverwijk Old gasoline pump (Euro and diesel), Vijfhuizen

Competition

Trash can, Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht (Dutch railway museum)

If you are interested in this lens, you should probably consider the following lenses as well:

  • 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor Ai-S
    Obviously, this is not an autofocus lens, but it is faster, has Nikon's CRC feature and looks like a more solid (metal barrel) lens. If you do not need autofocus and have a camera that can still meter with a non-CPU lens, this is Nikon's best 35 option.

  • 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor
    Very cheap and even lighter than the 35/2. If you want a 50, or in fact any prime lens, this is Nikon's best deal.

  • 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor

    Reportedly, the 50/1.4 is mechanically nicer than the 50/1.8 and probably equal to the 35/2. It also adds a full stop of speed. It is much more expensive than the 50/1.8 lens, but a bit cheaper than the 35/2. If you want a 50, this is most likely Nikon's nicest.

If you feel like spending a lot of money, carrying much more weight and losing a stop of light, perhaps the 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S Zoom-Nikkor is more appealing. You will gain much in versatility with the lens.

Sadly, Nikon does not make an AF-S 35/1.4 lens.

Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht (Dutch railway museum) Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht (Dutch railway museum) Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht (Dutch railway museum) Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht (Dutch railway museum)
Nederlands Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht (Dutch railway museum)

Where to Buy

This lens is sold by Adorama, both as gray import and with Nikon USA warranty. It is also stocked by B&H. Please use the preceding link and enter the product code NI352DAF in the "Search" box. Adorama and B&H are retailers that pay photo.net a referral fee for each customer, which helps keep this site in operation.

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Conclusion

Small, light, well built and great optical quality. If you like the picture angle of a 35mm lens, the AF 35/2D is a very good choice. Keep in mind that the AF 50/1.8D has a much better price/performance ratio and that various zooms offer greater flexibility.

More information


Patrick Hudepohl (email).

Article created August 2002

Readers' Comments


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Umit D , September 10, 2002; 11:00 A.M.

This lens is an unknown gem. Unknown cause these days people prefer zooms that somehow cover this focal length (like 17/18-35, 28-70, 28-105, 35-70 etc). Another unknown feature of this lens is excellent close focusing ability (despite not having CRC), at medium to close distances this lens is better than Nikon AF 24mm/2.8, also flares less. Front element is small and does not need a hood.

Oil leakage problem is real, mine did it and I saw several other samples that also did. If you notice it early, storing the lens upside down (front element looks down) cures it.

Steve QL , September 10, 2002; 12:28 P.M.

This has been my most used lens for the past year on my FM2n. I have to agree that the manual focus is fantastic for an AF lens and I prefer it to the MF lens both in sharpness and handling. It is also much better in this regard when compared to the 50mm f/1.8.

The close focus has made it more useful on several occassions compared to the 50mm f/1.8. It is also more flare resistant than the 50mm f/1.8.

For my travel photography where the majority of shots are of people with beautiful backgrounds, this is the focal length I use most often because of the versatility of the angle of view, the minimal distortion, the increased depth of field with f/22 (faster than AF in many situations), the low light "flash free" performance, and the overall light weight package.

I haven't encountered any problems with the lens yet. I have read that the newer ones no longer have the oily blade problem and Nikon has a fix for the older ones.

Joseph Albert , September 10, 2002; 02:56 P.M.

I don't understand the comments about the 35/2 AF-Nikkor being sharper or more flare resistant than the 50/1.8 AF-Nikkor. I own both lenses (currently the D versions of both but I also owned the non-D 50/1.8).

Hands down the 50/1.8 is the better of the two in terms of image quality. It is sharper wide own, introduces less linear distortion, and is slightly more flare resistant of the two. That said, the 35/2 is certainly a fine lens in its own right-- it's just that the 50mm lens for 35mm format is so heavily optimized in design and that wider lenses are more difficult to design that it is unreasonable to expect a 35mm lens for 35mm format to be able to match the performance of a current model 50mm lens.

I also don't really understand why so many folks consider 35mm and 50mm lenses to be boring. The 50mm focal length is useful for full length portraits, and nature "vignettes" which feature a particular subject as the main feature of the image, such as an image of a waterfall. The 35mm focal length is probably the most useful single lens to take hiking if you had to choose one, yet people assume that a landscape means you have to have a lens in the 20-28mm range. Once you get a lens wider than 35mm for shooting landscapes in 35mm format, you have to have a strong foreground subject in the image. Lenses in the 35mm to 50mm range free you from this burden. I think effective landscape images exist that were made with just about every focal length from 20mm to 300mm.

lloyd chambers , September 10, 2002; 04:27 P.M.

I tried the 35/f2 once and returned it. I found it wasn't as sharp as my 17-35 AFS.

I'd like to see more objective reviews instead of these "feel good" reviews--certainly it would be useful to shoot the 17-35 AFS at 35mm and compare it to the 35/f2 at various f-stops. That would provide some objective data. Personally, I weight optical quality high, followed by other things like size, weight and filter size. This review speaks to some of these but lacks the objective assessment for readers to make a truly informed decision.

Keith Dunlop , September 10, 2002; 05:47 P.M.

I have to agree with Lloyd on this one. I used the lens once and promptly sold it. It lacks the contrast and color retention of other Nikkor primes I have used, and it is not very sharp until at least f5.6 or f8. Basically, all of my shots with this lens were soft and dull. In comparison, my 24 2.8 AF "D" is noticeably sharper with greater contrast. I agree that this opinion is VERY subjective, but this review is rather subjective as well. MTF data only gives you so much information.

Umit D , September 11, 2002; 03:22 A.M.

Hmm, if you are not in the "feel good bandwagon" with this lens, you either have a bad sample or need a justification to dump $1500 to a zoom that weighs about 1 kg, is a full stop slower, has higher distortion and flare. Another review of this lens is here. I compared this lens with one sample of AF-D 24/2.8 with a 22x loupe and 35 was definitely better. May be I have a 24mm lemon. Btw 24 flares like HELL.

Ilkka Nissila , September 11, 2002; 05:12 A.M.

I use the AF 35/2D for architecture and landscapes and I think overall it is a very good lens. It doesn't flare much for a wide angle (having only a few elements) but I often use a hood with it just to be on the safe side. I think the sharpness, contrast and clarity of the images are excellent from f/5.6 to f/11. From f/2 to f/2.8 it is not that great. Yes, the 50 mm and 24 mm are better at wide apertures, but stopped down a bit the 35/2 gives great results. And the focal length is different; I use all three lenses quite frequently and cannot see how any of them could substitute for another.

I'm very surprised to hear that the 17-35 is sharper. I had the 20-35/2.8 and sold it because I couldn't get a really sharp image with it even when stopped down to f/8 or f/11. Also, it had a habit of fogging in winter. The 35/2 was in a different class in my use, although I can see applications for the 20-35 in pj-style work. My experience is that with primes, the images look cleaner and crisper.

Min Kim , September 11, 2002; 12:51 P.M.

I had the 35mm f2D lens. I used it for several months and sold it. The lens produced very nice sharp images. AF was quick. I quickly fell in love with this lens....

Then oil leaked on to the diaphram (apparently this happens a lot to this lens) during my Afghanistan trip!!! I over exposed several rolls before i noticed the diaphram not working. Considering this is the second time this occured, i got rid of it.

If you have this lens, ALWAYS check the diaphram

Dan Brown , September 11, 2002; 11:19 P.M.

How lame is this? Photo.net has hit the bottom. A review of the ancient 35mm AF Nikkor. Why would this be of any value to anyone? If you shoot Nikons and you want a 35 prime you can get this Or, get a zoom, I mean this is aboslutely worthless. Is it me?

Where's that review of the AF 50/1.8 non-D lens, we really need to know!!!

Chuck Fan , September 12, 2002; 01:50 A.M.

Check the APERTURE blades for lubricants!!!! I bought one new for $270. Oil leaked onto aperture blade within 18 month. I sent it back to Nikon for $120 cleaning. It came back clean but prompted leaked more lubricates onto the diaghram within 3 month. Sold it for $70. I replaced it with the non-D version, which has still not developed this problem.

Paul Ashton , September 13, 2002; 09:12 P.M.

One thing in the review I would absolutely agree with (the rest I would simply agree with) is that this lens will provide a bright image in the viewfinder. I've been using the 24-120 zoom for some time as my "compromise lens" but have actually shelved it for this summer in preference for "oh my gosh" prime lenses. I already had the 60mm micro and the 20 mm f2.8 so this lens should have been a shoe in. Instead I bought the new 50mm f1.8D lens, basically because it is incredibly cheap and sharp! Years ago I owned the 35mm f3.5 AIS lens which was superb but for those who like lots of glass on the front of their F-whatever it was an incredibly wimpy lens!

I might still buy this lens as the experiment with primes-only has been a great success. The perspective of a 35mm lens is often overlooked beacuse so many 35mm point and shoots have this focal length. Pure snobbishness as the 35 mm focal length has very little wide angle distortion unlike its 28, 24 and 20 mm cousins.

A good review, by the way. Thanks!

Phil Stiles , September 15, 2002; 10:06 A.M.

This is one of my favorite Nikkors for its light weight and great sharpness. It pairs very nicely with the 85/1.8.

Jonathan Daniel , September 18, 2002; 06:27 P.M.

I too have a Nikon 35mm f/2 AF - and love it. The fact that it is so small, light, and sharp makes it one of my favorite lenses. It has never let me down. (By the way, there is one for sale at http://www.photo.net/gc/view-one?classified_ad_id=495645.) I don't have a D version, but judging from the mentioned problems of the oily blades, I don't think I'm missing much. You typically do not need to use a flash with this lens anyways, making the D version less appealing. My 2 cents.

Ellis Vener , September 20, 2002; 12:31 P.M.

In twenty years I've had three iterations of the 35mm f/2 Nikkor: the AI-S version, the AF version and the AF-D version. I've never had problems with "sharpness" (rsolution+contrast) or lubricant leaks. I'm pretty hard on my equipment. The lens is a fine performer on digital and film cameras. of curse the lens(like virtually every other lens) is better two to three stops from wide open but at f/2 it is a fine performer as well -- especially when you compare it to other similar lenses shot wide open. I too think it is seriously under-rated nd is good value for the money.

Greg Vermeychuk , September 22, 2002; 06:32 A.M.

Fine review. I use the 35mm f/2D AF on an F5 body indoors, mostly for shots of people, outdoors, it is great as a general purpose lens. This lens is not really comparable to the 17-35mm f/2.8D for a couple reasons. First, the small size and light weight lend themselves to relatively unobtrusive use, even on a large body like the F5. The F100 would be even more discreet. The extra stop of light is critical. In my experience, the effects of camera movement are much more pronounced than the differences in optical performance of various lenses. If I must shoot hand-held, I use the fastest shutter speed possible. You are already at a disadvantage with regard to image quality with (for example) Provia 400 vs Provia 100. I try not to exacerbate the problem with a slower shutter speed!

Lakhinder Walia , September 27, 2002; 09:49 P.M.

I share the sentiments of Umit and Ellis. This lens is a gem.

I am however very surprised that some zoom lenses are better than this lens!

Neil Beddoe , October 24, 2002; 07:46 A.M.

I can't understand why anybody would buy this lens. I had one and it had the ubiquitous problem with oil on the diaphragm which returned after cleaning despite my storing it face down.

Nikon have behaved shamefully in continuing to produce it long after the problem has become widely known and should have recalled all of them and changed the design as any responsible manufacturer would have done. I have never seen a note from Nikon even acknowledging the problem.

If you want a 35mm lens with a useful life of 18 months, buy this turkey. I think most people expect their lenses to last a little longer than that.

Jim Gifford , October 30, 2002; 07:54 P.M.

One more data point from personal experience: a lovely lens absolutely ruined by the aperture blade oil problem. My recommendation would be to buy something else... anything else.

Ilkka Nissila , December 02, 2002; 03:59 P.M.

Neil, what would be the alternative? It's the best 35 mm lens for Nikon AF and a very good one at that.

The reason it may develop an oily diaphragm is that it has two holes which hold a spring in place. The holes go from the inside of the barrel to the outside, where the focusing thread (and lubricant) is. These holes can be filled with, e.g., glue, to close the way for the oil and fix the problem. The non-D has the same design according to a repairman that I spoke to.

sarwono . , December 02, 2002; 10:28 P.M.

Pakai Nikor 35 mm AF memang mantab....Detail warnya coy...bener-bener wuihhhhhhhhhhh....

Aaron J. Heiner , December 29, 2002; 01:59 P.M.

... I read Nikon solved the problem, but..which serial number started the update?

To this day, Nikon has denied that there is any defect to this lens despite hundreds of reports I ersoanblyl have read about the oil build up on the lens. Personally, due to the shear number of reports of this occurring I would digress in buying it myself. I almost bought one till I was a t a local camera store, and picked up the demo only to find the oil had caused the blades to stick open. This was on the demo unit no less!

El Fang , February 24, 2003; 09:56 P.M.

The 35/2 AF Nikkor (non-D) is my standard lens. Its performance never ceases to amaze me given its modest price. I bought three of these puppies used for about $150 each. None of my samples have the oil problem. In fact I have never had a single problem with any of them, and I use them hard. I'm a bit of a 35 fanatic, and have used the best of them, including Canon 35/1.4L and Leica 35/1.4-M ASPH, /2-M ASPH, and /2-R. The Nikkor 35/2 AF holds its own against these top optics, and it's the only one on the list that fits my favorite body, the (near)-indestructible FM2N.

Jeroen Wenting , April 15, 2003; 04:01 P.M.

"I tried the 35/f2 once and returned it. I found it wasn't as sharp as my 17-35 AFS. "

Sure, have you also compared prices? Nikkor AF 35/2.0 D €394.00 Nikkor AF-S 17-35/2.8 IF ED €2045.00

Bit of difference. I agree that if you have the AF-S already you might have a better lens right there (albeit a slower one which might be important during low-light shooting), but for most of us that amount of money is really too much. Add the Nikkor AF 20/2.8 D for €779.00 and you have about the same focal range in 2 lightweight primes for under €1200 which have very much comparable quality (and AF-S on short lenses isn't really needed is it? It's just a marketting gimmick). So €800+ buys you a lenshood and slightly better optics at the cost of 1 stop at the high end.

bill barry , May 05, 2004; 10:25 A.M.

When I mounted one of these little lenses on my D70, I was astounded by the low light capability. The wide f/2 lens aperture, and the camera's automatic selection of sensor ISO (up to 1600), makes a delightful combination.

Jim Helleck , July 02, 2004; 10:16 A.M.

35/2 AF (non-D) Nikkor, have it, like it, use it!

Kyle West , October 16, 2007; 12:03 P.M.

I love walking around NYC with the 35mm f/2 on my D80. Also terrific for parties, family gatherings, indoor shooting. My 50mm f/1.8 is great too, but in tight spaces with the crop factor it is just too close for a lot of indoor shooting.

William Kazak , May 25, 2009; 10:39 A.M.

I love my 35mm F2 AFD. It pairs nicely with the 85mm F1.8 AFD. Both lenses are compact and work on DX or FX Nikon bodies. I always use a lens shade on both and flare is, therefore never a problem for me. This lens looked better than my 50mm F1.4 AFD, so I finally sold the 50mm because it flared too much. I have to laugh at the new 35mm F1.8 enthusiasts because the bokeh is not good on that new lens.

Akiva Shapero , January 11, 2011; 08:43 A.M.

Coming over from rangefinders, can I expect similar results using this lens on a Nikon SLR as I get on a RF camera?

Michael Miller , February 21, 2011; 08:22 A.M.

I think the AF35mm f/2.0D a fine lens. Yes, the far corners are very soft and never get truly crisp. However the rest of the frame is very sharp actually and with good contrast. I don't see any problems there. AF is fast and accurate and the lens is small and unobtrusive. I have tested this lens (non scientifically) against a Voigtlander Ultron 40mm SLII f/2.0 and I was surprised to see that the image quality of the Nikon was almost as good. As a bonus you can focus really close with this lens to capture details or to create more depth.

Larry Miller , April 26, 2011; 12:25 P.M.

Recently I was looking again at John Shaw's book, Landscape Photography, 1994 copyright. On page 9, there was a picture that caught my eye, "The Castle". I thought that picture had extreme sharpness and contrast corner to corner. It was made with a Nikon 35mm lens. So I emailed him and asked him which 35 lens did he use in that book. He said the Nikkor 35 F2 AIS (I would have sworn it was the 35 F1.4 looking at it). After hearing this, I immediately pulled out my F2 AIS. That picture and a few others in the book, sold me on using this lens again. Seeing is believing!

Michael Miller , August 03, 2011; 01:13 P.M.

This review is about the AF-D version though, which is at least as good as the older manual focus versions.

Brian T , October 22, 2011; 03:49 P.M.


Diaphragm of 35mm f/2.0 AF D

This is an excellent lens.  I have had a good experience with it. Obviously f/2 is a bit soft.  I bought a newer version and had no issues with oil leaks whatsoever.

 

Although, I do find the bokeh to be hideous. It was a big disappointment for me and I wrote some detail about it here:

http://www.btobey.com/nikon/35mm-20-nikon-review.php

 

Overall I do recommend this lens. The newer 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S is better, if you have the money, as it has much better Bokeh and is sharper wide open.


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