AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
July 5, 2011

It is another hot and humid day, and I am less than motivated to venture too far from shade. Instead, I've decided to share with you a relatively new lens I acquired.

Here is the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G introduced in February 2009. This is not going to be a review, rather a note of my impressions and experiences with it thus far.

I had been looking for a wide-angle lens that could serve the singular purpose of low-light photography. By the time I was ready to purchase a lens, there were a few options available from Nikon between 24mm and 85mm from f/1.4 and f/1.8. In order to narrow my choices, I considered a few extra preferred features. Price, for one, is important, and the new f/1.4 lenses were easily twice to three times the price of the f/1.8 alternatives. Second, I would rather not have an aperture ring, a distinguishing feature of the older D lenses, simply for the its inherent lack of weather sealing. In the end the choice was between the AF-S 35mm f/1.8 and the AF-S 50mm f/1.4. It then came to my attention that I may be on DX-cropped sensors for a while longer, and if I wanted a wider field of view, the 35mm would be a better buy. I would simply have to deal with the two-thirds loss of a stop.

Upon testing the lens for the first time, it became clear it would not replace my wide-angle zoom. Vignetting occurs between f/1.8 and f/4, and could not be avoided especially when the maximum aperture is required; for darker scenes, however, the vignetting isn't so jarring. Unlike the bulky wide-angle zooms from Nikon, this prime is a convenient lens to carry around mainly due to its small size and lightweight build.

The first real test for this lens came in January when New York City experienced another intense snow storm. I had no waterproof solution at hand but decided to just try my luck with a towel. For future reference, a towel does not suffice for snow as it does for rain. Snowstorms in the city send snow in every direction, and before long the camera and lens were entirely frosty. As you can see from these images, heavy snow blocked out the moon and light solely came from lamps along the pathways. Nevertheless, the lens functioned flawlessly through the night. If you plan to buy this lens, it is good to note that the lens is not described as weather-sealed, and its only indication of such a characteristic is the O-ring on the lens mount.

Nikon's 35mm f/1.8G is highly usable in non-snowy conditions as well. When casually walking through the city, it is nice to have a light setup with the capability to photograph at night. Recently, I have used the 35mm for daytime images, as seen in previous entries in this blog.

Currently, it is the sixth most inexpensive Nikkor lens, closely followed by the newly introduced AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens. I hope my experiences with this lens successfully demonstrate its capabilities and maybe influence your decision to purchase one yourself.