Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G Preview

A lot of our readers have been asking me about the new Nikon 18-35mm AF-S lens that was recently announced. I had a chance to use this lens a while ago for over a month and I never got a chance to fully review it. Ahead of the upcoming Nikon 18-35mm review (posted on 07/27/2013), I would like to provide some data for our readers and compare the lens performance to the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G VR. The below information only contains sharpness numbers and does not include all other optical tests such as vignetting, distortion, chromatic aberration, etc. – I will only provide a summary of my findings for now. The full data with illustrations and sample images will be provided in the full review.

Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED

First of all, I have to say how surprised I was to discover the performance of the new Nikon 18-35mm. The day I received the lens, I took it out with me for a spin on the D800, expecting to see pretty mediocre performance. But after taking some shots and analyzing them in detail in the center and the corners, I realized that this lens might be another winner, similar to some of the cheap and excellent f/1.8 lenses that Nikon has been making lately. Images were crisp and full of details in the center, with only weaker corners. I was curious about how much the lens is actually capable of resolving, so I put it in my Imatest lab along with the Nikon 16-35mm and tested both. When Imatest spit out the initial numbers, I could not believe what I was seeing – the 18-35mm was pretty much on par with the 16-35mm in center resolution and outperformed it in the corners. I then went back and did it all over again, very carefully. Again, the 18-35mm showed the same impressive results.

Here are my test results at 18mm:

Now let’s compare it to 16mm on the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G:

Obviously, this is not at the same focal length, but 18mm is pretty close anyway, so there isn’t a world of difference between those. As you can see from the above charts, the 18-35mm slightly outperforms its bigger brother in the center and the corners, with weaker mid-frame (due to more pronounced field curvature). Stopped down to f/8, there is no difference between the two lenses.

Here are both lenses at 24mm:

At 24mm, both lenses increase in center resolution. Center and mid-frame performance is somewhat comparable. However, have a closer look at the corners – the 18-35mm again outperforms the 16-35mm at larger apertures. When stopped down to f/8, the 16-35mm is very sharp throughout the frame though and that’s where its corners pick up.

Lastly, let’s take a look at 35mm:

Both lenses are rather weak at 35mm, especially in the corners. Performance seems to be almost identical between the two, with perhaps a very slight resolution advantage on behalf of the 18-35mm.

Now keep in mind that the above lenses have quite different characteristics. The 16-35mm still has richer features than the 18-35mm. First, it is wider by 2mm, which is a big difference for a wide-angle lens. Second, it has excellent VR (image stabilization), which is extremely useful for shooting at very slow shutter speeds. The 16-35mm also has Nano Coating, which not only helps with ghosting and flare, but also produces better colors. And lastly, the 16-35mm feels like a solid lens in hands, while the 18-35mm feels a little “plasticky”. Still, at $500 difference in pricing, the 18-35mm seems like a new bargain wide angle lens for Nikon! Considering the impressive resolution figures above, this lens will do nicely on both FX and DX cameras, including the new Nikon D7100.

Update: a full review of the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G has been posted.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Faisal` .
    June 22, 2013 at 2:52 am

    Anxiously waiting for the detailed review of the Nikon 80-400 AF-S from you and its comparison with other popular tele-zooms. I hope it comes out rather sooner.

    • June 22, 2013 at 2:59 am

      Faisal, looks like you haven’t been checking the website lately? ;)

      I published it last week: http://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-80-400mm-vr

      • 7
        ) Faisal` .
        June 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm

        Oops, my bad. I don’t know how I missed that one although I have been waiting for it for months. Thanks for the link and the detailed review Nasim :)

  2. 3
    ) Pascal
    June 22, 2013 at 3:41 am

    As always great lecture, Nasim! But now I’m really curious about the full review. I was able to try the 16-35 / f4 a while back and it produced very nice images. I can’t wait to see how this lens holds up against the 16-35.

    • 4
      ) FrancoisR
      June 22, 2013 at 6:41 am

      Me too, I still fancy the 16-35 VR. Wonder how it compares to the old 17-35 f2.8?

      Love reading you, thanks!

      • 8
        ) FrancoisR
        June 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm

        Hi,
        I thought not but I changed my mind when I read this article on the 16-35, chapter 5 (VR) http://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-16-35mm-f4g-vr/3

        I think I’m ready to switch to VR for my wide angle zoom. I have mixed feelings on the 17-35 / d800 combination. I get much better results with the 16-35 USMII / 5D3. The “L” lenses are hard to beat for contrast and color.

      • June 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm

        VR is extremely useful on any lens when shooting in low light situations. With the 16-35mm, you can shoot 1 second exposures – something you would never be able to do on a wide angle lens! Try it out – it really works!

      • June 22, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        VR is very useful for video as well when hand-holding. That’s why Tamron’s 24-70mm with IS got quite popular for video gurus. The only thing one needs to be careful about is the occasional “jumps” you could get with VR when panning and moving too much.

  3. 5
    ) Peter
    June 22, 2013 at 6:54 am

    I got a 17-35 / f2.8 about 10 years ago. That focal length is great for landscape photography. It really opens up many creative opportunities, e.g. making HDR panoramas (shooting vertical images) on days with large billowing clouds.

    • 9
      ) FrancoisR
      June 22, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Yes Peter, great for outside shots but in my opinion so so indoors (low light)… Nasim already compared it to the 16-35 and now comes this 18-35. I basically use mine most of the time with a CPL up front. It gives nice clouds and deep blues.

  4. 6
    ) Connor Katz
    June 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Could you post some 100% crops of different images at various Imatest ratings so we can get a sense for what the score would translate to sharpness wise in an actual image. No need for every lens just overall a sense for what the score translates to… ie this is generally how sharp a 1,000 rating looks, a 2,000 rating and so forth. That would be very helpful! Thanks!

  5. 10
    ) Randall
    June 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I have had this lens since the day it came out. The main points of this lens is how light it is it is only like 356 grams or so PERFECT on my d600. It is also very compact even with a filter. You have to think about the other full frame options and then you will realize that this is incredible for Nikon at this price point to throw us a bone for once. Perfect walk around/landscape lens. The ONLY reason to get the f/4 lens is VR and its a smidge wider. But as you know VR is a mute point once you break out the tripod. Now all we need is the remake of the 70-300mm 4.5-5.6 to be this good and light weight I would be in hog heaven. Again 365 grams and small in size and prices is the big deal here.

  6. 11
    ) Randall
    June 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    This lens is very sharp I think may be confused. Its made for 36mp and beyond. If you understood imatest you know just how sharp it is.

  7. 14
    ) DavidL
    June 22, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    HI Nasim,

    I’m also really looking forward to the final comparison. When I changed to Fx from the D7000 I bought the 50mm 1.8 and the 24-120 f4. They were my start up lenses and I’m getting a little desperate for a wide zoom, as the 16-35mm was going to be my next purchase, once I could afford it.

    On another subject, Have you written on macro photography and or the lenses to use. I wouldn’t mind knowing a bit more about it, as it is starting to interest me a little.

    cheers DL

  8. 15
    ) Jeff
    June 23, 2013 at 12:32 am

    I was wondering how this lens compares to the new Sigma 18-35 f/1.8?

    • 16
      ) Pascal
      June 23, 2013 at 2:17 am

      Jeff, I believe the Sigma is a DX lens. That makes it hard to compare.

      • 18
        ) Jeff
        June 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

        That’s true, one is a DX lens and the other is a FX. I’m a DX shooter(D3200) and I am planning on upgrading to the D7100 or maybe even up to the D600. If I do this, both of these cameras are going to need the best glass I can afford. The Sigma is faster and covers the same range and the sample shots I have seen of it are pretty good, but so are the Nikkor’s. Is the Nikkor inherently superior to the Sigma because it is an FX?

        • 19
          ) Pascal
          June 23, 2013 at 10:45 am

          If you’re a DX shooter then I would certainly consider the Sigma. At 1.8 it is very fast and that can be useful for other types of photography. Sigma did step up big time in quality recently and I have seen what their new 35 mm lens does. If the 18-35 is anything like the 35 mm then this will be a fantastic lens.

    • 23
      ) Pascal
      June 24, 2013 at 5:08 am
  9. 17
    ) Biho
    June 23, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Thanks Nasim for the preview, waiting for your review. You mentioned that the nano coating makes the colors of 16-35 better than 18-35. Could you please show us that in the full review (same scene, same focal length at f/8) just to judge ?

  10. 20
    ) Nestor
    June 23, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Romanas, I apologize for asking you to remove my comments regarding Silkway. As I noted he was removed and being so my I only add confusion instead of being useful. I am asking it because I consider my duty to help keep this site as clean as possible, and as I said at present time my comments add noise. Many thanks for keep running one of the best sites dealing with photography.

  11. Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
    21
    ) Romanas Naryškin
    June 24, 2013 at 3:35 am

    Dear readers,

    I apologize having to remove some of your comments under this article. We were visited by a very strange man who really made a mess of things with rude and numerous comments. I left all the comments that were relative to this article. Thank you for your understanding!

    • 22
      ) Pascal
      June 24, 2013 at 4:52 am

      I think i can speak for a lot of people here when i say I’m glad you did that. I personaly didn’t respond to his anoying rants because that would only make thing worse. This guy was taking over this wonderfull forum and turned it into a mess.
      Thanks!

  12. July 19, 2013 at 3:39 am

    Thats good to know, great review, am about to purchase the 18 ! many thanks, Karl

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