Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX Preview

A number of our readers have been asking us for some information regarding the new Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX lens, requesting a review and a comparison with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (see my in-depth review). While the review is definitely in the pipeline, I thought it would be nice to provide a preview of my observations so far, along with some image samples from my recent trips. At $600, the full-frame Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G is another “value” lens from Nikon when compared to its super expensive brother, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G. It is $300 cheaper than the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, and both significantly smaller and lighter in comparison. So for those that are looking for a lightweight alternative to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX might be a great lens to buy. Let’s take a look at the lens in a little more detail.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX Image Sample (3)

Sharpness-wise, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX looks like a sharp lens wide open. I have taken pictures of my kids and all kinds of other subjects, and the center performance is definitely impressive. It is not razor sharp as the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, but it is still very good for a 35mm prime lens. From what I can tell so far, it seems to be sharper wide open than the f/1.4 version, similar to what I had seen on other f/1.8 Nikon lenses. While Imatest lab tests will reveal the true performance characteristics of the lens, my subjective observation looking at images tells me that the lens is optically very good the Nikon D800E. There is a little bit of resolution loss towards the extreme edges of the frame, but it certainly improves when stopping down to smaller apertures.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX is not a Nano-coated lens, but its colors and resistance to flare / ghosting are on par with other expensive Nikkor primes. I like the way the lens renders images, although if you are after that “special look”, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 has better rendering capability in my opinion.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX Image Sample (1)

Where the lens comes short is noticeable barrel distortion at close distances, some signs of chromatic aberration (both lateral and longitudinal type) and some field curvature at close distances. These are not deal-breakers though and most of these issues can be fixed in post if they really bother you.

I was a little disappointed by the fact that the lens is not 100% accurate on my Nikon Df and D800E cameras – I had to dial +10 AF Fine Tune to make it focus more precisely. This is most likely my sample unit that was off, but if you notice sharpness issues, that’s one thing you definitely need to check first.

Now the big question is, which lens would I recommend – the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX or the Sigma 35mm f/1.4? If budget is not an issue and size/weight does not bother you, the Sigma is a better lens and overall a better buy in my opinion. The Sigma is insanely sharp wide open, faster (f/1.4 vs f/1.8) and has a nice metal build/finish. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is a great budget lens, but it is meant to be lower in class than all other f/1.4 lenses, including the third party Sigma 35mm f/1.4 option.

However, if you want a more compact / lightweight setup, or budget is an issue, then the 35mm f/1.8G is a great little lens!

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX Image Sample (2)

A full review of the lens will be posted soon. Meanwhile, please feel free to ask me questions about the lens below!

P.S. Please enjoy the photographs in their full resolution (2048 pixels wide). If you are only using your browser to view them, I would recommend to download each file and view on a large monitor instead.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Crocodilo
    March 17, 2014 at 4:45 am

    Good news to read about. Care to comment on the performance of this 35mm compared to the Nikon 28mm f1.8G? I have and love the later, and although I’ve always longed for an affordable FF 35mm, sometimes feel that spending extra money for such close focal distances might not be worthy.

    • 4
      ) AM I Am
      March 17, 2014 at 5:36 am

      I’m in the same camp as you. I already have the 28mm and don’t see a reason to buy the 35mm. Besides, $600 is kinda pricey for this lens IMO.
      I believe that a 24, 35, 50, 85mm f/1.8G set would have made more sense.

    • 9
      ) unclemikey
      March 17, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Crocodilo, I think from the review of the Nikon 35mm you are better off staying with the 28mm Nikon. I too have this lens and use it a lot in my work. From what Nasim writes here I don’t think you will find the Nikon 35 f1.8 sharper than the 28. If you are really looking for a sharp 35 try the Sigma. Pricy but worth the money.

      • 10
        ) Crocodilo
        March 17, 2014 at 8:30 am

        Yup, that’s what I thought, I’ll just hang on to my 28, 50 and 85 f1.8G, they work marvels on the D600. Plus I’ve got an old 20mm f2.8D for that really wiiide look. Not really up there in IQ with the rest, but good enbough for some heavy-handed PP pixel crunching.

        • 11
          ) unclemikey
          March 17, 2014 at 8:54 am

          Crocodilo, as an added point on another 3rd party lens. I purchased the Nikon 24-70 and the Tamron 24-70 at the same time to compare both. I kept the Tamron and returned the Nikon. Cherry picking 3rd party lenses can be fun and financially rewarding.

      • 12
        ) Christobella
        March 17, 2014 at 9:05 am

        Worth noting if you already have the 28mm is that the Sigma 35 1.4 actually has a focal length closer to 32mm. I read this in a review, and then tested my copy against my 24-70G, and came to the same conclusion.

        • 15
          ) unclemikey
          March 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

          Christobella, I don’t know about that and I’ve never read the same report you did. I do know that the Siggy is very sharp wide open and I really like using it on my APS-c D7100 as it gives me close to a 50mm at f1.4 angle of view. For camera bodies I would never switch from Nikon, however, I’ve found that some of the third party lenses are better for my type of shooting. As I stated above I found the Tamron 24-70 to be a better lens than the Nikon 24-70. On that note, I’ve not found a 70-200 f2.8 sharper than Nikons. For editorial portrait work I also like the Nikon Micro Nikkor 200 f4D which allows me to get back from the client so as not to intimidate the person I’m working with. The 200 f4D is one of the sharpest lenses Nikon makes and some CEO’s will allow me to work while they are working making for some interesting portraits.

          • 16
            ) Christobella
            March 17, 2014 at 10:47 am

            Agreed on all counts (apart from the 24-70 point, I’ll have to take your word on that one!). The Sigma is a great lens, and renders beautifully moody images – and to be honest the 32mm thing is OK with me, I have plenty of scope to crop on the D800.

            • 18
              ) unclemikey
              March 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

              Look, it could have just been the copy of the Nikon 24-70 I received but really I did find the Tammy to be a better piece of glass. I also find on the D800e that I can do more with the Sigma 35 also. But then reaching down into the shadows from a file that size with better depth isn’t much of a problem.

  2. 2
    ) mike
    March 17, 2014 at 4:53 am

    those that are looking for a lightweight alternative to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G FX might be a great lens to buy. Let’s take a look at the lens in a little more detail.

    I believe you mean the Nikon 35 1.8???

    • 3
      ) AM I Am
      March 17, 2014 at 5:28 am

      I believe that too.

  3. March 17, 2014 at 6:04 am

    I dont see why anyone would not only ask for this comparison. The Sigma is a better all around lens than the Nikon 1.4G version. If anything, the newer Nikon 35mm f/1.8 should be compared directly to its older brother, as they are both inferior to the Sigma.

    • 43
      ) Hoeras
      March 17, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      Ironic that we should be discussing Sigma versus Nikon, and the Sigma recognised as better.

      But I am still interested in the 1.8G – I just am. I like my other 1.8Gs a lot.

      I bought a Sigma/F1.4 and it was clearly not up to scratch and performed exactly like the one Matt Granger ‘reviewed’ on YouTube and was less that totally enthusiastic. It was soft and worst open wide. I returned it for a check and maybe hoping it would be replaced, but they didn’t. When returned it performed so much better – they did a firmware upgrade as they believed the one in it, had been corrupted. It wasn’t an AF problem as it was soft at 1.4 even when focusing correctly.

      I did a test – a logo on an corrugated box and lots of fine detail – and at F4 was insanely sharp with single centre AF. Then same shot at F1.4 and it was slightly softer. I added some in-camera sharpness and then compared the two – and they were surprisingly close, in fact amazingly so. That made me very happy.

      What I learnt was that this – lenses can go soft and it may not even be a glass problem – clearly the glass was OK and so was AF.

      But Nikons don’t have firmware – is this a good thing as it cannot become a problem, or a bad thing as it means some things can get corrected.

      Any opinions?

  4. 6
    ) drew
    March 17, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Looking forward to your lab test. Thanks for your information to date.
    Have you revised your praise of the recent f/1.8 G lenses?

    Ephotozine puts the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 as sharper centre field than the Sigma shut down from f/2.8 and smaller aperture, (and edge sharper from f/4, where a lot of photographers will be using it).
    Stating the Sigma a better lens, better buy or Nikkor f/1.8 more budget; how?

  5. 7
    ) Luis
    March 17, 2014 at 8:05 am

    A comparison with the 35mm 1.8 DX could be interesting for those who start in APS-c but will update to FF…..like me.

  6. 8
    ) unclemikey
    March 17, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I bought the Nikon 35mm f1.4 and shot with it for about a month. One of my friends had the Sigma and let me use it on a combined shoot I did with him. I liked the results so much better with the Sigma 35 f1.4 that I sold the Nikon to another photographer. I use the Sigma 35 on both my D800e’s and my D7100′s with great results.

  7. 13
    ) Chris Zeller
    March 17, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Great to see that you are looking at this Nasim!

    I am ready to upgrade my 35mm f2 and need something at the low-end for environmental indoor portraits of the family. I’m shooting a D600 so I’m looking at the 35 f1.8 FX , sigma 35mm F1.4 and the Nikon 28mm f1.8.

    Can you include the 28mm in your review as well? I know you did a review of that lens already, but the 35-28mm focal lengths are very comparable as are the price and size. I’d love to hear your thoughts as to which is the best companion to complete a set of 85mm, and 50mm primes.

    • 54
      ) Dirk de Vries
      May 28, 2014 at 4:25 am

      Chris, I don’t find 28mm comparable to 35mm just as I don’t find 35mm comparable to 50mm. There’s a significant difference in field of view. On a D600 you can’t just crop the 28mm field of view to 35mm. Not enough pixels. On a D800 it might be an option, but why throw away pixels. For me 35mm is the sweet spot (if it was an option I think I would prefer 40mm). I had the 28mm and I think it was sharper then the 35mm, but it was too wide for my taste. 50mm looks very different again and I find the 50mm focal length a little restrictive (and boring) sometimes. The best option is what you think is the most useful focal length/field of view for your photography.

  8. 14
    ) Muhammad Omer
    March 17, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Very nice article again Mr Mansurov, I want to ask you something about lightroom software.
    Lightroom organizes all your photos, so before I install it, Should I empty my computer of all the pictures in it? Ive heard lightroom can get stuck if there are too many photos already on the computer.

  9. March 17, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Nassim, is imatest something easy to use or it requires a big setup? I’´ve bought a 16-35mm this week and I’m not very happy with its performance, maybe because I’m comparing it to my Sigma 35mm art. I don’t know if I got a bad copy or if I’m just used to the stellar perfomance of primes. So, I’m thinking in doing a more objective test to see if my copy ir or isn’t good, like the imatest.

    • 19
      ) Chris Zeller
      March 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Ricardo,

      There is no way that the 16-35mm will compare to the 35mm 1.4 in terms of overall image quality, especially wide open. You do not need imatest to tell you that. Try them both at smaller apertures and I bet they will be very comparable. I own the 16-35mm as well as many primes (I’m considering the sigma 35 too) and find the 16-35mm to be a perfect tool for its intended purpose. I would never consider using one of the superior primes for the same job I’d use the 16-35mm for however.

      The 16-35mm excels as a landscape lens, particularly using filters. It should mostly be used at small apertures for the kind of DOF you want in a landscape. At F11-F16 almost any lens will perform about as well. It has a wider FOV at the widest setting. The VR is a winning combination in a WA lens. No other lens allows you to get stable shots handheld at sunrise when you need to use smaller apertures for maximum DOF. I would not want to use the Sigma for this application at all. I would use the Sigma indoors for family environmental portraits shot wide open to blow out the background of a cluttered room. Very different tools for different uses.

    • March 17, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      Ricardo, I spent over $10K on my Imatest setup. It is not even close to being simple :)

      There are some simple ways to measure performance and accuracy. Start out by finding out if there are focus issues with the lens: http://photographylife.com/how-to-calibrate-lenses

      • 27
        ) Ricardo Vaz
        March 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        Ouch! There is no problem with AF in the lens, it didnt need any af fine tune. I`ll do more extensive testing and post the results on the forum to see peoples opinion. Thanks for the tip!

    • 35
      ) Daniel
      March 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      The 16-35′s weak spot, relatively speaking, is at 35mm. It’s really good at 16mm, even wide open for the most part, and then gradually deteriorates as you go longer. I’d say about 28 to 30 is the point beyond which for very detailed shot you’d want to pretty much stop to f5.6 or below under most circumstances. For me, 16-21 is the best, with the caveat that you’ve got to be careful . . . . very careful . . . . that you don’t let the sheer width of angle at 16 trip you up on corner sharpness. It’s a little behind the 24/2.8 at 24mm and f4 to f5.6, beating the prime at f6.3 or below due to generally better flare resistance and less CA. Also there is a bit of field curvature, which you may find yourself needing to take it down to about f6.3 or so in order to improve reliability in the field (i.e. no nasty field curvature or field of view surprises). Think of it as a 16-28 with a 35mm extension . . . . or else be prepared to stop down a little bit. Do not think of it as something that can replace a 35mm prime, unless the prime in question is the old f2 autofocus.

  10. Avatar of Daniel Michael
    20
    ) Daniel Michael
    March 17, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Nice preview Nasim!

    I have to say though, I’m envious of the beautiful part of the world you live in with those breathtaking landscapes!

    • March 17, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Thank you Daniel! Colorado is truly a beautiful place and I am blessed to live here. You should come visit us sometime, especially in the fall. I will be posting the schedule for our fall workshops later this month, so perhaps I will see you later this year? :)

      • Avatar of Daniel Michael
        28
        ) Daniel Michael
        March 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        That sounds like a wonderful idea :)

  11. 21
    ) Carlo
    March 17, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Most of us is looking for the sharpest lens from corner to corner. All of these 35mm or 28mm lenses are insanely sharp (in my opinion). I’ve seen in a shop the Sigma 35mm and I touched it with my hand and it is a real beauty and looks like german lens! The modern plastic lens that use special technical polymer probably are lighter and suffer less the temperature variation but some my old Ai lenses (all metal) still working wonderfully.
    Then I don’t mind the weight or the metal building of the sigma.
    Now I’m in the position to buy the Sigma. But just now I’ve found that in some reviews is reported that Sigma 35mm has a very disappointed background bokeh (nervous bokeh).
    For such large aperture (f/1.4) the background rendition is mandatory! So please someone that use this 35mm sigma can report here the impression of this feature?
    Nasim now you don’t have Sigma anymore but please for the next Nikon 35mm review report your impression for the boket (not only the rendition of the spot lights, onion shape ….) and show us some pictures about that.
    On the web I’ve found some bad example for the Sigma boket that is very nervous and distracting and not smooth like f/1.4 should (must) be! Thanks.

    • March 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Carlo, you can see examples of Sigma’s bokeh here:
      http://photographylife.com/reviews/sigma-35mm-f1-4

      • 29
        ) Carlo
        March 17, 2014 at 2:51 pm

        Yes Nasim, I’ve read your review several times. Look at the picture (the page of image samples) of the trunk with musk. just behind the trunk the lines appear double and confused. the same for the next photo with the flower in the foreground. Also here the twigs on the ground are doubled. then the focus is not creamy. the 28mm f/1.8 G Nikon makes much more creamy boket, isn’t it?

      • 30
        ) Ricardo Vaz
        March 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm

        Nassim, how the hell did you took this photo with a 35mm?

        http://photographylife.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Sigma-35mm-f1.4-Sample-8.jpg

        Im kinda confused, even taking into consideration that this must be a crop from the d800 resolution.

        • March 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm

          Ricardo, haha, I wondered if anyone would ever ask me that question! I was in San Francisco on a boat tour and this guy wanted food, so he was flying really close to me :) He was just cruising against the wind and was practically static when I photographed him!

          • March 17, 2014 at 3:53 pm

            I actually have read this sigma review a long time ago, before I buy the lens, but I just did noticed the “telephoto”aspect of that photo now! Haha, great!

    • Avatar of Mike Banks
      26
      ) Mike Banks
      March 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      I don’t seem to have problems producing bokeh with this lens.

    • March 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      I have few images on flickr but you can see bokeh examples of the sigma here:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/ricardo_vaz/11746573824/
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/ricardo_vaz/11746197915/

      • 41
        ) Carlo
        March 17, 2014 at 10:16 pm

        Hi Ricardo trans for your example! I wouldn’t buy the 35mm for macro shot, but in your second picture (where your son is walking) the grass on the left appears full of double lines (in my opinion). It is not creamy at all.

      • 42
        ) Carlo
        March 17, 2014 at 10:16 pm

        Hi Ricardo thanks for your example! I wouldn’t buy the 35mm for macro shot, but in your second picture (where your son is walking) the grass on the left appears full of double lines (in my opinion). It is not creamy at all.

  12. 32
    ) Diego
    March 17, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Please, also consider comparing this lens with the old f/2.

  13. 36
    ) Jerry
    March 17, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for an interesting review. Could you comment on another alternative:Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G? How does it compare to 35 f/f1.8?
    It is supposed to be a better, professional lens, with nano coating and you could always crop if you were interested in smaller FOV (as a hobbyist I cannot afford every possible prime)

  14. 37
    ) Mariusz
    March 17, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Did you ever have any focusing problems at far distances with your Sigma?
    I’ve given up on Sigma after having two copies with focus issues – at distances further than 10-15 ft.
    Even tried usb dock, to adjust, but that didn’t help at all.
    When it was in focus – you are right – crazy sharp, beautiful rendering – simply perfect, but unfortunately not consistent. Useless for professional use.
    So I’m thinking about this lens instead, even though not as bright, and cheaper built.

    Also – how about light gathering abilities of Nikon 35 1.8G? – I’ve read somewhere that it underexposes by half stop when compared to 35 f1.4 at same settings.

    • 47
      ) Jason
      March 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Oh no hopefully, the detailed review of Nasim cannot confirm that the new nikkor 35 1.8 FX underexposes….especially not so much….

      Would be a bummer and a no go….

  15. 38
    ) Johny Wong
    March 17, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Since this lens announcement, I always wondering how it compares with the sigma. But my main concern with sigma is, if Nikon decided to change something in their future camera, the sigma may stop working.

    Do you think this is possible ?

    • 39
      ) Ricardo Vaz
      March 17, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Sigma has a USB Dock that makes it easy for the user to update the lenses firmwares. Recently, when nikon launched the D3300 (I think this was the camera), there were some issues with sigma lenses. On the next week prior to the launch of this camera sigma released an update to the firmware that fixed the problem. So, no I dont think there will be any compatibility issues with sigma and canon/nikon bodies.

      • 40
        ) Johny Wong
        March 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm

        Thank you Ricardo :)

        I will read Nasim’s review first to decide which lens is worth buying.

  16. 44
    ) James Gao
    March 19, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for the nice review. I am thinking about buying a 35mm lens for my DF. Which lens do you prefer to pair with DF? I can accept the price of both the sigma and the nikon 35 1.8, but I am not sure if the sigma will be front heavy on the DF. I like the DF because it’s beautifully made and light weighted. I don’t want to have a lens will spoil the lightweight and nimble feeling of DF.

    • 46
      ) Jason
      March 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      @ James

      I would definetely get the Nikkor 35 1.8 as you already mentioned it would be to fornt heavy DF weighs about 850 gr, the sigma 665gr. alone….

      Personally, i think the nikkor looks also much better attached on the DF(whether black or silver version) than the sigma….

      even the sigma would be the better performing lens, the nikon 35 1.8 is much more compact/light 305gr. and is the better travel/general walkaround, always carry on lens depends on how you would call it…;)

      Just my 2 cents….

  17. 45
    ) Markus
    March 20, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Hello Nasim!

    The Sigma ART 35mm f/1.4 may be a stellar lens, but on my D800 the AF just does not work sometimes.
    Big focus issues.
    I tried the dock but solved nothing.
    Same as Mariusz here. Sorry, Mariusz, but it is comforting not being alone… :-)
    Did you know about this issue?

    Thanks for your site.

    • March 21, 2014 at 1:31 am

      Markus, I have not seen any focus issues with the D800 – probably a faulty lens. Have you tried reaching out to Sigma?

  18. 48
    ) Krister
    March 20, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Have you ever owned or used the manual 35 1.4 ais? if I can do with manual how will these lenses be compared to each other?
    Thanks Krister

    • March 21, 2014 at 1:35 am

      Krister, I have used the 35mm f/1.4 Ai-S and I own the f/2.8 version – both excellent performers. The f/1.4 is not very sharp wide open, but it gets really good by f/2 from what I remember. I guess it depends on what you need the lens for. If you are after still subjects, manual focus is perfectly fine. For anything that moves, autofocus is the way to go…

  19. 51
    ) ASK
    March 27, 2014 at 3:02 am

    Where’s the Review, Nasim?
    We have waited for a long time.
    Q_Q

    • 52
      ) Hoeras
      March 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Please be patient, I am sure he will when ready. After all, it is his generosity that will make it possible.

  20. 53
    ) Bojan
    April 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Hello Nasim

    waaaaiiiitiiiing for your review ! ..cause it still matters the most to me !

  21. 55
    ) BPR
    June 3, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I rented the Sigma 35mm 1.4 last summer, and while it was phenomenal in good light, as soon as I was in a low light scenario (a large portion of my photography as an event/band shooter), the autofocus was horrible; back focusing seemingly 100% of the time. That alone was a dealbreaker for me, as well as a huge disappointment. I subsequently rented the Nikon 35mm 1.4G and had zero problems with focusing in any light. Even if the Nikon 35mm 1.8G FX isn’t as sharp as the Sigma, I would anticipate its autofocus consistency to be superior to the Sigma, which is game, set, match for me.

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