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

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Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G Review4.3571428571429Nasim Mansurov2013-07-27 22:56:33Read this in-depth review of the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G lens with detailed information, specifications, image samples and comparisons to other Nikkor lenseshttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Reader Comments

  1. Thank you for your valuable review, i am confused which one to buy between 16-35 f4 20mm and 18-35g, your review gave me + point to go for 18-35 as i am just a enthusiast photographer and i don’t wanna lot of money as i don;t earn from photography

    • That’s what the 18-35mm is for – value! Not everyone wants the features of the 16-35mm for its hefty price, so the 18-35mm is a great alternative.

      • 62
        ) Amit

        Hi Nasim,

        With current Nikon promotion we are getting 16-35 for $956 and 18-35 for $749…..I am confused between two lenses.
        I am not a professional photographer. I am using Nikon D600 camera. Can you please help me to decide between these two lenses.

        Thanks,
        Amit

        • Don’t be confused and get the 16-35mm. At $956, it is a steal!

          • 64
            ) Amit

            Thanks Nasim !!!

  2. 2
    ) bhushan

    Thanks Nasim for your full review , i m getting this lens next week ! btw you need to change 16mm to 18mm while referring to this lens at some places !

    Thanks
    Bhushan

    • Thank you Bhushan! I fixed those typos, appreciate the input :)

  3. 3
    ) Lynton

    Thanks for the great review! I’ve just purchased the 16-35mm f/4, and I’m extremely happy with it. I knew with the purchase that the 18-35mm was supposedly a little sharper in some situations, but it was the other elements of the 16-35mm I was more interested – the rendering mainly, due I suppose to the optical coatings. Excellent review as always. One small typo on page 2:

    “The 77mm filter thread at the front of the barrel is far enough not to touch the front element at 16mm, which is the focal length where the element extends the most.”

    I believe this should read 18mm, not 16mm.

    Thanks.

    • Thank you for your feedback Lynton! I fixed the typo :)

  4. 4
    ) Ankur

    HI Nasim,

    I agree with Bhushan, good in-depth review from a practical usage perspective! Thanks!

    For the 16mm to 18mm typo: you may want to refer to the following areas-

    Section (2) Lens handling & build – “The 77mm filter thread at the front of the barrel is far enough not to touch the front element at 16mm, which is the focal length where the element extends the most.”

    Section (9) Distortion – “Just like the 16-35mm f/4G VR, the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G exhibits very strong barrel distortion, especially at the widest focal length. At 16mm, distortion is very noticeable…”

    • Ankur, with so many references to different focal lengths and comparisons, I guess my mind was elsewhere at times :) Thanks for letting me know, I fixed the typos!

      • 23
        ) Ankur

        I hear ya, no worries :) Cheers!

        Your comparison made me think about my 16-35 but the real world usage of VR II (I can get away with 1/2 – 1/3 shutter speeds without any blur on D800), extra 2mm, Nano coat & great build quality overall made me stick with it – something I know i’d miss had I gone the 18-35 route.

        • Ankur, I personally would not trade the 16-35mm for the 18-35mm :)

  5. 5
    ) Kareem

    what about to compare it with the new Sigma 18-35mm ART ??

    • Kareem, not practical to compare a full-frame lens with a DX. The Sigma 18-35mm will be here within the next 2 weeks for testing, so we will see how it does on DX. Will probably be comparing it to other DX lenses, like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4.

  6. 6
    ) Patrick

    Great review Nasim still a am in doubt between the 18-35 and 16-35.
    Weight and being more compact speakes for the 18-35, VR and nano coating speakes for the 16-35.
    The price difference is only $400.00 over here.

    I guess i have to think this over for myself which to buy.

    • Patrick, if money is not an issue, the 16-35mm is the way to go. Otherwise, the 18-35mm is a great value as well!

      • 56
        ) Patrick

        Nasim you where 100% right over the 16-35.
        I field tested it yesterday at the French coast doing some landscapes and in a museum.
        In fact better than i hoped for with great image quality even with high iso in bad light.

        Thanks for your advice.

        • Patrick, I am glad that my advice was useful :)

  7. 7
    ) Sash

    Still love mine 17-35 :-)

    • Sash, the 17-35mm f/2.8 is a classic! Terrible in the corners at f/2.8, but used to be pretty sharp when stopped down to f/8. Will have to take a look at it again and see how it does on the D800E.

      • 18
        ) Sash

        Would love to see a test like that!
        Im planning to purchase a d800, and dying to find out how this combo would preform!!

        • Sash, will have to request the 17-35mm f/2.8 from B&H for the next run of lenses. I need to also test the Zeiss 35mm f/2 with Imatest. I think the rest are pretty much done.

  8. 12
    ) Ong

    hi Nasim,
    thanks for the nice review. i own it and use with my D600. So far i love it very much :)

  9. 16
    ) Stewart

    Hi Nasim, thanks for the review! I’ve been waiting to see what you thought of this lens compared to the 16-35vr. Are there any plans to review and compare with the Samyang 24mm tilt shift? I’m weighing up the wide angle choices myself for when I upgrade to FX and as a landscape photographer maybe the movements of the Samyang make it a better choice?
    Cheers,
    Stew.

    • Stewart, yes, I am also planning to evaluate Tilt/Shift lenses with Imatest. I have reviewed the 24mm f/3.5D, but have not done the 45mm and 85mm lenses. So when I re-do the 24mm f/3.5D, I will also review the Samyang 24mm. My only concern with the Samyang is its build quality – I know that some people had broken knobs, which is not good!

      • 30
        ) Stewart

        I’ll look forward to it! Thanks for your reply,
        Stew.

  10. 17
    ) Randall Stiltner

    I have been using this lens since it came out. The big deal here is the size, weight, cost, and performance. I use this lens on my d600 and it is phenomenal. The 16-35mm is just to big and heavy to pair with my d600 for casual use. This lens is the only lens I need for my vacations when I am out site seeing. Also I think its fair to mention that the d600 has been updated with automatic lens correction for this lens. I know its not as good as lightroom but I dont process everything in lightroom so it is great for me. If nikon would of made the new 24-85mm lens that came with the d600 this good they woulda shot themselves in the foot so I am shocked they gave us such a good wide angle. The only things to think about the 16-35mm for are like nasim said color and VR however that being said I have never had a blurry shot handheld with this lens it performs as good as my 50mm prime handheld. Nightime photography would probably be a different story.

    • Randall, sorry for the wait, you know it takes me a while to go through everything and these lenses take a long time to write! As for Lightroom, just wait for a couple of months and we will see a lens profile for it. I think it would go nicely with the 24-85mm. There is some overlap, but the 18-35mm is much wider and serves a different purpose…

      • 37
        ) Randall Stiltner

        No problem. I can’t imagine the time it takes to do what you do. Keep up the great work! :)

  11. 19
    ) Axel

    Hey Nasim and all!
    Thanks for the review and the discussion. What about the old, build-like-a-tank 20-35 2.8D. In analoge times long ago I liked this lens like no other one. How does the old lens stand against the newcomers? Is it just as good as the 18-35D or better? How about to use the old one an a modern FX body?

    And what about the fixed wide and ultra wide lenses? Do they have a chance against the new zooms?

    • Axel, unfortunately, I do not have access to very old lenses. If it is not made today, B&H/Adorama won’t carry them! Once I am done reviewing all the modern lenses, I will have to start asking our readers to send me their old lenses for evaluation :)

      As for fixed wide and ultra wides, I have not done much testing with lenses wider than 24mm f/1.4. But that’s another plan to do it later this year!

  12. 20
    ) David Mackintosh

    Nice review. These are really helpful to for us when shopping or at least dreaming for new equipment. This is a lens I would consider when I upgrade to FX.

    I am curious how this lens compares to the 24-85 VR in the overlapping range. I’ve found the focus tracking performance of that lens disappointing and the colors lacking compared to my 80-200 AF-D ED, but they’re available quite cheap as D600 take-offs now. With just that limited comparison, it seems that the coatings do make a significant difference.

    One more correction: In section 9) where you say “Distortion is reduced as you stop down…” I’m sure you meant to write “Distortion is reduced as you zoom in…”

    • David, the Nikon 18-35mm is better than the 24-85mm @ 24mm in the center and in the corners – just compare the MTF values between these lenses in my reviews. At 35mm, center and corners are slightly worse on the 24-85mm, but the mid-frame is where the 16-35mm is much better. So the 18-35mm is going to be a sharper lens compared to the 24-85mm in the overlapping range. As for colors, yes, I find that coatings used on expensive lenses do make a difference in color reproduction. But with enough post-processing skills, once can minimize such differences.

      Thanks for letting me know about the mistake, I fixed it.

      • 47
        ) Photoretouchpro

        “As for colors, yes, I find that coatings used on expensive lenses do make a difference in color reproduction. But with enough post-processing skills, once can minimize such differences.”

        Is this just additional contrast and saturation, or is it more involved than that?

        Great Review,
        Thanks.

  13. 21
    ) Nicolas

    Dear Nasim,

    Thanks for the review, I was waiting for it. I have one question: on your D800E, maximum sharpness is at f/8, and then it decreases because of diffraction. On a body like D700, is it true that diffraction will appear later and thus that maximum sharpness will perhaps be at f/11 ?

    Thank you.

    • Nicolas, diffraction does not purely depend on the sensor size and megapixels – lens design also plays a significant role in my experience. When testing lenses on the D800E, I find that some lenses start to show diffraction at f/8-f/11 mark, while others already start getting worse at f/5.6-f/8 range. And yes, lower resolution cameras like D700 will show less diffraction overall, simply because they do not have enough resolution in the first place. But it does not mean that lower resolution cameras are better due to less diffraction. Even if high resolution cameras like D800E might show diffraction at larger apertures at full resolution, once you down-sample images to the same resolution as the D700, the effect of diffraction will not be that much different. In fact, you might end up with sharper images from the D800E, because that’s what downsampling does!

      • 35
        ) Nicolas

        Thank you for your reply. I understand that for another camera body or another lense, the aperture which maximiwe sharpness will be different. I asked my question because I own a D700, and do not plan to switch to D600 or D800. I was thus wondering what could be the optimal aperture for this specific couple camera body/lense to maximize depth of field without losing optical quality from diffraction.

  14. 22
    ) HomoSapiensWannaBe

    Yes, your review confirms this is a very good lens. The much lower weight and smaller size vs. the 16-35/4G VR makes it easier to transport for street/travel/nature photography. I remain interested, but await a rebate from Nikon of at least $100, and not dependent on purchasing a body.

    Meanwhile, I will gladly skip Nikon if Sigma comes out with 17-18 and/or 24mm lenses (F2.0 or 2.8 ok) comparable in optical quality to my #1 favorite 35/1.4 on the D600. Or, perhaps Sigma will make a top-notch ultra-wide zoom with vibration reduction. Nikon will have to earn my business as I have no automatic loyalty to them due to frustrating QC and pricing issues with the D600.

    By the way, I would also like to see a review of the soon to be shipping Phottix Mitros flash for Nikon. Apparently, this is an SB-910 killer for not much more than half the price.

    • It is always a good idea to wait, especially close to the holidays :)

      We will have to see what Sigma comes up with. Would love to see more of those “art” lenses – they seem to be very good optically.

      As for reviewing flashes, I have not done a single flash review yet, even Nikon versions. Let me first address some lenses and then I will start working on accessories. Just wish there were more than 24 hours in a day!

      • 36
        ) HomoSapiensWannaBe

        Nasim, thanks to you, your clone(s!), Romanas and all the other Photography Life contributors for the useful information presented on a regular basis.

        At a recent local dealer event, the Sigma rep indicated we would likely eventually see all of the lenses I mentioned, as well as an updated 24-70/2.8 with their version of VR. I’m rooting for a 300/4 from Sigma with VR also. I got some serious lust for the 150/2.8 macro after handling it. Wow, what a lens! Though I don’t shoot DX, the 18-35/1.8 — on hand before it was shipping — was very impressive. Cheers.

  15. 24
    ) Johny Wong

    Hi Nasim,

    Ever since you use imatest for testing the lens, I have a few question that keep lingering in my mind. I can understand the vignette test because it’s easy to imagine how dark the corner of a photograph. What I don’t really understand is using score for measuring the lens sharpness.

    1. how much is the different in sharpness score to make it really perceivable for human eyes ?

    2. How big we have to print to make the sharpness different obvious ?

    3. You test this lens only in certain focal length. I’m curious what is the sharpness score if the lens is set to, for example, 28mm ? Can I assume the sharpness is somewhere between 24mm and 35mm.

    I may sound like someone who gives sharpness a top priority. I’m assure you I’m not :)
    I just want to understand imatest’s sharpness score.

    Thank you.

    • Johny, one of our readers asked me to provide image samples of how field curvature on a Zeiss lens looks like – take a look at my Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 review (page 3), where I demonstrate this – it might be a useful study for you to check out. Now let me try to answer each question one at a time:

      1) I will do a separate article later today that shows different Imatest score vs actual image, so that you can draw some conclusions on what is good versus poor. I stopped doing image crops for several reasons. First, it took me a long time to crop, export and upload each image. The process is not bad for prime lenses, because I only have to do it for a certain focal length, but imagine how painful it is when doing it for 5-6 different focal lengths and each aperture. It was a very time consuming process, especially when doing comparisons. But I do not mind the extra work, as long as the review looks good, so it was not the primary reason. The second reason was providing image crops – it would be impractical for me to provide image crops from 9 areas of the frame (1 center, 4 mid-frame and 4 corners). If I only provide one part of the frame, it only tells a small part of the whole story. Lenses often suffer from decentering issues, optical tilt and other deficiencies that might show one area of the image sharp, while the other is not. Which one should I provide for the review? If I provide a soft crop, it will look bad when compared to another lens, which I might take a better crop from. Then we come to bad conclusions, just because we are looking at one particular area, rather than the whole image. The third reason, which is the primary reason, is seeing differences with our eyes and our visual perception. Sometimes two images look more or less the same when you look at a chart, but they are actually quite different when sharpness is properly measured. If I look at a dozen test chart samples, by the time I am done they might all start looking the same :) With Imatest, I am actually able to measure those differences with a very scientific method that actually measures sharpness by measuring line width. And it averages all four corners, which gives me a good number to base my comparisons on.
      2) Printing is a whole different subject and I really do not feel comfortable going there. Too many variables in sizes, visual perception of what sharpness means, etc. I am very picky when it comes to sharpness, while others might not be. If I look at a 36×24 print, I will be looking at it at a close range, not the normal viewing range. I want to see all the details in my image, including all the corners. For someone not as picky as me, they might print a 36×24 from a cropped D700 image and be happy. I know that I won’t be. So let’s not go into the whole printing discussion, because it is a never-ending debate :)
      3) Yes, I do have to test lenses at certain focal lengths. Otherwise this review will be much longer in length :) But you can safely assume that the performance of a lens will be an average number between two focal lengths. If a lens is very good at 24mm, but very bad at 35mm, then 28mm will be somewhere in between, since the lens has to transition from good to bad. I hope this makes sense :)

      • 38
        ) Johny Wong

        “I will do a separate article later today that shows different Imatest score vs actual image”–> another article that make me coming back to your website :)

        One more thing Nasim. In the future, please make article about optical deficiency (decentering, optical shift, etc) and how to find it without using any scientific test (if that’s possible).

        Thank you for your spot on explanation.

  16. 39
    ) Saeff

    Is this lens quality equivalent with Nikon 50mm f1.8g? or the plastic quality better than 50mm f1.8g?

    • 41
      ) Randall

      In my mind the build quality is the same or better. I want to say its a little better. But it’s so light it may be cheap to you. I like it allot.

      • 42
        ) Saeff

        owh.. really.
        for me its ok if make from plastic, I have 50mm f1.8g before. its fine, quite tough and light. but I scare if the plastic built like 3rd party lens like tamron. it very weak construction.

        I need lightweight and quite enough tough lens.

  17. 40
    ) Frank

    Nice review. It is nice to see the MTF chart for the 16-35mm f4 VR which is lack in the review of that lens.

    • Frank, I believe I updated the review of the 16-35mm to include the MTF chart…

      • 54
        ) Frank

        Oh, yes, I just see it.

        If I understand it correctly, that chart on the 16-35 page was measured with the lens mounted on D700, but the chart shown here was measured with the lens mounted on D800E. It is still nice to see the 16-35mm f4 works good on D800E though a little bit worse on corners than the new 18-35mm when the lens is wide open.

        Thanks,
        Frank

        • Frank, no, all of my MTF tests are measured with the Nikon D800E. I won’t test lenses on any other camera body, since it will invalidate the results. So in the case of the 16-35mm lens, I actually had to obtain a different sample just to do MTF tests :)

  18. 45
    ) Justin

    Nasim, great review as always!

    I own the 18-35G and the images I’m getting from it I find to be nothing short of spectacular. I am however just an amateur and my post processing is usually just a quick run through. So I’m sure I’m not squeezing everything out of the raw photo as I can. Saying that, I feel when I’m looking at the 16-35 images that they have a certain clarity and pop to them over what I personally am able to obtain with the 18-35G. It doesn’t help that there’s not many(flickr has like 60 shots, 15 are mine lol) samples from the 18-35G floating around to get a good feel of what the lens can do in more capable hands.

    What is your opinion on the differences in IQ? Also I keep reading that when the 16-35 is corrected, it actually crops to 18mm? I don’t mind paying the premium(the 16mm would be my main reason, IQ secondary)but I can’t see paying it if the first 2-3mm are useless. I have no issues shooting the 18-35G at the extreme edges. Both are pretty sharp on my copy.

    Thanks in advance!

    Justin B.

    • 50
      ) Randall

      I agree 100% see my other post below. I dont think people realize how good nikon is at making each lens unique in its attributes.

      • 51
        ) Justin

        Randall, thank you for your reply.

        The 16-35 f4 vs the 18-35G decision has been for me one of the hardest lens decisions yet.

        I think after having the 18-35G for a few weeks I can say that the photos are top notch but they are lacking that micro contrast/colors(nano?) that the pro glass seems to produce. Your right, some lens produce their own unique look(sigma 30/35/50/85 1.4 comes to mind), and the 16-35 is one of them. I’ll even go against the grain and say that I like the images(gone through 1000′s over the last couple of weeks) from the 16-35 more than the 14-24.

        I’m within my return period and I’m just going to go the 16-35 route and be done wondering if I should have. I’m really drawn to the look that the 16-35 produces so I’m going to get it but the 18-35G is certainly no slouch, it has it’s place for sure.

  19. 46
    ) Pascal

    I was waiting for this great review; thanks Nasim!
    But I’m still undecided between the 16-35 and this one. DXO Mark gives better points to the cheaper 18-35.
    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Lenses/Compare-Camera-Lenses/Compare-lenses/%28lens1%29/373/%28lens2%29/1094/%28brand1%29/Nikkor/%28camera1%29/792/%28brand2%29/Nikkor/%28camera2%29/0
    I guess sharpness is the big winning area for the 18-35.
    I would like to see what the actual color difference is between the 16-35 and the 18-35 given the fact that the 16-35 has Nano coated optics. Would you happen to have images of the same scene shot with both lenses in the same conditions?

    • 48
      ) Photoretouchpro

      I would like to see this also if possible.

      Thanks

    • 49
      ) Randall

      The 18-35mm will not have that “pop”. It will also not produce the same quality of sunstars. The 16-35 has a very special look to the photos that the 18-35 cannot match. That being said I went with the 18-35mm because of the size and weight mainly. I think there was an article the other day talking about how each lens has a unique look and personality. The 16-35mm certainly has this and I think thats what makes it such a special lens.

      • 52
        ) Pascal

        Thanks for your reply Randall.
        Do you notice any difference in terms of sharpness between the images of the 16-35 and those of the 18-35?

        The ideal lens would probably a combination of both lenses… but I guess there’s always a compromise to make. Here are the pro’s the way I see them.
        18-35 pro’s: sharpness, weight and price.
        16-35 pro’s: 2 mm wider (!), Nano coated glass, gold ring lens (built quality)

        VR is not a big thing for me since this lens will be used for landscape most of the time (tripod).

        • 53
          ) Randall

          No. I feel they are just as sharp as each other. Like Nasims test shows a little less sharp in the corners. However the best way to compare is look at samples of both on Flickr again like someone stated in the comments above and the review the 16-35 has a vibrance to the photos that the 18-35 can’t match. Also look at the sunstars (points of light) they are phenomenal in my eyes. Nighttime shots with the 16-35 are gorgoeus and be does help. However the 18-35 is not a cheap lens. It is made well and is probably the lightest zoom lens I have ever used. It is also vary compact. I carry a d600 while traveling and this lens works great for daytime photos of scenery and I can zoom to 35mm take a great photo of my wife with good background blur. Also i have never needed a tripod for 18-35 during the day. This is how I think of these two lenses:

          16-35 pros
          Great color/contrast
          Great nighttime and day and scenery photos

          Con
          Heavy and expensive
          Longer the 18-35

          18-35 pros
          Still had good color (like normal non nano lens)
          Light and compact
          Cheaper (almost half price of 16-35)
          Great for all around photos
          Photos of people looke better to me (good background blur at 35mm)

          Cons
          No VR so high ISO shots will suffer in low light

          • 58
            ) Pascal

            Completely by accident I stumbled upon the 16-35 f4 lens secondhand. The lens was only 2 months old and I had the opportunity to buy it at a very interesting price. The guy who wold it was selling all his photographic equipment due to time restrictions. So I bought it, and man am I glad I did. The 16-35 f4 lens has something… as you say ‘pop’. I don’t know what it is but this lens just produces very nice images even at 35 mm.
            So, if you have the extra budget, I would certainly go for the 16-35. You won’t be disappointed!

  20. 59
    ) Ricardo Vaz

    Nassim, like everyone else here I’m still undecided if i get the 18-35mm or the 17-35 f/4…
    DXO says that 18-35 is sharper than the 17-35mm, do you agree with this? Forget about all the other characteristics of the lenses, sharpnesswise only…

    • 60
      ) Ricardo Vaz

      Sorry, I meant against the 16-35 vr and not the 17-35mm

  21. 61
    ) Marco

    Hello to all,

    I´m thinking buy this lens for use in D610. I´m thinking too buy a circular ND filter like Hoya ND400 or B+W for long exposure. My question is if this circular filters causes vignettes on the corners like happens on 16-35. Anyone uses nd filters with this lens?

    Thanks

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