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.
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.
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!
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.