Nikon 35mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 35mm f/2.8 AiS
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G compares to the older Nikon 35mm f/2.8 AiS:
As you can see, the Nikon 35mm f/2.8 AiS does not stand a chance against the modern Nikon 35mm f/1.4G. The latter is sharper at all apertures, whether you are looking at the center, mid-frame or corner performance.
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 35mm f/1.8G
How about the more recent Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED version of the same lens? It is a newer lens with optics that are arguably more optimized for high-resolution digital sensors. Let’s take a look:
When I first saw the above figures, I honestly had a hard time believing that the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G would do so much worse in comparison. Its wide open performance at f/1.4 is rather weak and the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED still outperforms it at f/1.8, especially in mid-frame and corners. The biggest difference, however, can be seen when both lenses are stopped down to f/4 – the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G seems to be noticeably weaker in the center and about the same in mid-frame and corners.
At the same time, you should keep in mind that it is common for f/1.8 lenses to outperform f/1.4 lenses in sharpness alone, as we had previously seen with other Nikkor primes. Expensive pro-level f/1.4 primes aim for better aesthetics, colors, microcontrast, bokeh and superior handling of distortion, vignetting and CA, so they are not typically optimized to yield maximum sharpness. Without a doubt, the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G produces more aesthetically pleasing images than the 35mm f/1.8G ED and that’s what you pay the big bucks for.
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G vs Zeiss 35mm f/2.0
While most of what I feel about the Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2 is provided in a separate review, there are a few things I want to point out in this review, especially when compared against the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G. The Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2 was the first Zeiss lens I used on a Nikon DSLR body. I always wanted to try one, but the fact that all Zeiss lenses for Nikon are manual focus was a show stopper. I just did not want to deal with manual focus on fast prime lenses, especially when photographing people. At the same time, I heard a lot of good things about Zeiss for landscape photography. Since 35mm is a good focal length for all kinds of photography, I decided to give Zeiss a try and see how I liked it. My first surprise was when I unboxed the Zeiss – it felt so different construction-wise. The all-metal body of the Zeiss makes it one heavy and tough lens – the plastic exterior of the Nikon 35mm feels cheap in comparison.
Anyway, let’s see how the Zeiss compared against the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G in my lab tests.
As you can see, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G certainly performs worse than the Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2, especially at large apertures like f/2. Both lenses do quite well when stopped down to f/4.0 and smaller, but you can see that there is quite a gap between the center and the corner performance – that’s due to pronounced field curvature the two lenses exhibit.
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