Nikon 40mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Center Frame
The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is also a low-cost DX lens that is suitable for everyday photography. It is both faster (f/1.8 maximum aperture vs f/2.8) and cheaper than the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G. In this comparison, I wanted to see how the two compare against each other in sharpness tests, both in the center and in the extreme corners.
I always like to check how lenses with different maximum aperture compare wide open. Let’s see how the 35mm fares against the 40mm at its maximum aperture of f/1.8 (Left: Nikon 40mm f/2.8G @ f/2.8, Right: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G @ f/1.8):
As can be seen from the above crops, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G catches up with the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G at f/2.8.
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Corner Frame
Since the wide open corner performance of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is weak, I decided to only show both lenses at the same aperture of f/2.8 (Left: Nikon 40mm f/2.8G @ f/2.8, Right: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G @ f/2.8):
Even stopped down, the corner performance of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is no match to the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G. In addition to sharpness problems, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G clearly shows a heavy amount of lateral chromatic aberrations, while the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G is much cleaner with barely visible CA in the corners.
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Conclusion
As can be clearly seen from the above image crops, the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G can yield much sharper images than the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G at large apertures. The good news for the 35mm f/1.8G is that it quickly catches up with the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G in the center when stopped down to the same aperture, but needs to be stopped down to f/5.6 and smaller in the corners to show comparable results. This shows that both lenses were optimized for different purposes. While the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G is a macro/portrait lens, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is a normal lens for everyday needs, so we are comparing a specialized lens with a general-purpose lens. Except for vignetting, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is weaker than the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX Micro in many optical comparisons, including distortion, chromatic aberration and bokeh. Its obvious advantages are larger maximum aperture of f/1.8 and cheaper price; but the question I have already gotten from many of our readers is – which one is a better buy? It is not easy to answer this question, because we are not comparing apples to apples here. The 5mm focal length difference is huge and it felt like 40mm was a little too long for everyday photography when I was testing the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G. On the other hand, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is very sharp in the center wide open, giving more opportunities to shoot in low-light situations. Therefore, I would say that you have to choose your priorities when thinking which one to buy. If you are into photographing details and macro, occasionally taking pictures of people, the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX Micro is an excellent choice. If you just want a general-purpose lens with good low-light capabilities for everyday photography, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX is a better choice in my opinion.
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.4G Center Frame
While testing the AF-S Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G DX I decided to compare it against my Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens. In order to get a similar field of view, I had to move my setup back and forth to be able to provide a more or less fair comparison between these lenses.
Let’s see what happens when both lenses are wide open (Left: Nikon 40mm f/2.8G @ f/2.8, Right: Nikon 50mm f/1.4G @ f/1.4):
On a high resolution DX body, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G seems to out-resolve the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G wide open. The Nikon 40mm f/2.8G also has visible chromatic aberration in comparison. How about when both lenses are at the same aperture of f/2.8:
Here we can clearly see that the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is much sharper in the center when it is stopped down by two stops to f/2.8. Now let’s stop down both lenses to f/4 and see if it will make a difference:
The difference is now bigger, but interestingly, the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G is still not even as sharp as the 50mm f/1.4G at f/2.8. Both lenses get very close only at around f/8.
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.4G Corner Frame
As I have demonstrated before, the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G has very good corner sharpness and the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is no match wide open. What if we stop it down to f/2.8? Let’s take a look:
The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G gets much better when stopped down to f/2.8, but it still cannot quite reach the resolving power of the Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G DX.
The differences pretty much go away only when the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is stopped down to f/5.6 and smaller.
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.4G Conclusion
Being almost twice as expensive and 10mm longer in focal length, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G performs very well against the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G in the center, yet not so well in the corners. This time we are comparing a macro lens with a portrait lens and once again, it is not an apples to apples comparison. When it comes to other lens characteristics, both have their strengths and weaknesses – the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G has less vignetting (at f/2.8), great center sharpness and less chromatic aberration, while the 40mm f/2.8G DX has better bokeh and less distortion.
The biggest strength of the 50mm f/1.4G is its longer focal length and larger maximum aperture, which translate to better low-light capabilities along with shallower depth of field and thus better subject isolation capabilities. Hence, if you are after a good portrait lens, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is a better choice (actually the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G would be a better choice in my opinion, since it is even better than the 50mm f/1.4G) than the 40mm f/2.8G. For photographing macro subjects, the 40mm f/2.8G is the obvious choice. For everyday photography on a DX sensor, on the other hand, the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G would be a better candidate than the 50mm, although I believe that its focal length is still a little too long for that purpose, making the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G the most suitable of the three.
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