Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX Lens Review

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Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX Lens Image Quality & Sample Photos
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens and D5000

I used the AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX with a Nikon D5000 body. The lens balanced well on the compact body, the manual focus ring felt good and it didn’t seem at all out of place even though most D5000s will probably just sport the kits lens. Image quality is very good and for the most part mimicked that of a 50mm lens on a full frame camera. In “brick wall” tests images are sharpest from f/2.8 to f/8. Distortion is typical of what you’d see in a standard 50mm lens – some curvature of straight lines at the edges of the frame – but nothing out-of-the-ordinary that would be a reason to avoid the lens. Chromatic aberration is minimal but can be detected around the edges of the image if you really look for it.

The most obvious area where the 35mm DX Nikkor differs from a 50mm lens is depth-of-field. Even though the 35mm DX lens’ effective angle-of-view is the same as a 50mm lens, optically it’s still a wider lens and so has more depth-of-field. This can be a benefit for portraits since a 50mm lens has a very shallow depth-of-field when it’s wide open so you don’t have to focus as precisely with the 35mm DX. I happened to have a full frame DSLR (Canon EOS 5D Mark II) and 50mm lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM) so I was able to make photos comparing the Nikon 35mm DX lens and the 50mm. The difference between the two lenses is subtle – it’s in the out-of-focus area behind the subject as well as the depth-of-field. Note that the soft circles in the background of the 35mm image are smaller than those in the 50mm photo. The Nikkor photo also has more of the subject’s face in focus – shooting wide open with a true 50mm lens often means nothing but the subject’s eyes are in focus.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX portrait 50mm lens portrait sample
The left image was taken with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens and the right photo was taken with a 50mm lens on a full frame digital SLR. Both photos were taken at 1/400th second and f/1.8. Click on the photos to see larger versions in the gallery.

I also made comparison photos with the Nikon 35mm DX lens and the AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR Nikkor lens that’s included in the D5000 camera kit. The difference between those two images is very obvious in the out-of-focus area behind the subject. The variable aperture kit lens can’t come close to matching the large aperture setting I used with the 35mm DX lens so the background in the zoom lens photo isn’t nearly as soft. This is a great example of why fast aperture prime lenses are more desirable than zooms for portraits and other types of photography where shallow depth-of-field is used to isolate the subject.

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX lens sample photo Nikon 18-55mm kit lens sample photo
The left image was taken with the Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX lens and the right photo was taken with the Nikon AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR kit lens. The left photo was taken at f/2.0 and the right photo was taken at f/5.0, the maximum possible aperture at 35mm with the kit lens. Click on the photos to see larger versions in the gallery.

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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Franglais says:

    Good. I keep on telling people to rush out and buy it. The comparison out out-of-focus with the other lenses is interesting, I didn’t try it. But my favourite image is the cat

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for commenting. And thanks for posting a user review for it, too :-)

    My favorite photo is the cat, too. The combination of usable ISO 1600 and f/1.8 is hard to beat. The only thing missing is VR! The other photos aren’t masterpieces. But hopefully they demonstrate why you’d want to use a fast aperture prime lens. And I was also very curious to see how the 35mm DX lens compared to the 50mm at full frame. It compares very well, although the bokeh isn’t quite as nice. The tradeoff is the little bit more depth-of-field you get from the 35mm lens makes focusing easier when the lens is wide open.

    We don’t have very many sample photos in the gallery from the 35mm DX lens. I went out and took some more last night just to add to the pool. If you have some, please upload to the gallery so we have a better selection of samples. I hadn’t included a link to all the 35mm DX photos in the gallery because there weren’t enough. If we can add a few more I’ll add that link.

  • Paul B says:

    Indeed have just picked up a D5000 with kit and am debating whether the 35mm f/1.8 is necessary/essential but given my taste for natural light and resistance to using a flash I think this is probably a must-have. Thanks for the review. And, agree the cat photo was exactly what I was looking in demonstrating the advantages of the lens! (and is a nice photo)

  • Tim G says:

    I’ve had one of these for a few months now and use it on my D300. Overall I find it excellent, and the only weak points for me are the lack of a focus scale and the slightly rough feel when focusing manually, neither of which are a major problem. The results are far, far better than my 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 and noticably better than my 50mm f/1.8 or 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR. I will be ebaying the 50mm as I just don’t use it any more.

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