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Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G Pro Level Prime Lens Review Roundup

2013-03-05 11:36
3/5/2013: Add review by PhotoZone (DX).
4/30/2011: Add review by NikonRumors.
4/19/2011: Add review by SLRgear.
2/15/2011: Add review by PhotoZone (FX).
3/16/2011: Add review by CameraLabs.

On September 15 2010, Nikon announced the D7000 DSLR camera, as well as two new pro level lenses - the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G and AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II lenses. The 35mm f/1.4 and 200mm f/2 VR II produce sharp results with excellent clarity and color reproduction whether capturing still images or recording HD video.  With the addition of these two lenses, Nikon has introduced a total of nine new NIKKOR lenses in 2010.

The new AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 lens combines a 35mm perspective with an ultra-fast f/1.4 aperture, and completes the lineup of f/1.4G lenses including the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G, the AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G and the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G. This wide-angle lens is great for weddings, architecture, travel and photo journalism. The build of the 35mm f/1.4 features 10 optical elements in seven groups with one aspherical lens element that eliminates coma and other types of aberration. A Rear Focus (RF) system provides smooth and fast autofocus while eliminating front barrel rotation.  A refined manual focus driving mechanism is adopted to reduce focus time lag and improve operational ease in M/A mode. Here's the lens technical specifications:

  • Focal length: 35mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.4
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Lens construction: 10 elements in 7 groups (1 aspherical lens element, including elements with Nano Crystal Coat)
  • Angle of view: 63° (44° with Nikon DX-format D-SLR cameras)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.3 m
  • Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.2X
  • No. of diaphragm blades: 9 (rounded)
  • Filter attachment size: 67mm
  • Dimensions: Approximately 83 mm (maximum diameter) X 89.5 mm (distance from the camera's lens-mount flange)
  • Weight: Approximately 600 g
  • Supplied accessories: 67mm snap-on Front Lens Cap LC-67, Rear Lens Cap LF-4, 

The Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G lens is listed for retail at $1,799.95 and currently selling at around $1,799, via Amazon.com. Here's the review roundup of the lens:

PhotoZone, gave an optical quality rating of 3/5 (DX): "The lens delivers very good resolution in the image center wide open. Stopped down do f/2, the center resolution is already excellent and stays on a very high level down to f/8. From f/11 onwards, diffraction significantly reduces the resolution figures. Borders and corners are less impressive with just fair resolution wide open. Stopping down lifts the resolution to higher levels in both areas. At f/4 the lens delivers very good resolution across the whole DX image frame. The lens showed some focus shift when stopping down (residual spherical aberration). Chromatic aberrations (color shadows at harsh contrast transitions) are quite pronounced, reaching almost 2.5 pixels at the image border wide open. Stopping down reduces the amount a little, but even at f/11 there are almost 2 pixels of CA left.

The Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4 G is able to deliver impressive results on our DX test camera, however it is not without flaws. The image center is very sharp right from the largest aperture, but the borders and corners are quite soft wide open. The lens needs to be stopped down a bit to delivers good to very good resolution across the frame. Distortion is no issue on DX cameras. Vignetting is a bit pronounced wide open, but that's typical behaviour for such a fast lens. Stopping down slightly resolves this issue. Typical for a fast prime, some bokeh fringing is present at larger apertures. The amount of CAs at the image border is quite high. In addition, the bokeh is somewhat nervous wide open. However, this issue can be solved by stopping down to f/2.8 or beyond (if the subject or the available light allows). As you'd expect from a professional grade lens, the build quality is on a very high level including sealing against dust and moisture. AF is a bit slower than with other high-end lenses, but still fast enough for most applications. To sum it up: despite some issues the lens works quite well as a normal lens on the D7000. A very expensive normal lens, though."... [Source]

NikonRumors: "The lens has the regular M/A and M focus selector. The lens hood HB-59 is included, it locks tightly and it's not easy to accidentally unlock it. The 35mm f/1.4 lens is one of Nikon's "gold ring" products. The built quality is excellent (similar to the 24mm and 85mm f/1.4G lenses). The focus ring is smooth. Some 35mm f/1.4G users have complained that the auto focus is slow, but I could not find a reasonable way to test and prove this statement. Similar to the 85mm f/1.4G, the 35mm Nikkor does not have an ED glass (the 24mm f/1.4 lens has two ED glass elements). I am not sure why Nikon is still including a DOF scale on their lenses. Only one aperture (f/16) is listed, which is not very helpful.

In 2010 Nikon finally refreshed its fast primes lineup. The new f/1.4G Nikkor lenses are all good performers. I believe your selection should be based on your shooting preferences (some may argue that the 50mm f/1.4G is not on the same level as the 24, 25 and 85 versions). My personal prime lenses choice is a combination of the 24mm f/1.4G + 50mm f/1.4G + tele. Another option will be: 35mm f/1.4G + 85mm f/1.4G + tele. Having all four f/1.4G lenses (24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm) is an overkill in my opinion because of the involved cost, extra weight and the fact that the focal lengths are too close to each other. If I have to get only one prime Nikkor lens, my choice would be the Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G."... [Source]

SLRgear, gave an users' overall rating of 9.5/10: "Mounted on the sub-frame D300s, the 35mm f/1.4G produced soft results wide open at f/1.4. Slightly sharper performance was obtained by stopping down to f/2, showing decent sharpness in the center and tapering off to light softness in the corners. It isn't until f/2.8 that we start seeing very sharp results throughout the frame, with only very light softness in the corners; stopping down further provides only marginal improvements, as maximal sharpness is obtained at f/4 and onwards. Diffraction limiting begins to appear on the D300s at f/8, but it isn't until the lens is fully stopped-down at f/16 that there's any practical impact on sharpness, where it still produces sharper results than when used wide open at f/1.4. Results were similar when the lens was mounted on the full-frame D3x, with some interesting twists. At f/1.4 the lens is still fairly soft across the frame, but with more pronounced softness in the corners. Stopped down to f/2, there's a slight improvement in central sharpness - the pocket of sharpness in the center improves - but this is at the expense of corner softness, which also increases slightly. Continuing to stop down this lens on the D3x improves performance, as excellent results begin to appear from f/2.8 onwards. However it's interesting to note at f/2.8 and f/4 that both the central region and the extreme corners are sharp, but there is light softness in the areas inbetween. It probably isn't enough to get too worried about, but for images where edge-to-edge sharpness is paramount, you'll want to stop down to f/5.6, the sharpest aperture for this lens, where the effect is minimal.

For this lens, it comes down to essentially one qualification. If you're a Nikon shooter who needs the absolute fastest 35mm lens, either for light-gathering ability or for the ability to put the background way out of focus, then for $1,800 it's either the Carl Zeiss or the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G. It's not perfect - we had hoped that $1,800 would buy a bit sharper performance at f/1.4 - an aperture this lens will probably spend most of its time set to - but it's still very good, and when stopped down a bit, becomes quite excellent indeed."... [Source]

CameraLabs: "Having done all my shots over the holidays with the new lens I can give you some insight into the overall performance and how my findings so far reveal themselves in the images.  Sharpness/contrast: Overall contrast is very good even wide open and with very bright backgrounds like snow. Sharpness and micro-contrast is reduced at f1.4 and f2.0 (you have to look at 66% or 100% magnification on your monitor to see it) but performance from f2.8 onwards is impeccable on a D300 or D700. And this holds true whether you shot close-up or at infinity. I'm very impressed. Focus: Focus speed is never an issue for me, although the lens takes some time to "recover" to infinity from a very close-up shot (30 cm distance or so). Focus accuracy is of much greater interest to me especially with an f/1.4 lens where every inch of misfocus is immediately punished. Well, what can I say: up to now I had no real outliers although I was provoking trouble by using the lens wide open as often as possible. Even when shooting Siemens-stars and letting the AF find focus from infinity or close-up I only had few cases where the combo couldn't find good focus or behaved better when approaching from one side than from the other. No problems under low light either. So everything seems OK. 

Longitudinal CA: Well, this is the only gripe I have with this lens, as it easily shows up when you use the lens wide open with high contrast targets. Vignetting: Vignetting is clearly visible even on a DX body. I have not the best tools to measure it but I'd guess it's around -1EV in the corners at standard settings on a D300 at infinity. At minimum focus distance vignetting is reduced to only half of that value."... [Source]

PhotoZone, gave an optical quality rating of 4/5 (FX): "The AF-S 35/1.4 is cleary designed with the professional photographer in mind, featuring a very solid construction mostly made of metal (including magnesium alloy parts) as well as dust and weather sealing. The rubberized focus ring is nicely damped and operates smoothly. We're glad to report that the focus unit follows the focus ring immediately and without any delay, even when changing the focus direction. The AF-S 35 has a rear focus group so its length remains constant regardless of the focus setting and the front element does not rotate. Using a polarizer is therefore no problem. Fast lenses tend to suffer from high vignetting on full frame cameras and the AF-S 35/1.4 is no exception to this rule. In fact, with almost 2.2 EV wide open the amount of vignetting is exceptional (in a negative sense) and higher than on any other lens we've measured so far on the D3x. Such a huge amount of corner darkening is of course clearly visible in the final image. Stopping down helps to reduce vignetting, but even at f/2 the amount of light falloff remains rather high. From f/2.8 onwards vignetting is no longer field-relevant, except for really critical scenes.

It took Nikon a while to get into gear regarding their fast primes, but at least in case of the AF-S 35/1.4 G the result is impressive and was worth the wait. The image center is very sharp right from the largest aperture, the borders and corners follow only slightly behind and offer very good sharpness slightly stopped down. Distortion as well as CAs are moderate on a full format DSLR. Typical for such a fast prime, some LoCAs are present at larger apertures. However, the lens also has two issues: there is a severe amount of light falloff at large apertures. In addition, the bokeh is somewhat nervous wide open. However, both issues can be solved by stopping down to f/2.8 or beyond (if the subject or the available light allows). The build quality is on a very high level including sealing against dust and moisture. AF is a bit slower than expected, but still fast enough for most applications. So, despite minor issues, the lens is no doubt highly recommended! At least to those who don't mind its rather high price."... [Source]

PhotographyBLOG, gave a rating of 4.5/5: "Optically, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G is a stunningly good lens. Sharpness is remarkably high at f/1.4, and simply excellent from f/2 onwards. Lateral chromatic aberrations are kept to a minimum, and the fast lens' ability to separate the subject from the background is outstanding for a wide-angle optic. Bokeh is soft and creamy, with only a bit of longitudinal CA spoiling the effect here and there. The only major criticism that could be levelled against the lens in the optical department is a heavy dose of vignetting, particularly wide open - but that is to be expected from a fast, wide-angle lens on an FX digital body.

Mechanical quality is great for a modern lens, although not quite as good as the old, manual-focus Nikkor 35mm f/1.4. Which brings us to the question of who should buy it and why, especially given that at $1800, the new lens is some 60% more expensive than the old one (and at 600 grams, it's 50% heavier too). One of the reasons is better sharpness and contrast wide open, and the other is, obviously, auto-focus. As we have pointed out in the review, auto-focus is fast and quiet on the AF-S 35mm f/1.4G, but you may experience front- or back-focusing issues on certain camera bodies, so do yourself a favour and check focus accuracy within a day or two of receiving the lens. The kind of extreme front-focusing we have experienced is probably rare, but a slight misalignment between the lens and the AF sensors of your camera might still occur.

The lens is otherwise a great choice for users of Nikon FX digital and film SLRs, and the focal length makes sense on a DX body too (where the angle of view shrinks from 63° to 44°, which is very close to that of a "normal" prime). However, if you are a DX shooter with no plans to go full-frame any time soon, the much smaller and lighter AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G is a lot more rational choice at less than 1/9th the price."... [Source]

KenRockwell, gave an overall rating of 4/5: "This Nikon 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S is Nikon's sharpest FX 35mm lens, which makes perfect sense, as it's also Nikon's newest and most expensive. You don't need me to tell you this; this new 35/1.4 doesn't disappoint optically. It disappoints mechanically. Its exterior is all plastic (the mount is metal), which makes it much less pleasant to use than Nikon's first 35mm f/1.4. This new lens' exterior is built only to near-pro standards; I'd be uncomfortable paying $1,800 for this when Nikon's other 35mm f/1.4 is built so much better for a fraction of the price.

Buy this lens only for 35mm film or FX. This 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S is a very expensive professional FX and 35mm film lens. It costs ten times as much as the 35mm f/1.8 DX, which does exactly the same thing on DX. This lens costs so much more because it is limited production, has to cover a much larger format, and is almost a stop faster. It's not any sharper than the 35/1.8 DX, but these other factors multiply to make this lens ten times as expensive as the DX 35mm, and three times as heavy. This lens is for shooting film in low-light, and for shooting action in low-light on digital. It lets you shoot at ISOs of one-quarter what you'd need at f/2.8, or one-eighth of what you'd need with the 16-35mm VR. Pros have been expecting this lens for a long time, as Nikon's only 35mm f/1.4 lens since 1970 has been the manual focus 35/1.4 AI-s. This 35mm f/1.4 G, along with Nikon's new 24mm f/1.4 G, 50mm f/1.4 G AF-S and 85mm f/1.4 G AF-S, are extremely welcome additions for professional photographers who don't shoot no stinking 28-300mm zooms. For most people shooting digital of still subjects in anything brighter than moonlight, or with a tripod, these f/1.4 lenses aren't needed. You get more in-focus stopped-down, but for photographing people or anything that moves in dim light, f/1.4 lenses have always been needed."... [Source]

User review by Michael Erlewine, gave a rating of 5/5: "I have many of Nikon's finest lenses (+/- 45), and most of the great ones in the macro and normal shooting range. I am primarily a macro and close-up photographer, but I have a bunch of the best wide angle lenses, as well (Nikon 14-24mm, Nikon 24mm PC-E, etc.). Although I do have an older 35mm Nikon lens (35mm f/2.8 AF K-Series), I guess I never used it all that much or managed to properly appreciate it. Not so with this new 35mm/G lens. Of course all of you who have used a 35mm as a mainstay know this already, but what I am finding out to my delight is that the 35mm focal length is all about context, context, context. It is just wide enough to put whatever subjects I have in mind in context. I love it. On FX camera bodies, it is perfect for people photos. Probably not worth the cash for DX bodies. 

And although perhaps not as sharp as some of my APO lenses (Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO Lanthar, Leica 100mm APO Elmarit R, Coastal Optics 60mm APO), this lens is still very, very sharp. In fact, the overall grab of the lens makes me forget about sharpness, which for me is remarkable. I never forget about sharpness. As a macro photographer I am finding I can get real close (12 inches and some of that is lens) and feature a flower or whatever and still have enough of the surrounding environment to tell a story. I really like the story-telling quality of the 35mm F/1.4G. Sorry to blather on, but I never expected to get such a hit off this lens. I am going to really use this lens. "... [Source]

Video review by DigitalRev:


Sample photos from Flickr:



Show full Press Release

2010 Is The "Year Of NIKKOR" As Nikon Announces Two New Pro-Level Lenses To Its Legendary Lineup: An Unprecedented Nine NIKKOR Lenses Released In 2010

NIKKOR AF-S 35mm f/1.4G and AF-S 200mm f/2G ED VR II Provide Photographers with Versatility and Exceptional Optical Quality 

MELVILLE, NY (September 15, 2010) - Today, Nikon Inc. announced the addition of two new pro level lenses to the legendary NIKKOR line. The new AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G and AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II lenses deliver the performance, reliability and stunning image quality that photographers come to expect in a NIKKOR lens. The 35mm f/1.4 and 200mm f/2 VR II produce sharp results with excellent clarity and color reproduction whether capturing still images or recording HD video. With the addition of these two lenses, Nikon has introduced a total of nine new NIKKOR lenses in 2010, reinforcing Nikon's role as the world leader in optics.

"The new AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 and 200mm f/2 VR II are welcomed upgrades to two very popular NIKKOR lenses," said Lisa Osorio, general manager of marketing at Nikon Inc. "Building on the success of their predecessors, these new lenses incorporate improved cutting-edge features such as VR II Image Stabilization, Nano-Crystal Coat and Silent Wave Motor technology, which help photographers take their still and video work to new heights."

Exclusive core NIKKOR technologies play a fundamental role in the design of these two new lenses, and both feature Nikon's exclusive Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology for quiet, fast and accurate autofocus performance. The optical construction of each lens utilizes Nikon's proprietary Nano-Crystal Coat to minimize flare - both internally as well as from backlit subjects. Further ensuring exceptional image integrity is Nikon's Super Integrated Coating (SIC) for color consistency and reduced flaring. Each lens also incorporates a nine blade diaphragm, to help achieve a dramatic separation between subject and background with a natural out of focus area (bokeh) coveted by today's image-makers.

AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G: Updating the Classic Wide-Angle Lens
The new AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 is an update of one of Nikon's most respected and popular NIKKOR lenses. The lens combines a natural yet versatile 35mm perspective with an ultra-fast f/1.4 aperture, and completes the lineup of f/1.4G lenses announced in the past year, including the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G, the AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G and the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G. The f/1.4 maximum aperture allows photographers to shoot handheld in low-light and provides dramatic separation between subject and a softened background. This classic wide-angle provides photographers with an intimate lens perfect for weddings, architecture, travel and photo journalism whether shooting high quality still photographs or video capture using Nikon's D-Movie feature.

In a wide variety of photographic situations, both FX and DX-format shooters will enjoy the benefits of extra-bright f/1.4 viewing and superb image quality. When mounted on a Nikon DX-format or an FX-format D-SLR within the DX Crop Mode, the 35mm f/1.4 has an angle of view that is equivalent to a focal length of 52.5mm in FX/35mm format. The build of the 35mm f/1.4 features 10 optical elements in seven groups with one aspherical lens element that eliminates coma and other types of aberration even when shooting at the widest available aperture. A Rear Focus (RF) system provides smooth and fast autofocus while eliminating front barrel rotation and two focus modes are available - M/A (manual-priority autofocus) and M (manual focus). A refined manual focus driving mechanism is adopted to reduce focus time lag and improve operational ease in M/A mode.

AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II: Telephoto Lens with Incredible Low-Light Performance
The 200mm f/2, like its predecessor, is an incredibly fast aperture telephoto lens that incorporates Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) II Image Stabilization system. The VR system provides up to four stops of correction to assist in creating blur-free images while shooting hand-held, or for when capturing D-Movie video content.

Additionally, the NIKKOR 200mm f/2 VR II incorporates an Internal Focusing (IF) system that allows movement of the optical elements within the lens barrel and does not change barrel length. Three focus modes are featured, with an A/M mode added to the conventional M/A and M modes. The optical construction consists of 13 optical elements in nine groups including three Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements and one Super ED glass element that effectively minimize chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings. Also included is a Tripod Detection Mode, which automatically compensates for minute vibrations when mounted on a tripod and allows users to keep VR image stabilization on and active - even when the camera and lens are mounted on a tripod. The 200mm f/2 is optimal for all types of shooting including weddings, portraits, sports, nature, and fashion due to its quick response and detailed lens design.

Price and Availability
The versatile AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G lens will be available in mid-November with an MSRP* of $1799.95. The new telephoto AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II will be available early October for an MSRP* of $5999.95. For more information, please visit www.nikonusa.com.

*MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) listed only as a suggestion. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time.

About the NIKKOR brand
With a comprehensive assortment of FX and DX-format lenses and focal lengths, from the ultra-wide 10-24mm to the super telephoto 600mm VR, Nikon photographers have come to rely upon the NIKKOR core technologies that contribute to their optical superiority. NIKKOR is the brand name for Nikon's photographic lenses, which are precision crafted to the most exacting standards in Nikon's own glassworks. In 1933, Nikon marketed its first camera lens under the NIKKOR brand name, the "Aero-NIKKOR" for aerial photography applications. Since then, NIKKOR has been used as a brand name for Nikon's lenses that symbolizes durability, high image quality and optical excellence.

About Nikon
Nikon, At the Heart of the Image™. Nikon Inc. is the world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and photo imaging technology and is globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance for its award-winning consumer and professional photographic equipment. Nikon Inc. distributes consumer and professional digital SLR cameras, NIKKOR optics, Speedlights and system accessories; Nikon COOLPIX® compact digital cameras; COOLSCAN® digital film scanners; 35mm film SLR cameras; Nikon software products and Nikon sports and recreational optics. For more information, dial (800) NIKON-UX or visit http://www.nikonusa.com, which links all levels of photographers to the Web's most comprehensive photo learning and sharing communities.


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