Monday, January 2, 2017

Reviewing the Nikon Nikkor 35mm AF-S f/1.4 G

Happy New Year! New year, new photographic opportunities. Let's begin 2017 with a review. Today we'll take a look at the Nikon Nikkor 35mm AF-S f/1.4 lens. As I'd mentioned here, 35mm feels a bit weird on FX for my personal preferences. But your mileage may vary. At the end of this article I'll also offer you some similar alternatives.

Bokeh might be the best thing about this lens

+ Optical quality is flawless, with one caveat (read below)
+ For an AF-S lens, manual focus is superb - though still not as great as in an AI-S lens
+ Sturdy, it inspires confidence in terms of construction quality...

- ... but plastic is plastic. At this price, I want my lenses to also feel sturdy
- Distortion characteristics are the only blotch on optical performance. Not excessive, but quite complex; difficult to remove
- Price and value. You pay a lot for what you get (which might or might not be important to you)

Intended Users
Great for:
  • live music, performance, etc. in dark theaters
  • street photography, especially in low light
  • Candid portraiture (but not head-and-shoulder portraits)

Not for:
  • DX. Meaningless, get the AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 instead
  • Realistically, how many of you need to spend that much money on a 35mm f/1.4 lens? Check out some alternatives below
  • f/1.4 requires focus discipline, even with autofocus. I don't recommend this (or any f/1.4) lens for beginners.
This was taken inside an almost completely dark stable, and it's where the f/1.4 becomes really useful

Final Verdict
Like with so many other lenses I've reviewed, it all boils down to value. And that's why - I'd like to believe - AmateurNikon tries to help you reach a decision. Visit most review sites out there, they'll all agree: The Nikon Nikkor 35mm AF-S f/1.4 is a stunning piece of glass, the absolute best in its category. I don't challenge that. My issue is with its price & value, particularly because these lenses are bought by people and are used in real life. If it's someone else paying and all I had to shoot was diagrams and charts, then heck, yeah, this is the best. But real photography (and real life) is not like that.

So, let's take a snapshot-look at two alternatives:

Nikon Nikkor AI-S 35mm f/1.4
Much cheaper; good optically from f/2.8 and smaller; manual focus; rather poor wide-open

Samyang 35mm f/1.4
Much cheaper; excellent optically even wide-open; manual focus; superb ergonomics

So, bottom line:
- if money is not a problem and you just want the best there is, get the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.4
- if money is to be considered and you don't mind manual focus, I'd pick the Samyang 35mm f/1.4
- if you're both budget-constrained and you want autofocus, you'll have to forego f/1.4. Look at the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, which is a great lens that won't cost you an arm and a leg

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