Last month, I wrote about my purchase of a Nikkor 35mm f/2 (henceforth the 35/2) here. Given that it’s a pretty spartan lens by today’s standards I wondered how well it would perform. I gave it a whirl over the holidays and here is my users report (not a review mind you).
Size and Construction
Compared to its Nikkor brethren, the 35/2 is positively diminutive. Not a pancake, but as close as you’re going to get. It is only 1.7 inches long and 2.5 inches in diameter. On my D700 it looks tiny. Add to that the fact that it only weighs 7.2 ounces and I was mighty pleased. The 35/2 feels solid and well made. Although the filter thread is plastic, the mount and barrel are metal. In addition, I like the “old school” look.
The thing I really missed with the Zeiss 35mm was the ability to use the D700’s sophisticated autofocus system. The Zeiss is manual focus only and does not entirely couple with D700’s contact points. That means no AF and you are limited to A or M mode. No such problems exist with the Nikkor; despite its age it is fully functional. Since the Nikkor 35mm f/2 does not have a silent wave motor, I wondered how fast it would be. The autofocus is driven by the in-camera motor and it's blindingly fast. Just one full turn of the AF screw focuses the lens from infinity to 3'. It very rarely hunts, even in low light. Frankly, its AF is much better than my other two Nikkor's that do feature a silent wave motor. Note that I do not use the AF assist light. No worries here.
In the days of digital only a portion of a camera’s image quality is dictated by the lens. Most of the results you get are a result of the sensor and the onboard processor. That said, today’s cameras are coming very close to out resolving lenses, so that is a real concern. I did not look for chromatic aberration or barrel distortion since Lightroom and ACR has a profile for this lens which will correct those problems. I was concerned about bokeh since I had heard that it was bad. In my shooting to date I have not noticed any problems, but I want to delve into this a bit more.
I was concerned about sharpness and over all look. The Zeiss is very sharp, especially if used on a tripod and the files have a “cool quality” that I like. The new Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 is much warmer than the Zeiss. Insofar as “look” is concerned, the 35/2 is not nearly as warm as the 50. Of course, if you are shooting RAW you can get any look you want.
To my eye the 35/2 is razor sharp so I would agree with other reviewers. Below are a few examples. These are straight out of the camera, unprocessed in any way.
Un-boxing. Pardon the mess.
Un-boxing. Pardon the mess.
Christmas Eve outing to our favorite Italian place.
Note the texture of the stucco.
Elegant dining. It was. Note the old brick wall test.
Our Christmas tree.
You will see some noise due to the higher ISO. Note the photographer in the gold ornament.
To my mind the 35/2 is a real winner and has been living on the D700 since it was purchased. A perfect example of the classic focal length and a steal at under $400. Highly recommended.