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Nikon 18-35mm AF-S Thoughts


Colorado Springs, US
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walkerr Administrator Awarded for his con tributed articles published at the Resources Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in multiple areas Master Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art and science of photography   Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 05th May 2002
Sat 27-Apr-13 02:15 PM | edited Sat 27-Apr-13 10:19 PM by walkerr

I recently picked up one of the new Nikkor 18-35mm AF-S lenses and thought I would share my thoughts regarding it. First some background, I already own a 16-35mm 4.0 AF-S and 14-24mm 2.8 AF-S, so I'm not exactly lacking in the ultra-wide zoom department, so the purchase my seem strange. My rationale was simple: sometimes I like going smaller and lighter, even if I have to forego a bit of focal length range or aperture. Also, I previously owned a 17-35mm 2.8 (which my son now has), so I can offer thoughts regarding how the new lens compares to it, too.

Construction and mechanics: This lens feels much smaller and lighter than the alternatives - even more so than the numbers would indicate. It's not built to the same standards as the others (particularly when compared to the 17-35mm and 14-24mm), but it's fine. The zoom ring is very smooth and precise, and the focusing feel is good. It has a plastic feel (which makes sense, as it's mostly plastic), but it's not objectionable. I'm glad Nikon didn't invert the controls like they've done on many of the less expensive zooms (like the newer 24-85mm AF-S VR): the zoom ring is toward the camera body and the focusing ring is near the filter ring, which is where my hand expects to find them. That's nice. Also, the filter ring is 77mm, which I like as most of my more expensive filters (Singh-Ray variable NDs, polarizers, solid NDs, etc.) are that size.

Optics: I'm extremely pleased with this lens optically. I've used it on my D800e, and it's very sharp and contrasty. It's in the realm of the 16-35mm and 14-24mm and better than my older 17-35mm (which was a very nice lens). It's sharp even wide open, which surprised me. Distortion is present, but milder than my 16-35mm at the wide end, and similarly mild at 35mm. If you apply distortion correction to both lenses, you'll find that the resulting corrected images aren't as far off in equivalent focal length as the millimeters would indicate. You lose more focal length on the 16-35mm to achieve a corrected image than you do with the 18-35mm. The aperture is variable: f/3.5-4.5, so it averages out to be about the same as the 16-35mm 4.0. With modern cameras, a variable aperture isn't a big deal in the field. Chromatic aberration (which gets automatically zapped anyway by most raw converters or cameras) is minimal. Flare seems well controlled.

Other factors: While there are times I'd miss VR with this lens (you can't always use a tripod indoors), its size, weight and performance make up for its absence. Using this lens in conjunction with the 24-85mm AF-S VR and either the 70-300mm VR or 70-200mm 4.0 VR makes for a lightweight FX travel kit that's handy and flexible, even if the 24-85mm is decidedly a step down from the 18-35mm and 70-200mm 4.0 in quality. Most of the time, I'd probably go with the better 24-120mm 4.0 VR in lieu of the 24-85mm for quality reasons, by the way.

Summary: this lens is a winner, especially at its current price point of $750US or £600. It's sharp, pleasant to use and has distinct weight and size advantages over the alternatives. I don't plan on selling either my 16-35mm or 14-24mm, but I'll definitely put this lens to good use. In addition, its size and weight are such that many times I'll take a wide-angle zoom with me rather than leaving it at home because its so painless to carry in a bag. After all, the only good lenses are the ones you have with you.

P.S. I'll post photos later, but they won't be 100% crops. All they would show is that this lens is remarkably sharp across the frame at all apertures. You'll have to trust me on that.

Rick Walker

My photos:

GeoVista Photography

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