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.
Any comments on how it compares to the older 18-35 AF-D lens that it replaces? I've had the old AF-D version for a long time but it remained in storage during my DX days. Now using it again with D800 and I am a little frustrated with the pronounced corner softness. From what you are reporting the corner sharpness issue seems solved?
I was about to upgrade to the 16-36VR when the new 18-35G AF-S was anounced. Bit of a dilemma. I like to take an ultrawide zoom on backpacking trips along with my D800 and 24-120VR.....so weight is an issue. I like the construction and the extra 2mm at the wide end of the 16-35 but it is also heavier and a lot more bulky.
Very good review! The only thing you left out are the corner sharpness, which is the one weakness of this lens. The old version of the 18-35 was pretty bad in the corners, even at f/8, from 18mm to about 24mm. The new version is considerably better, but the extreme corners still do not get sharp at f/8, at about the same focal range (18-24mm). I returned mine since this wasn't acceptable to me for landscape use (and I have better options in this range).
I don't see this problem with my copy. It's actually good even wide open, which was a surprise to me. There's a slight drop-off, but not that much. It's quite a bit better in that respect than my copy of the new 24-85mm VR.
Thanks for the review. I put in an order for the 16-35mm a few days ago and pretty much forgot that Nikon came out with an 18-35mm until I saw the comparison on DxoMark. I was actually surprised, that DxoMark rated the 18-35mm (Dxo score = 26) over the 16-35mm (Dxo score =23). I would probably swing for the 14-24mm, but being able to use filters is a must.
I'd love to see comparison shots of both the 18-35mm and 16-35mm if you get a chance.
Fri 21-Jun-13 09:31 AM | edited Fri 21-Jun-13 09:39 AM by walkerr
In practical terms, they are very similar and both perform well on a high res body. I continue to be pleased with the light and compact 18-35mm.
This article on Dpreview includes comparisons with the 16-35mm and 14-24mm, and as an owner of all three, it aligns very closely with my experience. It also includes a comparison with the old AF-D lens, and the new one is clearly much better. I find these comparisons more meaningful than the single number DxO scores.
If it were me, I'd go with the 16-35mm since I've found VR to be handy on occasion when I can't use a tripod (interiors of building can be a good example), but it's close. You'll still have a bit wider view even after corrections and for some subjects, you can skip distortion correction and get an even wider view.
If budget or a smaller size and lighter weight is important, I'd go with the 18-35mm. Neither of these lenses is a bad choice for general photography. In fact, both are very good. It's just a matter of what you want to prioritize.
Easy decision. The 18-35mm is much sharper once you're out of the central part of the frame. You don't even need to be in the corners to see a dramatic difference. BTW, I have an 18mm 2.8 AF-D, so this is first-hand experience.