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Lens Reviews

Nikkor 35-70mm/2.8D lens

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs)

Keywords: nikkor, 35_70, 35mm, 70mm

Updated January 2021. This Nikon AF-D lens was introduced back in 1992 and produced until 2005. It got an updated D chip in 1993. The lens replaced the non-D version, the AF 35-70mm/2.8 zoom which was produced October 1987 and discontinued in September 1992. My father got his non-D lens together with his F-801s (N8008s) in 1991 and I was using it quite a lot on both that body, plus a a smaller F-401 (N4004) that I had plus later on my dad's D1. It is still a great lens until this very day: It has excellent optics and is compact. If you can find it used, it can be had for a bargain. It even has a Macro setting for cheapo-on-the-fly-Macro-duties and has a max reproduction rate of 1/7.7 (1/4 at 35mm using the macro setting).

This lens comes from a time when the "trilogy" of the "must-have" zoom lenses were

  • 20-35mm f/2.8D AF
  • 35-70mm f/2.8D AF
  • 80-200mm f/2.8D AF

The Nikon 35-70 2.8D lens

This beauty goes for approx 350 USD (year 2016) on Nikonians in the "Want to sell" forums, at UsedPhotoPro and at e.g. KEH. - WHEN someone sells it! (which may not be too often). As of January 2021, it was not listed on KEH and the large auction site had some going for $60 - 200 USD.

The lens is relatively compact by todays standard weighting 665g (23.5 oz) and it is well built and takes 62mm screw-in filters. The optical quality is very good and you have the push-pull zoom, no longer found on zoom lenses. This zoom mechanism means it can have some zoom creep
The lens has 15 elements in 12 groups and the lens coating is "Nikon Integrated lens Coating" or "NIC" for short. It is a D lens with internal CPU providing distance information to the camera for e.g. better fill flash.
Closest focal distance is 0.6m (2 ft) which goes as close as to 28cm (11 inch) using the macro setting and the diagraphm with 7 blades provides for some lovely unsharp background when wanted.
If the lens has the old twist-lock button for locking the minimum aperture (which you want to do when you are using the aperture setting on your camera) then you have the first generation of the 35-70 which is non-D(!). The D version has the aperture slide-lock, not twist-lock.
The lens came with the LF-1 rear cap, 62mm front cap and the CL-33S lens case.
Optional accessories were the HB-1 lens hood, the HN-22 hood and CL-52 lens pouch.
The lens can be used with teleconverters, such as the old TC-14A and B plus the TC-201S, but the Nikon TC's turn the lens-camera combination into a manual focus system only. You can use e.g. a Kenko Pro 300 TC for AF functionality with this lens.

JRP's verdict of this lens

JRP, my dear partner at Nikonians and the community's co-founder, has the following to say about his AF 35-70mm/2.8D:
"As you can see on the image below, it is a sharp lens and images are rendered contrasty and with warm colors. It has worked for me nicely for landscapes and portraits on film cameras. Later, I've also used it on both digital DX and FX bodies. Seldom used the macro settings though. But, that has to do with my preferences for subjects, not with the capabilities of the lens."

JRP's children on a skiing tour.

JRP still uses his lens occasionally when he does not want to scare subjects with the lens in his bag which he refers to as "my Beast", the 28-70mm f/2.8D AF-S.
The 35-70 is his "kit" lens when he is skiing, going "light" using one body and one lens only.
Sample shot above is from one of these trips with his "kids" using the Nikkor 35-70/2.8D

F4Eman, Gord from Canada, on the Nikkor AF 35-70/2.8

Nikonian F4Eman has the following to say about this lens:
I had this lens in my lineup for about 8 years during the daily grind as a newspaper shooter, and despite the abusing conditions I never had a single issue with it. I can certainly back up the claims that it is a very well built lens.
The only complaint I had, was on the rare occasion I wanted to focus manually, I found it a bit too loose and imprecise. No issues with autofocus though, which was accurate and reasonably quick.
Although the macro feature is quite limited (it engages at 35mm only) it actually worked quite well and I found it really handy to have some macro ability on hand for emergencies without having to pack extra gear.
Overall it's an impressive lens, and a great value these days.

blw, Brian from the US, on this lens

Brian is a long term team member and has the following to add:
This is a fully professional lens, delivering professional-caliber results. Of course, it performs miserably at, say, 24mm :-)
The main disadvantages of this lens are:
  • It's only 35-70, which by modern standards isn't a very wide range.
  • The front element (and more importantly, the filter threads) rotate while focusing. This slightly (marginally, in my opinion) inconveniences the use of a polarizer, and fairly considerably compromises the use of graduated ND filters.
  • Compared to kit lenses such as the 18-55's or even a 24-85 FX, it's a bit heavy for its size, but that's probably balanced by the solid, all-metal construction.
  • It's not an AFS lens, so no focusing motor and therefore no AF on D3000/5000 or some other low end bodies that also don't have a focusing motor.
  • It's not an AFS lens, so no manual override of focus.
  • It's not a ring motor AFS lens, so focus speed is not as quick as it could potentially be. Having said that, I had this lens for many years, and I never missed shots due to the allegedly "agonizingly" slow focusing. In fact, I routinely was able to get it to track go-karts from only a couple of feet distance (therefore very high focus rate slew), as well as pro-level motorsports, as well as active 3-year-olds and sheepdogs. Yes, it could be faster (the 24-120, 24-85, 24-70 and 28-70/f2.8 are all notably faster) but I put that in the same category as the difference between a Porsche 911's top speed at 155mph compared to my car's top speed of "only" 130mph. Yeah, I have had my car at track days a couple of time, and it would definitely have been nice to be faster, but I've also had my car for 15 years and I'm fairly happy to have saved a very large chunk of change on the purchase price.
The advantages are minimal in number, but pretty compelling:
  • IQ may not be quite as good as the best available, but it's pretty darn good. Probably these days it's down to an A-.
  • It's very resistant to flare, although in that situation it's subject to a bit of ghosting and lost contrast. A far better performance than, say, the 60/f2.8 AFS Micro-Nikkor, which despite nano-crystal coating, is terribly subject to highly visible flare. Also better than, although not by as wide a margin, the 24-70/f2.8 AFS.
  • Its price/performance ratio is among the very best, with a sub-$400 price (sometimes under $300) combined with excellent image quality.

Robsb, Robert from the US, on the Nikkor 35-70

Like all the other users I am a big fan of the 35-70 f/2.8 D. I have used mine on a D200, a D700 and now a D810. It is built like a tank and is a lot more compact than a 24-70. It is unlikely you will find a better lens for the price. I stole mine, when I bought a mint copy from the very last production run for $266. I will most likely never sell it. 

Ghosts along the Volga river, by Robsb

This beautiful image was shot by Robsb from a moving boat on the river Volga using the Nikkor 35-70/2.8D
Click for larger image


If you are into getting yourself a very capable, inexpensive Nikkor lens at this focal range, the Nikon 35-70mm/2.8D is a very good choice. I would probably recommend against getting the non-D version since the D is giving you better matrix metering and 3D balanced fill-flash, while being dirt-cheap.

More reading

Don't miss our article on what great value there is in used Nikkor lenses and our Tamron SP 28-75/2.8 review.


Our search engine, NikoScope, delivers quite a few results on 35-70mm Nikon lens discussions.
We discuss this and other Nikkor AF lenses in our Nikkor autofocus lenses forum.
(7 Votes )

Originally written on June 17, 2016

Last updated on January 30, 2021


Don don (DonsD850) on March 29, 2020

Bought mine new in the 1990s. Still use it. (retired F90, F90x, F5) D300 and D850. A wonderful lens. I’ll be moving to the trilogy this year, but will use the 35-70 often too.

Charles E. Miller (hargas funk) on July 29, 2016

This lens is a steal at the going prices. I bought one in like new condition with box and all paper work for $400.00 and find no need for the high priced Nikon 24-70 F2.8.

Charles E. Miller (hargas funk) on June 30, 2016

I found one of these in like new condition in original box and all paperwork. I got about 425.00 in it and I am very happy with the performance and build of this lens. I don't plan on ever selling or trading the lens. Mine is probably one of the last made.

David Benyukhis (Starik) on June 25, 2016

I have this great lens and it has been my first Nikon lens. I was not offered anything for it, because I always hid my gear from silly questions.

Tony Wright (karton) on June 22, 2016

I have had mine for several years and love it for landscape and portraiture. I have also used the macro mode with excellent results. I did an unscientific test using the macro against my 105mm 2,8 macro and on some of the shots the 35-70 gave me better results. I was offered $400 for it and turned it down. I'm keeping it!