The Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8 is Nikon’s light wide angle for the new, mirrorless Z system. One of the strengths of the Z system is the big mount, which makes completely new lens designs possible. That raises high expectations. The 35 mm for the SLR cameras is the Nikon AF-S f/1.8 G. It combines high build and image quality with modest dimensions, low weight and an attractive price. Could the Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8S go one step further? The answer is a convincing yes: the Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8 S is clearly better than the Nikon AF-S 35 mm f/1.8 G ED.
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TEST RESULTS Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S:
Even better than the AF-S 35mm f/1.8 with F mount. With the Z 35mm f/1.8S Nikon scores with high build and image quality.
A bright lens with a 35 mm focal length is very popular among both professional and amateur photographers, for example for travel, street or documentary photography. You can make very beautiful portraits with a little more surroundings in the picture than with a standard lens. But it lends itself just as well to landscape photography or interior shooting. It is just very all-round. In that regard, it is not a surprising choice that Nikon has released the Z 35 mm f/1.8 S after the previously tested Nikon Z 24-70 mm f/4S zoom as the second lens for the Z series.
The Nikon Z cameras have a mount that is much bigger than the old Nikon F mount, and the distance from the mount to the sensor is much shorter. This gives Nikon much more freedom when designing lenses. This is reflected in the Z 24-70 mm f/4 S and the Z14-30 mm f/4 S. They can both be retracted for transport and are therefore much more compact to take with you. You can also use regular screw filters on the Z 14-30 mm f/4 S, which is unique for an ultra-wide angle. But if you expect that the Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8 S is also particularly compact, you will be disappointed. Nikon apparently finds other things more important for the fixed focal points than the most compact dimensions. That could just be image quality. Modern lenses are not designed for the sensors of today, but for the sensors of tomorrow. This means that they must meet stricter requirements than lenses from five or ten years ago. And that almost always means that they get bigger, heavier and contain more glass.
BUILD AND autofocus
In direct comparison with the Nikon AF-S 35 mm f/1.8 G, the Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8 S is bigger, heavier and more expensive. It is approximately 65 grams heavier and an inch longer. But for the owner of a Nikon Z6 or Nikon Z7, those differences disappear, because you need an adapter to use a lens with an F mount on a camera with a Z mount. The Z 35mm is therefore the most compact option on a Nikon Z camera. Both lenses have the same number of lens elements. But where the AF-S has to make do with just one ED element and one aspherical element, the Z 35 mm f/1.8 S has two ED elements and three aspherical elements. The AF-S has 7 aperture blades; the Z 35 mm f/1.8 S has nine. The new Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8 S is therefore clearly a more ambitious design. The lens also feels very solid. The super-wide focus ring is completely free of play, and there is a switch for switching between autofocus and manual focus. The shortest focus setting is 0.25 meters. The autofocus is pretty quiet, fast and accurate.
VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
When you look through the viewfinder, the Z 35 mm f/1.8 S has virtually no distortion. In RAW, however, there appears to be around 1.5% barrel-shaped distortion. For lenses on an SLR camera, that would be a drawback, because you would always see that distortion in the viewfinder. With mirrorless systems, that distortion can already be corrected before taking the shot. Theoretically, such a correction causes loss of image quality. But designers can also make gains in other areas if, for example, they have the bias corrected by software. These days, we see more and more lenses that have to have distortion calculated away but that still score very well. The Z 35 mm f/1.8 S is among these modern designs.
With all the corrections on, the image is virtually distortion-free – both before and after the shot. You can therefore safely use this Z 35mm f/1.8 S for architectural shots.
The Z 35 mm f/1.8 S also has some problems with vignetting. At full aperture, that is about two stops in RAW. After correction, there is approximately one stop left. We don’t find that a big problem. A little vignetting creates a vignette in the photo. That can be very beautiful. It is a matter of personal preference. That correction does come at the expense of the dynamic range in the corners. Unlike with the distortion, correcting vignetting does cost a bit of image quality. When you stop down, the vignetting decreases. At f/2.8 it is only 1.2 stops in RAW and almost a full stop of that comes off in the jpegs.
The Z 35 mm f/1.8 S has Nano Crystal Coating, which generally does its job properly. If you shoot directly against the sun, you can get some small light spots. The contrast does not suffer from this. That remains high. If you shoot against the sun at a small aperture as f/16, you can get very beautiful sun stars with the Z 35 mm f/1.8 S.
The strategy of allowing some vignetting in the lens design (2 stops at full aperture) and distortion (-1.5% without corrections) and correcting this when editing RAW images or saving jpg files produces an almost perfect end result. The center sharpness is excellent at full aperture, and the corners are then also good. All other apertures have slightly better corners but are otherwise completely equal to each other. You don’t have to stop down this lens to get more sharpness. The only gain is more depth of field. The contrast is also very high. The only downside is that the lens suffers from longitudinal chromatic aberrations (LoCAs). You can see that from the colored edges along blurry areas when you take pictures at full aperture. It disappears as soon as you stop down, but then you also get more depth of field and therefore less bokeh.
Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S SAMPLE IMAGES
Curious about the performance of the Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8 S in practice? Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images. The images can be downloaded in full resolution to be viewed at 100%.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S oN A Nikon Z7
DThe Nikon Z 35 mm f/1.8 S is a spectacularly good 35 mm f/1.8 lens that costs more than 800 euros and that is more than worth its price.
Just like the Nikon Z 24-70 mm f/4S zoom lens that we tested earlier, the first fixed focal point for the Nikon Z cameras achieves higher performance than the 35 mm lenses of the F series. The Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8S is an absolute winner when it comes to build and image quality. In comparison with a Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 Art with an adapter, the less bright Nikon is slightly at a disadvantage with regard to bokeh capabilities at full aperture, but they are also matched in terms of sharpness and contrast. The AF of the Nikon Z is a bit faster, and the weight and dimensions of the Nikon Z are a bit more favorable than those of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art. The biggest advantage of the Nikon is of course that it is also much lighter and smaller than the Sigma Art. The real bokeh enthusiast will have to wait a little longer for the Nikon Z 58 mm f/0.95S, which was announced at the introduction of the Nikon Z6 and Z7. But furthermore, this Z 35 mm f/1.8 S is a lens that is definitely worth its money and that is a very attractive option for all Nikon Z owners.