Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S lens

      Photo Review 9.0

      In summary

      Fitted to the Z7 camera body, this lens is great for street photography, being fast, weather-resistant and providing wide enough coverage to encompass some of the subjects’ environment while enabling the photographer to get reasonably close to subjects.

      Its fast maximum aperture and superior wide-aperture performance are advantageous when shooting in dim lighting and when subject isolation is desired.

       

      Full review

      The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S lens is the first prime lens to be released for Nikon’s new Z-mount mirrorless system. Covering a similar angle of view to the human eye, it has a natural-looking perspective that suits a wide variety of subject types. Its near-silent autofocusing makes it ideal for shooting video and its fast maximum aperture and nine-bladed iris diaphragm promise attractive bokeh, regardless of the lighting.


      Side view of the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S lens without ends caps or lens hood. (Source: Nikon.)

      The ‘S’ designation refers to a new line of lenses designed to achieve better optical performance than conventional lenses. The new lenses include a programmable control ring and functions that compensate for focus breathing (the shifting of the angle of view when focus is adjusted) and ensure quiet operation and smooth exposure control make them well suited to movie recording.

      The optical design of this lens has been developed to minimise coma or chromatic, spherical and axial aberrations and reduce flare and ghosting, even at the edges of the frame. There are 11 elements in nine groups, among them three aspherical elements and two elements made from ED (extra-low dispersion) glass, the latter for correction of chromatic aberrations. The positions of the exotic elements are shown in the diagram below.

      The optical diagram for the  Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S lens showing the positions of the exotic glass elements. (Source: Nikon.)

      Nikon’s proprietary  Nano Crystal Coat anti-reflective coating has been applied to key elements to suppress internal reflections across a wide range of wavelengths. It prevents ghosting effects caused by red light and minimises aberrations caused by light entering the lens diagonally.

      Autofocusing is driven by a stepping motor which provides fast, accurate and quiet autofocus, making the lens ideal for use when shooting video. Focusing is internal, ensuring no changes in image size occur during autofocusing.

      The electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism in the lens barrel provides accurate aperture control to guarantee constant exposure levels when using auto exposure during continuous shooting. This mechanism is much faster than the mechanical linkage levers used in Nikon’s D and G type lenses.

      The lens is supplied with front and end caps and a petal-shaped lens hood that can be reversed over the lens barrel for storage and during transporting.  A soft XL-X1 lens pouch is also provided.

      Build and Ergonomics
      The 35mm f/1.8 S lens is surprisingly large for its weight (around 370 grams), which is low as it’s made mainly from magnesium alloy. The supplied end caps and lens hood are solid polycarbonate plastic.  The lens is manufactured in China and has the same low-gloss finish as other lenses in the Z mount stable.

      There’s only one ring on the barrel: the programmable control ring, which is 45 mm wide and is located roughly 10 mm back from the bayonet mounting for the petal-shaped lens hood that is supplied with the lens. Almost all of the surface of this ring is finely-ridged to provide a secure grip.

      The ring itself is unmarked and turns freely through a full 360 degrees, connecting with the camera via electronic contacts, which means there’s little in the way of tactile feedback when focus is adjusted manually, the default setting. This ring can be re-programmed to adjust the aperture or exposure compensation settings.

      Aft of the control ring is a 30 mm wide section of the lens barrel that carries the auto/manual focus selector switch. This switch is over-ridden when manual focus is set via the camera’s menu.

      Also on this section of the lens barrel are the lens mounting index mark and the lens designation and branding labels. The barrel ends in a very solid metal mounting plate with 11 gold-plated contacts for interfacing with the camera.


      This graphic shows the weather-proof sealing in the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S lens. (Source: Nikon.)

      Weather-resistant sealing around all the moving parts of the barrel (shown above) prevents dust and moisture from entering the lens. This makes it a good match for the similarly-sealed Z Series camera bodies.

      Performance

      Imatest showed the review lens to be a top-notch performer on the Nikon Z7 we used for our tests. Centre resolution in JPEG files  exceeded expectations for the camera’s 45.4-megapixel sensor. This is a sensational result for a camera with such high resolution.

      The best results were at aperture settings between f/2.8 and f/4.0, although resolution remained high throughout the full aperture range, with only a slight reduction occurring at f/11 and f/16, where diffraction began to take effect. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Lateral chromatic aberration is corrected by default for JPEGs captured by the camera but it was barely detectable in raw files as well, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below. The red line on the graph indicates the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.


      Because in-camera corrections are also applied for both vignetting and rectilinear distortion, we had to analyse NEF.RAW files to see whether either issue was present. We found vignetting was visible at the widest aperture settings but gone by f/2.5. Distortion was limited to barely visible pincushioning.

      On the Z7 camera, this lens  handled backlit subjects very well with very little flare or ghosting present in shots, even when a bright light source was within the image frame or just outside it.  We found no loss of contrast or colour saturation in normal shots with  relatively strong backlighting .

      The minimum focusing distance of 25 cm makes this lens usable for taking close-ups of objects that measure more than about 5 cm in length. Depth of field was very shallow at f/1.8, which meant that accurate focusing was essential.

      The 9-bladed iris diaphragm produced attractive bokeh at wide apertures when there were no bright highlights in the background. However, we found some outlining of the brightest highlights in backlit close-ups.

      Stopping down to f/4 increased depth of field but at the same time sharpened the edges of background highlights, making them more intrusive. It seems the best bokeh occurs between f/1.8 and f/2.8.

      Conclusion
      The 35mm f/1.8 S lens sits plum in the middle of a range of prime lenses with f/1.8 maximum apertures that Nikon will release between now and the end of 2020. We’ve been promised the chance to review the 50mm f/1.8 S lens in a couple of weeks’ time (when we also hope to be able to assess the FTZ mount adapter). The other lenses in this line-up cover the 20mm, 24mm and 85mm focal lengths.

      Technologically, we expected the 35mm f/1.8 S lens to out-perform its F-mount equivalents but we haven’t reviewed the Nikkor AF-S F-mount equivalent. It certainly did better than the Tamron SP AF 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD lens we reviewed in November 2015.

      Fitted to the Z7 camera body, this lens is great for street photography, being fast, weather-resistant and providing wide enough coverage to encompass some of the subjects’ environment while enabling the photographer to get reasonably close to subjects. Its fast maximum aperture and superior wide-aperture performance are advantageous when shooting in dim lighting and when subject isolation is desired.

      It’s difficult for us to make price comparisons because, unlike almost all local distributors, Nikon does not release RRPs to journalists so we’re forced to scan the local market to come up with a credible price. The highest price we found was AU$1499, which was offered by several major re-sellers, so that’s the price listed in our specifications.

      It’s early days for buying this lens and many online re-sellers (both local and offshore) still have it listed for pre-ordering. Consequently, it’s unreasonable to expect significant discounts at this stage. Nevertheless, we have found it listed as low as AU$1298 on a couple of local websites, with more offering prices between AU$1360 and $1399, so it’s worth shopping around.

      Off-shore re-sellers have listed this lens  at around AU$1200, which might appear to be a bargain. However, once you take GST, shipping and insurance costs into account, potential savings tend to vanish. You also lose the benefits of warranty support and local consumer protection laws if you buy offshore.

      SPECS

      Picture angle: 63 degrees
      Minimum aperture: f/16
      Lens construction: 11 elements in 9 groups (including 3 aspherical elements and 2 ED glass elements plus Nano Crystal Coat & Super Integrated Coating)
      Lens mounts: Nikon Z Mount
      Diaphragm Blades: 9 (circular aperture)
      Focus drive:  Stepping motor
      Stabilisation: No (Z-series cameras have IBIS with up to 5 stops of shake correction)
      Minimum focus: 25 cm
      Maximum magnification: 0.19x
      Filter size: 62  mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 73  x 86 mm
      Weight: 370 grams
      Standard Accessories: Lens front and end caps

      Distributor: Nikon Australia,1300 366 499; www.nikon.com.au.

       

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG images captured with the lens on the Nikon Z7 camera body.

       

      SAMPLES


      Vignetting at  f/1.8.


      Rectilinear distortion.


      Close-up at f/1.8; ISO 100, 1/1250 second.


      Close-up at f/4; ISO 100, 1/250 second.


      Contre-jour shot with the sun inside the frame; ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/13.


      Strong backlighting with the sun just outside the frame; note the flare artefacts.  ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/8.


      Backlit shot; ISO 100, 1/250 second, f/8.


      ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/6.3.


      ISO 100, 1/2000 second at f/6.3.


      ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/7.1.


      ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/9.


      ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/7.1.


      ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/10.


      ISO 140, 1/40 second at f/8.


      ISO 200, 1/20 second at f/4.5.


      ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/5.6.

      Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Nikon Z7 camera.

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$1499; US$849.95

      • Build: 9.0
      • Handling: 9.0
      • Image quality: 9.1
      • Versatility: 8.9

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