Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 AI-s (52mm filters, 13.5 oz./381g, about $850 new or about $500 used). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link to it brand-new at B&H Photo-Video, brand-new at Adorama, or this link to it used at Amazon or this link to it used at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.
NEW: Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S. First real update in 40 years!
Samyang 35mm f/1.4 (2011-today)
Cambria, 13 April 2013, 7:53PM. bigger. (Nikon EL2, NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 AI-s, French-made 52mm CROMOFILTER P2 rotating tobacco grad filter, Fuji Velvia 50, f/8 at AUTO 4 seconds, NCPS scan, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.)
Bubble Gum Wall, San Luis Obispo. 11:31 AM, 11 April 2012. bigger. (1977 Nikon EL2, 1997 Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s, Nikon A2 (81A) filter, Fuji Velvia 50, f/2.8 at 1/30, process and scan at NCPS, Perfectly Clear.)
Trees at Chorro, San Luis Obispo, 7:54 PM, 11 April 2012. bigger. (1977 Nikon EL2, 1997 Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s, Nikon A2 (81A) filter, Fuji Velvia 50, f/1.4 at 1/2 second hand-held (no bracing; just standing in the street), process and scan at NCPS.)
The Nikon 35mm f/1.4 was found in every photojournalist's bag throughout the 1970s and 1980s as their standard lens.
As of 2000, with faster films and good f/2.8 zooms, they had been largely abandoned.
As of 2010 with digital, they have been forgotten, although they work extremely well on Nikon FX cameras.
The Nikon 35mm f/1.4 was introduced, in the original F mount, in 1969. It was Nikon's first multicoated lens and has been used by NASA in space. Its optics have remained the same throughout both AI and AI-s versions, and is still manufactured today. All versions share exemplary mechanical quality.
Nikon 35mm f/1.4 at f/5.6. Note 9-blade diaphragm. enlarge.
Nikon 35mm f/1.4 at f/1.4.
Nikon calls this The Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 AI-s.
9 elements in 7 groups.
Traditional spherical design with floating elements for close-range correction (CRC).
Multicoated; actualy it was Nikon's first multicoated lens back in 1970.
Diaphragm: 9 blades on today's AI-s version (1981-today), 7 blades on early AI (1977-1981) and K (1975-1977) versions.
1 foot (0.3m).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio
Actual Focal Length
Wonderful nine-bladed diaphragm.
Stops down to f/16.
2.4444" extension from flange x 2.6425" diameter (62.11 x 67.12mm), measured.
Nikon specifies 2.7" (67.5mm) around by 2.9" (74mm) long.
The fattest part is the focus ring.
13.450 oz. (381.25g), measured.
Nikon specifies 14 oz. (400g).
HN-3 screw-in metal hood.
I don't use it; ghosts aren't a problem.
Nikon Catalog Number
1429, April 2010.
Nikon's Catalog Price
$1,165, USA, New, April 2010.
Typical performance for a spherical f/1.4 wide lens: blurry wide open, improving greatly as stopped down. This was state-of-the art until the introduction of the 28mm f/1.4 AF-D aspherical in 1993.
This 35/1.4 is loaded with coma. THe new 35/1.4 G is much, much better.
Coma (saggital coma flare) often causes weird smeared blobs to appear around bright points of light in the corners of fast or wide lenses at large apertures. In lenses that have it, coma goes away as stopped down.
Here is an overview of the entire 12MP FX D3 frame:
Here are crops from 100% images from the far lowest left corner:
For comparison, here's the 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S at f/1.4:
Sharpness on the Nikon D3:
Low contrast everywhere due to the veiling effects of spherical aberration. Very blurry in corners with loads of coma. Sharp most places, just veiled.
Sharp and contrasty in center since spherical aberration is now gone. Gets softer toward sides. Corners still very soft and loaded with coma.
Sharp and contrasty throughout most of frame, with a softer band at about a 15mm radius. Far corners still blurry.
Very sharp almost everywhere. Slightly softer at r=15mm, far corners softer.
Sharp all over. Farthest corners just a little softer.
Excellent all over, optimum aperture overall.
Excellent all over, farthest corners optimum.
Slightly softer due to diffraction.
Lateral Color Fringes
None on the D3.
It has some lateral magenta/green secondary chromatic aberration on film.
Flare and Ghosts
It has next to no ghosts if you have your light source in the image.
Nikon 35mm f/1.4
It has typical barrel distortion. At infinity on film or FX digital, use +1.5 in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to rectify it at infinity. This isn't a fact or a specification, it's the result of my research that requires me to climb a bluff on a very clear day and shoot the ocean's horizon.
Typical for its era, there is strong falloff wide open (f/1.4) on film and FX digital. The $1,800 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S is the same, so I guess Nikon accepts this.
It improves greatly at f/2, and is gone by f/2.8.
I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.
It has close-range-correction (CRC) and focuses very close, to about a foot. Although you can get down to about a 5" x 7" subject, there is a good deal of barrel distortion.
Handheld on an FA I get sharp results consistently at 1/15.
Performance on Fuji Velvia film:
Lots of light falloff. Lots of coma in corners and spherical aberration in center give low contrast all over. Resolution is good.
Falloff. Coma. Getting sharp.
Vvery sharp, no more falloff.
Odd loss of definition in 9-11 o'clock sector 15mm out
Odd loss of definition in 9-11 O'clock sector 15mm out
Swell. Random underexposure with FA in aperture-priority (A) mode. Press the depth-of-field preview button and hold it while you make the exposure to cure this, with the FA.
Nikon 35mm f/1.4. Note delicate rear element protector pin.
Try not to use this lens at f/1.4 where the image quality is relatively poor. It has low contrast due to various kinds of spherical aberration and a lot of light falloff. It also has a lot of coma, so points of light at the sides will instead look like little batwings.
What a lot of light falloff at f/1.4 means is that even though it's f/1.4 in a center hotspot of the image, at the sides you really are only getting the light equivalent to f/2 or f/2.8.
Use this lens is if you typically shoot at about f/2.8, at which aperture it performs better than most other lenses.
If you shoot at smaller apertures you don't need this expensive f/1.4 lens.
If you really shoot at larger apertures (as I do) you'll prefer the very, very expensive 28mm f/1.4D AF.
Generally the much more recently designed and far less expensive 35mm f/2.0D AF lens gives better performance at every aperture, although the 35/2 AF gets softer when you are too close. The 35/2 AF also focuses much closer.
If you are fixated on the f/1.4 aperture, remember that due to the huge light falloff that you really are only getting f/1.4 in a hotspot in the center of the image, and that at f/2 both the 35/2 AF lens and the 35/1.4 are giving the same image quality.
I think that this fine lens' time has passed.
I saw lower sharpness 15mm from the center of the image at f/2.8 in two different samples of lens in two different media, telling me that this is inherent in the design of the 35mm f/1.4. I saw it with this lens pictured here on my D3, and I saw it with the first sample I owned back in the 1990s on film.
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Christmas 2010, December 2007