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Prime 35mm f/1.8 review

edited September 2016 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
I am buying my first Prime lens and after prior postings about what lens to buy, I have highly considered a 35mm f/1.8 Nikon lens. I have a crop sensor so it will show up as roughly a 52mm so with that being said.

1) What do you think about this lens?
2) What is the primary shooting purpose of this lens?
3) Can you get a nice bokeh (blurred background) with this lens?
4) Can you tell the difference sharpness if I used a kit lens at 35mm and this lens?


  • edited September 2016
    I hope someone who owns this lens shows up. I think @Moose does, and there may be a review of that lens on the home page somewhere here. My recollection is that the review was very positive, pretty much concluding that you should run right out and get one. When I first started posting here there was another person, @ohyeahar, who may not still be checking in here, who was very enthusiastic about it. He moved up to a D750 full frame camera, but hesitated in part because he liked the 35mm f/1.8 DX lens so much, and was disappointed that it did not work quite well enough on FX format.

    I have read reviews that sound very good. My normal 35mm lens is a much older type, a 35mm f/2.8 PC, with preset aperture and not AF at all, but I can at least speak from experience on the general idea of a prime 35mm.

    So on 1, I can only say that others consider it very good, sharp and well behaved. If I did not already have a "pet" 35mm that I like, and that is wickedly sharp, I'd get one of those, and who knows, I might yet.

    On 2, the primary shooting purpose of this type of lens is just about everything. Although we see at a wider angle, this "normal" perspective resembles the proportion of what we see with the naked eye, and because of this, it's often easier to translate your vision into a picture. A great percentage of the images you make will turn out to fit well in that point of view.

    On 3, middling. You can get a nice blurred background even with the kit lens if you pay attention to placement, background, and so forth. The fast 35mm will be easier. Depth of field becomes shorter as the lens focal length gets longer, though, so it will be easier with a longer lens. For portraits, a 50mm or longer may be better, but 35mm will deliver if you're careful. Bokeh is nice, but I would choose the normal lens anyway initially, because overall quality of image, sharpness and clarity, are more important.

    If you have a telephoto zoom like the 55-200mm, you can get plenty of portrait bokeh with that at a longer length like 100mm or so even though the aperture is fairly slow.

    On 4, almost certainly. The best prime lenses are sharp as only primes can be, and the 35mm f/1.8DX is reputed to be a fine example of this. In addition to pure sharpness it's likely to deliver more contrast, better color, and less flare, all of which adds up to a snappier image. The kit lens is pretty sharp, but a good 35mm will give you more pop. The fast aperture is also likely to give an advantage in focusing accuracy and speed. In addition, because the front element of this lens does not rotate, it takes well to the use of polarizing filters, which will make for better sky contrast and help to eliminate glare. There will be times and subjects in which the difference may not matter, but when it does, the prime lens rules.

    Although the zoom has more convenience, obviously, I find myself using the prime more often, and either 'zooming with my feet' or adjusting my composition decision, to favor it, because of the better image. You will find many experts suggesting that this should be the first lens you buy and that everyone should have one.
  • 1) What do you think about this lens?
    It’s inexpensive, it’s compact, it performs wonderfully, and you should indeed run out and get it.

    2) What is the primary shooting purpose of this lens?
    On a crop body, this is a normal lens so it does many things well. This is the lens that I had mounted on my DX body most of the time. Other than sports (where you need a much longer focal length to get into the action), I can’t really think of a scenario that can’t be handled by this lens. This wouldn’t be a go-to lens for portraits but you also can’t really write it off for that purpose either.

    3) Can you get a nice bokeh (blurred background) with this lens?
    Sure. Remember, depth of field is affected by focus distance. As long as your subject is close enough, you can get decent background separation even with the kit lens. So with the ability to open up the aperture to f/1.8, this is a no-brainer.

    4) Can you tell the difference sharpness if I used a kit lens at 35mm and this lens?
    Depends. Sharpness was never an issue with the 18-55mm kit lens.
    The 18-55mm kit lens at 35mm can only open up to f/5. If you stop down the 35mm prime lens to f/5, it’ll undeniably be sharper if you pixel peep. But if you stop down the kit lens even by a stop, all sharpness comparisons go out the window because it’ll be as tack sharp as any other lens.

    Bottom line: this lens is a gem and staple of every DX shooter’s lens collection.
  • edited September 2016
    Thanks to @ohyeahar for responding. That answer is about what I expected, as I recall you were very fond of this lens. I'm guessing that if and when @moose appears, it will be similar.

    I am a retro-grouch and often not in a hurry, which is why I still favor the old 35mm f/2.8 even though it is utterly manual, meterless, and even has a manual preset aperture. You really have to stop and think when you use it. I think there are little magical Nikon pixies in some of those old lenses, and that's one, but if I did not already have one, the 35mm f/1.8 DX is the one I'd get.

    By the way, apologies for thread drift, but how are you (@ohyeahar) finding the D750 over all?
  • Thanks for asking @bruto! I enjoy my D750. Although, admittedly, I am shooting less these days. I should try to bring my gear out more.

    Anyway, not to stray too far from the thread…
    35mm f/1.8 mounted on a DX body is the perfect walk-around combo.
    Lightweight and compact.
    Normal angle of view.
    f/1.8 allows you to freeze the action even in low-light.
    The lens stops all the way down to f/22 unlike other (e.g. the 50mm f/1.8 only stops down to f/11)
  • edited September 2016
    Hi, I just bought this lens about 2 weeks ago. I have a D3200, and just started using a dslr about 2 months ago. I love this lens. The bokeh and clarity of the picture are much better than the kit lens for sure. I have used it for landscape and macro pics so far, but will be trying it for portrait pics this weekend. It is a little different being a prime lens having to move closer and further from your subject, but I enjoy moving around, so I think I actually like a prime lens even more for the type of pictures I take. I was debating between getting a 50mm or 35mm and I'm happy that I went with the 35mm since the D3200 is a dx and not full frame. Hope this helps!
  • edited September 2016
    I have the 35mm DX AFS 1.8G and it is very good. It's faster than the kit zoom and slightly sharper.

    I also have the 40mm and tend to use it more, as it has a macro too. Having said that I don't tend to take any macro shots with it.

    Would I recommend the 35mm? A big YES.
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