Monday, June 13, 2011

The revival of the Nikkor 35mm f/2D AF

There is a renaissance of 35mm focal length lenses ever since the DX format DSLRs came into existence. I love my Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens so much so that when I parted with it, I realized I have to get one with the same focal length, hence, I got this lens – Nikkor 35mm f/2D AF for my new Nikon D7000 DSLR with an APS-C format sensor. Initially, I thought this is a better lens compared to the 35mm DX simply because it is more expensive and has a full frame coverage. Based on my recent takes, I’m quite dissatisfied with the results for being slower in focusing compared to the DX version which I presume to be faster because it focuses silently. Aside from generating a louder noise when focusing, it has a tendency to witch-hunt when shooting in dimly lit environment. Had it not for the high ISO capability of the D7000, this lens would be less useful compared to its newer DX version. The f/2 aperture pales in comparison to the image quality of photos taken in f/1.8 wider opening setting of the DX version.
The lens, although made in Japan, is not supplied with a plastic lens hood unlike the Thailand-made DX version. It may have a better build quality than the predominantly plastic DX version which is lighter and scanty. The bokeh is less exciting, dull and crunchy unlike the DX version, though not that pleasing, was nevertheless much smoother. The bokeh circles are bigger though and this is attributable to the wider diameter of its lens opening compared to the DX version but they share the same deficiency in the background highlights which are not circularly shaped at wider openings.
Having tried this lens on available light and flash photography, I would say that it is more useful at f/4 and up and this is where it shines or may even exceed the DX version in image quality. The best uses of this lens would be travel, environmental photography or general purpose photography. This may be a good portrait lens but judging from its earlier results coming from a better camera like the D7000, I would rather prefer a wider focal length, say the 28mm or the 24mm as my next lens.
This lens was not a hit when it came into production for use on a 35mm film plane but with the advent of smaller APS-C sensors, it suddenly got a new lease of life. Whatever deficiencies it may have on a FX sensor, the smaller plane of a DX sensor would not expose such downfalls like light fall off on the edges and softness on the corners. Designed as an FX lens, it benefits from the sweet spot advantage on the APS-C size sensor of D7000. I’m not expecting much from this average lens and this would surely end up at my favorite ad section for sale again in the very near future. Next to the Nikkor 20mm, the 24mm focal length on a DX body might suit my compositional style of taking full body shots more than half body or head shots.