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Nikon AF-S Dx 35mm f/1.8 G

In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises or travel, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Note that as time goes on, equipment becomes discontinued by the manufacturer. Therefore consider this review representative of the types of equipment you wish to take on your cruise or travel vacation.

The Nikon AF-S Dx 35mm f/1.8 G prime lens is an attractive alternative to the 50mm 1.8 for Dx camera owners. It is a hot-performer given it's low price (around $200). A prime lens is one that is not a zoom lens, but a fixed focal length. While the 50mm lens has traditionally been called a "normal" lens, for DX shooters - those having 1.5x crop cameras, this lens is an effective 52.5mm, which is appropriate as a normal lens. In other words, this lens is to Dx cameras what a 50mm lens is to traditional 35mm film (or digital full-frame) cameras.

Nikon AF-S Dx 35mm f/1.8 G

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX

Lens Type: Prime
Format: DX
Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Focal Length: 35mm
Autofocus Type: AF-S
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.98ft
Maximum Field-of-View: 44 deg
Filter size: 52mm
Manufactured: China
Lens construction: Advanced Amateur
Street Price: $220


Overview: The lens is single focus-length, i.e. not a zoom lens. However, it is a fast-prime, as zoom lenses are limited to f/2.8. Since this is a DX format lens, use on a FX format camera will result in vignetting. And, when used on DX cameras, the apparent focal length will be 52.5mm.

So with most DX kit zoom lenses today having the ability to focus at the 18-55mm range, why would you even want this lens? First, at an aperture of f/1.8, it is a very fast lens, and it is among one of the sharpest lenses that Nikon makes. In addition, the large aperture means this lens can be setup for a limited depth-of-field, something that many photographers desire. However, this is still a wide-angle lens, and while it has the apparent focal length of a 50mm lens, it has the characteristics of a 35mm lens. Such is the effect of DX crop cameras.

I classify this lens as advanced amateur, as it features a metal mounting ring, and fairly well constructed, although it's made in China. This lens is AF-S type focusing, meaning that entry-level Nikon cameras such as the D40, D3000, D3100, D5000, and D5100 will autofocus with this lens.

Use: Force yourself to mount this lens and use it. You will be amazed that the lack of a zoom function is not really that much of a problem. Experiment with different depths-of-field as well as late in the day when lighting has that magical color. Use of this lens may force you to get closer to your subject, but that is the norm for professional photographers anyway, so being an accomplished amateur, you should get comfortable doing so.

50mm f/1.8

35mm f/1.8

Perspective Distortion: Compare the two photos above. The one on the left was shot with the 50mm f/1.8 prime, while the one on the right was with the 35mm f/1.8 DX. Notice the rear of the box. In the 50mm photo, the box is more straight from front-to-back. In the 35mm photo, the rear of the box is clearly narrower than the front. This is called perspective distortion, and it becomes worse as the lens focal length shortens.

For this reason, wide angle lenses do not make for good portrait lenses as they tend to result in larger noses and rounder faces - not desirable for portraiture. And even though the 35mm lens on a DX camera results in a 50mm apparent focal length, the lens retains the characteristics of the 35mm focal length in terms of perspective distortion... because, it is still a 35mm lens, regardless of the focal length shift.

Summary: While I use this lens primarily for low light, it's usefulness cannot be understated. Once upon a time (in the 1970s), there were not many zoom lenses, so fixed-length lenses were the normal. With the proliferation of today's slower aperture zoom lenses, it sure is refreshing to use a lens that not only has a bit of nostalgia, but also a lens that works very well. For $220, its certainly worth trying - just not for portraiture.