Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S Lens Review
What We Love. The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S is excellent glass that touts all the essential things you would look for in a great lens, plus some bells and whistles. This versatile Z-mount lens boasts outstanding sharpness; very little distortion; practically non-existent flare, ghosting and chromatic aberration; and effective, near-silent focusing. Adding to the mix is its decent low light performance, its F/1.8 maximum aperture, and extensive weather sealing, and there’s little to not love about this prime lens.
What We’d Change. At $849, the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S is hardly cheap, especially when you consider that Canon’s RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM for its mirrorless EOS R system is only $499 and Sony’s E 35 mm f/1.8 OSS for its popular Alpha line is even cheaper at $449. But to be fair, there’s little else to complain about the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S, making this steep price so much easier to swallow. There’s some flare when it’s pointing directly to the light source, but everything else is gravy. And, to be honest, we do love the sun flares we’ve gotten with this lens, so that’s not so much a complaint as it is just stating a fact.
Pick This Up If… you need a versatile lens for landscape, street, travel, event and portrait photography. The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S is one of the very few pricey lenses we recommend every Nikon shooter get if they own a Z system camera. Trust us; this lens is not a luxury, it’s a necessity you’d be happy to splurge some money on.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/16 | 1/100 | ISO 3200 |
Nikon came with guns blazing when the manufacturer rolled out its Nikon Z-mount series. Alongside the Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6, Nikon debuted three Z-mount lenses that are solid starting points to the Z system, the widest of the two primes being a total ace in our book. And since then they've rolled out a 14-30mm f/4 wide-angle zoom as well as the coveted 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom (review coming soon!).
We were certainly and pleasantly surprised by the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary 35mm prime with an AF/MF switch, a focus ring, and not much else. And for a 35mm prime, it feels like it should be more compact. But after shooting landscapes and portraits with it, we now know that Nikon wasn’t kidding around when it promised wide-open sharpness and clean images from this very versatile glass.
We’re complete converts, so much so it was hard to switch this lens out for its 50mm brother so we could test that too. Find out why exactly we love this lens.
We tested the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S on our Nikon Z6 loaner, alongside the Nikkor Z 14-30mm F/4 S and the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S. Check out our Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S review here, and stay tuned for our review of the 50mm prime lens, to come soon.
- Fits: Z-mount cameras
- Focal Length: 35mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Angle of View (diagonal): 47°00′
- Lens Construction: 12 elements in 9 groups
- Minimum Focus Distance: 1.32 ft. ( 0.4 m)
- Filter Size: 62mm
- Max Length: 3 x 3.4 in (76 x 86.5 mm)
- Weight: 14.7 oz. (415 g)
- Aperture Blades: 9
- Standard Accessories: Hood, front cap, rear cap, lens case
For a prime lens that physically doesn’t have any features save from the focus ring and the AF/MF switch, it’s pretty big at 3 x 3.4 inches (this isn’t much smaller than the Nikkor Z 14-30mm F/4 S we tested prior). In fact, this feels more to us like a zoom lens, so much so that we constantly found ourselves trying to zoom in/out, only to be reminded that we’ve got a prime in our hands. This isn’t a big deal, however. Eventually, you get used to all that extra space.
What we do appreciate the plastic on metal construction. The focus ring isn’t made of rubber, so it does a pretty good job of keeping dust, dander and whatever else at bay. Though it’s a bit of a double-edged sword as you now have to worry about the paint getting scratched off, revealing the shiny silvery material underneath.
Finally, the best thing about the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S’ build quality is its weather sealing. It’s extensively sealed throughout its body, from the front to the back and at all its moving parts in between, so it’s well-fitted to contend with the elements.
Unfortunately, as it’s summer, we weren’t able to test just how moisture resistant it is. The good news is, it survived the dusty trails swimmingly.
Despite the extra real estate, the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S’ size and weight doesn’t really feel like a burden on the Nikon Z6, which we mounted onto our backpack strap via the Capture Camera Clip V3 as we hiked up the craggy coastal cliffs in Ventura, California, during our testing. Nor does it feel off-balanced on the camera either.
It also doesn’t feel too big or hard to handle in this reviewer’s small hands. Once we got over instinctively trying to zoom with this lens because it felt big enough to be a zoom lens during our test, it actually felt quite comfortable to use, despite its large size.
Another upside here is that the bayonet hood is easy to put on and twist off, with a bit of resistance to prevent it from accidentally popping right off. We also like the AF/MF switch, which is accessible and again with enough resistance to prevent accidental toggles.
SPEED & FOCUS
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/16 | 1/2000 | ISO 3200 |
The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S boasts solid and near silent autofocusing, the near-silent part being a godsend when you’re shooting videos or when quiet autofocus is integral to you having a more seamless creative process.
This lens relies on the camera’s PDAF system for extremely high focusing accuracy and speed. While focusing with it is smooth enough, it’s a little hard to really gauge how precise and effective it is, considering that the Nikon Z6 is still a ways away from having an impeccable autofocusing system–especially when it comes to face and eye detection.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/5.6 | 1/3200 | ISO 3200 |
During our tests, we mostly utilized the Nikon Z6’s Dynamic-area AF mode as that was the mode we found most comfortable with for accuracy. Though it’s worth noting that we were mostly shooting landscapes. On Dynamic AF mode, it was pretty easy to really get our focusing right, although it still wasn’t as fast as we would have liked. On a more positive note, it did a pretty decent job focusing in low light and backlit scenes.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/16 | 1/2500 | ISO 3200 |
The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S does a great job in autofocusing – not only is it quiet, but it’s also smooth, accurate and fast enough. However, if you were looking for something spectacular that stands out from most of the lenses you’ve used, you won’t find it here.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/1.8 | 1/8000 | ISO 250 |
Nine circular blades don’t make for the creamiest and most buttery bokeh on the market, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. When you think of the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S, you won’t necessarily think, “Stunning bokeh.” Still, we’re pretty pleased with the bokeh we get from this lens, and it’s more than good enough to get the job done.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/4 | 1/8000 | ISO 1000 |
The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S still manages to produce beautiful, soft and creamy with bokeh circles are close to being perfectly round and butter smooth, especially at the largest aperture. This definitely makes it ideal for portraits and for isolating subjects.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/11 | 1/1600 | ISO 3200 |
Where the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S really shines is in the image quality. Unlike the Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S, which falters a little in terms of edge-to-edge sharpness, this lens actually delivers what was promised, even at its widest aperture, making it as great for portraits as it is for landscapes where smaller apertures are most ideal.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/11 | 1/2000 | ISO 3200 |
If you’re seeking to shoot architecture, you’ll also love the fact that there’s minimal distortion on this lens, which also makes it ideal for beginner shooters who aren’t so well-versed with dealing with (and taking advantage of) wide-angle lens distortions.
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/4 | 1/8000 | ISO 640 |
Of course, any lens can be just as sharp. What we really appreciate about this lens is how adept it was at reducing ghosting, flare, and chromatic aberrations. The super clean images this lens produces are impressive and well worth the extra few hundred dollars you’re paying to take it home. It’s all thanks to the ED (extra-low dispersion) glass, Nano Crystal coating and aspherical elements that Nikon slapped on to this glass.
We intended to test this lens at sunset. However, having arrived at our shooting spot earlier than planned, we ended up capturing some pretty harsh scenes, some of which had the sun right in the frame. Despite the high-contrast situations and the fact that we had the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S pointing directly towards the sun before it was setting, we hardly saw any purple fringing or ghosting. Additionally, there was very little spherical aberration, and any sun flare we encountered only added to the appeal of the photos.
In other words, image quality is where you're really getting your money’s worth.
PROS & CONS
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/4 | 1/8000 | ISO 1600 |
- Excellent image quality
- Very minimal chromatic aberration, ghosting, and flare
- Weather sealing
- Steep price tag
| Aperture Priority | 35mm | F/5.6 | 1/8000 | ISO 2800 |
There’s no denying that the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S is pricey, especially in the face of the competition. But the price of admission might just be more than worth it, as this glass isn’t just premium quality.
If you're a Nikon Z early adopter, it's a no-brainer. The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 has almost everything you’d want in a lens, from the fact that it produces excellent image quality with impeccable sharpness and very minimal flare, ghosting, aberration, and distortion, to its effective autofocusing, extensive weather sealing, and an f/1.8 maximum aperture. And, the small number of flaws it has, you can so easily overlook.
Adding the fact that any 35mm is a versatile lens that you can pretty much use for many types of photography–whether you’re shooting portraits, landscapes or events, and what you’ve got here is a winner. If you’re ready to jump on the Nikon Z-mount bandwagon, the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S will be an essential part of your arsenal. And what of that $849 price tag? All we can say is that you better start saving now.
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