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Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8
AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR
(1999-today)

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recomendations

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Nikon 17-35mm

Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S. enlarge. (77mm filters, 25.8 oz./730g). I'd get it at Adorama, Amazon, B&H Photo-Video or Ritz. As a popular pro lens, especially with the popularity of the D3 and D700, it's not always in stock. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from those links, too. Thanks! Ken.

 

August 2008, March 2010    More Nikon Reviews

How to Use Ultrawide Lenses

Sharpness Comparison to all other 18mm lenses 11 August 2010

Sharpness Comparison to all other 24mm lenses August 2010

Nikon Ultrawide Zooms Compared 08 March 2010

 

Optics:   for pro news and sports use
 for tripod-huggers
Ergonomics:
Usefulness:
Availability:
Overall:

Ideal Uses: Nikon's top professional wide-angle zoom for FX digital and film cameras.

Not for: I wouldn't bother with this on a DX camera because any of the 17-55mm f/2.8 DX or 18-55mm DX kit lenses are smarter ideas.

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recomendations

Compatibility    History    Production    Pricing

The 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S is Nikon's basic wide-angle professional zoom for film and FX Digital. Almost every pro has one of these on one body, and a 70-200mm VR on his other body. It is one of the two or three lenses everyone with a D700, D3 or F6 should own.

By comparison, the 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S is a special-purpose ultra-ultra wide angle lens, not a lens for most people for day-to-day use like this 17-35mm. The 14-24mm is not a lens to be considered in place of this 17-35mm; these are lenses to be used alongside each other for different things.

The 17-35mm is a spectacular lens which outperforms all of Nikon's previous fixed wide angles, like the 20mm AF lens it replaced for me. The 14-24mm has better optical performance in the corners wide-open in the 17mm range, but the huge 14-24mm can't use filters and only covers a very limited zoom range.

This 17-35mm is sharp at all apertures, has great ghost resistance, less falloff than fixed lenses, only moderate distortion, is built like a tank and weighs about as much, too. It's made of solid metal, not the toy-store painted plastic. The only gotcha is that if you are dumb enough to shoot at f/2.8 in daylight at 17mm and then look in the farthest corners with a microscope, it's soft. Pros don't do that, but online experts might.

Manual focus is easy: just grab the ring at any time.

It focuses to within just a few inches of the front of the lens at all focal lengths.

If you don't mind the significant weight and price, just go get one and skip the rest of the review. This lens is fantastic for FX Digital like the D3 and film cameras. It is not a wide angle lens for DX digital cameras; for DX digital cameras get the 12-24 mm DX or Tokina 11-16mm instead.

Nikon 17-35mm AF-S

 

Rear, Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D AF-S. enlarge.

 

Compatibility       back to intro     back to top

adorama

 
B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

I personally buy from Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.

 

Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon, both FX and DX.

It's also perfect on film cameras like the F6, F100, F5, N90s, N80, N75, N70, F4, F3, F2AS, FE and etc.

The only incompatibility is that it will not autofocus with some of the oldest (like N2020) or cheapest (like N55) AF film cameras. If you focus manually, everything else works great. Even if it won't autofocus, these cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.

If you have a coupling prong added to the diaphragm ring, it's perfect with every Nikon back to the original Nikon F of 1959, otherwise, stick to cameras newer than 1977 for meter coupling.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I" column for this lens.

 

History      back to intro     back to top

1993-2001

Nikon's first ultrawide zoom was the 20-35mm f/2.8 D AF, which is still an excellent professional lens. It's a little smaller and lighter. Unlike this 17-35mm, the older 20-35mm needed a goofy mechanical clutch to switch between auto and manual focus.

 

1999-today

Nikon introduced this 17-35 lens at the same time as the original D1, whose smaller sensor demanded shorter lenses to get anything even vaguely resembling wide angles. Used on DX cameras, this 17-35mm acts like a ho-hum 25-50mm.

In 2006 Nikon changed the wording a bit on the bottom of the barrel, shortening "Silent Wave Motor" to "SWM" and adding "Aspherical" and the 10-year rotating trash cycle symbol. It also lost 0.5 oz (15g) of weight.

 

2000-2006

Nikon made a pretty good 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 for use on regular film cameras. It's much lighter than any of these pro lenses.

 

Production       back to intro     back to top

Nikon has made about 125,000 of these 17-35/2.8 lenses, and still makes them today.

 

Pricing       back to intro     back to top

This has always been a $1,500 lens. Even used today it sells for about $1,200.

 
Price,
new*
Corrected for
inflation, 2008
2001
$1,350
$1,675
2005
$1,385
$1,550
2008
$1,500
 
2010
$1,760
 

* At full NYC discount. Very few people bought their lenses this inexpensively back in 2001.

 

Specifications        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recomendations

17-35mm

Bottom Printing, 2008. 2001 version read "Silent Wave Motor ED IF ø77."

Optics

13 elements in 10 groups, including two ED glass and three aspherical elements. Two of these are molded glass aspherics, and one is a "composite." Composite means a piece of plastic glued to a glass substrate.

It's multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Super Integrated Coating.

 

Close Focus

Marked: 1 foot (0.28m) from the image plane (rear of the camera). Actual: 10-1/2" (27cm) from the film plane, which is only 4-1/2" (12cm) from the front of the lens!

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:4.6.

 

Hard Infinity Focus Stop?

No.

 

Focus Scale

Yes.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

No.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index

No.

 

Diaphragm

9 rounded blades, which are pretty round down to about f/8. It stopsdown to f/22.

 

Aperture Ring

Plastic, full-stop clicks.

 

Filter Thread

77mm, metal.

Does not rotate, ever.

 

Size

Nikon specifies 4.2" (107mm) extension from flange by 3.3" (84mm) diameter.

 

Weights (actual measured):

     2001 Production: 26.250 oz (744.1g)

     2008 Production: 25.765 oz. (730.4g).

     Nikon specifies 26.3 oz. (745g).

 

Hood

HB-23 plastic bayonet, included. This is the same hood as the 18-35mm and 12-24mm DX.

 

Case

CL-76, included.

 

Teleconverters

TC-200/201 and TC-14A, but why?

 

Introduced

June, 1999.

 

Available

The 17-35 was very hard to get until 2001.

 

Nikon Product Number

1960.

 

Price

$1,500, USA, 2008.

 

Packaging

USA: "History of Nikon" single-wall box, inner corrugated liner. Plastic bag holds literature wrapped around outside of carry case. The lens with attached hood sits inside the case in one plastic bag, and the strap is inside its own plastic bag in the air space next to the lens.

Nikon 17-35mm box

Shipped Ensemble, Nikon USA.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recomendations

Overall    Focus    Bokeh    Cold Weather    Color    Coma    Distortion

Ergonomics    Falloff    Filters    Ghosts    Hood    Lateral Color Fringes

Macro      Mechanics    Sharpness     Zooming    Comparisons

 

Overall      back to Performance    back to top

The 17-35mm f/2.8 D AF-S is a solid professional lens. It's got great optics, mechanics and performance, and you pay for it.

 

Focus     back to Performance    back to top

Nothing moves externally. The focus is entirely internal.

The focus rings turns continuously, even after you hit either end of the focus range. This is normal. It only moves when you move it yourself.

 

AF Speed

Like most wide lenses, AF speed is just about instantaneous.

 

AF Accuracy

My focus is always on; no problems here.

As with most, if not all, AF zoom lenses, the exact position of the infinity mark when focused at infinity will vary with zoom position. This is because in the design of a zoom lens one has a little slack in the exact tracking of the back focus. This is precisely why the lens can focus a little beyond the infinity mark.

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus is easy and sure. Just grab the focus ring at any time.

 

M/A - M Switch

Nikon goofed. This switch is supposed to be labeled "A - M."

The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because back in the old days, when Nikon had almost caught up to Canon who had been doing this for ten years before, Nikon was trying to show off that you could focus manually while in the AF position.

Paint over the extra M if you're easily confused.

Nikkor 17-35mm

Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8. enlarge.

 

Bokeh     back to Performance    back to top

Bokeh is fairly good.

At ordinary distances at 17mm stopped down, bokeh is neutral to good

At closer than 2' at 35mm, it seems very neutral.

 

Cold Weather      back to Performance    back to top

I've only had it out all day in temperatures as low as 30º F (0º C). It worked the same as it does at 70º F (20º C).

This shows that Nikon is still using the good grease that does not get stiff in the cold, as the grease in my Mamiya lenses do.

I suspect the 17-35 will work great over a broader range of temperatures than I can.

 

Color Rendition      back to Performance    back to top

The color rendition seems the same as my other modern Nikkors.

 

Coma      back to Performance    back to top

Coma (saggital coma flare) is weird smeared blobs that appear around bright points of light in the corners.

There is some wide open at 17mm which goes away by f/5.6.

There is very little at 35mm at f/2.8, and it's gone by f/4.

 

Distortion    back to performance     back to top

If you're looking for it, there is barrel (bulging) distortion at the 17mm end and just a little pincushion (sucking) distortion at the 35mm end.

Distortion isn't much of a a problem as it can be for the less expensive Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D AF-S. If you really worry about this, the older 20-35mm has the least distortion of these three.

If you insist on photographing brick walls and seaside horizons, shoot at at around 22-24mm and it goes away, or correct it with the figures below.

Distortion seems to be the same at all distances. This is better than the fixed focal length lenses in which the distortion often gets worse at close distances. 20 years of advancement in lens design shows.

Plug these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to fix the distortion. It's not always perfect, since some of the distortion can be complex. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

 

FX and Film
at 10' (3m)

FX and Film at 50' (15m)

FX and Film
at ∞

DX at ∞
17mm
+2.5*
+4.0*
+4.0*
+3.5
20mm
-0.2*
+0.5*
+0.2*
+2.0
24mm
-2.0
-1.2
-1.5*
+0.5
28mm
-2.3
-2.0
-2.0*
0
35mm
-3.0
-2.0
-2.2
-0.1

© 2008-2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Some waviness remains.

 

Ergonomics (handling and ease-of-use)    back to performance     back to top

Great!

It's easy to hold, focus and zoom. This may seem simple, but many lenses aren't able to do these simple things without getting in your way.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)    back to performance     back to top

Falloff on FX is not a problem. You won't see it except a little at f/2.8 and 17mm.

It won't be an issue at all on DX (see crop factor).

This 17-35mm outperforms all of the fixed focal length lenses against which I compared it directly, except maybe the 28mm f/1.4D AF.

There is some minor falloff at f/2.8. It's completely gone at f/4 from 20-35mm. At 17mm there is still a little falloff at f/4 and it's all gone at f/5.6, as far as real photos are concerned.

Even at f/2.8 the falloff is invisible unless you are pathetic enough to be photographing blank walls.

For comparison, one needs to stop down the 20/2.8 AF to between f/4 and f/5.6 to have as little falloff as the 17-35mm has wide-open at 20mm!

Most pre-1990 design Nikkor fixed focal length lenses require stopping down two stops to eliminate falloff. This 17-35mm outperforms these old designs.

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background. You won't see this with real images.

 

Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S falloff on FX and film at infinity.

f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6
17mm
20mm
24mm
28mm
35mm

 

 

 

Filters, Use with   back to Performance    back to top

The filter ring never rotates. The lens elements move around inside the filter ring.

Even on film or an FX camera, the Nikon 17-35mm AF-S works great with no vignetting with one 77mm filter of any kind, even a rotating ND Grad or ordinary non-Nikon polarizer.

With two stacked 77mm filters there is no vignetting at 20mm and longer.

With three stacked 77mm filters you'll want to stay at 24mm or longer. This is great performance for those of us who love to use filters.

You'd need to have a lot of filters stacked on top of each other ever to see any problems on a DX camera.

 

Ghosts  back to Performance    back to top

Freedom from flare and ghosting is excellent. It is as good or better than my fixed 20mm lenses. How can this be? Simple: because this zoom uses aspherical elements, it only has as many elements as a fixed ultra-wide lens. The rest is luck and the possibility that the coatings are more advanced.

Put the sun in your image? No problem. If a bright sun is just outside the image at the short end of the range you might get two tiny, bright magenta spots that you also can see through the viewfinder. Just use your hand to block the sun.

I don't bother with the silly scalloped hood since it won't fit in my bag on the lens. My hood sits in the box for whenever I give this lens away.

 

Hood      back to Performance    back to top

The HB-23 plastic bayonet hood is included.

 

Lateral Color Fringes   back to Performance    back to top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D3 (FX), which largely corrects whatever the 17-35 might have.

If you really push it with backlit trees at the wide end in the corners, you might be able to see some minor yellow/cyan fringes on digital. I never saw them on film.

 

Macro      back to Performance    back to top

The 17-35mm focuses really close.

The specs only mention the closest marked distances of 1 foot and 0.28 meters. Big deal, every ultra wide lens focuses this close or closer.

What the specs don't say is that the actual close focus distance is only 10-1/2" (27cm) from the film plane, which is only 4-1/2" (12cm) from the front of the lens!

The complex optics of this lens move the front nodal point (the point out of which the lens "sees") much further forward than compared to a fixed lens. Therefore one can get in far closer than one suspects.

At 17mm the smallest horizontal field is 13." At 35mm the smallest horizontal field is 6," a 1:4 macro ratio.

At 20mm the smallest horizontal field is 11," a tad smaller than the fixed 20mm f/2.8 AF lens that has a closer marked focusing distance. How can this be? Simple, as mentioned above the front nodal point of this lens gets closer to the subject at this lens' close focus distance than the same point does on the fixed 20mm lens. This is that advantage of trying something instead of reading manufacturers' specifications.

This is one of the few lenses I've used that always can focus as close as I want it to. With most other lenses I often am limited by their close focus distances. With the 17-35mm you run out of the ability to light your subject before you run out of range on the focus ring. Bravo!

 

Mechanics    back to Performance    back to top

The 17-35mm is a tough lens. The only plastic is the aperture ring and the auto/manual focus switch.

It's very, very well made. Even the filter threads are metal and the focal length markings are engraved as they ought to be. If you worry about wanting your expensive lenses to feel that way, this is for you.

The finish is not "Armourlite" or "synthetic leather" or any of the other weird things I've read in the sales brochures. It's just semi-matte black sputtered epoxy paint over alloy. It is more slippery than the traditional crinkle paint I would prefer. This is an easy lens to drop due to the very high weight concentration and slippery finish.

There is a tiny bit of rotational play in the zoom ring. This is normal. There is no play in the focus ring, which is impressive.

 

Barrel Exterior

Metal.

 

Filter Threads

Metal.

 

Hood

Plastic bayonet.

 

Focus Ring

Metal; rubber covered.

 

Zoom Ring

Metal; rubber covered.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

None.

 

Internals

Metal.

 

Aperture Ring

Plastic, engraved and filled with paint.

 

Mount

Dull-chromed brass.

 

Identity Plate

Embossed and planed metal on top of barrel; paint on bottom.

 

Serial Number

Laser engraved onto bottom rear of aperture ring.

 

Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount)

No.

 

Noises When Shaken

A little klunking.

 

Made in

Japan.

 

Weaknesses

I've seen many used ones offered for sale with broken AF-S motors, which tells me that these break. Since Nikon still produces this lens, I doubt there is any problem paying to have it fixed. USA versions have 5-year warrantees.

 

Sharpness    back to Performance    back to top

On a D3, FX at 12 MP

 

17-24mm

It's super-sharp even wide open, except in the corners, where they also sharpen up by f/5.6 or so.

 

28mm

It's super sharp, but softer in the corners at f/2.8. It's much better in the corners by f/4.

 

35mm

It's sharp, even in the corners, at f/2.8.

 

f/16 and f/22

Diffraction limits performance.

 

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

 

Used properly, 17-35mm is super sharp.

The only stupid thing you can do, as with all other similar lenses from Nikon and Canon, is to shoot at 17mm at f/2.8 in broad daylight and then look in the farthest corners of FX with a microscope. If you do all this, they will will be soft, just like Canon's newest 16-35mm L II. Nikon confirms this in their MTF curves. Shoot at f/5.6 or longer focal lengths, and it's super-sharp everywhere in the frame.

You have to do a combination of six things at once to make it look bad, so don't worry. I can only see this stuff when I go out of my way to make a lens look bad in the process of testing it.

I've tested both a new 2008 lens, and a lens bought new in 2001. They are identical.

If you need perfect sharpness at f/2.8 in the corners in daylight on FX at 17mm when seen through a microscope, buy the 14-24mm instead.

 

Zooming    back to Performance    back to top

Nikon 17-35mm Zoom Ring

Zoom and Aperture Rings, Nikon 17-35 2.8 D.

Zooming is excellent. All the focal lengths are well spread out along the zoom ring. It's easy to set any precise framing, and to flick the zoom from one end to the other with a fingertip.

it works as well pointed up, down sideways, or in any direction.

The front group rotates and moves via a cam while zooming.

 

EXIF Encoding Accuracy

The EXIF data is never more than one millimeter different from the setting on the lens.

 

Compared    top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recomendations

 

NEW: Nikon Ultrawide Zooms Compared 08 March 2010

 

Compared to the the 14-24mm

These are lenses for different purposes. I have this comparison at my 14-24mm page.

 

Compared to the 20-35mm

The 17-35mm is bigger and heavier than the 20-35mm.

The 17-35mm is much easier to use and handle than the 20-35mm , because it needs no switches to convert between auto and manual focus.

 

Compared to the 18-35mm

The 18-35mm is a plastic-barreled lens. It weighs much less.

For manual focus, you need to move a switch on your camera, while with the 17-35 all you do is grab the ring.

The optics of the 18-35mm aren't quite as good as the 17-35 and 20-35 at the 35mm end.

 

Compared to the 20mm f/2.8 AF

I've referred to this throughout the text. The 20/2.8 is much smaller and one-third as expensive, with the same optical quality. It has more falloff at f/2.8.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recomendations

The 17-35mm is the wide-lens ticket for the D700, D3x and D3.

It's not a wide angle lens for DX digital cameras; for DX digital cameras get the 12-24 mm DX or Tokina 11-16mm instead. The 17-35 works on DX, it's just bigger, costs more and works less conveniently than lenses designed to for DX.

I get great results handheld as slow as 1/8 second on Fuji Velvia 50 on an F100. I think the heavy weight helps stabilize it against the mirror whipping.

It works great on manual-focus cameras. The focus action feels great.

It's continuous close focus abilities open up new creative avenues that previously required extension tubes for bug's-eye views. The biggest limitation is your ability to get light on your subject, since it focuses up to a few inches away from the front of the lens.

Most professional photojournalists and travel photographers who use 35mm or FX cameras carry one of these on one body, and the 70-200mm VR on a second body.

Nikon didn't screw around here. If you need the best, don't mind the weight on your shoulders and the lightness in your wallet, this is for you. The 14-24mm f/2.8 is a special purpose lens that can't use filters (or even a real lens cap), and is too darn heavy unless you're a 14mm nutcase like myself. See also my Comparison to the 14-24mm.

 

More Information: Nikon, Japan and Nikon's original press release.

 

Deployment

I'd leave either a 77mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 77mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times. I would leave the hood at home.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 77mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

 

Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help to me. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!

Ken

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