Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G
Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S G (FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 77mm filters, 13.4 oz./381 g, 0.9'/0.28 m close focus, about $750). My biggest source of support is when you use any of these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama or at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these lenses when you get yours through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.
Original 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D Review (2000-today).
Sample Image File
Public space. 36 MP Nikon D800E, 18-35mm at 18mm, f/3.5 at 1/60 at ISO 100. Camera-original file, © 7 MB LARGE BASIC JPG. Remember that focus is on the light in the center; the corners are out of focus, not softer due to lens defects, and likewise, what seems to be lateral color is not in focus either, being most likely lateral spherochromatism. No lens correction was used. This is exemplary performance from any SLR zoom, and this lens is doing this wide-open!
Manual focus is easy; just grab the ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
This Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G is a new version of the original 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D of 2000. The older AF-D version is still sold today for about the same price, but is far inferior.
None of these 18-35mm lenses has Vibration Reduction (VR). For VR, you'll need the much bigger 16-35mm f/4 VR instead — but VR is of no help for action or people shots; it merely replaces a tripod for long exposures of interiors or at night.
As a full-frame lens, I will be reviewing it as such. You may make the usual inferences for DX. It will work fine on DX cameras, but it's foolish to use it on a DX camera because the 18-55mm VR gives better performance lot less money on DX instead!
Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon ever made, both FX and DX, from the best D4, D800, D800E and D600 to Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100 and D5200.
The incompatibilities for older or cheaper 35mm cameras are that:
1.) It won't autofocus with the cheapest new AF 35mm cameras like the N55, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. Even if you lose autofocus, these cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.
2.) Late 1980s ~ early 1990s AF cameras like the N90s, N70 and F4 will focus just fine. You'll have Program and Shutter-priority modes, but lose Manual and Aperture-priority since you have no way to set the aperture on the camera or on the lens.
3.) You're really pushing it with the oldest AF cameras like the N2020, N6006 and N8008. You'll have no AF and confused exposure modes. Manual focus is fine, along with electronic focus indications.
4.) Since it has no aperture ring, it's just about useless with manual focus film cameras. It will shoot every shot at its minimum aperture.
See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I" and "G" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a deliberate handicap which removes features.
If you need compatibility with older cameras, the original 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D works great.
Front, Nikon 18-35 G. bigger.
Bottom, Nikon 18-35.
Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED.
AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave Autofocus Motor.
NIKKOR: Nikon's brand name for all their lenses.
ED: Magic Extra-low Dispersion Glass.
Also has, but not included in the name:
Aspherical: Specially-shaped glass for greater sharpness.
D: Couples distance information to the Matrix Meter.
IF: Internal focusing; nothing moves externally as focused.
SIC: Nikon’s Super Integrated Multicoating.
∅77: 77mm filter thread.
↓10↑: Lead-free RoHS solder used so that tin "whiskers" will grow after about ten years, ensuring that its circuitry is unrepairable, thus a 10-year expected life before being thrown away. More on tin whiskers from NASA and more here (page 41).
MADE IN CHINA: Offshored to be made as cheaply as possible.
Nikon 18-35mm internal diagram.
12 elements in 8 groups.
Two of these are ED and three are aspherical.
It's multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC).
Front, Nikon 18-35 G. bigger.
7 rounded blades.
Stops down to f/22-29.
Rounded until f/8, relatively straight-sided from f/11 and smaller.
It will work, but don't use it on DX; use the 18-55mm VR instead for better performance for a lot less money.
Focal Length top
Angle of View top
Close Focus top
0.92 feet (0.28 meters) from the image plane.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.
Focus Scale top
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Infra-Red Focus Index top
Aperture Ring top
Filter Thread top
77 mm, plastic.
Does not move.
Nikon specifies 3.3" (83 mm) diameter by 3.7" (95 mm) extension from flange.
13.435 oz. (380.85 g), measured.
Nikon specifies 13.6 oz. (385 g).
Made in China.
Nikon HB-66 hood.
Plastic bayonet HB-66 hood, included.
CL- 1118 bag included.
Snap-on LC-77 front lens cap.
LF-4 rear cap.
Paperwork in many languages.
5 years, USA.
29 January 2013
Promised for top
Shipping since top
The first units were received in photographer's hands 19 March 2013, as predicted.
Nikon Product Number top
Price, USA top
$750 at introduction, January 2013.
Microcorrugated outer box, gold-look color:
Box, Nikon 18-35mm AFS-G.
And here's what's inside:
Box innards: "frozen smoke," Nikon 18-35mm AFS-G.
Nikon uses this translucent plastic cradle to hold the lens. The hood is held separately above the lens, while two sets of paperwork are folded up and held on either side at the top of this thing, squeezed the translucent holder and the box.
Optically and ergonomically, this 18-35mm lens is superb.
Neither Canon nor Nikon make any sharper ultrawide lenses than this. The 18-35mm G also has very little light falloff.
Its optics will have superior sharpness for pixel-counters, especially compared to the original 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D.
Autofocus is a bit slower than I'd expect for an ultrawide, but as an ultrawide, still plenty fast.
It's very quiet, but not completely silent.
Manual focus is easy; just grab the ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, isn't very relevant because it's nearly impossible to get anything far out of focus.
As I'll show at Macro, if you can see it, bokeh is excellent at the 35mm end.
The color rendition is the same as my other Nikkor AF lenses.
Coma (saggital coma flare) often causes weird smeared blobs to appear around bright points of light in the corners of fast or wide lenses at large apertures. In lenses that have it, coma goes away as stopped down.
Thankfully, I see no coma in this lens, even on my 36 MP D800E.
The Nikon 18-35 G has a lot of barrel distortion at 18mm, improving to not being visible at 35mm.
The good news is that recent digital cameras like the D90, D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100, D7000, D4, D600, D800 and D800E can be set to correct the distortion automatically in-camera, so long as you have the latest firmware! This test is made without any in-camera correction.
Without in-camera correction, it's easy to correct with Photoshop's lens distortion filter using these factors below. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
* Some waviness remains.
Nikon 18-35mm AFS-G.
Ergonomics are excellent; just grab and go.
The zoom ring is more damped than usual.
Just grab the focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
The rear elements move in and out as the 18-35mm is zoomed.
Not enough air pumps in and out to worry about feeling any air pump out of the eyepiece, and if you put a filter on the front, the lens ought to stay very clean inside without air pumping in and out as zoomed.
I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background:
There is no problem with vignetting on FX or 35mm, even with a thick rotating filter. Even with a stacked rotating filter and a regular filter, there isn't any vignetting except at 20mm and wider. This is excellent; there is no need for expensive "thin" filters.
The filter ring never moves.
Don't use a polarizer on any ultrawide lens, unless you want weird dark bands appearing in your skies. Nature's polarization varies with angle, so with lenses this wide, weird things happen if used with a polarizing filter.
Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image from the Nikon 18-35mm AF-S G gets smaller as focused more closely.
The HB-66 hood is included. It's the usual plastic bayonet.
Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S G and HB-66 hood.
There are no lateral color fringes when shot on the 36 MP D800E, which corrects them automatically even without the newest firmware with this new lens' profile.
Macro focuses to within inches of the front of the lens, but as a wide-angle, doesn't look that close:
Full-frame image at 35mm at f/4.5 at close-focus distance.
Crop from above 36 MP image at 100%. If this is 6" wide on your screen, the complete image printed at this same magnification would be 75 x 50." (6 x 4 feet, or 2 x 1.25 meters!)
It may not seem that close, but it sure is sharp, even wide-open! Beware the thin depth-of-field; in this shot, the hands are closer to the lens than the watch face and are obviously out-of-focus when printed at large magnification.
Rear, Nikon 18-35mm G. enlarge.
The Nikon 18-35 f/3.5-4.5 AF-S G is well made of plastic. The lens mount is metal and most of the glass is glass, while everything else is plastic.
Plastic; rubber covered.
Plastic; rubber covered.
Mounting Index Dot
White plastic ball.
Plastic, 18k gold filled.
Sticker glued into a recess on the bottom of the lens.
US Model Signified by
"US" prefix to serial number, and serial numbers starting at 600,000.
The rest of the world gets serial numbers simply starting at 200,000.
Moisture seal at mount
Noises When Shaken
Clunking from the zoom system.
While amateurs waste time worrying about lens sharpness, pros know that lens sharpness has little to do with making sharp pictures. This said, there is no ultrawide zoom significantly sharper than the Nikon 18-35G. Even the world's sharpest, the Nikon 16-35mm VR, is only slightly sharper, and only under a very limited set of conditions. Otherwise, they are identically sharp.
This 18-35mm lens is always super sharp, even on a 36 MP D800E. If you're not getting sharp pictures, you're doing something wrong, something moved or was out of focus, or you got stupid and bought one at retail where anyone could have played with and damaged it before being sold to you.
It's always super-sharp and contrasty in the center.
At 18mm on FX at infinity, the last couple of millimeters of the corners are a little less sharp wide open, and they improve when stopped down.
At 24mm on FX at infinity, the sides and last couple of millimeters of the corners are a little less sharp wide open, and they improve as stopped down.
At 35mm on FX at infinity, the sides and last couple of millimeters of the corners are a little less sharp wide open, and they improve as stopped down.
At apertures of f/11 and smaller, diffraction limits performance.
Good photographers will never notice any of this; these subtle sharpness variations are only visible under a microscope under controlled test conditions. In actual use, this lens is so sharp that neither of us would see any defects; subject motion and imperfect focus would always be greater contributors to unsharpness than any lack of perfection in this superb lens.
Here are Nikon's rated MTF curves, which agree with what I observed:
Nikon 18-35mm MTF at 18mm and f/3.5.
Nikon 18-35mm MTF at 35mm and f/4.5.
With its rounded 7-bladed diaphragm, I haven't seen much in the way of sunstars.
Since the diaphragm becomes relatively straight-sided at f/11 and smaller, try the smaller apertures if you want sunstars on brilliant points of light.
See also Nikon FX Ultrawide Zooms Compared.
Compared to the 16-35mm VR
This 18-35mm is much smaller, lighter and less expensive, but lacks VR. VR is only useful for hand-held shooting indoors and at night of still subjects, not people or action. They both take a 77mm filter, focus and zoom internal to their own barrels, and each have about the same high levels of distortion.
Each is superb optically. They are almost indistinguishable from each other on the 36 MP Nikon D800E. I could never tell one from the other if presented with a single image, but shot side-by side at the test range at infinity and viewed under the microscope, they are still indistinguishable throughout most of the image. Only in the corners, the 16-35mm VR is very slightly sharper at 18mm, while at 35mm, they are equal.
If you want a compact ultra-sharp ultrawide zoom for Nikon, this new 18-35 is unmatched. (Canon's 17-40mm f/4 is also excellent, but only for Canon).
Compared to the original 18-35mm AF-D
Both 18-35mm lenses are about the same size and weight. They both take a 77mm filter and each has strong distortion.
The original 18-35mm AF-D (2000-today) is optically much softer in the corners, has more light falloff, and feels much dinkier, with a front that pumps in and out when zoomed, and a focus ring that rotates by itself during autofocus, and it requires you to move a switch to swap between auto and manual focus. You'll never see the optical differences unless you're a pixel-counter as opposed to a photographer.
Since they sell for similar prices new, I'd forget the original 18-35mm, except for use with older Nikon manual focus cameras with which the new G lens is not compatible.
Buying used is another story, since the original 18-35mm sells for about only $325 used. If money matters and you don't mind moving a lever to get between auto and manual focus, consider also the original 18-35mm.
Compared to the 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D
While far better made, having much less distortion and being a full stop faster, the older 20-35mm lens has optics otherwise about as sharp as the original 18-35mm AF-D, meaning softer in the corners, with plenty of light falloff at large apertures. You'll never see the difference unless you're a pixel-counter as opposed to a photographer.
The 20-35mm AF-D works on all FX digital cameras and its focus ring doesn't rotate by itself during autofocus as does the older 18-35mm, but the 20-35mm still requires one to move a lever to get between auto and manual focus.
The 20-35mm has a straight 9-bladed diaphragm for superior 18-pointed sunstars which you will see, lacking on any other lens here. The other lenses have either 7 or rounded blades, so they won't give magnificent 18-pointed sunstars so often important in ultrawide shots.
Compared to the 14-24mm f/2.8 G
The 14-24mm is a huge, special-purpose professional lens.
It was the world's sharpest and a world-changer at its introduction in late 2007, but the 16-35mm VR is slightly better and this 18-35mm is just as good, too — without all the weight and expense.
I'd pass on the 14-24mm because it's too big to want to carry, and there's no way to use filters on the front or on the back.
Either 20mm f/2.8 lens is much smaller, lighter, less expensive and has less distortion than this 18-35mm G. The AF-D (1989-today) and AI-s (1984-today) versions each use the same optics as each other.
The 20mm f/2.8 lenses are also a stop faster, but are loaded with light falloff (darkened corners) and are much softer in the corners than this new 18-35mm lens. The AI-s lens is always manual focus and better made than any of the other lenses, while the 20mm AF-D is an older-style AF lens that demands you move a switch to get between auto and manual focus.
Want an ultra light, ultrahigh performance ultrawide zoom for full-frame and 35mm Nikon? Bingo, your ship just came in. Forget the clumsy older 18-35 AF-D, which sells for not much less money.
The 16-35mm and 14-24mm have optics of the same quality, but are bigger and more expensive. The 14-24mm is a special-purpose ultra-ultrawide lens, while the 16-35mm VR is worth considering if you prefer VR for hand-holding outside in the dark and don't mind the size, weight and added expense. With the ultrahigh ISOs of FX cameras, I wouldn't worry about not having VR for interior shots with this new 18-35mm.
My only misgiving about this new 18-35 is it being made in China. I wouldn't spend this much on anything offshored to a Communist country, but that's just me. I'd rather buy genuine Chinese products (those made by Chinese companies designed in China) or other Nikon products like the 16-35mm VR, 14-24mm, 20-35mm f/2.8 or even the lower-priced original 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D, all made domestically in Japan.
By all means, this new 18-35mm is a Godsend for FX photographers: a small, lightweight, relatively low-priced ultra-performance lens for every FX and 35mm shooter.
If you've found the time, effort and expense I put into researching and sharing all this for free, my biggest source of support is when you use any of these links, especially this link directly to it at Adorama or at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these lenses when you get yours through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere.
Thanks for your support!
More Information top
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page 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.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!