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Nikon 18mm f/3.5
NIKKOR AI-s (1981-2005)
© 2010 KenRockwell.com

Intro    Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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image linked from manufacturer's site

Nikon 18mm f/3.5 AI-s (72mm filter, 12.6 oz./358g). It goes for about $450 at this link to it at eBay (see How to Win at eBay). Using this link to it at eBay as well as looking for it at Adorama when you get yours is this website's biggest source of support to keep reviewing these older items. Thank you! Ken.

Benton, 05 Oct 2010

Sample Image: On the Road to Benton. Bigger. full tech story.


October and August 2010, September 2007    more Nikon reviews


NEW: Image Quality Examples 11 August 2010

Sharpness Comparison to all other 18mm lenses 11 August 2010

How to Use Ultrawide Lenses 11 August 2008

Nikon 18mm f/2.8 AF-D Review


Introduction       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations


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.


This manual-focus lens works great on film cameras and the Nikon D3. It's silly to use it on DX digital cameras, since there are much better and less expensive alternatives, like the 18-55mm AFS II, which won't work on film and FX cameras.

The most intriguing thing about this 18mm lens, in addition to its small size, weight and low price, is that it appears to have less linear distortion than most other Nikkor wide angle lenses. Objects in the corners get sucked out towards the corners, the whole point of ultrawide angle lenses, but straight lines stay straighter than they do on my 20mm Nikkors and 17mm Tokina.

It has similar performance to the more compact 20mm f/4 AI and 20mm f/3.5 AI lenses I already own, but of course it's 10% wider.


Specifications         top

Intro    Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations



It has 11 elements in 10 groups.

It has close range correction (CRC).



It has a seven-bladed diaphragm stopping down to f/22.


Close Focus

0.25m or 0.85 feet.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio



Filter Thread

72mm, metal, does not rotate.

(The 20mm f/3.5 AI-s and 20mm f/4 AI take common 52mm filters).



It takes an HK-9 hood.



Use the CL-37.



It's 2.953" diameter and extends 2.462" from the mounting flange (75.01 x 62.53mm), measured.

Nikon specifies 3.0 x 2.4" (75 x 61.5mm).



12.630 oz. (358.1g), measured.

Nikon specifies 12 oz. (350g).



About $450, used, in 2010.

Sold for about $300 used in 2007.

It listed for $940 at B&H in December 1993 and $1,080 in December 1996, new.


Performance       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations


It gave the usual performance: a soft corners wide open, improving greatly a stop or two down.

See my Sharpness Comparison to all other 18mm lenses for explicit samples and examples.



Cartlsbad Lifeguard

California Lifeguard Shack, 26 September 2007. 18mm at f/16, F6, Fuji Velvia 100.

The 18mm has less distortion than the manual focus 20mm lenses. If you keep a straight line, like the horizon, along the top edge, it stays remarkably straight. Few if any Nikon wide angles can make the shot above without the line along the top bowing out.

Lines parallel to any of the edges stay straight.

There is some bulging or barrel distortion in the center. If you shoot a brick wall, the outsides are great, and there is some slight bulging in the middle.

Distortion on the FX and film cameras is complex, and used judiciously, can give some nice results with architecture. It's bowed out in the center, the only part of the image used with DX cameras, but the far sides on film and DX straighten out again. For horizontal shots with vertical lines, put them towards the sides and they are perfect.

Used with a DX digital camera, it's first order distortion, easy to correct in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter with a setting of +3.


Falloff (darkened corners)

Falloff is moderate at f/3.5.

Falloff is minor at f/5.6.

Falloff is gone at f/11.


Flare and Ghosts

Carlsbad Lifeguard

Tower 28, 26 September 2007. 18mm at f/11, F6, Fuji Velvia 100.

There is one big, dim, red blob opposite the sun. Look very carefully and you can see it on the closest foot of the tower. It's not a problem. There also are a couple of little ones closer to the sun.

Ghosts and flare were a little worse than the 20mm lenses.



Carlsbad Tower 28

California Lifeguard Shack, 26 September 2007. 18mm at f/11, F6, Fuji Velvia 100.

Brilliant point of light may grow 14-pointed stars due to the excellent 7-bladed diaphragm. This is typical for most Nikkor lenses.

These become stronger as one stops down.

This is the same film as above, scanned more darkly. Film shows a lot more than the limited dynamic range of a computer screen. The darker version also shows the ghosts closer to the sun more clearly.


Filters, use with

The Nikon 18mm f/3.5 AI-s is a classic lens designed to take the smallest possible filter. That means that Nikon fitted it with the smallest possible filter threads, which means you're always on the hairy edge of vignetting.

Modern lenses like the bigger and better 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S are designed for oversize filters to eliminate the possibility of vignetting, but this 18mm isn't.

Therefore, if used on a D3 or film where you need the full image out to the corners, you'll want to use a Nikon brand filter, which are all thin, or a thin filter from others.

You'll get away with using a conventional 72mm filter, but you might get just a tiny bit of darkening in the corners.

I can use a 72 -> 77mm step up ring, but then the darkening is even more of a potential problem.

If you use this on a DX camera there is never any problem, but it's a waste of this lens to use it on a DX camera since DX cameras only use the center of the image. (see crop factor.)


Recommendations       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance   Compared   Recommendations

I skipped this lens in 1999 since I got the same or better performance out of my used 20mm f/4 lens, and this 18mm cost $1,000 new.

Today in 2010, this 18mm lens sells for less than half that, and is a steal compared to the the popular Nikon FX zooms that cover 18mm.

It works great on FX and 35mm cameras, and I suggest it for bargain hunters looking for portability and/or great performance.


Help me help you         top

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

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, B&H, 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.

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.

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