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Nikon 35mm f/1.4
© 2007-2012 KenRockwell.com

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

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Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 AI-s (52mm filters, 13.5 oz./381g, about $850 new or about $500 used). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link to it brand-new at B&H Photo-Video, brand-new at Adorama, or this link to it used at Amazon or this link to it used at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.

April 2013   Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lenses    All Reviews


NEW: Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S. First real update in 40 years!

Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX (2009-today, about $200)

Samyang 35mm f/1.4 (2011-today)


Sample Images

Cambria Sunset

Cambria, 13 April 2013, 7:53PM. bigger. (Nikon EL2, NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 AI-s, French-made 52mm CROMOFILTER P2 rotating tobacco grad filter, Fuji Velvia 50, f/8 at AUTO 4 seconds, NCPS scan, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.)


Colorful old car at night

Route 66, February 2015. Nikon D810, NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 AI-s, f/11 at 30 seconds at ISO 100 on $50 Dolica GX600B200 tripod with Mini Magic Ball head, processed in Perfectly Clear. Bigger or full 36 MP resolution.


Bubble Gum Wall, San Luis Obispo

Bubble Gum Wall, San Luis Obispo. 11:31 AM, 11 April 2012. bigger. (1977 Nikon EL2, 1997 Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s, Nikon A2 (81A) filter, Fuji Velvia 50, f/2.8 at 1/30, process and scan at NCPS, Perfectly Clear.)


Trees at Chorro, San Luis Obispo

Trees at Chorro, San Luis Obispo, 7:54 PM, 11 April 2012. bigger. (1977 Nikon EL2, 1997 Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s, Nikon A2 (81A) filter, Fuji Velvia 50, f/1.4 at 1/2 second hand-held (no bracing; just standing in the street), process and scan at NCPS.)


Introduction     top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.4 was found in every photojournalist's bag throughout the 1970s and 1980s as their standard lens.

As of 2000, with faster films and good f/2.8 zooms, they had been largely abandoned.

As of 2010 with digital, they have been forgotten, although they work extremely well on Nikon FX cameras.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.4 is a full-frame FX lens. It works on DX digital, but I won't cover that here.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.4 was introduced, in the original F mount, in 1969. It was Nikon's first multicoated lens and has been used by NASA in space. Its optics have remained the same throughout both AI and AI-s versions, and is still manufactured today. All versions share exemplary mechanical quality.

Optically this is your father's 35mm f/1.4. Its performance, outstanding for the 1970s, has been surpassed by the modern 35mm f/2.0D AF and the 28mm F/1.4D AF.

Nikon 35mm f/1.4

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 at f/5.6. Note 9-blade diaphragm. enlarge.


Nikon 35mm f/1.4

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 at f/1.4.


Specifications    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations


Nikon calls this The Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 AI-s.



9 elements in 7 groups.

Traditional spherical design with floating elements for close-range correction (CRC).

Multicoated; actualy it was Nikon's first multicoated lens back in 1970.

Diaphragm: 9 blades on today's AI-s version (1981-today), 7 blades on early AI (1977-1981) and K (1975-1977) versions.


Close Focus

1 foot (0.3m).


Maximum Reproduction Ratio



Actual Focal Length




Wonderful nine-bladed diaphragm.

Stops down to f/16.



2.4444" extension from flange x 2.6425" diameter (62.11 x 67.12mm), measured.

Nikon specifies 2.7" (67.5mm) around by 2.9" (74mm) long.

The fattest part is the focus ring.



13.450 oz. (381.25g), measured.

Nikon specifies 14 oz. (400g).



HN-3 screw-in metal hood.

I don't use it; ghosts aren't a problem.


Nikon Catalog Number

1429, April 2010.


Nikon's Catalog Price

$1,165, USA, New, April 2010.


Nikon 35mm f/1.4 Aperture Ring


Performance    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations



Typical performance for a spherical f/1.4 wide lens: blurry wide open, improving greatly as stopped down. This was state-of-the art until the introduction of the 28mm f/1.4 AF-D aspherical in 1993.


Coma       performance     top

This 35/1.4 is loaded with coma. THe new 35/1.4 G is much, much better.

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.

Here is an overview of the entire 12MP FX D3 frame:


Guide image.


Here are crops from 100% images from the far lowest left corner:

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s coma at f/1.4

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s coma at f/2

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s coma at f/2.8

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s coma at f/4


For comparison, here's the 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S at f/1.4:

Nikon 35mm f/1.4 G coma at f/1.4


Sharpness on the Nikon D3:


Low contrast everywhere due to the veiling effects of spherical aberration. Very blurry in corners with loads of coma. Sharp most places, just veiled.



Sharp and contrasty in center since spherical aberration is now gone. Gets softer toward sides. Corners still very soft and loaded with coma.



Sharp and contrasty throughout most of frame, with a softer band at about a 15mm radius. Far corners still blurry.



Very sharp almost everywhere. Slightly softer at r=15mm, far corners softer.



Sharp all over. Farthest corners just a little softer.



Excellent all over, optimum aperture overall.



Excellent all over, farthest corners optimum.



Slightly softer due to diffraction.


Lateral Color Fringes

None on the D3.

It has some lateral magenta/green secondary chromatic aberration on film.


Flare and Ghosts

It has next to no ghosts if you have your light source in the image.


Nikon 35mm f/1.4

Nikon 35mm f/1.4



It has typical barrel distortion. At infinity on film or FX digital, use +1.5 in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to rectify it at infinity. This isn't a fact or a specification, it's the result of my research that requires me to climb a bluff on a very clear day and shoot the ocean's horizon.


Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Typical for its era, there is strong falloff wide open (f/1.4) on film and FX digital. The $1,800 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S is the same, so I guess Nikon accepts this.

It improves greatly at f/2, and is gone by f/2.8.

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Nikon 35mm f/1.4 AI-s falloff on FX and film at infinity, no correction.


© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.





It has close-range-correction (CRC) and focuses very close, to about a foot. Although you can get down to about a 5" x 7" subject, there is a good deal of barrel distortion.


Vibration Reduction


Handheld on an FA I get sharp results consistently at 1/15.


Performance on Fuji Velvia film:


Lots of light falloff. Lots of coma in corners and spherical aberration in center give low contrast all over. Resolution is good.



Falloff. Coma. Getting sharp.



Vvery sharp, no more falloff.

Odd loss of definition in 9-11 o'clock sector 15mm out



Very sharp.

Odd loss of definition in 9-11 O'clock sector 15mm out












Swell. Random underexposure with FA in aperture-priority (A) mode. Press the depth-of-field preview button and hold it while you make the exposure to cure this, with the FA.


Nikon 35mm f/1.4

Nikon 35mm f/1.4. Note delicate rear element protector pin.


Recommendations    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Try not to use this lens at f/1.4 where the image quality is relatively poor. It has low contrast due to various kinds of spherical aberration and a lot of light falloff. It also has a lot of coma, so points of light at the sides will instead look like little batwings.


Nikon 35mm f/1.4 rear


What a lot of light falloff at f/1.4 means is that even though it's f/1.4 in a center hotspot of the image, at the sides you really are only getting the light equivalent to f/2 or f/2.8.

Use this lens is if you typically shoot at about f/2.8, at which aperture it performs better than most other lenses.

If you shoot at smaller apertures you don't need this expensive f/1.4 lens.

If you really shoot at larger apertures (as I do) you'll prefer the very, very expensive 28mm f/1.4D AF.

Generally the much more recently designed and far less expensive 35mm f/2.0D AF lens gives better performance at every aperture, although the 35/2 AF gets softer when you are too close. The 35/2 AF also focuses much closer.

If you are fixated on the f/1.4 aperture, remember that due to the huge light falloff that you really are only getting f/1.4 in a hotspot in the center of the image, and that at f/2 both the 35/2 AF lens and the 35/1.4 are giving the same image quality.

I think that this fine lens' time has passed.

I saw lower sharpness 15mm from the center of the image at f/2.8 in two different samples of lens in two different media, telling me that this is inherent in the design of the 35mm f/1.4. I saw it with this lens pictured here on my D3, and I saw it with the first sample I owned back in the 1990s on film.


More Information: Nikon Japan and Nikon USA.


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