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Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s
© 2008 KenRockwell.com

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Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s. enlarge. Get it used here. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from this link, thanks!

Introduction     top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

I used the Nikkor 35mm f/2 AI-s as my normal lens on my F2AS and FA from 1983 through 1993. I used it more than any other lens. I replaced it with the 35mm f/1.4, which became my normal lens on my FA until I went to autofocus in 1999 when I bought my F100.

I bought it new back in the dark ages of the 1980s based on what I read in catalogs and maybe a magazine review. Back then there were no sources of useful comparative information with which to make educated lens choices. Based on what I read and presumed, this seemed like my ideal normal lens due to its low cost and high speed. The 35mm f/2.8 didn't cost much less, and the 35mm f/1.4 always cost far, far more. For me, 35mm is my normal focal length, not 50mm.

As I shot with it, of course it's sharp, but I grew to hate it because it has strong ghosts. Its poor ghost performance often destroyed my night photos. These ghosts take the form of ankh-shaped blobs opposite the source of the light.

This 35mm f/2 AI-s is an awful choice for night photography, but just great for use in daylight so long as the sun isn't in the image.

The 35mm f/2 D AF lens, although plasticy, is better optically.

Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s

Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s at f/5.6.

Compatibility: On the D2, D3, D200, D300 and F6, use the "Non-CPU Lens Data" menu option to input 35mm and f/2. This gives full matrix metering and EXIF data, and finder read-out of set aperture. It works great in aperture-preferred as well as manual modes on these cameras.

It won't couple well to the cheaper digital (D80 and below) and cheaper film cameras (N80 and below). It works perfectly every professional film camera (F, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6), with Matrix metering on the FA, F4 and F6.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AI, AI-s"column for this lens.

Production History

Nikon's first 35mm f/2 lens design was made from 1962 - 1967.

The optics were changed in 1967, another slight change was made in 1975, and this version made up through about 2005.

I don't know that any of these changes were major; it's always been an 8 element, 6 group design with a large front element.

Numerous changes have been made to the mechanics and coatings over the decades. At first it was single coated in amber, then blue (-C) and for the past three decades it's been multicoated.

Any of these lenses in at least the AI version made since about 1977 should be optically indistinguishable from this one.

The AI-s version seen here was made from 1981 - 2005.

Nikon made about 125,000 of these AI-s versions, and about 450,000 of all types of 35mm f/2 manual focus lenses combined. They are very popular for the same reason I bought my first one in 1983.

The 35mm f/2 D AF is a completely different design. It came out in 1989 (pre-D version) and is still made today.

Specifications    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Name: Nikon calls this the Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/2 AI-s.

Optics: 8 elements in 6 groups, multi-coated. Conventional spherical design.

Diaphragm: 7 blades stopping down to f/22.

Close Focus: 1 foot (0.3m).

Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:5.7.

Filter Thread: 52mm, Nikon's standard since 1959.

Size: 2.0222" extension from flange (focused at infinity) x 2.4752" diameter (51.36 x 62.87 mm), measured. The widest thing is the aperture ring.

Weight: 9.992 oz. (283.3 g), measured.

Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s

Performance    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

This lens is standard issue Nikon wide angle: soft in the corners wide open due to coma, the usual barrel distortion, and falloff that goes away a stop or two down.

Also standard for Nikon, it is very sharp when stopped down two stops.

It is extremely well made mechanically.


The 35mm f/2 AI-s has the same barrel distortion typical of most Nikon wide and fast normal lenses. The viewfinders of most non-pro Nikon bodies incorporate complimentary pincushion distortion to hide this.

Plug these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires me waiting for an extraordinarily clear day at the beach and then hours of data collection and computation.

FX and Film

© 2008 KenRockwell.com

* Several pixels of waviness remain after correction.

Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s

Mechanics and Contruction

The 35mm f/2 AI-s is made like they used to. It is built to the highest mechanical standards I have ever experianced.

Filter Threads: Metal.

Barrel: Metal.

Focus Ring: Metal, rubber covered.

Aperture Ring: Metal.

Mount: Metal.

Internals: Metal.

Markings: All engraved and filled.

Noises when Shaken: Very minor clicking from the diaphragm blade.

Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s

Recommendations    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Pass on this lens and go for the plasticy, but optically superior, 35mm f/2D AF.

Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s

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