Home    Search    Gallery    How-To    Books    Links    Workshops    About    Contact

Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 PC Test Review
© 2004 KenRockwell.com

Lens Test Glossary     About these reviews

Please help KenRockwell..com

get it used here

Introduction

I find this lens silly because I prefer a real 4x5 view camera or Photoshop with 35mm to correct perspective. This lens it a pain to use. For other people or uses this lens may be just the ticket. In any case it is a very specialized lens, so pay attention to what you really want to accomplish before sinking too much dough into one.

It must be used on a tripod, metered manually, and have the diaphragm opened and closed manually before and after each shot, just like on a large-format camera.

When I want to go to that much trouble I just use a 4x5" view camera instead so I get decent results on a decent sized piece of film instead of piddly 35mm film chips. Therefore I got rid of my PC lens.

You also have to meter manually with the PC lens with the lens at the zero shift position, because the metering and even viewing systems get all messed up as you shift the lens.

Let me say that again: your camera's built in meter will give the wrong reading by a few stops if you meter with the lens shifted. This is because all SLR cameras' meters meter the light through complex prism systems, so if you shift the position of the lens the meters get all confused.

Not only do you have to meter manually, but even the diaphragm is totally manual. That means you have to close it down by hand before you make the photo and open it again after the photo. This is a pain, just like a view camera.

On the other hand, if I only shot 35mm cameras and photographed buildings I'd definitely get one of the PC lenses, preferably the 28mm. It lets you take photos and keep all the vertical lines vertical.

On the other other hand, for digital use you can correct converging lines in Photoshop. This makes the PC lenses obsolete for the digital age.

I had the version made from 1968 - 1975. It was single coated.

Specifications

It focusses to 1 foot or 0.3m.

It has an nice nine-bladed preset (totally manual) diaphragm stopping down to f/32.

It has eight elements in seven groups.

Filter thread is 52mm.

It is 2.6" (66mm) long by 2.8" (70mm) around and weighs 12 oz. (335g).

Performance

Nikon never ceases to amaze me. Most of Nikon's wide angle lenses have minor barrel distortion, and so does this lens!

That's too bad, because for its intended architectural application this is not good. It's not all that bad, either, but I just have to chuckle that Nikon just can't seem to design a retrofocus lens without distortion. You'll have to try this for yourself. It has less distortion than most of their lenses, but it's not totally ruler straight either.

Otherwise it's a perfectly swell lens sharpness wise. You'd have to be a moron if you worried too much about sharpness and are still shooting in the 35mm format. If you are doing this seriously you ought to be shooting at least medium format. The lens itself is fine, it's just that the 35mm format is too small for serious work.

Recommendations

I can't figure out why people would want a PC lens in 35mm format. It has no tilts or swings.

If you are going to spend the time to get good results you should be shooting a larger format.

If you are doing digital or low-resolution work you can shoot with what you already have and correct it in Photoshop.

Some people do make creative use of the PC lens. I've seen a shot by Galen Rowell from an airplane where he deliberately shifted the lens the "wrong" way to exaggerate perspective. This is cool, but he still had to meter the hard way.

For what you pay for this lens you could buy a used view camera and lens.

I had one of the very early versions. It only cost me $250 used. If you are locked into 35mm and want it to shoot landscapes or whatever by all means go for it. For landscapes it allows you to get the horizon out of the center of the image and keep the trees vertical.

If you insist, it is a perfectly competent lens. I see no advantages of the newer versions optically. The earliest versions like the one I had had open screws for the shift mechanism; newer versions are sealed. My version had a knurled all-metal focussing ring.

I found I could ignore Nikon's recommendations about the maximum shift limits. I could shift all 11mm in every direction and get great results.

Home     <<Back     Gallery     How-To     Links    Workshops     About     Contact

Lens Test Glossary || About these reviews