Tuesday 11 September 2012

Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8D

This lens is no longer in production but that doesn't mean it's not worth seeking out.  On the contrary, this is a little gem and I bought mine recently second hand.

First Impressions 

This first thing I noticed about this lens is the build quality.  This was no kit lens. It's metal casing gives it a solid reliable feel in your hands.  There is no lens creep or play in the moving parts.  This lens was built to last.  
The finish is quite glossy compared to the current lenses which might make it look a little dated to the sharp eyed among you but you'd have to be very shallow to let that put you off.


The lens will take a 62mm screw on filter, however, as the front part of the lens rotates during focussing it would not be suitable for a circular polarising filter unless you were prepared to adjust it every time you re-focussed.
The front part of the lens contains the focussing ring for manual focussing although this lens will auto focus provided your camera is compatible.  The closest it will focus in normal mode is .6m but there is a 'macro' button, which if pushed in when the lens is set to 35mm, will allow you to manually focus to a distance of .26m.  Although this is referred to as a macro setting it's not a true macro as it will only give a ratio of 1:4.  A true macro ratio is 1:1 so it would be more accurate to call this a 'close-up' setting.
The larger grip area is for the zoom.  this lens is back-to-front compared to modern zooms.  It's default setting is at full zoom of 70mm and you have to extend the lens to 'zoom out' to 35mm.  This is totally counter intuitive and takes a bit of getting use to as does the way it zooms. You don't twist this grip to change the zoom, you pull and push it.  It's a bit clunky at first and not easy to select a distance in between.  You would not want to use the zoom feature whilst recording video as it is difficult to get it smooth enough.  The fact the lens slides out as it does is something you need to remember if you are in the habit, as I am, of picking your camera up by the lens.
At the back of the lens is another small ring that allows you to set the aperture.  There is a sliding lock that will lock it at f/22 and I suggest you do this if you are using on a digital camera body that allows you to set the aperture on the camera.
There is no vibration reduction as this lens was made before that feature was developed.

Lens Test

I have used this lens on my D300s and D5100 cameras.  The former is the better camera for this lens as it has an auto-focusing mechanism built in so it will auto-focus with this lens.  The D5100 does not have this so all focussing has to be done manually but this is relatively easy if you use the built in AF assist icon.
The lens fits nice a tight on the body and the grips feel comfortable in the hand.  The auto-focus works well with the D300s and the images are very sharp with no discernible drop off at the edges.  At the 35mm end there are some very slight signs of chromatic aberration but this is barely noticeable and easily fixed in post processing.  Distortion too is very low which makes it perfect for portraits.
Being a fast and with it's 35-70mm zoom range this is a brilliant portrait lens in most lighting conditions and I suspect it will quickly become my main workhorse for my pet portraiture as it gives me a little bit more flexibility over my 50mm f1.4 prime but is faster and distorts less than my 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom.

Landscape at 70mm

Same landscape at 35mm

100% crop of the top right hand corner of the last image showing slight cyan/yellow CAs  around the trees.

Portrait taken at 70mm f5

 35mm f8 'Macro' shot at closest focusing distance.

35mm f14 in normal mode at closest focussing distance.


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