Dec 30, 2009

Review: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

Maybe you just got a Nikon D90 or D5000 for Christmas. Sure, the kit lenses are fine (especially the 18-105 VR), but the whole point of a dSLR is that you're not stuck with one lens. And you've probably noticed that trying to take indoor shots in natural light (no flash) with the kit lens, even at high ISO, is nigh on impossible. Enter the Nikon 35mm f/1.8. At $200 this is one the finest, cheapest lenses you can buy. Indoor shots, especially portraits, have a richly saturated look. Subject isolation is easy at f/1.8 and the bokeh is quite pleasing. Although 35mm (~50mm effective FX focal length) is a little short for a traditional portrait lens, this will one will get the job done if you're just starting out. The 35mm is a lot more versatile than the 50mm f/1.8 for shooting indoors unless you want extreme close ups. The lens is a compact, lightweight alternative to the kit lens and is handy for times when you want to bring your camera along without a lot of fuss.

Be aware that there's a learning curve with this lens. At f/1.8, depth of field is extremely narrow, so there's no room for focus error. And if you're trying to shoot more than one person, stop down to f/2.8 or else you probably won't get the sharpness you're after. Although f/1.8 is a big step up from f/3.5, this lens still won't see in the dark. There are some cases where you really just need a tripod and a longer exposure than you can handhold. If you're used to shooting with a zoom, it takes a little while to get comfortable with a prime. But it's easy to take a step forward or backward (or just crop in RAW). A fixed focal length forces you to think more carefully about composition, but it's also somewhat liberating in that you can just take the shot without having to worry about the zoom. Overall, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 should be the first new lens you buy for your new dSLR.

No comments: