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35mm f/1.4 AIS vs 35mm f/1.4 AF

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by kgill, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. kgill


    Jul 25, 2007
    Another query! I'm curious this week! You can see where my lens lust is headed... (a fast prime in the 20-50mm range!!)

    When Nikon updates its lenses, how does the optical quality change? OK, written like that it seems like a dumb question. But this is what I'm trying to ask... Everyone says that the 35mm f/1.4 AIS has its own 'signature', and I've even read that it is one of the few, if not only lens that some photographers can identify by looking at the photo.

    We saw with the 28-70mm that the update (24-70) with new technology produced a fantastic lens. I'm not sure the optical quality of the 60mm changed at all with the update.

    Should I expect the optical 'signature' of the 35mm f/1.4 AIS to change if a new one is released? In short, should I buy the AIS now or wait?

    As some of you may remember, I got a copy from eBay that had a stiff focus ring, so I returned it, but I think that lens is still available. It's as scarce as hen's teeth, although there are some BGN copies at KEH. Should I go for a BGN copy? Buy and fix the stiff focus ring copy, wait for a new copy to come in at B&H or wait for an AF???

    questions questions...
  2. Go for it. Just think of all the photos you'll be able to take with it than waiting for a replacement :smile:
  3. Nikkor AIS

    Nikkor AIS

    Jun 5, 2008
    Iv bought half a dozen lenes from Keh. Somtimes I have a hard time telling there excellent from the bargin, the bargin is that good. the excellent IMO are like mint. Just stay away from the ugly. Iv got a 135 F2 that is holding my door open full of fungus that "learned me".
    Anyway, about your lens lust for the 35 F 1.4. I would go ahead and get a copy "Nikkor 35 1.4 AIS" from keh or e-bay or maby a cafe member, and start talking pictures with it. Waiting is always bad strategy:wink:. I know the modern zooms are good. But the IQ, speed, build quality, silky smooth focusing and as you put it "signature" from the Nikkor 35 1.4 AIS is in another league altogether IMO. Im still using the slower Nikkor 35mm f2 AIS. Which is really a lovely lens. Its not a Nikkor 35 1.4 AIS, but at least it's in the bag.

  4. kgill


    Jul 25, 2007
    so should i try to get the other lens back and have it fixed and risk spending a couple 100 for it (total $500 for lens) or buy the keh bargain at 500?
  5. Well...

    Nikon is coming out with a 35/1.4 AF !!!! Where and when did you hear that?

    Yes the 35/1.4 has its own signature, wide open - at f2 it is pretty much like the current 35/2 AF-D ... (Yea, yea, yea... Let the vilification begin...)

    The 35/1.4 AI-S is truly the easiest MF lens to focus of all of those I tried, tested and owned (No a whole lot... but it says a lot)

    Finding one at a good price is like getting a 24-70/2.8 (used like new) for $900... Considering the 35/1.4 AI-S (was until a few months ago last time I checked) so, again, considering the 35/1.4 AI-S was still selling new for about $1100 at some pro-Nikon retailers... then finding a recent one at lets say $400 to $550 is a deal and worth it - for a few reasons, one is that it is built like a tank - the other is its optical qualities...

    A few test shots for you

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    The special three five one four bokeh from this lens, it isolate your subject blurs the background but keeps the background recognizable.

    View attachment 229251

    View attachment 229252

    View attachment 229253

    View attachment 229254

    View attachment 229255

    The wide open signature in the 100% crop

    View attachment 229256

    Does it have its own signature? Some pictures does have what I call a special three five one four Bokeh other nothing special except that on a full frame sensor like the D3 it give me magical film like rendition is bad conditions like this image below

    View attachment 229257

    Yet it can melt your background away as well

    More sample pictures from this lens can be found here: 35/1.4 AI-S does Paris

    One of those lenses too good not to have and too inexpensive not to buy which gives you a little something extra other lenses can't possibly do quite like it - a bit like the 50/1.2 AI-S and 105/1.8 AI-S ... And to answer your question as to how the optical quality changes when Nikon updates their lenses, well it improves but in different ways as such if and when a 35/1.4 AFS ever comes out the image rendition will be great, IQ most likely (certainly) superior, but different than its AI-S sibling.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  6. kgill


    Jul 25, 2007
    oh i have no idea if a 35 f/1.4 will come out!!!! i was just supposing...

    BH has them in their price list at 699, but i understand these are non USA lenses. i have never seen a NEW USA 35 f/1.4 since i've been looking for them, i don't think. not even the $1100 ones... still gray.

    i think the used price among privates varies between 375 and 500. but the new FF cameras I think have made them hard to come by through privates. i might do best getting the KEH bgn, or paying for the estimate of repair of that other lens and seeing how much it will cost...

  7. kgill


    Jul 25, 2007
    p.s. your pics are amazing. i saw the paris thread when you posted it. but i think with a d200 i wouuldn't get AS amazing shots!!!
  8. rvink


    Mar 21, 2006
    New Zealand
    Sometimes. Many of the first AF lenses were based on manual designs, and many of the early AF lenses were remodelled while retaining the existing optics. However, since early 1990s I can't think of any new lens which was based on an older design (apart from upgrading the AFS teles to AFS II), since then all new primes and zooms are all-new designs. Actually, apart from new super-teles and a few special purpose lenses, Nikon have released very few new primes over the last 20 years. Most are rather old designs and are due for updating.

    Assuming Nikon do release an AFS 35/1.4, you can be sure it will have a different optical design, and therefore a different signature. If Nikon felt it was possible or worthwhile to put the AIS optics into an AF mount, they would have done it already. I suspect the glass is too heavy to permit quick focusing, and the rear element too large to leave room for the AF contacts. A new AF lens will almost certainly have lighter/quicker RF or IF focusing, ED glass and aspherics for improved performance. Nikon seems to take greater care about the optical signature of its lenses, I'd say any new lens would have good bokeh.

    But it's all a guess if/when Nikon produce such a lens, it may be years away. If you need such a lens now, the AIS 35/1.4 is an excellent lens, and the AF 35/2 is capable of fine results also.
  9. Don't be afraid of a KEH BGN lens - it will be just fine for real use. They define BGN as "glass has no marks" and that has been the case for all of the BGN glass I've bought from them (which is a lot).

    I wouldn't be afraid of a non-USA AIS lens either. Parts are widely available and the insides are well understood, as they are just like the other millions of MF Nikkors out there. Even if Nikon won't fix it (and I doubt that's a problem in Europe due to the EU laws), there are plenty of people who can and will. And this lens is built like a tank.

    IMHO, even if Nikon brings out a 35/f1.4 AFS, they will have a tough time making it perform better than the 35/f1.4 AIS from f/2.8 to f/11. It could be better wide open, but it's certainly pretty nice as it is. And I haven't really had occasion to use it at f/16 although it's OK there too. From f/4 to f/8, this lens is at least competitive with the 200/f4 Micro, which is no small accomplishment.

    Interestingly, although I have a terrible time manually focusing telephotos and a difficult time manually focusing long macro lenses, I have no issues with this lens at all.

    If you can get a fungus-free, working 35/f1.4 for $400-$500, I'd do it. However, if you're not dying to use it in the next six weeks, it might be wise to wait for Photokina, since the rumors are very hot that new AFS primes are being announced. I'd guess that even if there's a 35/f1.4 AFS coming, it will be $1000+, but its availability will almost certainly depress the price of the 35/f1.4 AIS.

    One last thing: if you opt for an AI version (not AIS), be sure that it doesn't have the older thorium coatings. They tend to yellow with age. You can "fix" it by setting it in sunlight for a couple of weeks, but why bother when there are many AIS and plenty of non-thorium AI samples out there?
  10. kgill


    Jul 25, 2007
    hey thanks for this insight. i will start looking for one soon. maybe i will wait the 6 weeks to photokina... we'll see. tormented with indecision.
  11. rvink


    Mar 21, 2006
    New Zealand
    The Thorium glass (not coating) was only used on the first versions with the metal focus ring. Thorium is slightly radio active, and the decay causes the glass to turn yellowish over time. The versions with the rubber grip, including AI and AIS, have different glass and don't have the problem.
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