Review Nikon 35mm f/2.8 Nikkor-S Auto

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Andrew
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Background
More manual focus lens fun! Yes, the Nikon 35mm f/2.8 Nikkor-S Auto lens is next up on out list of legacy lenses to review!

Online reviews state that there are a lot of Nikon 35mm lenses that are good performers. Locally, I could only find this 35mm lens and for the $50 price tag, I thought I would give this pre-AI lens a whirl.

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Let's find out how it performs.

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Nikon Df
1/60, f/4, ISO 100

Handling/Size/Weight

This is a small lens, a 35mm prime with no AF motor. Just lens elements, a focus ring and an aperture ring.

You've got an all metal construction, as you would expect for a lens built between 1959 and 1975. Nikon made this version of the 35mm for that long before re-design and replacing it in 1975.

It is easy to find the aperture ring and differentiate it from the focus ring without even looking at the lens. The focus ring has that wavy style too.

I must say that there is something very satisfying when using a manual focus lens. While the more modern Nikon AF-S, full time manual focus override, lenses are more convenient - there is something quite different about the way that Nikon made their manual focus lenses. Manual focusing is satisfying, and just feels right. The focus ring is dampened, but only really moves when you want it to. It feels so smooth and the throw is such that getting precision and accuracy is almost effortless.

This is a pre-AI lens, so I need to make sure that I flip up the aperture feeler arm on the Df before mounting it. Used on an adapted camera, it just fits right on the adapter.

The aperture ring has clicks for each setting.

Speaking of the Df, the lens mounts perfectly and handles well on my favorite DSLR.
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Nikon Df
1/50, f/8, ISO 100

Weather Sealed

Not on this guy! An old Pre AI lens.

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Nikon Df
1/125, f/4, ISO 100

Image Quality

While it is not up to speed in relation to the thousand dollar state of the art Nikon lenses, this one can perform quite well. I was honestly

One thing I'd like to point out and I find this to be true for all Nikon manual focus lenses that I own: There is a potential for the aperture ring to move slightly past the widest setting. When this happens, it degrades a image quality quite noticeably.

So, for this lens, you can turn the aperture dial just to the right of f/2.8. I first captured this example on the Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Q lens. That review is linked to the left and it is shown in the first set of images.

I mention this as it is easy to do accidentally. I just want everyone to be aware if it. It may be normal, but those may not know could appreciate the heads up.

IQ - In a word, it works very well to capture crisp images, even at /2.8, which surprised me. I find that wide open is not it's strongest suite with a bit of haze in the image, although it is by no means unusable. A little dehaze slider in Lightroom and that goes away quickly. Going to f/4, you could shoot there all day long and be happy. The lens is sharp, but I would not call it bitingly sharp.

It does fall off in sharpness from center to the edge at wider apertures.

Shooting on the Df, you'll appreciate using it between f/4 and f/11, but don't shy away from f/2.8 if you need it.

I did not notice any real distortion on this lens either. There are plenty of brick walls in the sample images, of which perspective correction was done, but not any kind of lens correction.

As I usually do, here are images to let the lens speak for itself.

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Nikon Df
1/250, f/2.8, ISO 100 (focus on the sign)

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Nikon Df
1/80, f/4, ISO 100

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Nikon Df
1/125, f/4, ISO 100

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Nikon Df
1/100, f/4, ISO 100

Focusing

This is manual focus all the way, but since it was made to be manual focus, working the ring is a satisfying experience.

On the Df, the AF confirmation point worked well...better when using the middle point, especially if shooting at f/5.6 or smaller apertures. You can always start shooting wide open,then close down the aperture after you got the focus nailed down. I found that I did not need to do that much and is not how I generally shoot.

What you also have going for you is that 35mm depth of field is relatively generous, even at f/2.8.

Bottom line here, is that if you've ever used a Nikon manual focus lens, you know what to expect here. It is all good!

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Nikon Df
1/80, f/8, IS 100

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Nikon Df
1/125, f/8, ISO 100

VR

No VR in the lens, but used on adapted cameras with IBIS, you do now have the ability to take advantage of it. Even the new Nikon Z mirrorless cameras have in body image stabilization that will work with this lens.

We were looking forward to testing this lens out on the Z6, but it is listed as officially not supported on the FTZ adapter. I'll try and see why. Sometimes Nikon is very conservative on their pronouncements. So, I'll do some more research and see why. If it is something that will damage the FTZ adapter, then this will just be a lens that lives on the Df only.

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Nikon Df
1/250, f/4, ISO 100

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Nikon Df
1/1250, f/2.8, ISO 100

Bottom Line

Not much is thought of manual focus lenses in this age, but i think people forget how easy it is to work with them once you give them a chance. The 35mm is helped by having a generous depth of field to help get things just right.

Another reason to give these older lenses a chance is the newer technology in the camera bodies. Here, we have punch in focusing and focus peaking when adapted to either a Micro 4/3, Fuji, Sony mirrorless camera as well as the newly released Nikon Z cameras.
 
Joined
Nov 14, 2006
Messages
5,456
Location
Winnipeg, Canada
You got one in nice condition. I like using the old manual lenses for their small size and light weight.

You can find the full spec. history of the 35 f2.8 here: Nikon Lenses
The optical formula changed a bit in 1962 when it also went from being labelled 3.5 cm to 35mm. It looks as if yours dates to the early 70's.

Larry
 
Joined
Mar 20, 2017
Messages
1,129
Location
Central Ohio
Real Name
Andrew
A couple more with this lens on the Z6.
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