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Brian Tobey
Nikon NIKKOR 35mm f/2.0 AF-D

NIKON 35mm f/2.0 AF D

UPDATED: OCTOBER 17, 2011 (NEW $360)


Light WeightNo Zoom
Low LightPoor Bokeh
Well BuiltNo SWM/AF-S



Nikon NIKKOR 35mm f/2.0 AF D

Nikon made several fixed focal length lenses throughout the 1990ís. The 35mm f/2 AF was first introduced in 1989, and later, in 1995, they introduced the "D" model which is still made today. Although originally designed for film, it works great on digital. Its greatest feature is the ability to shoot at f/2 in low light conditions. This also allows you to blur backgrounds more due to the shallow depth of field, which is not common amongst wider angle lenses.

Another key feature is its size. It is small and lightweight. This makes it great for casual shooting around town or when out to dinner. Remember though that it does not have a built in AF motor and relies on the camera to power the autofocus. This means the D5100, D3100, D5000 wonít autofocus using this lens, as they require the newer AF-S featured lenses that have a silent wave motor (SWM) built into the lens.

Nikon has more recently introduced an updated 35mm f/1.4 AF-S. However, it is 6 times the cost! Although the newer lens has better performance wide open, one should really think through the justification to purchase the newer lens at that price point.


Just skip this lens if you use a DX camera. The newer Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens offers better autofocus and slightly better optical performance wide open. Plain and simple I would just stick with the newer 35mm f/1.8G, it was designed for DX.

Now if you already have this lens, it does work well on DX cameras that have the autofocus motor. Because DX has a smaller sensor, you barely get any light falloff issues on the corners, so this lens becomes a top performer by f/2.8!

Nikon NIKKOR 35mm f/2.0 AF D Box


This lens is great for wide angle casual shooting, portability, and for low light situations. Bring it out to dinner, take it to parties, or simply walk around town. Fixed focal length lenses (non-zoom) are great to learn with, allowing one to study a particular perspective. 35mm is a common wide angle perspective on FX and acts as a normal perspective on DX.


This lens falls short on a few categories. One being it does not zoom. If you are lazy or require the ability to change focal lengths quickly, this is not the lens for you. Another is it has poor bokeh, or the quality of background blur. The out of focus areas distract from the subject and produce harsh patterns, sharp edges or sometimes circular rings. This is shown in some of the examples below.



Sample Nikon 35mm f/2.0 AF-D NIKKOR
Sample Nikon 35mm f/2.0 AF-D NIKKOR
Sample Nikon 35mm f/2.0 AF-D NIKKOR


Unfortunately the 35mm f/2 AF D is not real sharp wide open at f/2. It greatly improves by f/2.8 and becomes ultra sharp by f/5.6. As expected, its corners remain slightly softer than the center throughout the entire aperture range. Lastly, it does not have Nikonís close range correction (CRC), which means it becomes soft when close focusing. This is by no means a macro lens and I find its best focusing distance beyond 1.5 feet.

Nikon NIKKOR 35mm f/2.0 AF D


Nikon's 35mm f/2.0 MTF chart shows how soft this lens is wide open. What it does not show is how much better it improves by f/2.8. MTF Measurements describe only a sub set of overall lens performance and should be used cautiously. Learn more about MTF.

CLOSE FOCUS1.00 FT (30.5 CM)


Nikon 35mm f/2 Distortion

Like nearly all Nikon prime lenses, this 35mm has some degree of barrell distortion. It is quite easy to correct in Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. Although Adobe does not have a preset for this lens yet, I found that it only requires an adjustment of +1.

There is some degree of minimal complex distortion that remains but should not be of concern. It is not even worth mentioning. Learn more about distortion.


There is some light fall off on FX. It is gone by f/4. DX has no issues.

Vignette Nikon 35mm f/2 D AF


Nikon Flare 35mm f/2.0 AF-D

Flare is a concern on this lens. Because it was originally designed for film, it does not have all the anti-glare coatings and glare reducing features modern lenses have. Digital cameras have greater internal lens reflection due to their reflective sensors. It is partially attributed to the pixel grid of the sensor.

Overall this lens produces lots of flare and you need to be mindful on how you point it at bright objects. Consider positioning the lens differently to adjust the flare. Remember that flare is produced just opposite the center of the image of the flare source or bright element.


Nikon Sunstars 35mm f/2.0 AF-D

Sunstars are easy with this lens. Its magnificent 7 bladed diaphragm produces brilliant 14 ray sunstars. It does a great job at this with its straight bladed diaphragm. Remeber that sunstars are made best when stopped down some. Read more about Sunstars.


Bokeh is the quality of blur in the out of focus areas of an image. The 35mm f/2 AF-D has quite poor bokeh. Its out of focus areas are harsh and distracting with hard edges.

The example images below show the bokeh of this lens at various f-stops. Look at how the diaphragm is redproduced in the point light sources on the left portion of the image. Notice how the edge of the diaphragm replicas are harsh. Even at f/2, wide open, it still has some hard edges to it. Also notice the center of each point source. Look at the pattern inside. It should be more uniform and less patternish. Learn more about Bokeh and its importance.

Nikon BOKEH 35mm f/2.0 AF-D NIKKOR


This lens does not have much to it. Turn off the motor drive in your camera from AF-S or AF-C to M (Manual), and you can manually focus the lens. Otherwise leave the motor drive in AF to let the camera control the lens focusing. Note that you can not grab the focus ring to focus when the motor drive is engaged.


This lens is built solid. It is made in Japan, and has many metal internals. It seems like it could take a tough beating and survive. I expect it to last.

NOTE: Nikon had a defect in its original design that caused oil to leak on the diaphragm. This only occurred on the first few production runs. This issue has be resolved for newer productions. Be cautious of this issue with serial numbers less than 400000.


Modern Nikon DSLRs that have an AF motor drive will work great with this lens. Those without a built in motor drive, such as the D5100, D40, D5000 and D3100, will not have AF capability with this lens, as these cameras rely on the lens to have a built in AF motor (SWM). Otherwise this lens is compatible with most DSLRs.


Nikon 35mm f/2 is smaller than most of Nikon's lenses. Below I compare it to the newer 50mm f/1.8 G AF-S (center) and the 24mm f/1.4 G AF-S (right), as these are two lenses similar in focal length and comparable in light gathering. Clearly this 35mm f/2 is smaller. This can be contributed to the lack of AF motor. The other two lenses are AF-S and have an AF motor. They also are larger in size due to their lower f-numbers.

Nikon 35mm f/2 Size Comparison


It takes the common 52mm size screw on filters. Using multiple filters is a problem as vignetting sets in. Only use one filter at once.


The 35mm f/2.0 AF-D does not come with a hood. And becuase it is so suseptable to flare, this becomes a concern. You can purchase the hood seperately. Part Number: HN-3.


Focus is fast, quiet and accurate. The 50mm f/1.8G features AF-S which means the focus motor is built into the lens and is whisper quiet. It also has easy manual focus overide. Just grab the ring at anytime to manually adjust focus. It is a major upgrade from the previous version, the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D.

Focusing elements are internal, so the front element won't rotate. Any use of filters will remain stationary.

The lens has a depth of field scale that is useless because it is so compacted. This is typical from most modern Nikon lenses. It does not have an infinity stop or infrared scale.



This lens is unique and is hard to recommend. Since DX has a better 35mm f/1.8 G AF-S and FX has an expensive 35mm f/1.4 G AF-S, it is hard to find reason for this unique but once common lens. I think if you are interested in a wide perspective, and you use an FX camera, but arenít interested in paying an insanely high price for the newer version, then this lens might work for you.

It really is a nice gem. Across the years I have made some excellent photos with it. I love its portability and its low light performance.


I would try to buy this lens used on eBay. But be careful, real careful. When Nikon first introduced this lens it had a defect where oil leaked internally on the diaphragm. They have long fixed this. Be sure if you are buying it used to get one with a serial number greater than. Should you not feel comfortable buying them used, they still sell brand new, but typically at almost double the used price. I purchased mine new, but if I had to do it again, I would have bought it used and paid closer attention to the serial number.

Nikon D90 35mm f/2.0 D AF NIKKOR

35mm f/2.0 AF D Mounted on D90