Nikon 35mm 1.4G Review!

Over the past couple of years, I've discovered how much I really love primes. The way they render the world is remarkable, and I often find they do so with a dream-like quality. Primes are also in general, physically lighter, optically sharper, and are mechanically simpler, compared to zooms. As a wedding photographer, all of these qualities are very valuable, and I've been looking to transition into shooting a mostly prime lineup for weddings, save my trusty 24-70. The 35mm 1.4G was on my list of lenses to acquire, as it would fill in the gap left from my 50mm 1.8G and 85mm 1.4G. 

Long story short, I rented this lens first, shot it for a week, loved it, and decided to pull the trigger. I am glad I did. 

Build Quality: 
Don't let the plastic exterior of this lens fool you. The interior is mostly metal (magnesium alloy, according to Nikon) and the lens has some nice heft to it when you pick it up. This lens balances perfectly on my D700. Since all the focusing is internal, nothing moves on the outside. Shutlines are very tight, and the focus ring is nicely dampened, being able to override AF when needed. 

The 35mm 1.4G is on the long side for its focal length, esp. with the lens hood on. Speaking on lens hood...I really like the one that comes with this lens. It's solidly built (doesn't flex despite being made of plastic), and you can stand the lens on the lens hood. It locks firmly in place, and I usually leave mine on all time. 

This lens takes a 67mm filter. Focus is all internal, so the filter doesn't move during AF. 

Rear element of the lens, which moves during focus. The lens has a rear gasket to keep out dust and moisture, providing a degree of weather sealing. 
Size comparison, left to right: Nikon 50mm 1.8G, Nikon 35mm 1.4G, Nikon 85mm 1.4G

This lens renders bokeh very nicely for a standard focal length. It really shines if you're able to get close to your subject, like the bucket in this case @ f1.4. Bokeh is smooth, and not distracting, and gives a 3D look to the images at close distances. 

Here's a 100% crop of the previous photo. To put it simply, while this lens doesn't break any new ground with its sharpness,  it is a very solid performer in this category, especially wide open. 

As you can probably tell from the photos I normally post, I love having flare in my photos, and this lens, along with Nikon's "magic" Nano Coating, handles flare very well for my tastes. The image above was shot wide open at f1.4. 

AF Performance:
I'm gonna be honest, the AF of this lens is pretty mediocre. If I had to compare to the other prime lenses, I have, I would rank them like this, with the fastest being first:
-Nikon 28mm 1.8G
-Nikon 50mm 1.8G
-Nikon 85mm 1.4G
-Nikon 35mm 1.4G

Yup, it's dead last on the list, BUT where it is slow in AF, it is very accurate, especially with moving subjects. I was walking backwards pretty quickly as Doreen and Ashton were coming down the walkway, and this lens nailed the shot.

The lens is accurate enough to track kids, playing in the backyard....
Or on the jungle gym! 

Close Focus:
Perhaps one of the most valuable attributes of this lens for my photography is its close focus abilities (0.3m/1 ft). As a wedding photographer, I do a lot of ring shots, but I don't like the idea of bringing a macro lens for just a few shots. This is where the 35mm excels. It offers a semi-macro working distance, and allows me to give more context to the ring shot, than a tighter macro lens. 

This lens is also my favorite for detail shots throughout the wedding day...

The 35mm 1.4G is a wonderful storytelling lens. It's such a great tool for capturing the ambiance of an environment, by blurring out the background just enough to reduce distractions, but still maintaining the focus on the subject. I use it quite often for the getting ready before a wedding...

More wedding images can be found here

The 35mm 1.4G is also one of my go-to lenses for engagement sessions, because it can do close in shots for intimacy...

Or wider shots for environmental context. 

The 35mm 1.4G is also a terrific walkaround lens. I took this lens along with my 24-70 on my recent vacation to Oregon with my family, and really enjoyed the way it renders street scenes. 

Price:At $1600, this lens will put a big dent in your wallet. I was sure to rent this lens and test it thoroughly before I bought it. For anyone shooting DX, forget about this lens, it's not much use to you...on crop, it becomes a very very expensive 50mm lens. Look at the Nikon 35mm 1.8 instead. It's a solid performer, plus it's 9 times cheaper!  For FX users, it depends on your line of work. This lens, as I mentioned earlier, is great for documenting and storytelling, so if you shoot for a newspaper, or do weddings, it's pretty much a no brainer to get this lens. 

After shooting this lens at countless assignments for 5 months, all I can say is I love the way this lens renders the world. It can be tight enough to provide an intimate portrait, yet can also be wide enough to provide background context to the scene. To wrap up the points I mentioned earlier:

--plenty sharp across the board: nothing earth shattering, but it holds its own against Nikon's other new primes.
--solid build. Smooth focus ring, metal interior, and weather sealing makes it a tough cookie.
--bokeh is non-distracting, and very pleasing, in my eyes.
--close focus (1 ft) allows you to bring your subject within a few inches from the front of the lens. Semi-macro territory here!
--reasonably good at tracking moving subjects.

--expensive! $1600 is pretty steep, so you have to decide if your needs justify the cost.
--slowest AF out of all my primes, but at least it's accurate.

This lens occupies a critical role in my prime lineup, holding the middle ground of my 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm. It comes with me on almost every shoot, from weddings, to personal projects, and it's really shown me how versatile the 35mm focal length is, especially when it comes to documenting and storytelling. My only regret with this lens is not buying it sooner!


  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    very sharp lens
    thank you :)

  2. great review, thanks, I have been looking for a while for a blog like this on the 24mm 1.4 and 35mm 1.4. My kit is 24-70mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4 (my favourite) 70-200mm 2.8 and also 85mm 1.8. I was thinking of actually doing away with the 24-70 in favour of the 24mm 1.4 but im not so sure now. I think its too useful a lens. Is it a good idea to swap out the 50mm for the 35mm 1.4 in your opinion.

  3. Hi James, sounds you have a pretty good lineup going for you! While the 24mm 1.4 is a killer prime, IMO it won't ever be able to fill the shoes the of the 24-70. The 24-70 is a workhorse for almost any kind of photographer. The focal length is very useful, and lens is very versatile with its fast AF and sharpness. I don't use my copy too much, but bring it to every wedding as a backup and for wide shots.

    Although the 35mm and 50mm are close together in focal length, they produce very different looks, and as a result, I don't see them as replacing one another. Since the 50mm is your favorite, I'd recommend you checking out the review I did on the Nikon 58mm 1.4 (link below). It's changed the way I look at portraits, and is a phenomenal piece of glass.



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