zaterdag 6 juli 2013

review of the Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5

The 35-105mm was Nikon’s first variable aperture lens, but compared to the modern lenses it does not lose a lot of light. Rather than closing down to f/5.6 at the maximum zoom range, it closes down to f/4.5. Besides the useful focal range (especially on film / full frame) it is also capable of a reproduction ration of 1:4. So this seems like an interesting lens. And to be honest that’s the reason I bought it, because I was curious and not because I needed it.

Of course this is an older zoom lens, which means that the quality is not comparable to current Nikkor zoom lenses. However the image quality is surprising, the lens is far more usable than I anticipated. If you punish this lens it does show its shortcomings, but if you are aware of them you can make pretty good use of this lens. So one of the things you should not expect this lens is to produce good image quality when you are focused on infinity and you use a wide open aperture. Then the image becomes muddy and it reminds a bit of a smart phone image. However, if you close down one stop and try not to be at the extremes of the focal length you can get a very acceptable image. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it a 6.5 or 7 while the 50mm would get a 10. So if I want an extremely sharp image for a large print I would not use this lens. And I will probably never take it when I go out to make landscape photographs.

However the lens is quite sharp when you focus a bit closer. The normal focus ring allows you to focus up to 1.4 meters, but there is also a macro ring. Depending on your focal range you can get a magnification of 1:4 (35mm) or 1:5.5 (105mm). And the images I got out of that mode are very good. Again, on a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it an 8. And since we discuss close-up photography we might as well discuss bokeh. The bokeh of the lens is alright, it is not really bad but also nothing outstanding. The aperture blades are not curved so you can see the aperture blades back in the bokeh highlights. Normally I don’t find it distracting but with this lens it can be a bit distracting from time to time depending on the actual aperture you use. But if you have less out of focus highlights, shoot at an aperture which suits the bokeh the bokeh is quite nice. The area which is closest to the focus point can be a bit distracting depending on the background, but generally it looks good.

As you can see, the ground which is only just out of focus is a bit busy. But besides that I like the bokeh in this photograph

This lens flares quite easily. If you can find an appropriate lens hood you should use it to avoid unwanted flare. But the flare of this lens is quite beautiful, it shows that this lens contains out of a lot of lens elements. You can control the flare to a certain extend by zooming a bit in or out. Zooming just a bit can change the look of the flare dramatically and I you have the time it is worthwhile to experiment with the best focal range. Of course this lens has other short comings as well. It has quite some distortion I’ve read on other websites. But until now it hasn’t bothered me that much. I have to admit, I do not shoot architecture, but the distortion isn’t too obvious and I generally do not correct for it. Another issue this lens apparently has is vignetting. After all, it’s an old zoom. But I have not noticed it yet. I’m sure there is some, but it hasn’t bothered me yet even though I don’t like it if you can see imperfections in my photographs which were not intended for the viewer to see. (flare on the other hand can be a nice creative tool)

So I’ve discussed the image quality of this lens, but I don’t think that’s the most important I like about this lens. I have sharper lenses. But the thing about this lens is that it gives reasonable image quality while also being very versatile. You can focus reasonably close and the focus is just nice, it’s the classic Nikkor quality. I like the focal range on DX (but that’s because I don’t like shooting with lenses wider than 28 on DX) especially for a general walk-around lens. It has a 52mm filter thread which is shared with a lot of other Nikkor lenses. And the build quality is just great. The main quality of this lens is the handling. Of course I can get better image quality by shooting with a modern zoom or a prime, but there’s just something about this lens that keeps making me use it. Because what’s image quality worth when your photos suck? I really like my primes, and I think that they help me to see better photos. But from time to time you just want a zoom, and then I pick this lens of the shelf.