Today a review of the nikon 35mm F2 FX, and my reasons why to choose this one over the Nikon 35mm F1.8 DX.
This is a $350 prime lens aiming at users who want a very versatile lens, for landscape, life /street scenes and portrait. This is the typical focal length for photojournalism with a prime, along with 50mm.
This is an FX lens, ideal for your D700 or D3 Nikon bodies.
1/ Why not 50mm instead?
50mm is a little less versatile : for streets and landscapes, it is a tad too long. If you are looking at portraits in low light with still some flexibility, the 50mm F1.4 will be a better match. For travel, this 35mm is better, especially on an FX body.
Also remember that on a DX camera (explanations here for DX/ FX formats) a 50mm is actually a 75mm. So not good a general purpose lens at all. Most DSLRs are DX, so once again the 35mm is a better call (it would be a 53mm on a DX).
2/ The lens itself
Long story short, this lens is great value for the money. Built quality is what you'd expect from Nikon. Plastic and metal, smooth focus ring, a tier 1 built quality regarding this reasonable price tag.
Unlike the F1.8 DX version, this one has no built in AF motor : so entry level DSLRs won't have AF with that lens (A D40 for example, or D60). However I would not recommend an entry level DSLR anyway: you're better off buying a used one, mid range. Therefore it should not be a problem.
It takes 52mm filters. It's a rather light and small lens for those willing to travel light.
Resolution is excellent even wide open (with softer corners at F2 but that's pretty normal). Chromatic aberrations are very moderate. This is one of the only 2 lenses I use with my nikon gear: the second on is the 85mm F1.8, fantastic for portraits.
It will outperform any zoom lens when it comes to resolution and sharpness (prime lenses are optimized for one focal length). It is perfectly usable at F2 when the cheaper 50mmF1.8 needs to be stopped at 2.8, under which it gets fairly soft.
Photography is a hobby that costs a lot, but in the middle, you got some products that have an amazing value for the money : multi purpose, small & light, affordable and great image quality. This 35mm is a "can't go wrong" lens, and I'm about to say a must have since nothing else, for that type of photography, will get you any better results on a Nikon, and the few that are close to it cost $1200 and above.
4/ Why not the Nikon 35mm F1.8 DX ???
This is also a good lens, but only made to work on entry level DSLR (i.e it has an AF motor). The F1.8 instead of F2 is a trick, it is just not has good and needs to be stopped at 2.2 at least to stay in the high performance area.
It is expectable if you consider the price difference : nearly 2 times cheaper with built in motor...optics good be as good but it's unlikely.
Finally, it would not work on an FX. Ok, I know, most of us can't afford an FX camera body, but keep this in mind : buy a good lens and you'll keep it forever. Camera bodies...you will change them, upgrade. The day you can afford an FX (or all cameras become FX), it would be too bad having to also change that 35mm lens.
However, if you're on a budget constraint, the F1.8 DX version it a great choice, and will beat any kit lens (that usually are crap anyway).
5/ Picture samples:
Click on it for full size version, most of them are scanned negatives !!! So you'd have much better resolution on a DSLR.
On a Nikon D80, cropped. Iso 100, F8, 1/160s.
On a nikon F5 (film), neopan acros, F3.5.
On a nikon F5 (film), Portra VC400, F2.8
On a nikon F5 (film), Tri-X 400, F...damnit can't remember, F2 or F2.8.
On a nikon F5 (film), neopan acros.
On a nikon F5.