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Nikon AF 35-70mm f/2.8D Lens Review

Nikon AF 35-70mm f/2.8D  


December, 2007 (updated February, 2013)
(tested with Nikon D90 and D600)

The first version of this lens, the AF, was made in 1987. The updated AF-D (the subject of this review), was produced from 1992 to 2006. It was Nikon's top of the line midrange zoom lens until the newer, faster focusing AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8 ED was released in 1999. This is a full frame lens which will work fine with Nikon's digital FX and DX cameras. Since it's an AF lens it won't auto focus with Nikon's lower end digital SLRs.

This lens is built solid. The exterior is all metal with the exceptions of the aperture control ring, which is plastic, and the rubber coating on the zoom and focus rings. The zoom is the old style push/pull which might take a little getting used to if you've never used one before. When the zoom is in it's normal postion, as in the pic above, it's at 70mm. When it's extended to it's fullest it's at the short end of the focal range, as seen below, mounted on my D50. The lens is on the heavy side at 23.5oz (665g).

Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8D Extended

Wide open the lens is sharp in the center throughout the range, with just a little fall off in the corners. From f/4 - f/11 it's incredibly sharp corner to corner. Vignetting is barely noticable wide open on a DX sensor. One stop down and it's no longer an issue. There is slight barrel distortion at 35mm and pincusion distortion at 70mm, but nothing that can't be corrected with post processing. Chromatic aberration is very slight at both ends of the zoom, but again can be easily corrected with post processing. Flare and ghosting can be a problem, but using a lens hood makes it a non concern under most conditions.

Autofocus is relatively quick and accurate, even under low light conditions. The 35-70mm f/2.8D also features a macro mode which can only be used with manual focus. It works fairly well, but I prefer to use a dedicated macro lens to get closer to my subject.

I bought my copy new in late 2007 for about $500. It was the last of the old stock. (You can now find good used copies on eBay for around $350.) I was looking for a fast mid range zoom that I could use for events under low light conditions. At the time the newly introduced Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED was just over $1,700, way out of my price range.

As an event lens the biggest drawback I found was the limited zoom range. For indoor events you will probably want something a little wider. For outdoor use, where I usually have more room to work with, I never had a problem. This is my favorite lens to use for street fairs. For parades, cityscapes, and architecture you might find the lens too long.

The 35-70mm f/2.8D is excellent for portraits, especially with a cropped DX sensor where the range is approx. 52.2-105mm effectively. It produces pleasing bokeh and the 2.8 max. aperture allows for more than adequate subject isolation.

Overall this is a "pro" quality lens which can be bought at an affordable price. If you're considering this lens for events make sure you'll be able to work within the limited zoom range. If you need a lens for portraits you can buy two f/1.8 prime lenses (35mm and 50mm), for about the same price as a used 35-70mm f/2.8. The primes will give you slightly better image quality, but the 35-70 will provide you with more flexibility. It has an inbetween range, probably too long for some, too short for others (for DX).

Update: Since I made the switch to full frame (FX), the 35-70mm f/2.8D is now my go to mid range zoom for critical work. It produces outstanding images with the Nikon D600. Vignetting is a little more pronounced than with a DX sensor, but it's still not a problem. 



Focal length 35-70mm
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f/22
Lens Construction 15 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view 62o - 34o (44o - 22o on DX format)
Closest focusing distance 0.6m (0.28m at 35mm focal length and macro setting)
Maximum reproduction ratio 1/1.7 (1/4 at 35mm focal length and macro setting)
Number of diaphragm blades 7
Auto focus type AF
Filter diameter 62 mm
Macro Yes
Dimensions 71.5 mm (2.8 in) x 94.5 mm (3.7 in)
Weight 665 g (23.5 oz)

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