Nikon D800E - 35mm DX f/1.8 - 2 The serious side of lens snobbery.

One of the reasons I might be becoming an ex lens snob is this.


This is shot with the 35mm DX f/1.8 lens on my D800E, at f8 and a 100% blow up from one of the 30MP 5:4 crop images I shot yesterday. Not only is it very sharp for what it is, a DX lens on an FX camera, but as you can see its seriously sharp by any criteria. Now I won't necessarily upload a file sharpened like this to a picture library, but I do always like to see what I can get out of a file. 

The last time I used one of these lenses was around 18 months ago when I had a D7000 and I remember thinking at the time that this lens produced quite special results.


This was taken on a 10-day vist to Hampshire when I still had my Leica M9 and I remember thinking then that this was pretty close, if not comparable with what that camera was giving me. Now at the time I was having all sorts of back problems and I sold my DSLR's shortly after returning from this trip, so didn't really take this any further. 

It is worth remembering that this lens cost me £150 and it weighs 197g. So is it an alternative to the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 which weighs 600g and costs £1300 or the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 which weighs 665g and costs £740? Well I can't can't answer for anyone else, but as far as I'm concerned the answer is a resounding yes. I can't imagine any picture taking situation where I require a lens to be sharper than the two examples shown above. 

Now some might think that there is an element of self justication in this. Since even if I wanted to I won't be buying the more expensive lenses, am I just talking up the 35mm f/1.8 to justify my purchase and economic circumstances? Well again thats for others to decide. but I'm actually not doing that, and I would take this option anyway simply because of the weight issue. There is no way I'm carrying around 600g primes for my D800E. 

When I decided on my two lens outfit of the Nikon and the Fuji, I assumed that most of the time I would be working with the Fuji as its smaller and lighter. However in practice its working out to be the other way around. Even trudging through snow which I'm doing at the moment I don't find the D800E and 35mm + 55-200mm zoom kit a burden. It is in fact quite a manageable outfit.

So sometimes necessity can throw up unexpected advantages. Though yesterdays Optiholics Anonymous post was obviously meant to be light-hearted there was, as you will have gathered, a serious point I was making. Now I'm as guilty of pixel-peeping and attempting to observe miniscule differences between lenses as anyone and indeed in the past somewhat more than most people. And I will admit that in certain situations I have exaggerated those differences to myself in order to justify the amount of money that I have spent on certain lenses. Yes there have been situations when I've just had to admit that the price quality equation just doesn't work. One such example was when I tested the Zeiss 35mm f/1.8 against the 18-55mm kit zoom on my NEX-7. I found that at f/8 the zoom was equally sharp as the Zeiss and at f/11 slightly sharper. Both of course are the apertures I use the most. 

I don't know about anyone else but there seems (seemed?) to be something inside me that refused to accept the evidence of my own eyes. Like the fact that again thinking of the apertures I use the most the Panasonic 14-42mm was pretty much the equal of the 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom in terms of sharpness. I've lost count of the number of times I've looked at an image on my screen and thought wow that ****** lens was really worth the extra money, only to discover that it was in fact taken with a kit zoom. However I seem to continually keep believing that the more expensive the lens, the better specified and the more highly regarded it is then the better the IQ is likely to be. And yes in many cases that is true, but certainly not always. And certainly not taking into consideration the fact that mostly I'm using lenses at their optimum performance settings. It is very rare that I stray from f/8 and f/11 and in fact I haven't really done that since my film days. For the most part lenses start to struggle from f/16 to f/22 so I tend to avoid those, and while I was certainly happy to use f/4 and f/5.6 on my micro four thirds cameras, I certainly prefer to use narrower apertures with the APS-C and 35mm sensors I'm currently using.

In yesterdays lens snob post I did put a bit of self-mockery in about my coveting fast lenses such as f/1.2 primes, when in fact I just never use them at that aperture. There is some justification in that fast lenses tend to be better at f/4 etc. than slower optics, but then I never use apertures like that much either, and again around the apertures I use the most f/8 and f/11 it pretty much evens out.

So even though I'm having to work with a more restricted outfit, I'm happy to see that I am in fact making less compromises than I thought I might have to. In the case of the 35mm f/1.8 in fact I don't think that I'm making any compromise at all. In fact I'm regretting that I didn't give this a try a lot sooner. Plus there is the fact that, though I haven't shot much with the lens as yet I have so far had a 100% acceptance rate when I've uploaded the images to picture libraries. It will be interesting to see if this continues but its certainly very encouraging. 

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.  

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