First Look at the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

When the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G lens arrived, I decided to take it for a test drive at Walt Disney World. These shots are more about testing the lens than trying to make a decent shot, so let's dig into how it worked.

What I Want from the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

In my view, the reason to get a fast prime is to shoot it at a large aperture. I already own the wonderful Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Basically, I didn't need to spend more money on a prime to shoot at f/2.8 or smaller apertures. This is all about the bokeh, isolation, low light and sharpness.

All of these shots, except the last one, are straight out of the camera. Well, they were rendered from the RAW by Aperture, which may affect colors differently than Lightroom or other RAW processing engines. However, I didn't enhance them further.

Bokeh

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

 

The bokeh (quality of defocused areas) in this shot does a nice job of making the subject jump out. The depth of field varies depending upon the distance from your lens to your subject. Unlike the Nikon 85mm lens that I used a couple of weeks ago, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G has a short minimum focusing distance. You can get pretty close to your subject and create a razor-thing depth of field.

Depth of Field or Isolation

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

I pressed right up to this little Dumbo Christmas ornament. The minimum focusing distance is just a matter of inches, not feet. That's good and bad, though.  You can fill the frame with your subject, but any slight dimension in your subject will put part of it out of focus. If you look at Dumbo's eyes, you can see how quickly the sharpness fades into a blur at f/1.4.

This is great for isolating your subject, but you need to be very careful when focusing to understand exactly what will and what won't be in focus – unless you stop down.

Low Light Performance

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

I shot this at f/1.4, 1/80th shutter speed and ISO 25,600 in Pirates of the Caribbean. If you need your camera to see in the dark, then I'd say the D800 & 35mm f/1.4 combo works. The noise isn't bad and that's before any noise reduction.

As an aside, 35mm seems to be a good focal length for shooting dark rides at Disney. If you're an iPhone shooter, it's approximately the same angle of view as the 35mm lens, too.

Environmental Portraits

 Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

Don't judge me for shooting the Little Mermaid. My friend Kevin wanted to shoot her and I went along with it. Never mind that I already did an HDR portrait in the grotto.

My first thought was that the color was a bit desaturated, but I'm coming around to think that's not the case. Her hair is pretty red and the other colors are pretty close to what I remember. I'd still bump up the vibrance or do something with the results of a shot like this, but I'm a color fiend.

Sharpness

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

This photo had a trip to Photoshop, but the glass is sharp. I like the detail in the gargoyle's face compared to the soft bokeh in the background. The shape of those lights are fairly round and pleasing.

Final Thoughts

The Nikon 35mm f/1.4G lives up to my expectations. The focal length is pretty comfortable for a walk-about lens, if I were the type of person to walk about. My primary intent for this piece of glass is for isolating subjects. Basically filling part of the frame with the person or object I want and blurring the snot out of everything else.

Will I still want this focal length when my Nikon 24mm f/1.4G arrives?  Don't know, but I like it so far.

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