Nikon AF-D lens reviews

Introduction

Nikkor AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D mounted on a Nikon D3x

Nikkor AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D mounted on a Nikon D3x

With a DxOMark score of 21, the Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D is a good, solid lens.

Strong points Weak points
Reasonable sharpness Vignetting
Reasonable  transmission Noticeable chromatic  aberrations
Not much distortion  
Not too heavy  

How well does this lens compare to the Sony AF 20mm F2.8, another “antique” but popular lens?

Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D mounted on a Nikon D3x vs Sony AF 20mm f/2.8 mounted on a Sony Alpha 900

Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D mounted on a Nikon D3x vs Sony AF 20mm F2.8 mounted on a Sony Alpha 900

With a DxOMark score of only 10, the Sony 20mm’s performance is very limited indeed. With an 11-point lead, the Nikon 20mm is way, way ahead.

The advantages of the Nikon:

  • Better correction of chromatic aberrations.
  • Superior field resolution at wide apertures (notably at f/2.8 and f/4), which certainly contributes to its far better DxOMark score.
  • Not as heavy.
  • Less expensive.

The advantage (note the singular!) of the Sony:

  • Slightly brighter.

To sum up once again – the Nikon is a beautiful old lens!

Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D mounted on a Nikon D3x

Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D mounted on a Nikon D3x

With a DxOMark overall score of 20, the Nikkor AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D is still a good, solid lens. (Just as a reminder, the 20mm f/2.8D achieved a DxOMark overall score of 21.)

Strong points Weak points
  • Satisfactory sharpness in the center, but we measured a fairly   noticeable loss across the field at all apertures. Sharpness is optimal   between f/4 and f/8.
  • Reasonably good transmission.
  • No distortion.
  • Very light-weight (205g).
  • Affordable (280 USD).
  • Still susceptible to significant vignetting, but quite a bit less than the 20mm f/2.8D.
  • Beware of chromatic aberrations, especially at wide apertures.

Comparison: Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D vs Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon mounted on a Nikon D3x

Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D vs Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon mounted on a Nikon D3x

With a DxO Mark Score of 23, the Carl Zeiss 28mm f/2.0 is the winner of this competition. But at only 3 points behind, the Nikon 28mm f/2.8 should not be dismissed out of hand… especially given that it is five times less expensive (!) than the Zeiss.

The advantages of the Nikon:

  • Half the weight of the Zeiss.
  • 1000 USD less expensive.
  • Negligeable distortion.
  • Autofocus (if the camera is equipped with a motor).

The advantages of the Carl Zeiss :

  • Better sharpness.
  • Brighter: a gain of 0.77EV at full aperture (which explains the difference in DxOMark scores).
  • Negligeable distortion.
  • Mechanical precision.

Some other available comparisons

The Nikon 28mm AF-D vs the latest in the G prime lens series:

Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D vs Nikkor AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED

Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D vs Nikkor AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED

Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D vs Nikkor AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G

Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D vs Nikkor AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G

(Yet another opportunity to take note of the amazing progress that has taken place in just a decade!)

Of note:

  • As ever when considering Zeiss lenses, it’s important to keep in mind that they do not have autofocus.
  • Nikon AF-D lenses do not have self-contained motors and thus are dependent on the camera motor for autofocus.

Here we have analyzed its full-field performance when mounted on a Nikon D3x, but as per usual, performance results are available for this lens when mounted on other cameras — for example, the Nikon D5000 or the even older Nikon D200.

Nikkor AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D mounted on a Nikon D3x

Nikkor AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D mounted on a Nikon D3x

With a DxOMark overall score of 19, the Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D is still a good lens, just like both the 20mm and 28mm lenses in the AF-D line that we previously analyzed in parts 1 & 2 of our “Oldies” review.

Strong points Weak points
Satisfactory sharpness Susceptible to vignetting (a classic problem for this kind of lens)
A very bright lens  
Very little distortion  
Negligeable chromatic aberrations  
Very light (205g, just like the 28mm f/2.8D)  
Affordable (365 USD)  

Now let’s look at how our older AF-D lens compares with a real youngster (2010)

Nikkor AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D vs Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G (both mounted on a Nikon D3x)

Nikkor AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D vs Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G (both mounted on a Nikon D3x)

With a DxO Mark score of 27, the 35mm f/1.4G comes out significantly ahead of its predecessor.

The advantages of Nikon 35mm f/1.4G:

  • Far superior resolution over the field at wide apertures (notably at f/2.0, f/2.8, and f/4) — which explains the difference in DxOMark scores.
  • Brighter, with a gain of 0.61EV in the center at full aperture.
  • Negligeable distortion.
  • Integrated autofocus motor (SWM, or “silent wave motor”).
  • At f/2.0, there is a total absence of vignetting over 2/3 of the field, which is truly remarkable for this kind of fixed lens.

The advantages of the Nikon 35mm f/2.0D:

  • Three times lighter!
  • About 1400 USD less expensive.
  • Negligeable distortion.
  • Better treatment of chromatic aberrations.
  • Aperture control ring.

Strictly in terms of image quality, the youthful 35mm 1.4G unquestionably takes the lead. But again, it’s important to keep the 35mm f/2.0D’s many charms in mind— i.e., it gets pretty darned good results for an older lens that is both very light-weight and low in price.

While we’re at it, here are a few other 35mm comparisons

Sony 35mm F1.4 G on a Sony A900 vs Nikon 35mm f/2.0D on a Nikon D3x:

Sony still needs to make more progress before it can justify the price difference between its lens and the Nikon 35mm f/2.0.

Sony 35mm F1.4 G on a Sony A900 vs Nikon 35mm f/2.0D on a Nikon D3x

Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Nikon vs Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D, both on a Nikon D3x:

For those who aren’t put off by manual focusing, the Samyang remains competitive in this lens category.

Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Nikon vs Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D, both on a Nikon D3x

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G vs Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D, both on a Nikon D90:

Finally, here’s how the DX 35mm f/1.8G and our vintage Nikkor 35mm compare when mounted on a Nikon D90.

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G vs Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D, both on a Nikon D90

Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D mounted on a Nikon D3x

Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D

With a DxOMark score of 26, the Nikkor AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D lens is perfectly able to compete with even the most recent lenses.

Strong points Weak points
Good sharpness Susceptible to vignetting
A bright lens (conforming to Nikon’s announced values)  
Zero distortion  
Chromatic aberrations essentially absent  
Light-weight  
Affordable (380 USD)  

Comparison: Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D vs Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G, both mounted on a Nikon D3x

Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D vs Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G, both mounted on a Nikon D3x

With a DxOMark score of 30, the new generation (2010) Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G offers even better performance.

The advantages of the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G:

  • Slightly superior resolution over the field at wide apertures, which explains the difference in DxOMark scores.
  • Very slightly brighter (a gain of only 0.16EV in the center at full aperture).
  • Negligeable distortion.
  • Integrated autofocus motor (SWM).
  • At f/2.0, a complete absence of vignetting over approximately 3/4 of the field — a remarkable difference.

The advantages of the Nikon 85mm f/1.8D:

  • Half the weight of the f/1.4G.
  • Less expensive by about 1740 USD.
  • Negligeable distortion.
  • Aperture control ring.

Just like its cousins (the 20mm, 28mm and 35mm), the 85 mm is a lens for adventurers — light-weight, inexpensive, and very satisfactory optical qualities.

We’re looking forward to the test results for the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G that should arrive in our lab in mid-March!