- Full-frame coverage; Impeccable MTF performance; 18mm maximum coverage; Virtually silent AF; Full-time MF option; Lightweight
- Modest maximum aperture; Limited 2x zoom range; Fiddly lens hood
- Review Price: £639
Following in the footsteps of Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 lens it would be easy to dismiss Nikon’s new AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 as an inferior competitor but nothing could be further from the truth. Although Nikon’s zoom lacks a wide aperture it is the clear winner in terms of format, offering full-frame coverage against Sigma’s APS-C.
Nikon’s lens is also lighter-weight but still feels very robust. It has a conical shape, with a wide front portion sitting between a narrower-diameter rear section and a larger-diameter lens hood. The front portion is home to the manual-focussing ring, focussed-distance window and AF/MF switch: the rear section hosts only the zoom ring. Both rings are well placed and have a good feel, with ribbed rubber grips (the zoom ring’s being deeper cut).
Focussing is internal so there is no movement of the ring in AF mode, nor any rotation of the front element or extension of the lens barrel. Automatic focussing is quick and virtually silent: it also proved to be very reliable during testing although Nikon’s instruction book warns that ultra-wide views, where the main subject is relatively small in the frame, may tax the AF system.
Although the lens hood blocks the front of the barrel when stowed, the zoom ring remains unobstructed – and even the focussing ring can still be used to a degree. Sadly, the lens hood can be difficult to fit, both forwards-facing and reversed, and feels a little bit too flimsy for comfort.
The front element is visibly domed but also well protected by the lens housing. Despite its huge, one-hundred-degree, angle-of-view the zoom accepts front-fitted filters and is equipped with a 77mm accessory thread. Welcome though this is, large-diameter filters can be fairly costly – but trying to go without risks causing even costlier damage to the front element.
From wide-open down to f/16, the MTF curves for the three focal-lengths tested are all tightly grouped and remain above 0.3 cycles-per-pixel.
Technical testing revealed some excellent results. The MTF curves were tightly grouped and remained comfortably above the critical 0.25 cycles-per-pixel threshold for all focal lengths and all aperture settings (even beyond f/22). There was no visible colour fringing in any real-world pictures and only the faintest hint in technical images captured at the 35mm setting.
Nikon offers a surprisingly large number of lenses that start at 18mm; 18-55mm, 18-105mm, 18-140mm, 18-200mm and 18-300mm; but despite having the smallest zoom range the 18-35mm version is the best lens overall. Similarly, Nikon also offers a 16-35mm zoom and a 17-35mm zoom but the 18-35mm is by far the least expensive of this trio. In short, Nikon’s 18-35mm is an unassuming lens that offers excellent image quality at a very affordable price-point.
Score in detail
Image Quality 10