It took me a long time to get used to the 35mm focal length. I know 35mm is a staple for virtually every photographer. However, I broke into the photography world taking headshots with classic portrait focal lengths — 85mm-200mm, and a 14mm-24mm for architecture. For me, 35mm was kind of photographic no man’s land.

Over time as my work expanded more into weddings, the value of the 35mm focal length became much more apparent. Fast forward to today, I’ve learned to love 35mm and now I can’t imagine documenting a wedding without one.

Since 2014, I’ve shot weddings almost exclusively with Nikon DSLR cameras. They were late to the game getting into mirrorless, but have since — in my opinion — caught up. Today, I believe Nikon is producing some of the most capable mirrorless photographic tools in the industry. At least for the kind of photography where I make my living — portraits, architecture and weddings.

One of the most critical tools for a wedding photographer is the 35mm lens. In this review, we take a look at the NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8 S for the Z mount.

It took me a long time to get used the 35mm focal length, now I can’t imagine shooting a wedding without one


  • Outstanding image quality
  • Weather sealed body — in spite of it’s “plastic fantastic” nature
  • Lightweight — benefit of the slightly narrower aperture
  • Focus accuracy is spot on — even wide-open


  • Price is relatively high for an f/1.8 lens
  • Build quality could be better
  • The Stepper focus motor is noticeably slower than ultrasonic and hypersonic motors from competitors


  • Focal length: 35mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.8–16
  • Aperture blades: 9, rounded
  • Elements/Groups: 11/9
  • Dimensions: 2.87 x 3.39″ / 73 x 86 mm
  • Weight: 13.05 ounces
  • Angle of View: 63°

Build quality — NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S

Depending on the application, specifically wedding photography, then let me just state for the record, I prefer f/1.8 lenses on long days. The plasticy nature of the 35mm S is both a pro and a con. Coming in at just over 13 ounces, the 35mm is a featherweight. This is very different from most f/1.4 lenses, which are considerably heavier.

I made a video on my YouTube channel some time ago asking the question as to whether f/1.4 lenses were noticeably better than f/1.8 lenses. As you can imagine, it created quite a bit of controversy. My only argument was, the average person can’t tell the difference. But my aching biceps and back certainly can!

On long wedding days, I’ve become very dependent on the lightweight nature of f/1.8 lenses. They are staples for me and rarely — actually never — has a client asked me what the aperture setting was for a particular lens I was using. Nor should they, they’re only interested in the resulting images.

On to the build quality. In spite of it’s lightweight and plastic nature, the 35mm is in fact weather sealed. That fact alone puts this lens in a category slightly ahead of the consumer versions of this lens. The focus ring, is wide and tactile and rotates with the perfect amount of resistance. On the inside we get 9 rounded aperture blades for very pleasing bokeh! The lens hood and lens cap are made of high quality plastics, We also get a metal lens mount. The filter thread is a common 62mm in diameter.

All in, I wish the build were a bit more robust at this price point, but the 35mm S is a cut above the majority of consumer oriented 35mm f/1.8 lenses available today.

Lightweight and plasticy, the 35mm S is still weather sealed and won’t stress your biceps after a full day of shooting.

Autofocus speed and accuracy

If I had to ding the 35 on it’s weakest attribute, it would be the speed of the stepper motor. If Nikon cut costs anywhere with this lens — besides the plastic construction of the barrel — it was likely with their choice in AF motor. The stepper motor is smooth, silent and doesn’t jackhammer around. It’s sublime in video with smooth transitions from foreground to background and vice versa.

However, in photographs, I found the AF motor to be considerably slower than the majority of ultrasonic and hypersonic AF motors from competing manufacturers. It’s not so slow that you’ll miss the shot, but it’s slow enough to notice. It’s also noticeably slower on the Z 5 than the Z 6II in my experience.

Even though the motor is slow to focus, the good news, is that it’s remarkably accurate. Even in low light, and wide-open at f/1.8. My in focus results with static subjects were remarkably spot on!

Optical quality — NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S

It’s often said that many a sin is forgiven in the lens world if the lens has high quality optics. In this regard, Nikon has hit it out of the park! I simply love the results I’m getting with the 35mm. Wide-open and within the “rule of thirds” frame — optical performance cuts like a razor. Even at the extreme edges and corners, optics are still very sharp.

Flare is well controlled and I’m not seeing a lot of chromatic aberrations. Stopping down to f/2 makes little difference, but stopping down to f/4 and it’s a world class optic. I prefer to shoot wide-open the majority of the time and in that regard, the 35mm has been fantastic to work with. Bottom line, Nikon didn’t skimp on the optics of the 35mm S.

Most shortcomings of lenses are easy to forgive if the optical quality stands out. In the optics department, Nikon has hit it our of the park with the 35mm!


Generally speaking, we buy f/1.8 lenses to save a buck. However, Nikon hasn’t released a 35mm f/1.4 for the Z mount, at least not yet. What Nikon is doing is giving us consumer oriented lenses with lightweight, weather sealed build quality and professional optics. In fact, the 35mm’s optics are every bit as impressive as any f/1.4 lens I’ve used. But the 35mm is still f/1.8, which means we’re not accustomed to spending this kind of money on something with a max aperture of only f/1.8.

The resulting images — and the smiles and tears on your clients faces — will quickly allow you to forget how much you paid for this kind of optical quality. I do think the 35mm is just a tad bit overpriced, especially for the build and the focus motor, but the optics and resulting images allow me to forgive the 35mm’s shortcomings.

Outstanding optical quality that’s lightweight and affordable

In spite of it’s plastic build, relatively high price and slow auto focus motor, the 35mm more than makes up for it with outstanding optical quality. Shortcomings aside, wedding photographers who shoot with the Nikon Z can rejoice, the 35mm f/1.8 S is a winner that’ll leave you and your clients smiling from ear to ear!

Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S Lens

A favored focal length for everything from landscape to street shooting, the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S is a prime wide-angle lens characterized by its versatility and bright f/1.8 maximum aperture. Furthering its merits, the optical design features two extra-low dispersion elements and three aspherical elements, which reduce a variety of aberrations and distortion to produce imagery with high sharpness, clarity, and accurate color rendering. Both Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coatings are used, too, to suppress flare and ghosting for greater color fidelity and higher contrast.