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Battle of the Glass 35mm

27.02.11 (Tech Stuff)
So we have three contenders.
Nikon AF-D 35mm f2.0 (roughly 289 Eur)
Nikon AF-S G 35mm f1.8 DX (roughly 184 Eur)
Nikon AF-S G 35mm f1.4 N (roughly 1665 Eur)
Tested on fullframe (Nikon D700). Exposition varies due to different aperture. All lenses are calibrated for AF issue, camera as well. Your mileage might of course vary so focus on difference between lenses not on absolute results. All SOOC (straight ouf ot camera).

So what will 1300 Eur difference give you?

Test1: Synthetic sharpness test, head and shoulders portrait distance

We focused here on horizontal half body portrait. this is typical use case for 35mm. We use doll until weather will be better to take our model out.
Focus is on upper hair line.

Whole scene:


Sharpness (100% crops): (please note that at f1.4 there is much less in focus then at f1.8, actually G f1.4 is awesome sharp, look at
hair line where was focused and circled areas). It is enough as you can get full body portrait with single eye lashes detectable.
That is more then enough in real world. Cheap little lens though surprises a lot.

Test2: Synthetic sharpness test, half body portrait distance

Scene is same as above, just about 2m away, as if you would want to capture whole body vertically or half body horizontally.
Notice the much warmer colors come from 35f1.4.

CA and opposing light:

There is no CA or opposing light problem with both lenses in in-focus areas.
Sure 35Gf1.4 beats the little lens in OOF and in corners little.

Test3: 35f1.8 IQ on FX

Vignetting is quite severe, but sharpness is good. It can be corrected with about +4EV. Yes it is huge, but for portraits it is ok...
Here is some worst case scenario (for portrait types at distant focus):

Sharpness is fine also in near borders where it matters for portraits,
especially if you stay not far over 1/3 or 2/3 line:

Test4: So what you are paying for?

So now at this point, you are probably wondering what you are paying for those 1300Eur. When for portraits is even f1.8 good enough on FX.

This is your answer:

One stop of the difference. You see it even at this small size. Any bigger image is, more pronounced it gets.
This is full body (adult) portrait distance. Worst case scenario for portraiture with wide angle lens.
Maybe you don't see it on first sight, because the background is quite far,
but look how fast the leaves get unsharp at f1.4 and how long they stay sharp
on f2 (f1.8 is practically same). You get much more 3D separation and flexibility for your creative needs.
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