Nikon 18mm f/3.5 'ais' wide angle
I was wondering if anybody here owns, or have experiences of the Nikon 18mm f/3.5 'ais' lens. It's possible I may have the opportunity to buy one in very good condition, but have come across mixed reviews with regards to sharpness. Some have rated it quite highly, yet one or two others have said it doesn't perform as well as Nikon's other 'ais' wide angles.
I would be very grateful if anyone can share any opinions regarding this particular lens.
Hi Carl, I have one and my copy is truly excellent in every way. The 18 is generally regarded as one of the best super wides that Nikon made. I can also attest to it's ruggedness, as I dropped mine on to a concrete floor, dinged the front considerably, but that's all. The only ill affect is a severe drop in second hand value!
For years, I used my 18mm f/3.5 on my 35mm film Nikons to shoot the following:
Motor vehicle interiors
I was very satisfied with the performance of this lens.
However, I became dissatisfied when I started shooting this lens on a DX body because it was too difficult to manually focus (a fault of the camera not the lens), plus, I needed a lens wider than 18mm (the fault of the small APS-sized camera format not the lens). To eliminate my dissatisfaction, I purchased a 14-24mm f/2.8 auto focus Nikon lens to use on my DX body.
When I ran a comparison test, I was surprised that my new wide-angle zoom lens optically performed slightly better than my older wide-angle prime lens.
However, I did not get rid of my 18mm because I found it very useful when:
1. I need to use a filter (the zoom does not accept filters)
2. I need to use a smaller and less conspicuous lens (the zoom is huge and heavy)
3. I am shooting in an environment that is hostile to the large exposed front element of the expensive zoom lens
4. I need to avoid the shadow casts by the huge zoom lens when shooting with the camera built-in flash
5. I need to use the depth-of-field scale that is missing on the zoom
6. I am shooting with a camera (like my F2) that requires an f/stop ring to set the aperture (the zoom is a “G” lens that does not have an f/stop ring)
7. I am shooting with a camera (like my F4 or N70) that does not work in aperture priority mode or manual mode with the “G” zoom lens
Bottom line – I recommend the 18mm f/3.5 Nikon lens.
Thank you very much indeed to you both. I appreciate your opinions.
Tony - I'm glad to hear your lens is still working OK, and just goes to show how well made these old manual lenses are. It's nice to hear you're happy with yours.
Narsuitus - Thanks for the recommendation, and for comparing it with your zoom lens. All my cameras are film SLR's, so I don't have the problem you mention with regards to DX bodies. But generally speaking, I've always prefered fixed lenses rather than zooms and like yourself, I'd rather have a depth-of-field scale on the lens as I do find them very useful.
Thanks again for your replies.
Well it doesn't out perform the 15mm rectilinear lens, which it shouldn't.
I myself have the Sigma 18mm f/3.5 with an added filter ring manufactured locally, this was manufactured around the same time as Nikon were manufacturing the AIs 18 3.5 lens and was intended to take sales from Nikon, which in my case it did.
I have had the Sigma and Nikkor versions alongside each other mounted on my two F3 HP bodies. Even through the viewfinder one could see an apparent contrast and sharpness difference over the Sigma lens.
With film you could also see a slight difference on as best as I could get identical testing conditions. The colour prints were slightly different in colour bias, which is to be expected, but the Nikkor was certainly better.
In B&W there was only a slight contrast difference, to our eyes that is. The our eyes were the two owners of the lenses. Me the Sigma and my friend the Nikkor.
My Sigma cost me $350.00 the Nikkor cost my friend around $1,400.00 new.
The Nikkor is an extremely good lens, certainly better than the Sigma of the day and the Sigma was probably the best of the aftermarket versions available.
I enlarged, for close to 5 years, B&W and colour prints from a couple of photographers who both had and used the 18mm 3.5 Nikkor, almost always they were very good to excellent.
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Hi Mick, and thanks very much indeed for your reply. I appreciate your comparisons with the Sigma lens. When I was in photographic retailing many years ago we stocked a number of independent lenses including Tokina and Tamron, and whilst they were good generally speaking, they rarely matched up to the camera manufacturers' own lenses including the Nikkors.
I am very pleased to read you are happy with your lens, and with these positive comments about it, I'll be looking at buying one myself now.
Carl, my journey with wide angle lenses really started with the Tamron 17 3.5 (I think) and with my Adaptall mounts it went on a Pentax as well as the Nikon body I had back then.
The day I actually sold the Tamron, the would be owner turned up on the day we had the two F3 units with the sigma and Nikkor 18mm lenses on tripods alongside each other.
He was a poor as a church mice type student fella, about 19 years old, arrived with his girl friend on their pushbikes from right across town. We, the mate and I, ended up feeding them lunch whilst some passing rain happened.
One of the things we did was have the Tamron on his camera on another tripod and we flicked through all three lenses. Through the viewfinder, the Tamron was definitely the worst of the bunch by a country mile.
The new owner readily accepted that difference for two main reasons, he needed a wide angle lens of some description for his pending second year university photography course, and this was about the only thing he could afford.
I met up with him when his University class did a tour of our photo lab and photographic studio complex almost 9 months later. It turned out that he had made the most of the colour fringing of the Tamron with cross processed C41 and done very well in the artistic side of his Scientific Photographic based course.
I have the Manual and a Nikkor Zoom 18-35 AF D I can't tell the difference.