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Reader Asks: Nikon 35mm f/1.4G Focusing Issues Resolved?

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

Silvo S writes:

I've read your article in DAP about autofocus errors with AF-S Nikon 35/1.4G a few times and I'm curious whether you have any new informations about this issue. I'm highly interested to purchase this lens for my wedding photography, but I really don't want to pay such a high amount of money for a lens that can't properly focus.

Have you read this article? It seems like the problem you have with this lens.

Do you have any other good advice about 35mm lens for Nikon D700? I think there is no other (autofocus) option. Yes, I could take the 24-70/2.8 but it's sometimes too dim and I would like to have another 1.4 aperture lens beside my excellent 85/1.4G. Beside this; 24-70/2.8 is also not a lens without flaws (zoom sticking etc.).

DIGLLOYD: The focus issues occur mainly at moderate and far distance, so I doubt this would be of concern for wedding photography. And of course stopping down masks any issues. I like shooting at fast apertures, so accurate focus there is a real concern for me, but in a wedding situation, this would be ill-advised— one cannot recapture the moment. I’d advise f/5.6 if lighting allows, but even f/2.8 would be enough to overcome the focus error most of the time.

I cannot speak to the validity of any random user experience (and that’s hardly an article you cite, with no evidence whatsoever), but I can say that I tested on multiple bodies (documenting my findings), and that the lower resolution and different focusing system of the D700 appeared to render it largely immune from the issue that I observed on my D3x and D3s (I shot a borrowed D700 for an hour or so, so my testing was necessarily limited for the D700). The behavior I observed was with “in spec” cameras, and yes cameras and lenses can be out of specification. This was not the issue in my carefully researched studies.

A few pros who had initially disagreed with me on my findings later recanted, and told me that I was right in my diagnosis after all. I have zero doubt about my methodology or the validity of what I reported. I don’t report such things unless I am (damn) sure of having done it right.

I sent my Nikon D3x and 35mm f/1.4G into Nikon in January 2012. Both came back as already “in spec”. In short, Nikon deems my equipment as in perfect operating condition, worthy of no adjustments whatsoever.

As for a higher resolution camera, the requirements for precision only increase. A small error on a 12-megapixel camera will be proportionally worse on a 36-megapixel camera. However, the new Nikon D800/D800E has its own focusing system which could also be an improvement on prior Nikon DSLRs, so I’m unwilling to make any predictions there and I hope for the best. Nikon is clearly aware of these issues, but sidesteps the AF accuracy considerations except in passing on page 10 of Nikon’s Technical Guide for the D800. If you find Nikon’s guide interesting (which is just as relevant for Canon), then read Making Sharp Images for the full story.

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