From 35 to 70: A Couple of Weeks with an AF Nikkor 35-70mm Lens

A few months back I started carrying the kit lens for my Sony A7II and just shooting between the three focus lengths 28, 50, and 70. when I go out to shoot, I found that I wasn’t shooting for anything in particular, so the kit zoom was working just fine.

Last March a buddy sent me an old Canon EF 35-70mm zoom, the first version. It’s very loud and clunky. I was walking around with it and on my old EOS 10s and I found the zoom range works very well for me. I don’t shoot at 28mm all that often. 35mm works just fine for me. Then a couple of weeks ago I walked into my local camera shop and I found a Nikon AF Nikkor 35-70mm 1:3.3-4.5, (the second AF version). This is already a stop faster on the long end than my Sony Kit lens in a smaller / slightly lighter package.

I already own the Nikon AF Nikkor 28-85mm 1:3.5-4.5 lens, the first version, and it’s twice the size and more than twice the weight, at 1.12lbs (512 g) as this tiny 35-70mm lens. In fact, the only reason I don’t often use that lens, is the weight.

Pros & Cons


  • Light weight
  • Compact
  • Above average image quality
  • Cheap
  • Wide camera compatibility


  • Little to no damping on focus ring
  • Slow auto-focus

The pros are exactly what you want from a lens of this ilk. The cons are everything you expect from an auto-focus lens made by Nikon of this vintage.

The pros and cons of any given lens is merely the reflection of the compromises made for that lens design. My cons list is a matter of technology though. The reason the auto-focus is so slow, is because the motor is in the camera body and lower-end cameras have slower motors. This type of auto-focus lens is fully functional on all current full-frame Nikon DSLRs. The compatibility is limited on crop sensor bodies, but will still mount. The reason the focus ring is not damped is because the focus motor is not in the lens, so there is a direct drive connection.

I love that I could use this lens on my Nikon N60 auto-focus camera and my fully mechanical Nikon FM2n. Everything has trade offs. This lens’ shortcomings aren’t as bad as it seems because I can still use it in multiple cameras.

This is just a kit lens, it’s a fine lens. Sure, Nikon has a version of this lens with a maximum aperture of 2.8. That lens is twice the size, twice the weight, and about ten times the price. I paid $35 US for my copy and the 2.8 version is going for about $350.

Like I said, there are trade offs and comprises that a lens designer and a lens buyer will have to live with. I illustrated the trade offs of the faster lens above. A slower lens is a lot less money, that was more important to me.

What about a wider zoom range? I do have the 28-85 f3.5-4.5 from a few years earlier. I would say it matches the image quality, but is twice the weight and size. The price is comparable. Nikon did make that 28-85 zoom lens smaller and lighter, I had one, I gave it away. Its build quality was not very good, nor was the image quality.

There are so many different lenses out there. You can’t try them all. Sometimes you get lucky No lens is perfect. You make compromises and settle into a happy place. I hope this is helpful.

The Specs

Height2.55 inches (65mm) [f: 50mm – d: ]
Width2.44 inches (62mm)
Weight8.7 ounces (247g)
Filter Diameter52mm
Elements8 elements in 7groups

Here are some pictures.

Shot on a Nikon FM2n with Fomapan 100

Shot on a Sony A7II

Final thoughts

I like this lens. It is a great walk-around lens for me. While, I may not use this on a paid job, I promise that this lens has been used by plenty of pros over the decades.

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