Nikon wide angle that comes close to Leica at f/2 : LUSENET : Leica Photography : One Thread

I shoot a Leica M6 with a 50 summicron (for those who've read my past posts, I did have a 2nd version 35 summicron but I returned it because it was just too soft wide open).

Before coming to Leica, I shot solely Nikon, with a set of zoom lenses. I had lived with the softness of my lenses wide open because I didn't know any better. After shooting with the 50 summicron (I shoot live dance, almost always at f/2 in order to get a fast enough shutter speed), I realized what I was missing out on. I've gotten rid of all my zoom lenses and reduced my Nikon kit to primes at the telephoto range to complement my M6 at the wide and normal range.

Now, I need to pick up a wide angle for my Nikon for the sake of back up. I was in a situation last weekend where I needed a wide and a 50 at the same time. I had borrowed another shooter's Nikon 24mm 2.8 ED but it absolutely sucked wide-open -- low contrast, soft focus.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a Nikon 35 or 28 mm lens that has Leica-like sharpness at f/2 or f/2.8?


-- victor (, March 12, 2002


The Nikon 28mm 1.4 D is a nice lens. It has a Leica like price, too! The aspherical element is hand finished. I borrowed one for a few weeks and was very impressed with the sharpness and contrast wide open. I also did not have much trouble with AF in low light. The build quality was also excellent. The last time I looked, the price for gray was around USD$1300. BTW Isn't it strange how I would spend 1300 on a Leica, but somehow balk at the idea of a $1300 Nikon? Even so, for low light, ie in a restaurant or street scenes, I would buy the lens based on my brief test/use of it.

-- Reto (, March 12, 2002.

Many people speek highly of Nikkor 35/1.4 AIS. -Haven't used it myself though.
Bjorn Rorslet gives it a max rating in his evaluation:
Follow the "lens evaluation" on the left hand side

-- Niels H. S. Nielsen (, March 12, 2002.

Many people speek highly of Nikkor 35/1.4 AIS. -Haven't used it myself though.

A current thread on the NikonMF yahoo list suggests otherwise. A user compared the 35 f/1.4 with the 50 f/1.4 Nikkor and found the 35 weaker at the widest apertures, becoming sharp at about f/4 or f/5.6. Given the modest performance of the 50 f/1.4 Nikkor, this doesn't indicate the 35 f/1.4 will deliver Leica-like performance.

-- Douglas Herr (, March 12, 2002.

Many people speek highly of Nikkor 35/1.4 AIS. -Haven't used it myself though.

I had one, and while it was better than the 35 f2, it was no match for even the pre-asph Leica 35's wide open. Over the years, I've owned MF and AF Nikkors in 20, 24, 28 and 35. The best of the Nikon wides I ever used wide open was the 24 f2.8 AF (pre-D), but IMO it makes a lousy MF lens with its sloppy focus feel -- and it aint no Leica 24, that's for sure!

Good luck,

-- Jack Flesher (, March 12, 2002.

I wouldn't argue w. Douglas or Jack -I haven't used the lens as I said.
However, I think it is only Leica who makes a great efford in optimizing the lenses for wide open shooting, Canon and Nikon users would never dream of using a lens wide open unless absolutely necessary. A 1.4 Nikon lens of (relatively) good quality, would probably perform well stopped down to 2 or 2.8 (the aperture Victor wishes to shoot at) - but whether it delivers "Leica-like shapness" I do not know.

-- Niels H. S. Nielsen (, March 12, 2002.

I use the 35mm lens f/1.4 Nikkor. It is fine for most applications, but it does have some barrel distortion. It is nice for an SLR lens to have the wide aperture, even when stopped down just for ease of focusing, especially with a polarizer. The wide-open performance is good, (not great) and at one stop down, it is improved noticeably. There is more curvature of field than my pre-aspheric 35mm Summicron, but that helps isolate a bit more since parts of the image away from the center will be further from the plane of focus.

The out of focus rendering is interesting. This lens has floating elements (Nikon call this close range correction [CRC]), so the look changes when you move in tight. The Summicron has better Bokeh at all ranges, but as long as you keep the Nikkor out to at least 4 feat or so, the image is not too bad.

Below are two shots with the Nikkor at different apertures. Both are just grab shots, but the lens works fine for this, just like a Leica with Summicron... only bigger and louder. I paid 650 Dollars for my used Summicron and 600 Dollars for my new Nikkor. I wouldn't be without either.

shot with 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor at full aperture

shot with 35mm f/1.4 Nikkor at f/5.6

-- Al Smith (, March 12, 2002.

I have found that the 20-35 zoom is better in all respects than my previous 20f2.8MF, 24F2.8MF, and 35F.2AF (the latter is the least impressive). I never had any 28 prime. teh 20-35 is really an impressive lense, wide open or not. Nikon calls it "multy-focal- lense" rather than "zoom lense", and I find it a good way of putting it. I think it is a zoom lense that is better than the primes. (it is heavy and expensive, though).

-- rami (, March 12, 2002.

No one has mentioned the stellar manual focus Nikkor 28's yet - specifically the 28/2.0 and the 28/2.8 AIS.

I've used the 28/2.8 extensively, and it's a very good lens - much better than the 24/2.8 wide open. This applies only to the 9-element AIS lens with CRC. All other Manual focus 28/2.8 lenses I've tried have been poor, and the AF versions (with the exception of the 1.4) are intended to satisfy a non-critical amateur market.

While I haven't used the 28/2.0, all the reviews and commentary I've seen rate it equal to or better than the 28/2.8 AIS. If I were to try shooting available light with my Nikons again, this is one I'd definitely try.

None of the wide angle Nikkors will match the current generation of Leica M lenses wide open, but IMO these three 28's (28/1.4 AF, 28/2.0 AIS, 28/2.8 AIS) are the best of a sorry lot.

-- Paul Chefurka (, March 12, 2002.

I'm by no means an expert on Nikon. [My experience is limited to an old Nikkormat FTN and 50/1.4 Nikkor which I still own but have long since stopped using]. However, I did note when scrolling through the website that their tests in dicate in a number of instances a better performance of older generation Nikon AF lenses than the current AF or AF-D glass. For example, Nikon AF 28/2.8D rated at 3.2 (based on their MTF scoring system) vs MF F 28/2.8 4.1 (this is a sizeable difference). Another example is AF 24/2.8 = 3.7 vs 24/2.8 MF 3.9. There are other examples, as well as cases in which the newer lens performs better.

It is just curious why older manual lenses come out better in any optical tests at all, since the current lens should be at least as good if not better.

-- Eliot (, March 12, 2002.

the 28 2.8 AIS is an amazing lens, incredibly sharp wide open. the 28 f2 likewise is a very strong performer, much better than any of the 35s or the 24s. this is a focal length where nikon really excells. i must say that the 28 f2.8 (especially if you get a good one -- there is considerable sample to sample variation among nikon lenses [leica too for that matter] in my experience), is among the sharpest lenses i have ever used from any manufacturer. check the photodo numbers.

-- roger michel (, March 12, 2002.


Shake a new auto-focus lens. Now shake an old AI / AIS lens. I went from the older lenses, moved into auto-focus, and then sold off the auto-focus and dug out my old reliable Nikkors.

When the new lenses worked, they were great. When they got loose, performance would be hit or miss. My new AF 50mm f/1.4 actually would change focus internally if you tilted it up or down... you could feel the elements shifting uncommanded. Optical performance requires the elements stay where they are. I can violently shake any MF lens I own and there will be no sound and no shifting. I wore out two brand new AF prime lenses in a couple of years, yet my 20 plus year old manual Nikkors are mechanically as sound as the day I bought them.

I'm back with metal and glass and life is good again.

-- Al Smith (, March 12, 2002.

I agree that the 28/2.8 AIS (*not* the AI or either of the AF)is the de-facto #1 wide-angle Nikkor in terms of performance at the wider apertures. The 28/2 AIS is second in line. Wider than that, the 24/2.8AIS is identical to the 24/2.8AF and AF-d. Both those lenses are better at f/2.8 than the 24/2.8 R lens but still well behind the 24 M.

-- Jay (, March 12, 2002.


like you, I shoot dance; like you I use Nikons for the longer focal lengths (in my case: 85 f1.4 AF D; 135 f2 AIS; 80-200 AF-S D). I own a Nikkor 24 f2.8 AF D. While I have never used it for dance, I did some shooting with it wide open when I first acquired it, and found it surprisingly sharp. My experience, in fact, was consistent with the tests done by the french magazine Chasseur D'Images, which rated the lens at f 2.8 as very good in the center, falling off to fair at the edges and corners. (By comparison, the same magazine rated the highly regarded and very expensive 28 f1.4 AF D, at an aperture of f 2.8, as significantly better than the 24 in the corners, but not as sharp in the center.) If you are shooting dance with this lens I would think center sharpness would be paramount, and that this lens should be up to the task.

In short, don't discount the possibility that you borrowed an uncharacteristically bad example of the breed. Before investing a lot of money in a fast wideangle, you may want to think about borrowing and testing another example.

I would only add that I agree with other posters that the 24 AF is a terrible lens to focus manually. If the ability to focus manually is important to how you shoot, then I you will have to look at the older Nikkors.

-- David Mark (, March 12, 2002.

My experience of the 28mm 1.4 AfD Nikkor ASPH is that is a Leica quality lens by f2, but may need color correction for daytime use as noted by Ken Rockwell here:

IMHO the only other Nikon lens that absolutely equals its Leica competition is the 180 2.8 EDIF. But you may feel otherwise and this baby is pricy! Rent the 28 ASPH and check it out yourself........

-- david kelly (, March 12, 2002.

The newer Nikkor 35/2 is a great lens.

it's not the best thing in the world to use for manual focus, but you get used to it. I think in real world use it's as good as the Hexar AF 35/2 and probably the non-asph Leica 35/2.

-- Pete Su (, March 12, 2002.

Another vote for the Nikon AIS 28 f/2.8 for work at f/2.8. Plus it focuses to about 12 inches. This lens has eaten the lunch of the legendary 24 f/2.8 every time I've compared them - also the MF 35 f/2.

The Nikon f/2? Well, it's OK - but at f/2 it has coma that's visible in slides without a magnifier (point light sources near the corners take on butterfly shapes). And OOF circles near the corners get weird Noctilux-like hard-edged half-moon shapes - big ones. It's a 1970 optical design, while the 2.8 is an early 80's design. (BTW one of the biggest differences in the Leica-M 28 f/2 is a total absence of these half-moons in the bokeh - just relatively soft-edged circles)

I'd also mention the 20mm f/2.8 AIS (the AF is the same glass in plastic mount) - in sharpness only a notch behind the pre-ASPH Leica 21 at 2.8 in the center. At the corners both are equally soft, but in different ways.

-- Andy Piper (, March 12, 2002.

The only Nikon lens that comes close to Leica is the AF 28mm f/1.4 and the AIS 28mm f/2.8 (8 element version). Find a better Leica lens with a "Leica look" and I won't believe you. I personally thing the AIS lens is superior becuase you can put the sun anywhere in the image without flare, and I'm serious!

The AIS 35mm f/1.4 (latest version) is excellent from f/2.8 and poor at f/1.4 and f/2. Distortion is an absolute BITCH!

-- Kristian (, March 12, 2002.

Another vote here for the newest version of the 35/2 AF-D. Very good wide open. My old 24/2.8 AIS was also quite good wide open. You may indeed have used a sub-par sample of the 24. It's considered one of their best lenses.

-- Jim Tardio (, March 12, 2002.

Watch out for the new 35/2 Nikkors if you use them much. I've had one that's failed twice in the same way -- oil on the aperture blades which makes the lens rrrreeeeaaaaalllllylyyyyy slow to stop down, until it stops stopping down at all.

Not a problem if you're *always* at f2 though.

-- Derek Zeanah (, March 12, 2002.

FWIW, my 35 f2 AF-D was a piece of junk optically. Almost unuseable at f2. It was the worst Nikon lens I ever owned. Both my 20-35 and later my 17-35 zooms were FAR better optically.

-- Jack Flesher (, March 12, 2002.

Hello Victor. In my experience no 28mm. or 35mm. Nikon lense has matched a Leica 28mm. or 35mm. at f/2. Nikon longer focal lengths are adequate. Save the money for another Leica lense. Regards.

-- Sheridan Zantis (, March 13, 2002.

Victor, My e-mail has been down for days so I'm late responding.

No doubt that the 28/1.4 Aspheric Nikkor is the lens you seek. I'm a Leica nut, but also shoot D1xs for commercial work. I've found all the Nikon lenses to be less than Leica for black and white film work. It's strictly a matter of taste. But color and digital is a different matter. The Nikkors have a particular punch to them that I attribute to their specific lens coatings. Again, a matter of taste and application of the final image. I shoot the 28/1.4 wide open almost all of the time, often in low light with fill flash and slow shutter speeds that open up ambient backgrounds to eliminate any trace of that "flash look". When I first used it for black and white silver prints I almost sold it. Now it's the main lens in my Nikon system. Even digital shots converted to B&W in PhotoShop have a different quality to them. They stand up in 8X10 wedding album prints right along with scanned Leica images. I can e-mail some results of the 28/1.4 if you like. Just send your address to :

Good Luck, Marc Williams

-- Marc Williams (, March 13, 2002.

My Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AF-D is a gem -- very sharp wide open and at smaller apertures, and it's cheap as well. Stay away from the non-D version as it lacks the floating element and is a true dog.

Many have opined that the 28mm f2.8 AIS (not the AI, though) and the 28mm f2.0 are also excellent, though I've not used them.

The 35mm f2 AF lens has chronic problems with oily aperture blades. Mine didn't have that issue, but it also did not in five years of heavy use ever produce an image that really grabbed me on a technical/beauty level. It produced negs that were sharp and all that, but they never really looked very good for some reason. Much better, and closer to the performance of my 35mm 'cron 4th version, is my old 35mm f2 pre-ai lens -- fairly sharp wide open, very sharp by f4, with beautiful gradation and bokeh. Mine is a late pre-AI lens, so the same optically as an AI or AIS, I believe, and these are available on eBay at bargain prices, much cheaper than its f1.4 stablemate. It's a big, heavy sucker, though.

If you want the most bang for the buck in a Nikon wide, try the 35mm f2.5 Series E. Small, light, cheap, and sharp. A good "beater" lens.

-- Douglas Kinnear (, March 13, 2002.


You are absolutely right about that 180- I had canon's 200/2.8 previous to it, but it's no competition. I'll never part with it. Is the 28/1.4 really that good?

-- Mike DeVoue (, March 15, 2002.

Douglas Kinnear writes "Stay away from the non-D version as it lacks the floating element ...."
The 28/2.8 AF-D does NOT have a floating element (CRC). The "D" design was recomputed, and is said much better than the AF non-D version -that appears to be correct.
But that the 28/2.8 AF-D should have CRC is an Internet legend. I have several Japanse and Danish Nikon lens catalogues from different years and no one mentions CRC in conjunction w. that particular lens. Neither is it mentioned on or
However, it is a lens that unfairly suffers from the reputation of the non-D version.
I have used it (the "D" one) and it has a lot to offer (especially considering the price), but again -like most other japanse lenses- it needs to be stopped down 1 or 2 apertures to show its qualities.

-- Niels H. S. Nielsen (, March 15, 2002.

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