Review: Nikon 18-35mm AF-D Lens

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: A limited range, inexpensive wide angle zoom that's very sharp on any Nikon FX or DX body.

Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom lens - side with caps

I bought this lens after accidentally dropping my 18-70mm lens, because I wanted a lens with a little less distortion than the common kit lenses I'd been using for a few years, and I didn't want to spend a ton of money on it.

Exterior of Most Sacred Heart Church with 18-35mm
Most Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Eureka, MO
Nikon D90, ISO 200, 18-35mm @ f/11, 21mm

I kept the lens for almost a year, and used it a bit for indoor event photography and some landscape/general photography, but I often found myself keeping the much cheaper, but much sharper and wider-apertured 35mm f/1.8 DX on my camera instead.

The Good Parts

There were three main reasons I chose this lens to replace my broken 18-70mm lens:

  • The lens is pretty cheap used. I picked up my copy for about $300. You can usually find them here and there on Craigslist or eBay.
  • The lens is a brick. It feels pretty solid, has a metal mount, and besides the bulging front part surrounding the front lens, everything feels like it would survive a few drops.
  • It's sharp; sharper than most kit lenses throughout the whole zoom range, in fact.

The Bad Parts

There were a few things I didn't like about the lens that ultimately led me to sell it and buy another wide zoom:

  • The zoom ring is a bit narrow, making it difficult to quickly grab it and change the focal length.
  • Images were sharp, but the colors and distortion didn't live up to my expectation. (Nothing really 'popped' in the pictures I took with this lens.
  • The front part of the lens pops out a little bit too much, making the lens an interesting fit into camera bags, and the lens hood makes the lens look a little unbalanced.
  • The zoom range (18-35mm) is limited enough that I found a prime or two to be a much better value in my bag.

Caveat: This review is coming primarily from my experience with this lens on a DX body, and I'm comparing it mostly to other DX lenses. For FX users, the lens might provide a bit more value, as it is a pretty wide lens for not much money.


Rome - Monument to Vittorio Emmanuele with 18-35mm
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome, Italy
Nikon D7000, ISO 4000, 18-35mm @ f/4.5, 35mm

On the whole, though, the 18-35mm is a decent lens, and is pretty light compared to most of the better-performing zooms (especially the f/2.8 glass I prefer!). It's a decent value, but it's hard to justify lugging it around when you can get either a much larger zoom range in one of Nikon's recent kit lenses (with similar sharpness and aperture range), or much better light-gathering capabilities in a prime or two in the same range (24mm, 35mm...).

You can pick up a used 18-35mm lens for around $500 from a used camera shop, eBay or Craigslist.