Oz Lens Ambassador James Macree reviews the Nikon 17-35mm F2.8 Wide Angle Zoom
The 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S is a high-performance wide-angle zoom for a much wider range of shooting styles, aimed at a professional shooter or serious enthusiasts. I knew very little about this lens before I picked it up so this test is from the point of view of a true first time user.
Straight out of the box this lens impressed me with its metal body
The Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 certainly got some weight to it but without the bulk of the 14-24mm f/2.8, this is real nugget of a lens!
It certainly feels like it justified the extra spend over the base model Nikon wide-angle, the 16-35mm f/4 which uses a much more flimsy plastic construction. Without the show-off glass bulb on the front and a much more subtle profile, this lens doesn’t shout about its intentions, instead it slips under the radar looking more like a mid-range zoom lens.
One thing I really like about this lens is the old fashioned aperture ring at the base of the body, while this might mean little to most shooters on modern DSLR’s, I still dabble in a bit of old fashioned film photography on my ’79 Nikon FE and the ability to use this lens for that is definitely a benefit. I also like Nikon’s respect for its history by continuing to ensure that its modern professional lenses still work with any camera it has built in the last 50 odd years.
The controls of this lens are simple, well laid out and should be familiar to any Nikon shooter
The zoom ring rotates very smoothly and needs little effort to twist and yet has a nice weight to it for accuracy. Same can be said of the generous sized focus ring, something that can be important for accurate fine-tuning of focus when shooting in low-light off a tripod for instance.
The aperture ring will stay locked for most people on modern cameras. The auto-focus can be overridden by the user while in automatic mode like most modern Nikon lenses. Those looking for the VR switch won’t find one.
In use the lens performed flawlessly, the autofocus was fast and accurate, if a little noisy but I think we have become a little too used to the Nikon ‘Silent Wave’ focusing which is near silent on most lenses.
I’d certainly have to question your intentions if you’re worried about your camera not being silent! The f/2.8 aperture certainly came in handy, even when I wasn’t shooting wide-open, this allowed me to pull focus in very low light!
My images showed a little distortion around the edges at both ends of the zoom range
While the mid-range seemed to be pretty straight. The lens was super-sharp even at larger apertures, I noticed very little discernable difference between my images from the 14-24mm and this. They are definitely sharper than those from the 16-35mm f/4 I use as my day-to-day lens.
During the test I put this lens through its paces across several different sorts of shoots I would typically do, it came bushwalking with me, took happy snaps at a birthday, attended a car show and shot a ‘spur of the moment’ sunrise.
Each time I was thoroughly impressed at the no-fuss ‘just get it done’ style this lens brings with it, it’s size was never a problem, ergonomically it is spot on, all controls are right where you expect them to be under your fingertips, it took all of my standard 77mm filters, it didn’t flare in the sun unless I did something silly and pointed it right into the light and with a speed of f/2.8 there were no situations I had to leave a shot due to lack of light.
Lack of VR might be a point of consideration for you if you shoot from the hip often
But me at the car show, this never became an issue, when I arrived I simply set the camera to f/2.8, ISO 400 and got on with the job at hand without a problem, the fast shutter speeds did the trick without and stabilistation trickery.
I usually shoot these events fairly casually, one handed operation of the camera is important. I need the other one to sip my morning coffee and this lens didn’t let me down even in these ‘extreme’ circumstances.
I can’t really consider a situation where this lens couldn’t be used
It is excellent for landscapes and any other situation where a wide-angle is required. It’s minimum focus distance is roughly 30cm from the front of the lens which only increases its versatility and when you need to get in a little bit closer to something 35mm zoom is just enough to tighten up your frame.
I really enjoyed working with this lens, I’ve said enough about it being the quiet achiever already and this really suits me and my style. It performed flawlessly in every situation I put it in and I rarely needed to re-take a shot to get how I wanted. That combined with that durable metal body and super-sharp image quality should earn this lens a place in just about every photographer’s kit. I am already looking at adding it to mine.
James Macree has been called everything from semi-professional photographer to weekend warrior, he’s been playing with cameras ever since he was a child and shoots a wide range of subjects from landscapes to motorsport. Whilst not a full time photographer, James spends most of his spare time with a DSLR in his hands. You can check out his work at LensFlarePhoto.com, where James regularly blogs and showcases his work.