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Nikon 35mm (2.5) E-Series is kick ass!

I use to have this lens but lost it on a bus ride in the Philippines but recently, I found another copy and remembered why I loved the Nikon 35mm: Bokeh!

Before I go anymore into the article, let be clear about something: this is the 1.8G with auto focus and it is a film lens.

If you look around old camera shops, you can find these E-series lens. About half a dozen focal lengths were made and they were used for cheap film cameras to be pushed out back in the 1980’s. I have had the entire series at one point or another. I am in the process of getting all the primes again. They are very useful.

With that said, I would not suggest showing up to a commercial shoot with one of these on the front of your Nikon D810. It is not that they couldn’t do the job. They could without question. A client might expect you to have brand new glass and you would raise eyebrows having a lens older than I am and changing the aperture on the physical len.

I could see them being used professionally where the “image of the photographer” is not just as important as the image they actually capture.

I got this copy mainly for doing Youtube Vlogs. I could care less what people think as long as the video footage looks good.

Why you might use the Nikon 35mm (2.5)

If you shoot mainly at 2.8, this is a great len to have. I normally shoot at one aperture all day when I am doing street photography. I rarely changed it. The only real time I do alot of changing aperture is when I am doing HDR photography. Otherwise, it is as open as possible for that Bokeh look!

Another thing you might think about is how light the Nikon 35mm actually is. If you think the newer version with autofocus is light, this one is much lighter than that. Without Autofocus, the weight is harder nothing. I have had in my pocket and not even realized it.

Another thing about this lens is it is made from metal. If you are like me and have been known to drop a len on the ground; you want the metal casing. I have dropped this one and dropped my Nikon 50mm (1.8G). The new one broke the case in a few places. The older 35mm (2.5) didn’t even dent.

The sharpness is very sharp. The reason for this is because you are the autofocus system. Nothing is smarter than your mind and your thumb with your index finger. No computer will ever have the capacity of the human mind.

The final benefit is I believe the older film lens are much more rich in color than the newer digital versions. It could be my eyes but I find that images that I take with this glass require less work in Lightroom to get them “popping.”

I have to say that is not bad for a $40 lens I found on the bottom shelf of a camera shop on a side street in Manila.

Why it might not be for you

Well, the big reason is the lack of autofocus. If you just can’t get focus at all worth a hell, you will be screwed with this len. I realize that alot of people are turned off by actually having to do all the focusing themselves.

The good news is that if you do need that, you can the new version with Auto Focus for only about $150 more. It is stupid expensive like many lens in the world of photography.

The other thing that might turn you off to the Nikon 35mm (2.5) E-series is that you have run in either Aperture Propriety or full manual mode. Anyone that is past a beginner should not have an issue with that. Honestly, shooting in aperture propriety is not that much different than full auto mode; only better images.

After all, having a DSLR and never getting out of Auto is liking driving a Porshe and never taking it out of the first gear for fear of going too fast. What would be the point of having a super car, right?

For those who are afraid of using some older film lens for the reason that they can’t shoot out of auto, here is my advice: try to use aperture propriety on things that don’t matter. Take a walk in the woods and do some shooting. If you miss up some shots, who cares? Just delete them and take the walk again tomorrow.

Who is this lens for?

I would not use it for studio work or most commercial shoots. It just is not a place you would need a 35mm focal lens. I would reach for the Nikon 50mm (1.4) or the Nikon 85mm (1.8) for those shoot.

Because 35mm on a APSC camera is close to a 50mm on a full frame camera; I would think that the best use for the Nikon 35mm (2.5) E-series would be street photography.

The reason that I say this is you still would get some nice wide image that tell the story. When shooting on the streets, you want to get what is going on around them and behind them in the image.

Another use that I could see using it for would be HDR Photography. You might think it is not wide enough for that (and I agree) but you could easily made a panorama using the 35mm image side by side. Pano shots are best short on the height and very long so this lens would be great for that.

In the end, I think using these old film lens are the best thing a young photographer can do. It forces them to get out of auto settings, quit relying on auto focus so much and think about the image, not just be a monkey taking a selfie.

Today, I have lens that cost thousands of dollars but I still use these old cheap film lens alot.

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I love Nikon E-Series lens!

I know alot of people complain about the lack of auto focus but I love the E-Series glass from the old days of Nikon. They offer some great optic, at amazing apertures and they don’t cost much. Some may call them “poor man’s lenses” but I will take a similar image quality for 90% less anyday.

I have owned many of them over the years. I loved using the Nikon E-series 100mm (2.8) even if the focal length is a challenge to work with. I also have used the 50mm and 35mm versions as well. In fact, I was using the 35mm one as recent as a week ago.

Nikon made many of these to sell cheaply back in the days of film. I know of the following:

-Nikon 28mm (2.8)
-Nikon 35mm (2.5)
-Nikon 50mm (1.8)
-Nikon 100mm (2.8)
-Nikon 135mm (2.8)
-Nikon 36-72mm (3.5)
-Nikon 75-150mm (3.5)
-Nikon 70-210mm (4.0)

Personally, I do not own very many zoom lenses. (I am a prime guy) However, I have used most of the primes in the series and I have to say that they are some of the best bang for the buck that I have seen to day. They clearly give Samyang some competition for people who can find these golden oldies.

Nikon E-series using practically

I used them mainly for street photography in Manila, Philippines and with moving parts, no auto focus, and dialing in the settings; you will blow exposure and focus. For a beginner (that is broke) using them, my suggestion would be to worry about focus more than exposure. The reason being when you are shooting raw; you can bring alot of information back. In my opinion, shooting dark (under exposure) is better to work with in Adobe Lightroom for someone just starting to shoot.

Another simple hack for someone who has not used manual focus lens before would be to set the aperture to around 5.6 to get started. Learn how that focal length and the depth of field relate to what you are shooting. Once you realize what the hell you are doing, start trying the 2.8 aperture for that amazing bokoh.

That leads me to the next piece of advice, always shoot aperture priority when you are not in a controlled environment like a studio. To be honest, I probably shoot in it more than I shoot in manual still to this day. I do not mind shooting fully manually at all but doing it just to pet my ego that it was manual doesn’t really make me get my rocks off.

One other practical tip that I would give people would be to make sure if you are using liveview on your camera, have it attached to a mono pod unless you know how you camera reacts to movement pretty well. If you are shooting traditionally using the viewfinder, this should not be a concern for the most part.

Remember, saving money on lens normally means manually overcoming challenges that newer and more expensive offering was made to fix!

Nikon E-series lens are great for studio work!

If you have them on a solid tripod, where you know the focus and the aperture; they can be real beauties. I personally have not used them in the studios. I am not much of indoors photography guy to be honest. However, they do work great for those who are.

Here is some of the shoots with each focal length from Flickr that I liked. Note that these are not my images and you can click through to see the original upload from the person that used the Nikon E-series lens.

Nikon 28mm (2.8)


Nikon 35mm (2.5)

Have a colourful 2016 y'all!

Nikon 50mm (1.8)

Christmas Spirit

Nikon 100mm (2.8)

... rentre bredouille... (3/3)

Nikon 135mm (2.8)

Street music