In a previous article entitled, “What’s The Second Best Lens For Boudoir?” I explore the advantages of shooting boudoir with a 35mm lens. This article is going to talk specifically about some of the best value 35mm lenses for taking advantage of those advantages. I’m also going to share my top choice amongst all of them, even if cost was not an issue. Surprisingly enough, my pick is relatively inexpensive (way less than $1000).
So, what are the best value 35mm lenses for boudoir? In short, they are:
Nikkor 35mm f2 D
Fuji 35mm f2
Tamron 35mm f1.4
Let’s now take a closer look at each one of these and see how they differ.
At the top of the list for pure value sits Nikkor’s AF 35mm f2 D. The “AF” stands for auto-focus and the “D” represents the D series of lenses which all have an aperture ring for setting the aperture, unlike the G series of lenses which have no aperture ring but the aperture is set through the camera body.
The big advantage of these D series lenses is that they can be used with older Nikon SLR cameras, as well as, the newer DSLRs that most photographers use today.
To use with a modern DSLR just set the manual aperture ring to the smallest aperture (f22) and lock it in place with the little switch on the lens that’s marked in orange. Keeping the manual aperture locked like this allows your camera body to set the aperture.
It probably sounds more complicated than it actually is but if you get one of these lenses for your modern DSLR you should be aware of this setting.
Image-wise, this 35mm auto-focus lens has great color saturation and micro-contrast (also known as image fidelity) which works especially well if you shoot black and white.
New, they run about $385 but you can pick one up used for around $225 and is a high quality lens for a really decent price.
Fuji originally came out with the 35mm f1.4 that many people complained about and thought was defective because of its constant “lens chatter”. This is the sound its aperture blades make as they constantly adjust to find focus which drives some photographers bonkers.
A few years later they came out with their 35mm f2 that is $200 cheaper than the f1.4, with no lens chatter, faster auto-focus, and is sharper.
Now, if you shoot a lot in low light and that extra stop of light is something you really need then get the 1.4, but otherwise, the f2 is not only a better lens overall but it’s also cheaper than the 1.4… by $200, and that makes it a better value.
New, Fuji’s 35mm f2 will cost you about $400, used around $367 (not much of a savings but it’s something).
If your heart is set on the more expensive f1.4 then you’re going to spend around $600 new, and about $550 used.
In 2019 Tamron announced their 35mm f1.4 as the “ultimate”* to mark the 40th anniversary of their SP Series of lenses.
“SP”, by the way, stands for superior performance.
Winner of the TIPA World Awards for Best DSLR Prime Lens for 2020 (Technical Image Press Association), as well as, the Grand Gold Prize in the Interchangeable Lens / DSLR category at the Digital Camera Grand-Prix 2020, this lens is the culmination of all of Tamron’s experience and technology over the past seventy years.
(Tamron will celebrate their 70th anniversary in Nov. 2020.)
Preceded by a lot of hype from Tamron itself as the best lens they’ve ever produced, they seem to have successfully backed up their claim.
Their “new and exclusive Dynamic Rolling-cam mechanism enables the heavy F/1.4 focusing unit to move with incredible accuracy at high-speed and deliver the best AF performance in every shooting situation.”*
Another feature is its manual focus override system that allows photographers to fine tune their shots above and beyond the already fast precision auto-focus system.
Improvement of their original BBAR (Broad Band Anti-Reflection) coating with the newer BBAR – G2 (G2 meaning Second Generation) reduces ghosting and flare to an even greater degree resulting in increased contrast… “even under backlit conditions.”*
Special low dispersions and glass molded aspherical lens elements combine to reduce chromatic aberration and other optical aberrations inherent in fast lenses wide open.
These two improvements specifically work together to give you higher resolution resulting in superior image quality like never before.
Okay, that’s a lot of technical talk and I’m not an optical engineer and I’m assuming you’re not one either so what does all this mean for the average boudoir photographer?
Results Of All That Optical Technology
The bottom line is that Tamron has produced one of the finest lenses ever made.
“Breath taking sharpness”*, “velvety soft bokeh”*, high saturation, super fast and precise auto-focus, reduction in ghosting and lens flare… and all this for well under $1000.
That’s kind of crazy when you think about it, considering Canon and Nikon routinely have lenses that sell for well over $1000.
If I were Canon or Nikon I would take a serious look at what Tamron has done here because when you combine high-level optics at a price that’s reasonable for most photographers who want high-end lenses, Tamron will be selling this 35mm all day long.
My Pick For Best 35mm Lens
It may come as no surprise that my pick for best 35mm lens is the Tamron 35mm f1.4
This is a lens you will probably keep forever so if you were thinking about getting something else, perhaps something less expensive, you may want to hold off and save up a bit more until you can get the Tamron.
That would be my advice but it depends on how much you value quality and performance from your lenses.
If you’re someone who isn’t that particular and just wants something that’s going to work and deliver good results then the Nikkor 35mm f2 will work just fine for you and you can save about $400, or the Fuji f2 and save $300.
There’s nothing wrong with that… but if you’re someone who’s looking to get the Tamron down the line eventually, then wait until you can afford to get it instead of buying something in the meantime so you don’t end up spending more in the long run.
Of course you could always sell the first 35 you bought, or just keep it as a backup. There are lots of options here, it just depends on your finances.
Thanks for your time!
Founder / Lounge Boudoir
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*Quoted excerpts taken from Tamron’s Press Release October 31st, 2019 and from https://www.tamron.jp/en/product/lenses/f045.html