The Nikkor AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED dates back to a time when an ultrasonic drive was fairly new technology for Nikon. Starting in 1996, AF-S was first introduced exclusively to the high end Nikkor tele primes, but soon also powered the autofocus in a trio of new professional fast zoom lenses: the AF-S 80-200/2.8, the AF-S 28-70/2.8 and the AF-S 17-35/2.8.
Many things have changed since then. Ultrasonic driven AF has become every-day technology and is featured even in the cheapest kit zooms today. Almost all of the early AF-S lenses have long been replaced with successors. The only exception is the 17-35/2.8, which can still be purchased new.
That doesn't mean that Nikon has abandoned development in this market segment. They offer two additional zoom lenses nowadays that target a similar audience: the Nikkor AF-S 14-24/2.8 and the Nikkor AF-S 16-35/4 VR. Let's find out how the AF-S 17-35, being the oldest of the three, performs on our current FX test camera, the Nikon D3x.
The AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 D IF-ED is a gold ring lens indicating a professional grade Nikkor. Currently
retailing for 1600 EUR/1750 USD you can expect to get some value for your money and the build quality of the lens is certainly superb.
The lens body is made of metal and control rings operate very smoothly. The inner lens tube moves marginally during zooming but the physical length of the lens remains constant at all times.
The lens features an internal focusing (IF ) design so the front element does not rotate and using a polarizer is no problem (even with attached hood).
Thanks to the silent-wave drive the AF operates near silent and very fast.
As you can see in the image above, the AF-S 17-35 (right) is a bit shorter than its younger siblings, the AF-S 14-24 (left) and AF-S 16-35 VR (center). For many the 17-35 combines the best properties of the trio in a single lens since it offers the same fast aperture like the AF-S 14-24 but also accepts filters, like the AF-S 16-35 VR. However, starting at 17mm it also offers the narrowest picture angle of the three lenses.