I have no experience with the 35/2 but 28mm is one of my favorite focal lengths for both full-frame and APS-C. I have the 28/2 AI-S, 28/2.8 AI-S, and 28/2.8 AF-D Nikkors plus a 28/2 Zeiss ZF. Which leaves just the Nikkor 28/1.4 to complete my collection!
Originally Posted by robmac
Although the 28/2.8 AF-D has a bad reputation -- the Photozone review is typical -- I've found its performance perfectly acceptable on my D300. In fact, the D300 plus 28/2.8 AF-D is my normal carry-around combo. If lens performance is paramount I switch to the Zeiss 28/2, even though I find it difficult to focus accurately on the D300. But that's not what you asked about.
The Executive Summary? A good copy of either the 28/2 or 28/2.8 (AI or AI-S) is an excellent choice. If you don't need to shoot wide open, you'll save money buying the slower lens.
However the 28/2 is not a great performer wide open. The general consensus -- matched by my own experience -- is that the 28/2 AI-S is slightly soft at f/2 but, once stopped down to f/4 or f/5.6, there is little difference between the 28/2 and 28/2.8 AI-S lenses. I expected the 28/2 AI-S to be easier to focus but that hasn't been the case.
On his CameraQuest page about Nikon manual focus lenses, Stephen Gandy writes:
Construction-wise, AIS lenses are usually smaller and lighter than their predecessors. In other words, costing cutting was coming home to Nikon. Most AIS lenses show cheapened construction. The typical five screws for the bayonet mount was reduced in most cases to only three. The traditional chrome ring on Nikon lenses between the focus ring and the aperture ring was replaced by aluminum.
IF the optical formula is the same--as they often are--I prefer the heavier constructed AI lenses over the AIS.
Given that on a Nikon DSLR, it doesn't really matter whether it's an AI or AI-S lens, that distinction is also unimportant on a Canon DSLR.
According to Leo Foo's Nikkor Resources main page on the 28mm lenses, both the AI and AI-S 28mm versions employ Nikon's Close Range Correction System to ensure good performance at close focusing distances. Most of the pictures I make with a 28mm lens are taken at relatively close distances -- I don't photograph landscapes -- so CRC is important for me. The Nikkor 28/2 lens focuses to 0.25m, the Zeiss 28/2 to 0.24m, and the Nikkor 28/2.8 to just under 0.2m (9.85in, 9.45in, and 7.87in respectively).
Here are some more links which might be worth a look:
David Ruether's and Grover Larkins' Subjective Evaluations of Nikon Lenses
("28/2 often not as good at wide stops as the f2.8 AIS 28mm - but often better than the f2.8 AIS by 5.6")
Roland Vink's Nikon Lens Serial Numbers (invaluable for figuring out when a particular lens was manufactured)
Leo Foo's 28mm manual focus Nikkor pages: 28/2.8, 28/2
Nikon wide angle that comes close to Leica at f/2 (interesting discussion about Nikkor 28mm and 35mm lenses)
Google search on "nikkor crc 28mm" also yields a number of interesting results
I don't think you'll have much trouble finding a good copy of a 28mm Nikkor. Either the 28/2 or 28/2.8 offers excellent value for money.