AF-S and VR lens for under US$700, but you get what you pay for.
focal range of of this lens makes it an immediate front
runner in the minds of most casual photographers, as
they believe that they're getting "everything they ever
travel lens. Perhaps. But read this review carefully before
making that determination.
elements/13 groups; 2ED elements.
with 35mm, 13°20'-60°54'
hood provided, AF/MF switch, 7-blade aperture, VR
I write elsewhere, I've never been a fan of the mid-range zoom,
let alone Nikon's interpretations
of it. The 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S did
make me start looking at the mid-range zoom again, and since that
lens is light and small,
I often carry it with me, especially now that I'm shooting full-frame
again (on a 1.5x view digital body, the 36mm equivalent wide
end just isn't wide enough for me). That lens is sharp, inexpensive,
and focuses well, so the 24-120mm has a big hurdle to jump over.
And the only thing it has to do that with are the 85-120mm focal
range and VR. Which may not be enough to justify almost 2x the price.
since the number one question I get about lenses these days is
"how good is the 24-120mm," I decided it was time to
give it a long look.
Nikkor has a variable maximum aperture that ranges from f/3.5
24mm to f/5.6 at 120mm. However, it's already f/5.3 by 70mm and
f/5.6 by 85mm, so there isn't a lot of focal length range that
has a "fast" aperture. This is a "slow" lens and the viewfinder
will be dim most of the time. The minimum aperture is f/22 at
the wide end, f/38 at 120mm. Since this is a G-type
ring. (G-type lenses are basically D-type lenses without an aperture
ring.) Focusing can be as close as 1.6 feet (.5m) at any zoom
No depth of field or infrared focus index marks are provided. The
IF in the name indicates that it is an internal focus lens, meaning
the front element does not rotate during zoom or focus. The ED
that two of the elements are made of Nikon's unique extra-low dispersion
glass. As with all ED lenses, the lens often focuses past infinity
normal temperature conditions.
manual zoom and focus rings are separate, and easily distinguished.
As seems to be Nikon's new custom with consumer lenses, the focus
ring is the one closer to the camera (the zoom ring is at the
which is a hassle, as Nikon's standards for most lenses are 62mm
or 77mm. That means you'll probably want to pick up a 72-77mm
ring if you use other serious Nikon optics. There are 15 elements
in 13 groups. The lens formula is about average in
number of elements for a modern aspherical design.
is single mode only; it can be switched on or off--there is no
active mode. As with all Nikon VR lenses, panning is detected
and motions then damped in only one direction.
lens comes with the HB-25 hood, but you'll have to pony up extra
cash for the optional soft lens pouch (CL-S2). Nikon claims that
the lens is incompatible or works poorly with all teleconverters,
but given the
slow maximum aperture, I doubt you'd want to use one, anyway. Be
very careful if you try to use a third-party teleconverter with
this lens (why would you?)--the rear element of the lens can
hit the front element of many converters, giving you a nice set
of scratches exactly where you don't want them.
size is modest: about 94mm in overall length and 77mm in diameter.
As such, it is a little wider, longer, and heavier than the 24-85mm
AF-S lens. Build quality is mostly plastic and not the textured
metal you're probably
a worst-case flare example (there's a filter on the lens,
which contributes to flare). Considering the extremes
I'm dealing with here, the internal light reflections
are minimal, though obviously present.
I note in the review text, this is not a perfectly sharp
lens, nor is it a macro lens. This is a 100%
view from a Pro 14n flower closeup taken at f/16. There's just
a touch of softness all around.
||Here's a slight crop from a Pro
14n image taken at 4500 x 3000 pixels. The lens was at 24mm
and f/22. Unfortunately, it's a JPEG original, so it's got
a bit of Kodak "processing" in it, so when we get to the detail,
below, you'll see some stairsteps and the mosaic like noise
reduction effects in play.
And here's a small section at
100%. As I note in the Performance section, the lens performs
adequately. This is relatively near the center, but there's
still a tiny bit of chromatic aberration starting to come
into play, most noticeable on the differing colors at the
edges of the horizontal branch.
focus and zoom rings are not easily distinguished, as their
size and feel are similar; they're also reversed from what
you're probably used to. This makes the
lens feel "foreign"
the first few times you use it (well, maybe always if
you keep switching between this and other Nikkor zooms where
are more readily distinguished and reverse of these). The zoom
ring is a bit stiff, not the equal of the professional
actually better and a little "tighter" than some of the other
consumer autofocus lenses, which tend to have loose rings. The
zoom ring goes from one extreme to the other
a turn, the focus ring takes almost a half turn.
front element is not recessed, and the supplied hood isn't
deep, so it's easy to accidentally touch the glass or bump it
against something, so be careful where you point the camera.
rear element is recessed at some zoom settings, but it is very
exposed when the lens is zoomed to 24mm. Be careful handling
the lens when it's off the camera, as you can easily ding the
butterfly-style lens hood bayonets onto the front piece, and
is usual, is made of cheap, flexible, plastic. Getting the bayonet
lined up isn't easy, as there's no visual indicator on the
lens to match up against the one on the hood! On the plus side,
you can leave the hood on and get the supplied lens cap
you've got a body with an internal flash, be aware that the
cuts off some of the light from the flash at almost anything
wider than 35mm, especially when the hood is on.
with all AF-S lenses, you can manually override autofocus at
time. The lens also has an easy-to-find AF/M switch if you want
to turn off the autofocus on the lens. Like other recent consumer
Nikkors, when fully extended, there's a bit of side-to-side
play to the front-most element. I haven't noticed any optical
problems due to this, but it isn't confidence inspiring.
are some handling limitations that interfere with the use of the
lens on some cameras:
F4, N70, N8008, and N6000 users: Aperture priority and manual
priority exposure modes aren't available (you have no way to
set an aperture!).
N6006, N2020, and all manual focus bodies (except the N6000):
exposure modes are unavailable. Essentially you can use the lens
at its given aperture and use an external metering system.
was prepared to be very disappointed with this lens.
The previous 24-120mm is one of my least favorite recent lenses,
compromises all over the place, and barely adequate performance
at the extremes. Fortunately, this new version manages to crawl
over that low hurdle and provide some reasonable, if not outstanding,
performance. So I'm not disappointed, but I'm also not overly impressed.
is silent and AF-S fast. If the
camera body can calculate the focus point, this lens will reach
it quickly, with no hunting. Even with the CAM900
used by the N65, N75, N80, D100, Kodak Pro 14n, and Fuji S2 Pro
this lens focuses fast and reliably in bright light or with the
autofocus sensor. Whatever compromises Nikon made to keep the
lens in the affordable range,
a 1.5x digital body from 24 to 120mm, this
is a decent though not exceptional performer. There's obvious barrel
distortion and a slight amount of visible chromatic aberration
at 24mm. And at 24mm and f/3.5 the image is somewhat soft. The
end fares better, with slight pincushion distortion, no real
aberration, and pretty decent edge-to-edge sharpness from f/8
a full-frame or 35mm body, you can see light falloff and loss
of sharpness in the corners at all focal lengths when wide open.
At 24mm chromatic aberration is obviously present and the image
is perceptably soft at f/3.5 through f/5.6. Again, the telephoto
end fares much better.
on a digital body
very good, while on a full frame body it rates as
only fair to good, depending upon how you use it. In neither
case would I want to be using this as a low-light lens; it's
only at f/8 through f/16 that this lens turns in strong enough
optical performance that it should be considered over the 24-85mm
(and then only because of the extra telephoto oomph coupled with
a so-called all-in-one travel lens I was left wanting. Optical
performance isn't exceptional, and you're going to not like the
dim viewfinder and slow apertures in low-light conditions. Yes,
the focal range and VR are very tempting, but these don't come
without trade-offs. If you always shoot at f/8 to f/16, have
good shooting discipline, use ISO 200 or faster, then you'll
probably be happy with this lens. But if you sometimes need more
light coming through the lens you'll be relying upon the VR,
which may simply not be enough to compensate for the lackluster
optical performance wide open. Pros won't like the compromise.
Amateurs are likely able to live with it.
hasn't been a problem, especially when the supplied lens hood is
the lens focuses down to 1.6 feet at every focal length, this
a macro lens, and my shooting results show that. When used at the
close extreme at 120mm, for example, the results on my sample
as sharp and contrasty as they are at longer distances. You have
to look carefully at prints to see the difference, but it's
is rather quiet on this lens--it doesn't seem to have to work
as hard as it does on the extreme telephotos. I've managed decent
1/8 second shots, which is a stop better than what Nikon claims,
but VR is merely helpful, not something you should be relying
upon instead of a tripod or good technique. I suspect a lot of
amateurs will think that this feature gives them a license to
always handhold, but given
modest optical performance of the lens, if you treat image-taking
casually with this lens you may find the results aren't as crisp
need them to be.
the 24-120mm AF-S VR is
much better than its predecessor, but not by enough to make me
sit up and pay attention. Personally, I wish they had added VR
24-85mm AF-S instead of making this lens. Even so, it has found
a place in my casual travels when I want to travel as light as
possible (e.g., one lens, one body, no tripod).
Not a professional build, no aperture ring. Still, it's solid,
and the focus and zoom rings are smooth, if not silky.
Could be better. Not up to the quality level of the 24-85mm
AF-S, in my opinion.
Size. 72mm? Can we please just have 62mm
and Focus rings are reversed. The lens feels "wrong"
when you first go to zoom.
depth of field scale. We don't even get cut-out
depth of field charts in the manual, let alone anything on the
lens. At least give us one set of markings for the widest angle,
Speed. Yes, it's an AF-S. Yes, it's silent. Yes,
it's fast. Yes, you can override the focus manually. Despite the
price, there are no AF-S compromises here.
Yes, VR is very helpful in some situations. It's not a crutch,
but a trekking pole.
For AF-S and VR the price is reasonable. But you're getting those
things at the expense of better optical performance.