Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX AF-S Nikkor
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Lab Test Results
July 26, 2009
by Andrew Alexander
In 2003, Nikon was the first of the major manufacturers to introduce an ultra-wide angle zoom lens for cropped sensor digital camera bodies, with the 12-24mm ƒ/4 DX. Two years later, Sigma produced a zoom lens that could go even wider: the 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6. Tamron and Tokina quickly followed suit.
Nikon appears to have finally taken notice, with the 2009 release of the 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 DX lens. While the lens bears a striking resemblance to the Tamron 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5, the two use different optical formulae.
On Nikon digital camera bodies with DX-class imaging sensors, the lens provides an equivalent field of view of 15-36mm. It will mount and operate on full-frame cameras, though hard vignetting is visible unless the camera employs DX mode. This lens isn't a ''constant'' lens, in that as you increase the focal length, both the maximum and minimum aperture sizes decrease. The following table reflects the changes:
The Nikon 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 zoom lens ships with a petal-shaped lens hood, takes 77mm filters, and retails for approximately $900.
The Nikon 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 is a very sharp lens, never quite hitting ''tack-sharp'' results, but with very good results overall.
When used wide open throughout the lens' range of focal lengths, the lens provides a generous ''sweet spot'' of sharpness throughout the center of the image, with a slight amount of corner softness. At its widest point of 10mm, central sharpness is just shy of 1.5 blur units, while corner sharpness peaks at 3 blur units in the extreme corners. Zooming out, corner softness reduces to 2 blur units: images produced between 12-24mm with the lens wide open are very similar in sharpness.
Stopping down slightly improves image sharpness further. The lens definitely performs better at the telephoto range of its focal lengths, as at 24mm and ƒ/5.6, it's pretty much 1.5 blur units across the board. Other focal lengths are similarly improved at ƒ/5.6. With the wide-angle setting of 10mm, ƒ/4 improves on the corner softness, but it's only at ƒ/5.6 that it reduces below the 2 blur unit level.
Stopping down further produces statistically noteworthy gains, but we're talking fractions of a blur unit. Diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11, but again, you'd be hard-pressed to notice any difference in practical application. It isn't until ƒ/16 that we note any significant degradation in image sharpness, and even so, the image is still less than 2 blur units across the frame. Fully stopped-down shooting produces images with 3 to 4 blur units of softness across the frame.
Chromatic aberration is present in images produced with this lens, but only most noticeably when used at its widest focal length (10mm) or wide open at its longest focal length (ƒ/4.5, 24mm). Between 12-20mm, CA is excellently controlled. CA shows up mostly in the corners (this is represented by the red ''maximum'' line in our CA test results graph).
For this lens, the choice of aperture doesn't significantly influence the presence of chromatic aberration except at 24mm. Also note that this test was conducted on the D200, which does not have automatic CA reduction built-in when shooting JPEG images; shooting on a camera with such a feature will only improve CA performance.
Corner shading is noticeable at all focal lengths and apertures for the Nikon 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5. Shading is most prominent when the lens is set to its wider focal lengths. Wide open at wide angle, you can expect to see the corners at least two-thirds to three-quarters of a stop darker than the center; as the lens is stopped down, this corner shading reduces to around a third of a stop by ƒ/11. Stopping down further than ƒ/11 produces a fork in the road: at wide angle, corner shading increases to around a half-stop by ƒ/22, while at telephoto (18-24mm) at ƒ/29 corner shading reduces to the quarter-stop level.
Barrel distortion is quite high when used below 15mm; the corners show +1.4% barrel distortion at 10mm, which is quite high. Average distortion when used at 10mm is +0.5%, meaning at this setting, pretty much anything outside the central region of the image is going to be fairly bloated with distortion.
The distortion profile improves substantially as the lens is zoomed out, until it reaches a kind of parity at around 16mm. After 16mm the corners take on a pincushion distortion (pretty much a constant -0.25% in the corners) where there is average barrel distortion of +0.1% throughout the image. It's not extremely noticeable, but it's just enough complex distortion to make getting straight lines slightly complicated in post-processing.
As an AF-S lens, autofocus operation is quick and virtually silent. The 10-24mm will work on all Nikon camera bodies that support SWM (silent wave motor) lenses. Autofocus results can be overridden at any time by simply turning the focus ring.
The 10-24mm isn't designed for macro work, but is holds up with a respectable 1:5 reproduction ratio (0.2x magnification). Minimum close-focusing range is 24cm (around nine inches) from the image sensor.
Build Quality and Handling
The Nikon 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 is a built with a durable plastic construction, finished with a matte black texture. The lens mount is metal and the 77mm filter threads are plastic. The lens comes with a petal-shaped hood and a soft case.
The lens features a switch to disable autofocus (''M/A - M'') and a distance scale marked in feet and meters. There are no depth of field markings, which isn't surprising for this lens; focus at anything more than a few feet away, and pretty much everything is in focus. As a G-series lens, there is no aperture ring. The lens also features seven rounded aperture blades.
The zoom ring is the larger of the two, mounted towards the end of the lens. The ring is about an inch wide, made of a tactile rubber, and surfaced with raised ribs. The zoom ring takes about sixty degrees of turning action to go through the entire range of focal lengths, and is nicely cammed: it takes two fingers to move the ring. Zoom creep is not a factor for this lens and consequently there is no zoom lock switch. The lens will extend its length as it is zoom towards 10mm and 24mm; by 24mm, the lens has extended an additional half an inch. At 15mm, there is no lens extension.
The focus ring is plastic, just 3/8'' wide and textured with raised ribs. The ring is mounted closer to the lens mount. The ring takes about ninety degrees to run through the focusing range, but there are no hard stops at infinity or close-focus; rather, there is a slight increase of resistance to let you know you're at the end. There is some additional room at infinity to allow for focusing at different temperatures. The front element does not rotate during focus or zoom operations.
The petal-shaped lens hood reverses onto the end of the lens for storage; the interior of the hood is a smooth, matte finish.
Nikon 12-24mm ƒ/4G ED-IF AF-S DX ~$950
Still in Nikon's lineup, the decision between the 12-24mm and the 10-24mm is a tough one. It's a close one to call for sharpness and I'd say the 12-24mm is marginally sharper, I don't think you'd see the difference in practice. CA is marginally better at 12mm on the 10-24mm. Distortion is about the same, and corner shading is marginally better on the 12-24mm. The only other difference is that the 12-24mm employs a constant ƒ/4 aperture as well as a constant lens size, making it perhaps more of a ''pro''-quality lens. They both take 77mm filters, and cost about the same.
Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G IF-ED AF-S ~$1,800
For FX camera body users, this is the ultrawide angle of choice, if you don't mind paying the premium. The lens is sharper, shows less CA, corner shading and distortion. For the money, you can't beat it.
Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM ~$450
The Sigma still holds up well against the new Nikon: both lenses are very sharp. Where the Nikon is just slightly sharper at wider apertures, stopped down, the Sigma achieves just slightly sharper performance. In this case, ''slightly'' is measured in the tenths-of-blur units. CA performance is much better in the Nikon (especially at 10mm), corner shading is about the same, and distortion is perhaps a bit more forgiving in the Sigma. Both take 77mm filters, but the Sigma costs half as much. The Sigma 10-20mm is also newly available in a constant ƒ/3.5 configuration.
Tamron 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 Di II LD SP AF ~$500
Tamron's had a 10-24mm lens for a few years now, but it doesn't quite reach the optical performance of the Nikon. Wide open, the Nikon is sharper, especially in the corners, though stopped down to at least ƒ/5.6 the two are very similar. CA performance is better with the Nikon, as it is for corner shading; distortion is a constant barrel distortion with the Tamron. Takes 77mm filters.
Nikon has done well with its new ultra-wide angle zoom lens: it's a sharp lens, with corners that don't get significantly soft. CA performance is good, probably excellent on a D3, D300 or other Nikon body that employs CA reduction. Corner shading is a marginal factor, and distortion is typical of this class of lens. It may have taken Nikon a few years to get to the 10mm zoom party, but now that it's here, it's done very well.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX AF-S Nikkor User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by henryreyes (1 reviews)Sharp, solid buildflare, distortion but fixable
I've had this lens for three years now and it is the lens that is on my camera most of the time. I've taken lots of pictures with it ranging from landscapes to indoors and as a travel walk around. I find it to be sharp and well built - no regrets here. At first I was thinking of getting the 12-24 but in the end I have found myself shooting more in the 10mm so the wider the better. Distortion is a little bit of a problem but with Lightroom that is easily fixed. Great lens all around.reviewed January 18th, 2013 (purchased for $800)
4 out of 10 points and not recommended by nthbeach (3 reviews)Decent Zoom rangeVery inconsistant focusing
I found this lens to be extremely frustrating to use.reviewed June 3rd, 2011
Auto focus was definitely a case of hit and miss, so i found myself often using manual focus.
The corners were very soft at f3.5.
This was especially noticeable whilst taking indoor shots.
I Tried the old Sigma f4-5.6 and to my surprise, found it to be far sharper and consistent in every way.
I really wanted to like this lens. It has a great range, but it was just too unreliable.
For the premium price, you would expect far better quality! Very disappointed!!
7 out of 10 points and recommended by PeterB666 (5 reviews)Sharp, nice zoom rangeAffected by flare, build lacks a quality feel
I have mixed feelings about this lens. The image quality most of the time is very good indeed and that's what you want but I am returning to Nikon after a absense of a number of years and find the build quality very dissapointing.reviewed November 13th, 2010 (purchased for $800)
The zoom ring has a courseness that surprised me and the focus ring movement on manual focus could be extended to allow more accurate focussing however I cannot say that I have had any real problems focssing the lens. The amount of movement beyond the infinity marker before you encounter the increased resistance of the ring is odd to say the least.
Probably the thing that concerns me the most is the amount of flare that can be induced when the lens is pointed towards a pont source of light at night or sunrise/sunset. I this respect, if falls well short of my Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm lens which is a somewhat cheaper lens.
Overall, I am giving it 7s due to the dissapointing build quality (I guess this is the modern 'standard') and the poor control of flare.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by RnR (2 reviews)Very sharp imagesColour could be better, strong distortion at 10mm
I had heard mixed reviews about this lens, so I tried the more affordable Sigma 10-20 3.5 first. I did some basic brick wall tests and indoor shots and time after time, the colour and contrast on the Sigma proved quite superior to the Nikon, but where the Nikon excelled was in overall sharpness. Center sharpness is very strong even at 10mm and wide open at F3.5. The same can definitely not be said of the Sigma, which proved soft throughout the range (yes it improved as you got to F8, but it was still inferior to the Nikon).reviewed October 11th, 2009 (purchased for $900)
As a result, I returned the Sigma and paid the premium to get the Nikon, which has an MSRP in Canada of close to $1,100 (!!). Thankfully, I got it on sale.
I wish this was a constant 3.5 throughout the range, but I know I will use this as a walkaround lens considering its strong zoom range and creative potential.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Itzadeal (2 reviews)Good WA range, fast focus, size and weight balance well with d90little test data, built-in flash works only with long end
Purchased from amazon.com because of reliable service in past, but prices are lower through other online dealers. Wanted 10 mm that the nikkor 12-24 did not offer. Have used it for about 10 days, shot several hundred pix both inside with flash and outside, they appear sharp, no flare problems, no apparent ca with d90 processing. It balances well on the d90 and build quality similar to VR 18-200. Focuses much faster than the 18-200.reviewed June 11th, 2009 (purchased for $866)
This will probably be my main camera lens, just wish there was more test info available. Built in flash works from about 18 up to 24 without shadows.
Originally wanted Tokina 11-16 but gave up because of the back-order problem. QC issues and narrow WA range.
Overall, I'm happy with the early performance of this lens.