Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G IF-ED AF-S Nikkor
Lab Test Results
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Please note that we have updated this review to incorporate our results for full-frame testing.
Released in 2007, the 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S is a full-frame lens designed as a wide-angle companion to the D3. Demand was so strong for the lens that Nikon implemented a pro-first policy that required (among other things) that the lens was only available if you purchased a D3. This policy has since been lifted, making individual purchase of the lens possible.
The 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 is packed with some of the newest lens technology Nikon has to offer, including a revolutionary large-diameter Precision Glass Molding (PGM) element to eliminate coma, and a Nano Crystal lens coating to ''ensure superior color balance and reproduction.''
As a full-frame lens, there are no vignetting issues to be found on FX sensors or film. It is a ''G'' style lens, so there is no aperture ring; on older film bodies the lens will be limited to shooting at its smallest aperture, ƒ/22. On a sub-frame (APS-C) sensor digital body, the lens will act as a 21-36mm lens. The lens has an integrated petal-shaped hood that acts more as a guard to keep you from accidentally damaging the massively protruding front element, rather than prevent lens flare. Unfortunately, the design of this hood precludes the use of filters. The lens is available now for around $1,600.
Nikon have made themselves an extremely sharp lens here.
This is a lens for which we need to see complete full-frame lens test results to see the full story. On a sub-frame D200, the poorest result we could obtain was at 24mm and ƒ/22, a torture test for most lenses. With the 14-24mm, the sharpness test graph shows a performance of approximately 2.5 blur units across the frame. That's the worst we could get. Optimal performance was obtained at wide-angle (14mm) set to ƒ/5.6, where the image is just about as sharp as our test can measure at 1 blur unit. Nice to see that the engineers have optimized this lens to be sharpest at the point where people will probably use it most, at 14mm.
The results on the full-frame D3 have now been posted, and the story is no less dramatic; while there is a bit more corner softness at 14mm and ƒ/2.8, it's not much to write home about (1 blur unit in the center, and 2 in the corners) and overall sharpness is outstanding. Curiously, what doesn't show up on the APS-C tests is some slight softness specifically at 18mm, more pronounced at this focal length than at either end (14mm or 24mm). Again, its performance is still excellent here - 1 unit in the center and 2.5 in the corners - it's just interesting to notice the better performance on either side of 18mm. Performance at other apertures and focal lengths echoes the performance on APS-C.
Resistance to chromatic aberration is excellent, much improved over the Nikon 12-24mm ƒ/2.8 DX lens. The 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 never exceeds 5/100ths of a percent of frame height in the corners, and 3/100ths in the center - we're talking barely perceptible results here.
Now that we have posted our full-frame results for the 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, we have to look at the lens' tolerance to chromatic aberration twice when considering the D3. The D3 has the ability to automatically remove chromatic aberration from images taken with this lens, and the results with this correction applied are quite significant. To give you a sense of how the lens would perform when mounted on a full-frame body other than the D3 (ie., a film body) we shot our test scene in RAW mode, and converted the RAW file to JPEG using Bibble, with all post-processing options (noise reduction, sharpening, etc) turned off.
The performance of the uncorrected D3 testing in relation to chromatic aberration is very similar to that of the test results for the D200, though as you zoom in further towards 24mm, there is a greater presence of CA, especially at the larger apertures. The uncorrected D3, at 24mm and ƒ/2.8, shows 9/100ths of a percent of frame height, while the D200 shows just 4.5. Our sample pictures don't reflect this, as they are showing the CA-corrected versions of the test chart.
While it has little to do with the lens, it's worth noting that the CA correction built in to the D3 really works: on the average you don't see more than 1/100 of a percent of frame height of chromatic aberration, and the worst case numbers of 9/100ths of a percent in the 24mm range reduce to just over 3/100ths.
Being a wide-angle lens, the 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 does exhibit some corner darkness, but in keeping with the excellent quality of this optic at its worst it shows up as a half-stop darker, at that's with the lens set to 14mm and ƒ/2.8. At any other focal length / aperture combination, corner darkness doesn't exceed a quarter-stop.
The 14-24mm, mounted on the D3, produces significant corner shading: this isn't much of a surprise, given we're talking about a wide-angle lens, and the corner shading isn't revealed on the D200 as the APS-C sensor only uses the "sweet spot" of the lens. At 14mm, you can get as much as two stops of corner shading (wide open at ƒ/2.8). Stopped down, corner shading is less of a factor at a half-stop EV difference between the corners and the center, provided you stop down to ƒ/8 or smaller. At other focal lengths corner shading is acceptable, averaging around 3/4 of a stop of corner darkness at ƒ/2.8, and decreasing to less than a half-stop, but it will always be present in images taken on full-frame.
Being a rectilinear lens, the 14-24mm is well-balanced for distortion. It wouldn't be a wide angle lens if there wasn't some distortion to speak of, and set to 14mm, you do see about 0.5% barrel distortion. Keep in mind that on the D200 we mounted the lens to, it produces an image with an ''effective'' focal length of 21mm, so 0.5% barrel distortion is in keeping with that focal length. Distortion scales gracefully as you zoom in along the focal range, and a 0% distortion is achieved around 22mm.
The story for distortion on the D3 is similar to that told for the D200, except more so: at 14mm, distortion tops out at 1% barrel, and again hits 0% by around 22mm. At 24mm you get a very slight pincushion, but I would classify this as so slight as to be perceptually negligible (<0.1%).
As is typical with Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM) AF-S lenses, autofocus is pretty fast: under one second to rack through the entire focus range.
The lens is not a dedicated macro lens, and in fact you should probably avoid getting too close to a subject with this lens to avoid the risk of damaging it. The close focus for this lens is 28 cm (8 inches) and the lens produces a poor magnification of 0.15x. Keeping in mind the lens is just over 13 cm long, this means the closest you can get to a subject and still focus is 10 cm.
Build Quality and Handling
The 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 is a very solid lens, and for good reason, given the large amount of expensive glass locked up in it. As with all of Nikon's pro glass the finish of the lens is a texturized metal, with the zoom and lens rings a plastic with excellent grip. The lens is weather-sealed, and the mount is also metal. The lens balances well, even on smaller bodies; the center of gravity rests on the zoom ring, making for comfortable, natural holding.
The zoom actuation is external, meaning that the front element moves back and forth a bit (about 1cm, or half an inch) as you rotate the zoom collar. It takes about a quarter turn to move through the entire focal range. Zoom creep, at least with this sample, is non-existent.
The lens has a distance scale, but no aperture ring (as mentioned before, this is a ''G''-style lens). The focus ring takes about a quarter turn to rack through the focus range. The depth of field produced with this wide angle lens makes manual focusing not as critical. With the focus operation directly coupled to the lens elements, we found manual focus to be very smooth. Built with a fairly soft ''clutch,'' there's no abrupt stop when you reach the focus limit, rather a slight increase in resistance. As an AF-S lens, you can override the autofocus at any time, making the use of the M|M/A switch slightly redundant (this switch disables autofocus operation, rather than enabling manual focus as some systems do).
The lens comes with a petal-style lens shade that's permanently attached. It's also essential for dealing with lens flare. Not surprisingly for a wide-angle lens, if any stray light gets at the lens elements it will bounce around quite significantly and produce multiple internal reflections. For landscape shooting with the sun anywhere in the frame, the integrated hood is unable to shade the front element; the only solution is to use your hand (or some other object) as a shade.
Unfortunately, given the specialized application of this lens, there's not a lot to choose from in terms of alternatives. I specifically did not include the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 in this list because it is a DX (APS-C sensor-sized) lens and isn't really an option for full-frame shooters.
Nikon 14mm ƒ/2.8D ED AF ~$1,400
For a full-frame wide-angle lens, the only other alternative from Nikon is its 14mm prime, which produces much more corner softness through its aperture range. Chromatic aberration is worse and vignetting is awful (over a full stop darker in the corners). The lens does take rear gelatin filters and has an aperture ring.
Sigma 12-24mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM ~$650
We haven't yet got one of these into the lab, but plenty of people sing its praises. It goes slightly wider at 12mm, and is also full-frame. It does take rear gelatin filters, but doesn't have an aperture ring.
The Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G is an excellent wide-angle pro lens, with only two substantial flaws: lens flare, and the inability to attach filters. The lens hood does work to prevent flare if you can put it between the front element and the sun, but let's face it - this is a wide angle lens we're talking about. Optical performance is excellent, mounted on either an APS-C or 35mm frame, but corner shading is a significant issue on 35mm. Happily, image post-processing software can make corner shading a non-issue. Given the variables lens designers have to work with when producing ultra-wide lenses, this is a lens that delivers on what it promises: exceptional optical performance.
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 14-24mm f/2.8G IF-ED AF-S Nikkor
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Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G IF-ED AF-S Nikkor User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by PeterO62 (1 reviews)Very sharp, well buildHeavy
Very good lens, very nice for landscape with a LEE filter set.reviewed February 11th, 2013 (purchased for $1,850)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by DaveJDSP (7 reviews)Amazing clarity and IQCorners not acceptable till you get to f5.6 or f8. Needs VR.
Amazing zoom lens.reviewed January 24th, 2013 (purchased for $2,000)
The image quality has a superb clarity that is hard to describe. It takes quite a good lens to impress me, but this one does.
Unfortunately, the corners are not tack sharp until you get down to f 5.6 or f8.
Also, this lens (all lenses) needs VR if you're going to hand hold it and want the exceptional IQ that this and the D800 are capable of.
I'd rather pay $2500 for better corners and VR.
Still, all in all, this is the best wide zoom I've ever used, by far!
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Saldahna (2 reviews)Very wide and very sharp, super HaptikIf you buy this lens you know that you can't use filters, I don't care
This is an excellent lens for landscape photography. And you can do a lot of photographic experiments with it. It works perfect on a D800. For that Camera only the best glass is good enough, but the 16 -35 gives you also excellent results. Just buy this lens if you are a wide angle junkie ...reviewed December 2nd, 2012 (purchased for $1,800)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Hochzeitsfotograf (1 reviews)Extremely sharp at F 2.8High Weight
I bought this lens a few months ago, and I'm still really happy with it. The strength of it is the extreme sharpness starting at F 2.8, right from the beginning. Also, the focal distance makes this lens great to experiment with. You can check out some pictures I used it for on my site:reviewed November 21st, 2012
If you travel a lot, the high weight might be an issue. So before buying, think about that problem.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by photospots (5 reviews)Very sharp, great colors, VERY wide on FXDoesn't take standard filters
This is just so a wonderful lens and one I just love to shoot with, but I have to get used to how wide it is on FX, but I guess this will come with time.reviewed November 3rd, 2012 (purchased for $1,800)
If you are considering the lens or just want to know more about the lens I have collected a number of articles about the lens here: http://www.photospots.dk/p/nikon-zoom.html
9 out of 10 points and recommended by lightknight (23 reviews)unriveled image quality, build, really widefilters are impossible, front element very vulnerable
Not much left to say here...simply the world's best wide angle zoom bar none.reviewed April 7th, 2011 (purchased for $2,000)
If you can live with the very real issue that you can't add a ND or GND to it then it offers the best image quality its possible to obtain on a full frame DSLR.
The only problem I struck was using it at night was in high humidity but clear conditions - the huge front element was prone to misting over on exposures in excess of a minute or more but this is a fairly rare or exotic occurance and I still managed to get some decent results...
Some advice to Canon users: get yourself an adapter and buy this because there is nothing in Canon land to match this.
0 out of 10 points and recommended by jtorral (9 reviews)Great optical qulityToo large and No filter
To see hundreds of photos with this lens and compare to others look here:reviewed January 19th, 2011
You can get an idea of how this lens performs with different camera.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Momiziano (4 reviews)Best wide angle lens between zooms and primesHeavy
Simply the best wide angle lens that i've ever used by far.reviewed December 9th, 2010 (purchased for $1,900)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by colinjames (8 reviews)Incredible on FF, sharpness across the framenot too practical (FF), babysitting gangster glass, pricey but worth it ?
An amazing lens I don't regret selling - replaced with Tokina 17mm 3.5 lol - have since let that go and now have 20-35mm for practicality. My wide angle fixation has kinda worn out though. Many will adore this lens - there are no equals in terms of IQ. Watch the flare...reviewed November 10th, 2010 (purchased for $1,400)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by jake (8 reviews)
excelent phenomenal lens by my opinion, the best wide anglereviewed August 9th, 2009
9 out of 10 points and recommended by ddt332 (6 reviews)very sharp wide open! 3mm wider than 17-35mm.doesn't take filters
I kind of 'disappointed' about this lens a little based on the hype every review I read. I am a landscape guy and mainly use 17-35, and 24-70 on D3. I bought this lens because of two reasons: 1. it is 3mm wider than 17-35, 2. it is sharper wide open than 17-35. However, after I got this lens, the IQ improvement from 17-35 is almost negligible (only better in very extreme corners wide open), you won't see any IQ difference between 17-35 and 14-24 if you just print 12X18" print. In the center, I feel like 17-35 is even sharper.reviewed November 3rd, 2008 (purchased for $1,500)
So for me, since I already got 17-35, the benefits to own both lens are very limited. The great thing of 17-35 is that it takes filters!
However, if you don't have 17-35, this is a wonderful lens to own. If you do, it's not worth it since there is basically no big IQ improvement you gain.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by ktwse (11 reviews)The sharpest wide angle available, zoom or notNo filters, obviously
A system seller if ever there was one. Very sharp wide open and stunning across the frame from f/4 on FX.reviewed October 20th, 2008 (purchased for $1,850)
So much has been written about it already... What else is there to say? Well, I got a D700 just to use this lens. The only one even remotely comparable is Olympus' 7-14/4, but that's f/4 and a smaller sensor. If you want tack sharp UWA with shallow DoF, then this is your only choice.
Expensive for sure, but it effectively replaces your 14, 18, 20 and 24 primes... Is this a good landscape lens? Not necessarily. This is a lens for getting up close, "in your face".
If you absolutely have to use filters, then it may not be for you, but at least consider the huge DR of the D3/D700 before making such a decision...
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Gandalf (8 reviews)Tack sharp - from f/2,8 -...... yes from f/2,8Can not use filter
Tried it an hour on a photo course on my D200, and I was "sold."reviewed February 13th, 2008
It is so sharp even in the corners, that it beats my 12-24 in every aspect - well about equal at 24 mm, but from 14-23 it is in another world.
Have tried to buy it, but it is not easy to get a copy for the time being.
I honestly think that it will be a Nikon legend.
Mounted on a D3 it is nothing but fantastic (our teacher at the course had it).
It looks like it is better than primes - both Nikon and Canons primes - according to what you can read in reviews.
The only drawback is, that you can not use filters on it, and I have a lot of Lee-filters and Singh-Ray, that I would love to use on it.
But it is so good, that I buy it anyhow.