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Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor

 
Lens Reviews / Nikon Lenses i Lab tested

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Buy the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor
Drawing Info

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
24-120mm $600
average price
image of Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor

(From Nikon lens literature) Two Aspherical lens elements for low distortion. Two Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass elements for minimized chromatic aberration. Internal Focus (IF) design for smoother focusing and great body balance. VR operation offers the equivalent of using a shutter speed 3 stops faster at 120mm. Exclusive Silent Wave Motor enables ultra-high-speed autofocusing with exceptional accuracy and powerful super-quiet operation. Rounded diaphragm to make out-of-focus elements appear more natural. First Nikon wide-angle zoom lens with Vibration Reduction (VR)

Test Notes

The Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 VR is a very popular optic, thanks to its convenient focal length range and its use of Nikon's "VR" (Vibration Reduction) technology. The VR technology lets you hand-hold shots in low light conditions, at shutter speeds as much as three stops slower than you'd be able to otherwise. - The impact of this is hard to overstate for many amateur shooters, a market the 24-120 is clearly targeted at.

Unfortunately, there's rarely a free lunch, and the downside of the 24-120's excellent capabilities and relatively affordable price is that it just isn't terribly sharp at anything close to its maximum aperture, and the very best results require stopping it down quite a bit. Its "sweet spot" ranges from f/8 at 24mm, to f/11 at 50-85mm, to f/16 at 120mm. At minimum aperture, images are very soft from 50mm (f/30) through 120mm (f/32).

Chromatic aberration is for the most part in the "average" range (about 0.06% of picture height) across the span of focal lengths, lower at smaller apertures from 50-85mm, but more or less constant with respect to aperture at both the wide and tele end. While the maximum CA isn't any higher than many lenses though, the average value is a bit higher than average. - This may indicate that the aberration extends further into the frame than with some other lenses.

Exposure uniformity is one bright spot with this lens though, as the light falloff in the corners of the frame is only about 1/4 f-stop at maximum wide angle and aperture, and decreases significantly as the lens is stopped down or the focal length increased. (Anywhere other than wide open at wide angle, maximum falloff is less than 1/10 of a stop.) Geometric distortion is fairly typical, about 0.6% barrel at maximum wide angle, switching to about 0.25% pincushion at 50mm, and then decreasing slightly to 0.2% pincushion at 120mm.

So what's the bottom line for the 24-120mm? For the money, it would probably make a great "vacation" lens, where you only want to lug along one lens on a trip, and so want one that can cover a wide range of focal lengths, yet still deliver reasonably good picture quality. Its VR capability likewise makes it well suited to travel situations, where you're less likely to be hauling a tripod along as well. We'd like the lens a lot better if it were a bit sharper at larger apertures, but for a one-lens solution, it's one of the better choices in Nikon's arsenal.

Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor User Reviews

7.8/10 average of 15 reviews Build Quality 8.3/10 Image Quality 7.2/10
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  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    wide range, good build quality, good images
    apparent wide range in final Nikon acceptable tolerances, my lens was initially soft, but after return to Nikon image became outstanding

    Initially soft images due to poor assembly by Nikon.After return by me to Nikon and Nikon (long Island) service image quality outstanding except at 120. Maximal performance ( as with most lenses) at f 8. Sharp contrsty images, barely perceptible CA at widest angle (24mm). Not quite as sharp as later produced Nikon 18-105, wider low end helps, since am rarely at 120mm. Slightly prefer later produced 18-105, but would not get the newest F.4 version of the 24-120. Have tried it, can't easily see difference, but my lens DID go back to Nikon for adjustment.

    reviewed September 28th, 2011 (purchased for $460)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Great starting lens
    Low quality results

    Overall, if you're like me and just getting into photography, this lens is awesome! It has a great zoom and really helps you get comfortable with your camera.
    In the end though, some lenses may take higher quality pictures - but for a "good for most things" lens, I would recommend it.

    reviewed October 13th, 2010 (purchased for $400)
  • 7 out of 10 points and not recommended by (3 reviews)
    Nice zoom range, good VR, fast focussing
    images don't have a 'bite'

    I have this lens now for more than 4 years, it has been used on a D50, D60, D70, D80 and D300s. Mechanically it is well constructed, feels nice, very fast focussing, very good VR (even though it is the first VR implementation). The 5x zoom range is nice on the cropped sensor, great for walkaround.
    The image quality is never excellent, when stopped down to f/8 or more it is quite good, but you loose the playing with DOF. Wide open you definitely miss sharpness. Overall the lens is ok but now that I have a few primes I realize what I miss with this lens: The images never have a 'bite'......

    reviewed May 19th, 2010 (purchased for $600)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Large zoom area!

    A lens that too often receives too bad reviews. It is an excellent street lens due to the large zoom range and adequate image quality.

    Ok it has it´s shortcomings but on a good day it allows you to take the picture at a distanse or with a 24mm wide angle - and who cares about the corners anyway?

    Bjorn
    http://www.funfoto.no - my norwegian web site!

    reviewed April 13th, 2010 (purchased for $600)
  • 3 out of 10 points and not recommended by (5 reviews)
    Focal range, VR
    Soft soft soft

    Having read not so good reviews about this lens, I decided anyway to buy an used one, on Ebay.
    The lens was in good condition.
    Construction quality is OK, and the lens feels solid.
    My camera is a D700, with a full frame sensor, and the auto-focus is OK even at the tele end.
    Optically, this lens was a big deception.
    The image is soft at any focal length, and toward the 120 mm, it gets blurry even in the center.
    You have to go to f10 to have an acceptable quality after postprocessing.
    At the wide end and full open, there is a lot of light faloff in the edges, maybe it's not so visible on an APS-C sensor, but on a full frame sensor it's terrible.
    Edges are also blurry on the wide end.
    Full open, they are noticeable ghostings in zones whith harsh contrast (per example, a roof against the sky).
    All in one I would'nt recommend this lens.
    I have two other lenses, a 24-85 f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S (reviewed on slrgear) and a 28-200 f/3.5-5.6 AF-D, wich are both far better.

    reviewed August 27th, 2009 (purchased for $200)
  • 7 out of 10 points and not recommended by (4 reviews)
    fast af
    so-so image quality

    While not a 'bad' lens, it's not enough of an upgrade over a kit 18-55 to justify the price. If you're considering it to get more range, look at the 55-200 instead, or skip this one entirely and go to the 18-200, which has a wider range and better image quality too. This is an older lens, designed for film first, and it shows.

    I returned mine; this was a solid "pretty good" lens, but I prefer the "great" and "exceptional" ones.

    reviewed April 8th, 2007 (purchased for $495)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (7 reviews)
    Does everything I expected

    I wanted a VR lens for available light shooting, and one with a good zoom range for most walkaround shooting opportunities. This lens fit the bill for both film and digital bodies.

    Its size is comfortable, at least to me. It has essentially the same feel as Nikon's 18-70 and 12-24 lenses, but with the abovementioned film+digital flexibility.

    I appreciate the M/A focusing flexibility and the well sized focusing ring.

    It may not be tack sharp to the edges wide open, but in real world shooting this is not evident. Since I don't shoot test charts, I've neve been disappointed with any image from it.

    What I do appreciate is the benefit of the VR. I've shot with it at 1/8 sec handheld so often that it's become routine. The results are excellent; crisp and very enlargeable.

    I guess what it comes down to is this: Would you rather have alens that tests a bit soft in the corners or sharper lens that you can't handhold in low light? Yes, I have faster primes, but I's rather be able to zoom in the moment than crop later. Flexibility has great value.

    My example of this lens was purchased used. It has a noticeable clunk from the VR at times. Don't know if it's just my lens, but it performs very, very well.

    reviewed January 7th, 2007 (purchased for $500)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (21 reviews)
    Fantastic for 35mm shooters
    image quality is slightly lacking

    A lot of people don't like this lens and claim that it's "soft" but soft is very relative. I've found that if you're just looking for a lens to play around with on family trips, especially if you're shooting film, this lens is THE lens to have.

    First of all I'm addicted to having the 24mm field of view, as opposed to the "better" lenses which start at 28mm.

    Second, the VR does indeed come in handy when you're shooting film and it's inherent fixed ISO rating. Instead of pushing your film to get an extra stop of shutter speed at the time of capture, you can let the VR do the work

    If you're digital though, this lens is an annoying 36mm on the wide end. I'd much rather have my 24-85mm AFS, which is smaller/lighter and sharper, thus making it perfect for landscape kind of photography. Whereas again, the 24-120 may be sharp enough for a 5x7" or an 8x10", it's not pro quality.

    -Matt-

    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Useable range of focal lengths, VR, good all around lens.
    Not very fast, kind of big, too much plastic.

    I use this lens on an old D1. Although I have a few primes and assorted off brand zooms, I use this lens 95% of the time. Although it's not very fast, the VR makes up most of the time. I can't notice any defects in image quality with my 3 MP camera. Almost all blurry shots I get are a result of operator error. I'm very happy with this lens.

    reviewed December 19th, 2006 (purchased for $500)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (2 reviews)
    Very good general purpose lens. It is my walking around lens.
    Would very much like a depth of field scale

    The lens is light, portable, and is small enough to travel well. I usually carry several lens when I travel, but usually wind up using this lens for most shots. Most of the prints I have distributed have been 13" x 19" and have never had a complaint about the image quality.

    reviewed December 16th, 2006 (purchased for $525)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    size, focal lengths provided
    not quite wide enough

    I own the older, 24-120 before VR.
    Great wedding lens. Quick focal length from 24 - 120.

    reviewed December 9th, 2006 (purchased for $300)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (6 reviews)
    Compact, good performance, good build, vibration reduction
    Optical Contrast is good but not great

    The lens performs well enough for professional use, at least my clients don't object to images from it. Using it on a Nikon D200 its 36 to 180mm effective focal length is great for street photography. The VR makes it possible to shoot indoors under available light in spite of the aperture limitations. When I travel I carry the 12-24mm Nikkor with me for wide angle. Together the two lenses cover about anything you will want to shoot. For those who feel 180mm is not long enough let me remind you of Robert Capa's words: "if the picture is not good enough, you were not close enough."

    reviewed December 5th, 2006 (purchased for $545)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (14 reviews)
    Great "walk around" range, VR works and helps
    Not quite wide enough, constrast a bit low

    A solid, useful lens. The drawbacks are that 24 is a bit too long for many family/landscape shots on an APS sensor and in comparison with my 18-70 Nikon lens the constrast is a bit lower and the saturation of bit less as well. That aside, it is a better built lens then the 18-70 and in many situations the increased length is more important than wider angle on the 18-70. VR is also handy and effective. If I had to choose only one, the 24-120 would probably be the one, even though the IQ is a touch higher with the 18-70.

    reviewed November 20th, 2006 (purchased for $500)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    Flexible
    VR = BAD when panning

    If you shoot auto races, you need a wide range zoom so you don't have to change lenses or carry two bodies. This lens, nicknamed "Streetsweeper" is a fave of photojournalists; and for me, works well in the pit lane when I might be shooting something 1/4 mile away and have to capture pit lane action yards away instantly. The downside is that you have to shut down the VR when panning.: You can pick up the older, non-VR lens on eBay for about $200.

    reviewed October 25th, 2005 (purchased for $525)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (36 reviews)
    VR allows handheld shooting at low ISO in low light, actually very sharp and contrasty when stopped down 1-2 stops
    Very few; front section feels wobbly but several samples all do so it must be by design

    I think the narrative description of the test results for this lens is far too negative about image quality. If you look at the performance over the zoom and aperture range, it is not perfect wide open, but stop down 1-2 stops and it is superb. It is almost universally true, even of extremely good lenses, that really great results do not occur wide open. The criticism of results at f/30 or so is also unfair, at those apertures diffraction is the major factor for any lens, as the MTF testers at photodo.com say, at small apertures almost all lenses are equally bad.

    Because this lens has VR, you can afford to shoot at the "sweet spot" apertures of about f/8-11 even in low loght. I routinely handhold about 1/8 sec at 24mm, 1/15 to 1/30 at 120. Results are spectacularly sharp and contrasty. When I moved to a d2x I suddenly realized several lenses I had thought were perfectly useable couldn't cope with the high demands it makes on lens quality; this lens was not one of them, it remains the lens most often on the camera.

    Example: taken at 120mm (180mm equivalent) at 1/10 second f/5.6 handheld, and cropped a bit too

    http://www.pbase.com/northqueenslandphotos/image/51083464

    reviewed October 20th, 2005