Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR AF-S Nikkor
Lab Test Results
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November 15, 2010
by Andrew Alexander
The Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/4G VR is an updated replacement for the 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 VR. The 24-120mm zoom lens has a long history with Nikon, introduced in 1996 with its variable aperture, and then again in 2003, this time with the addition of vibration reduction (VR) technology.
The new lens abandons the variable aperture for a constant design, with ƒ/4 as the largest aperture size. The lens continues to be designed to fit the FX (35mm) sensor, and when mounted on a APS-C body, the lens will provide an effective field of view of 36-180mm.
The lens ships with a petal-shaped lens hood, takes 77mm filters, and is available now for approximately $1,300.
We'll start with the performance of the 24-120mm ƒ/4G VR when mounted on the sub-frame D300s. In general, performance is best in the wide-angle and mid-range, and surprisingly, it performs at its best when used wide open or stopped down just slightly.
When set to its widest aperture setting (ƒ/4) and 24mm, the lens is almost tack-sharp already - we note just 1 blur unit in the center, and just under 1.5 blur units in the corners. Stopping down does not really improve performance at 24mm; in fact, if you're shooting at this setting the best performance comes at ƒ/4 and slowly degrades as the lens is stopped down. The most obvious point is at ƒ/11 where diffraction limiting has begun to settle in, and we note results of around 2 blur units across the frame. It's three units at ƒ/16, and four units at ƒ/22, where it's fairly uneven across the frame. The mid-range performance (28-50mm) is similar but slightly better; the optimal setting for sharpness comes at 50mm and ƒ/5.6, where the lens is essentially tack-sharp across the frame.
At 70mm and above we begin to note some issues with sharpness. In particular, corner softness is fairly high when used at ƒ/4 from 70-120mm; a small patch of central sharpness, surrounded by 3-4 blur units of corner softness. It's worst at 85mm, where the corner softness is in the range of 5-6 blur units. However, stopping down to by just one stop to ƒ/5.6 almost completely cures this problem, and we note the same excellent performance of the wide- and mid-range angles. Fully zoomed-in performance (120mm) is actually a bit better than that found at 70 and 85mm.
With the lens mounted on the full-frame D3x, corner issues are much more problematic; what was excellent on subframe becomes merely good on full, and what was mediocre becomes quite poor indeed.
Specifically, wide-angle and mid-range performance is still fairly good, but in this case optimal performance is no longer found at the lens' widest aperture settings, as corner softness is now a factor. Stopping down reins in the corner softness, and so the recommendation here for optimal sharpness is to stick to ƒ/5.6, where we see between 1-2 blur units across the frame.
Performance on the long end is problematic when used wide-open (ƒ/4) at either 70mm or 85mm. In particular, we see only a small area of central sharpness, surrounded by intense corner softness, upwards of 6-8 blur units. It's hard to say that there is a problem with our sample of the lens, given the excellent performance at other focal lengths. All is not lost however - again, simply stopping down to ƒ/5.6 makes a dramatic difference, presenting an image with ~1.5 blur units in the center, and 2-3 blur units in the corners.
In summary, performance is generally excellent, with a few puzzling sore spots, especially when the lens is used on a full-frame camera body.
Nikon has seen fit to include several technical features in order to reduce the appearance of chromatic aberration. Particularly, two ED glass and three aspherical lens elements, and a Nano-Crystal coating. However, even with the automatic chromatic aberration reduction in both the D300s and D3x, CA is higher than expected when the lens is used at its wider apertures. Specifically, magenta/blue fringing can be noted at edges of high contrast, in the corner areas of the image. The impact of CA is reduced when the lens is stopped down, and used in the middle of its zoom range (28-50mm).
When the lens is mounted on a sub-frame camera such as the D300s, there is no corner shading to speak of. It's more prominent when the lens is mounted on a full-frame camera: when set to 24mm and ƒ/4, images will have corners that are up to 1 1/4 stops darker than the center. Other focal length / aperture settings are more forgiving; at ƒ/4, corner shading ranges between 1/2 and 2/3 of a stop at 28-120mm. Stopping down reduces this corner shading, and at ƒ/8 and smaller, it's negligible at 35mm and longer. At 24-28mm however, there will always be some element of light falloff.
Zooms lenses invariably have complicated patterns of distortion, and in this regard the Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/4G is not unusual. Between 24-30mm distortion is of the barrel variety, with upwards of +0.7% (DX) and +1.3% (FX) in the corners. There isn't really a point where there is ''no'' distortion, but the effect is minimized around 30mm. After that, the corners show the pincushion style of distortion, with the largest values showing between 50-85mm: -0.4% (DX) and -1% (FX).
An AF-S lens with ultrasonic motor, AF operation for the 24-120mm ƒ/4 is virtually silent and reasonably fast, if not lightning quick: the AF motor took right around a second to slew from closest focus to infinity. The AF-S specification also means you can override the AF motor at any time by just turning the focus ring, without having to switch the camera or lens to manual focus mode. The front element does not rotate during focus operations, making life that little bit easier for polarizer users.
The lens isn't a dedicated macro lens, but despite this it actually produces fairly good macro results: 0.24x magnification, with a minimum close focusing distance of 45cm (around one and a half feet).
Build Quality and Handling
The 24-120mm ƒ/4G is composed mostly of polycarbonate plastic, finished in Nikon’s mottled black matte finish. Thanks to the plastic construction it's a little lighter than you'd expect for a lens of its size (670 grams, or one and a half pounds). Then lens has a distance scale under a plastic window, marked in feet and meters, but there are no depth of field markings and neither is there an infrared index mark. Apart from the zoom and focus rings, there are three control switches: one to enable or disable autofocus on the lens (marked M and M/A), one to enable or disable image stabilization (marked VR ON and OFF), and the last to switch between active and normal VR modes.
The new lens features some useful upgrades: in addition to Nikon's nano-crystal coating, two new elements have been added to its optical configuration, for a total of 17 elements in 13 groups, including 3 aspherical and 2 ED elements. The lens diaphragm is upgraded from seven to nine, and those blades are now rounded to produce more pleasing out-of-focus areas. Finally, Nikon has adjusted the lens to use 77mm filters instead of 72mm.
The 24-120mm ƒ/4G VR is one of Nikon's lenses where the focus ring is placed before the zoom ring; the majority of Nikon's lenses feature a zoom ring first, then a focus ring near the front element. There's nothing wrong with either arrangement, it'll just take some getting used to if you're more familiar with the other configuration.
The zoom ring has deep rubber ribs and is about 7/8'' wide. The ring takes a ninety degree turn to go through its range of focal lengths, and requires only a slight amount (two fingers) of force to move it. There is a slight amount of lens extension as the lens is zoomed in and out. Zoom creep is not a factor with this lens.
The focusing ring is composed of deep rubber ribs of a different texture than the zoom ring, and is slightly thinner at 3/8'' wide. The ring has soft stops at closest focus and at slightly past infinity, and takes roughly ninety degrees to go through its focusing range. Filters mounted on the lens do not turn with focusing operations.
The VRII system works very well: using the system will allow the average shooter to shoot at around 3.5 stops slower than usual. As with all Nikon lenses with the VR system, when you first slightly press the shutter button the VRII moves its correction lens with a slight click and you can hear a slight whirring as it operates while the shutter button is half-pressed. It also makes the same click when you release the shutter button. See our IS Testing results for more details on its performance.
The petal-shaped HB-53 lens hood has a ribbed interior, attaches to the lens with a bayonet mount and can be reversed for storage. When attached, the hood adds 1 1/4 inches to the overall length of the lens.
Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR ~$?
The new version of the lens trumps the old in almost every regard: though we didn't do a full-frame test of this lens, the sub-frame test showed the old version of the 24-120mm wasn't very sharp. However, it was a bit more consistent than the new version; it doesn't have the same softness ''spike'' we've noted at 70-85mm in the new version.
Nikon 24-70mm ƒ/2.8G IF-ED AF-S ~$1,700
Faster, sharper, and somewhat better in the other testing categories: however, chromatic aberration is handled slightly better with the 24-120mm. For just a few hundred dollars more, you get an extra stop of speed, but you don't get vibration reduction.
Sigma 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG HSM ~$900
Corner softness was a problem with the Sigma 24-70mm; on sub-frame, the Sigma produces sharper images at around the same apertures; on full-frame, the Sigma's corner softness is much more prominent. However, it's more consistent - nothing like the softness spike we note at 70-85mm on the Nikon. There's no VR on the Sigma, but for an extra stop of speed (ƒ/2.8 instead of ƒ/4), it's got a much lower price tag.
Tamron 28-75mm ƒ/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical IF SP AF ~$500
Tamron no longer produces its 24-135mm, which didn't really wow us anyway - but its 28-75mm ƒ/2.8 is excellent. It's not really in the same category as the Nikon - not as wide, not as long, and no VR - but the extra stop of speed is nice, and the price is certainly right.
Nikon's produced a nice kit lens for full-frame bodies, though it's not without its caveats. The lens fared quite well in our tests, for the most part - the big problem is the wide open performance at 70 and 85mm, where it's quite soft indeed when used at ƒ/4. If you don't need to shoot at ƒ/4 - and by and large, with VR and the high-ISO performance of modern Nikons, you might not need to - then it's not really an issue.
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 24-120mm f/4G ED VR AF-S Nikkor
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Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR AF-S Nikkor User Reviews
5 out of 10 points and not recommended by ophiramitai (3 reviews)good zoom range, build quality, constant F4 apertureheavy, zoom creep and no lock, back focus issue, expensive
I have been using this lens on a crop camera for over 2 years.reviewed June 14th, 2015 (purchased for $1,600)
With the exception of the zoom creep and weight at first I really enjoyed the lens.
But lately I have been having serious back focus issues which were not fixed in 2 labs.
The lens also has relatively high CA.
In addition the lens was very expensive when I bought it.
Now the price dropped by 30% to about 1200$.
I only use it now for landscape photography were the focus problems are not visible.
My last hope is the official Nikon dealer can fix it.
But even if he does. it's too expensive to have such problems.
The lens came back from the lab.
The price to fix the lens is 450$!!!
The "optical axis' (freely translated from Hebrew)needs to be fixed.
In plain English this means the lens needs to be taken apart and rebuilt.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by VS (5 reviews)Film format. Beautiful rich color. Large focal range with acceptable quality. Good sharpness, small curvature of the image field for zoom. Diaphragm 9 rounded petals, good bokeh for zoom. Easy, fast and accurate focusing. Excellent mechanical quality.Traditional disadvantages to such a range zoom: - A slight drop on the field at the corners extreme focal lengths at the aperture (disappears when you close diaframy per division); - Noticeable distortion at wide angle.
Recently bought a Nikon 24-70mm f / 2.8G IF-ED AF-S. Took off at home, tested and passed back to the store. Heavy enough for a small range of focal lengths. No stabilizer, poor mechanics. Most chromatics and poor bokeh for the declared class lenses. But, more importantly, in this instance at 24mm in the right upper quadrant (2/3 from the center), a small soap stain with 35mm it is amplified and creeps into the lower left quadrant, and so on up to the upper sector. Previously, six years ago, I saw the test photos with this lens, then I did not like. I thought that Nikon over the years to finalize it, but it appears not.reviewed January 7th, 2015 (purchased for $1,600)
Also tested as Sigma 24-105mm f / 4 DG OS HSM - did not like the unstable focus and blur too large angles.
And did not like the Sigma 24-70mm F / 2.8 EX DG HSM - working aperture with only 5.6.
Nikon 24-120mm f / 4G ED VR AF-S is developed and released in 2010, taking into account the shortcomings of previous and the application of new achievements. Focal range of the lens very necessary for photographers, but also very difficult for developers optics. Difficult because of the contradictions - wide angle and portrait lens, it's hard to get a good picture. Ideally you should use multiple lenses - wide-angle and portrait.
I liked the lens. In my opinion - he is the best and most successful in this range of the Nikon for the entire foreseeable future developments.
Wonderful enlightenment using nanocrystalline coating creates a rich color and excellent contrast even in backlit.
Bokeh is quite decent for a given focal length range.
Figure sufficiently sharp to the image field, but there is a slight blur in the corners (24mm and 120mm), which disappears with the closing of the aperture to 5.6.
Small chromatic automatically removes the camera.
Distortion and vignetting can adjust the camera or converter.
Autofocus is fast, accurate and quiet. On the D750 works well in automatic mode, under certain skills almost without errors.
Mechanics reliable, zoom works without backlash, and falls under the slopes, there is a protection against splashes and rain. Weight little too big (670g), but tolerable, adds some stabilization when shooting. The diameter of the filter thread convenient, standard, 77 mm.
Shooting this lens is not a problem, quite quickly, efficiently and enjoyable.
The most convenient and efficient lens. For reports, landscapes and travel is indispensable!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by valt3r (4 reviews)Sharp from f4, good VR, looking PRODistortion and vigneting at 24mm
Good lens for allaround.reviewed January 13th, 2014 (purchased for $1,600)
Some pictures here http://3foto.ro/sedinta-foto-profesionala/
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Flyinghigh (2 reviews)Sharp, good all in one travel carry around lensToo much light fall off
Sharp photos, good colour, VR works well.reviewed September 13th, 2013 (purchased for $1,800)
Little bit too much plastic although you don't want the lens to be much heavier!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by 123click (7 reviews)VR II, sharpness, great walk around lensToo much plastic
I only hope this lens lasts the distance for being compromised with too much plastic but that is no to say I am not impressed with its image quality which is sharp from corner to corner at every aperture at every focal length. My only worry is I am afraid I will wear this lens out pretty soon by loving it to death for its sharpness and wearing out the plastic zoom adjustment ring. The barrel distortion is pretty strong at 24mm but it is very simple and can be corrected in a few clicks with a mouse by Photoshopreviewed December 3rd, 2011 (purchased for $1,000)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by tokutomica (2 reviews)sharp at f4, very sharp at 5.6 and above, good contrast and colorsLight falloff is too high
I use this lens with my Nikon D700 for landscapes and people photography. Sharpness is very good at the centre wide open between 24 and 85 mm but only acceptable at 120mm. Unlike slrgear I could not detect any drop in performance at 85mm and f4. The borders are slightly soft at f4. Stopped down to f5.6 the sharpness constantly improves up to f11. Distorsions are strong but easy to correct either in Capture NX or in LR and PS. The only thing that bothers me ist the extreme light falloff which is so strong that even Caputre NX cannot remove it. Fortunately the light falloff is gone when stopped down to f11. Build quality is very good. AF ist fast, silent and accurate. VR works as advertised. All in all I'm very satisfied with the performance of this lensreviewed September 13th, 2011 (purchased for $1,198)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by TommyB (1 reviews)Nikon knew what they wanted with this lens considering its predecessor and competion (24-70f/2.8)Barrel distortion & vigetting that is easily correctable in software
NOTE: This review is applicable to FX Format!reviewed June 25th, 2011 (purchased for $1,199)
I ruminated for months before deciding to sell my precious 24-70f/2.8 to finance this lens.
You see, I have a need and a passion for the 24-120 focal length, and Nikon's FX offering was the 24-120 f/3.5-5.6...a lens which I owned for a time and found wanting.
So, I researched the web, tried the 24-120f/4 lens in a local store on my D3s and took the photos home and picked them apart.
After a week of ownership I can say that I made the right decision...for ME. That extra 50mm on the long end has made my 24-70 just a pleasant memory.
This lens is SHARP...you'll read about softness and vignetting in the corners wide open, and barrel distortion at 24mm. Yes, it's true...but these flaws can be corrected in software easily. Color and contrast easily rivals my 24-70.
With a camera like the D3s, the f/4 constant aperture is no issue. I shoot at night as I did with the 24-70 f/2.8.
Overall, I believe this lens is a winner. Nikon put the good stuff where it needs to be to become a good compromise on quality, performance AND affordability.
If money is no object, by all means get BOTH the 24-70 AND this 24-120! LOL!!!
Had I been able to keep my 24-70 and get the 24-120 I probably would have. But after a week of using this lens for the type of shooting I do, I have a feeling that the fine 24-70 f/2.8 would have gotten a lot of shelf time...not the place for a superb lens like that to be.
A note on the SLRGear review: It's generally spot-on in my view and one of the first reviews I read prior to purchase. It was quite helpful to me. One minor point: Try as I might, I haven't yet seen the CA that is mentioned...perhaps I haven't hit just the right conditions yet...I rarely shoot wide-open in bright sunlight where this aberration would be found. It's worth noting that the SLRGear review mentions that CA is better-controlled than in the 24-70 f/2.8.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Vladi Stoimenov (2 reviews)Sharp, practical zoom range, brilliant photosExpensive
I have bought in December 2010 my 24-120mm lens, went on vacation… and was fully disappointed from the image quality. It was unsharp and lusterless; in addition it had a back focus.reviewed May 12th, 2011 (purchased for $1,000)
Nikon service had repaired the lens twice with the final conclusion: 'fully in norm'. But my old cheap 16-85 was much, much better...
After a long battle I return the lens back and it was replaced by the local dealer.
The new lens is almost perfect! It delivers sharp and brilliant photos throughout the whole zoom range.
I am happy now.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by regardlese (3 reviews)lÃÂ©gertÃÂ© -maniabilitÃÂ©-range-VR
jai vendu le 24-70mm2,8 pour acheter ce nouveau zoom que j aime tout particulièrementreviewed December 21st, 2010
il me permet de tout faire du 24 au 120
avec le VR II en plus!
10 out of 10 points and recommended by J4son (2 reviews)Superb Sharpbuild quality, too bulky
Best lens i ever have, picture quality same as 24-70 2.8,reviewed December 17th, 2010 (purchased for $900)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by goldenpiggy (6 reviews)Scary sharp wide open, superb flare/ghost resistance, accurate AF, great color renditionBuild quality could be better, slight zoom creep, expensive
I bought this lens to replace the 18-200 VR on a D7000. It has not disappointed. It is in a different league than the 18-200 VR. This is what I find:reviewed December 1st, 2010 (purchased for $1,200)
1) This lens is absolutely tack sharp wide open throughout the entire zoom range. No need to stop down at either end. So it is truly usable at f/4.
2) Contrast and color rendition is fantastic wide open -- images just pop out rather than look flat. Must be the nano-crystal coating.
3) I've never experienced a lens so resistant to flare and ghosting. You can pretty much leave the hood at home. Truly fantastic. Great lens for sunset shots or bright outdoor (although the D7000 tends to overexpose in high contrast scenes.)
4) AF accuracy is very, very good. Dead on, actually. AF speed is not lightning quick like the pro Nikon lens with metal bodies (e.g. 24-70, 70-200), but still very quick. I have no problem with fast moving subjects like speedboats or motorcycles. AF is totally silent.
5) The focal length is what it is -- this lens doesn't breathe like the 18-200. This is great. I can get pretty damn close (about a foot) and get the magnification close to a macro lens.
6) VR works superbly. Yes it is an f/4, but because it is truly sharp at f/4, you can do 1/4s or 1/8s shutter and have reasonably good night time shots. I don't really miss fast glass with this.
7) 24mm on a DX body is not really wide enough, but good enough for everyday use. For wide angle, I still need a separate lens like the Tokina 11-16. 120mm at the far end is enough for me. This surprised me, as I thought it would come up short.
8) My copy unfortnately has some play in the zoom ring. And it has a little bit of zoom creep (nowhere as bad as the original 18-200 VR). I wish Nikon would have put a zoom lock on this lens.
10) Takes 77mm filter -- great!
11) Lens is big, but feels light. I can have the D7000 with this lens around my neck all day no problem.
12) It is overpriced for the construction. No doubt. This lens should be $1000 or less. Not $1200.
All in all, a truly fantastic walkaround lens. Don't know why it has gotten some bad reviews; my copy is just about perfect. You won't be disappointed on a DX or full frame.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Bobcopeland (7 reviews)Very Sharp, convenient size, feels very well engineeredDistortion
Sharpness: This has been raised as an issue. I went out this morning and took a series of pictures at f4 to f8 around 75 & 85mm. I use a D700 and the results on all pictures were very sharp at the centre and the edge. Viewing the files at 100% on a decent monitor, I could not see any worthwhile difference between f4 or f5.6.reviewed November 15th, 2010 (purchased for $1,687)
Distortion: It could be better but its not too serious and is easily sorted in Photoshop ot Elements. Its more of an inconveniece which slows down my work flow.
Vignetting: Not brilliant at the wide end but many modern lenses seem to suffer from the same problem. I have to correct this with most of my lenses unless I crop out the centre of the picture. Again this is an easy fix with photoshop or Elements
CA: This could be better but again this is easly dealt with using the tools in ViewNX
Build: the lens feels very well put together with no slackness in either theFront lens tube, zoom or focus rings. To put it in context my 80-200 focus ring feel less well engineered and I know it to be a superb example of this particular lens.
VR2: what can I say, it does exactly what it says on the box.
I use my camera every day for work and pleasure and this lens now stays on for everything except maco or telephoto shots. I had several other lenses which covered similar focal lengths and I have now sold them all. I am very pleased with my lens and it should save me a lot of money in the future as at last I have a lens which does everthing I could realistically expect and I will be keeping it. Yes it does have a few minor issues but they can all be solved with software. In short, a brilliant lens.
5 out of 10 points and not recommended by 3systemuser (19 reviews)sharp in the center of the FF, fast AF , universal range with very effective VR.horrible distortion in all range, poor build quality with 2 step zooming system,horrible amount of CA , horrible flare resistance, mosterous mount of light falloff.
the build quality of this lens is poor and it is not as sharp as the Nikon 24-70f2.8GED my main lens for my D700 and D7000.reviewed November 15th, 2010 (purchased for $1,000)
but its AF is very fast and accurate.
There are a few issues with this lens:
1 excessive amount of CA.
2 the worst kind of distortion.
3 the worst lightfall off I have ever seen.
4 its Nano coating is not as good as that of these other Nano coated lenses.
5 it is not as sharp as the 24-70 or 70-200VR2.
So , it is hard to recommend this lens.
I think you better save up a bit longer and get the 24-70 and never look back.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by gbrimacombe (1 reviews)Extremely sharp at all focal lengths, well built,compactNone
I am using the 24-120mm f4 on a Nikon D300s, and the lens is very sharp at all focal lengths. The lens is definitely in the Nikon professional lens category with typically excellent build quality. I was glad to see that Nikon designed the lens as an f4, as an f2.8 would simply have been too big and totally unnecessary. It is a great lens when traveling light.reviewed November 13th, 2010 (purchased for $1,600)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by gn555999 (1 reviews)very sharp img, fast focusfeel very plastic
im using a nikon D90 with this lens,reviewed November 11th, 2010
so far im very happy with it's performance,
- very light, easy to carry around
- focus very fast, compare to my 17-50mm2.8 sigma dc os hsm
8 out of 10 points and recommended by lalitjee (13 reviews)sharp,f4 all the way,solid built,quick focus,very soft/dark corners on full frame [D3s],expensive,
useful focal lenth on D3s.reviewed October 18th, 2010 (purchased for $1,668)