Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED AF-S Nikkor
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October 16, 2015
by Andrew Alexander
Announced in August 2015, the 24mm ƒ/1.8G ED AF-S is the latest in a string of modern fast primes produced by Nikon, as it continues to overhaul and improve upon its offering in this area. Nikon's previous entry-level offering in the 24mm autofocus category was an ƒ/2.8, AF-D lens.
The lens was designed with a full-frame FX sensor in mind, though it's also compatible with DX-sized sensors. On those cameras, the lens will produce a field of view of approximately 36mm.
The lens takes 72mm filters, ships with a petal-shaped lens hood, and will be available for approximately $750.
The Nikon 24mm ƒ/1.8G performed very well in our sharpness testing. Mounted on the sub-frame D7000, the lens offers excellent performance at all apertures -- there's a hint of corner softness at ƒ/1.8, but at any other aperture, it's tack-sharp across the frame all the way through to ƒ/8.
Mounted on the full-frame D800e, the corners are much more problematic: at ƒ/1.8, there is significant corner softness. The corners become dramatically sharper as the lens is stopped down; at ƒ/2.8, the corners are barely softer than the center, and at ƒ/4 and smaller, the image is essentially tack-sharp across the frame.
Diffraction limiting technically sets in at ƒ/8, but you won't really notice it until ƒ/16, where generalized softness sets in -- if even then.
The lens performs very well in this category, presenting only a very slight amount of chromatic aberration. Looking at the sample images, I'm hard-pressed to find any significant evidence of CA, even in points of high contrast in the corners.
Mounted on the sub-frame D7000, there's very little corner shading to speak of -- even wide open at ƒ/1.8. Mounted on the full-frame D800e however, it's a different story. At ƒ/1.8, we note corners that are a full stop darker than the center of the image. This is improved as the lens is stopped down -- a half-stop at ƒ/2.8, and at all other apertures, only a quarter of a stop.
As you'd expect from a wide-angle lens, there is some barrel distortion, but not a lot: just +0.3% on the D7000, and +0.5% on the D800e.
The 24mm ƒ/1.8G uses an AF-S focusing motor, making it compatible with all modern Nikon camera bodies. Autofocus is fast, about one second to slew through infinity to closest focus, and is near silent. Autofocus results can be overridden at any time by just turning the focus ring.
The 24mm ƒ/1.8G makes a poor macro lens, with just 0.2x magnification and a minimum close-focusing distance of 23cm (9 inches).
Build Quality and Handling
The 24mm ƒ/1.8G is a reasonable size for a prime lens, weighing in at 355 grams (just over 12oz). The balance feels good on large and small cameras. The lens mount is metal, with a rubber weather-sealing gasket, and the 72mm filter threads are plastic.
It's definitely a bit more expensive than its older ƒ/2.8 sibling, but it has all of Nikon's latest lens element technology built-in -- nano-crystal coating, 2 aspherical lenses, and 2 ED lenses. The only switch on the lens is an autofocus / manual focus selector; other features include a windowed distance scale, with a depth-of-field markings for ƒ/16. As you would expect, attached 72mm filters will not rotate on the front element.
The inch-wide focus ring is rubber, a series of ribs running parallel to the body of the lens. A slight increase in resistance lets you know you've reached the end of the focusing distance, but the ring will continue to turn. There is no lens extension during autofocusing. The lens uses seven rounded diaphragm blades to make up the aperture, which produces pleasing out-of-focus elements.
The HB-76 lens hood is around 1 1/2 inches in depth. The hood is a bayonet-mount that reverses onto the lens for easy storage, but denies access to the focus ring in this configuration. The lens is nicely resistant to obvious flare from bright light sources such as the sun, but the hood works well to reduce generalized veiling flare.
Nikon 24mm ƒ/2.8D AF ~$390
At the time of writing, the older ƒ/2.8 AF-D lens is still available on store shelves, and performs quite well despite its age. However it lacks the newer lens technologies, meaning there is more evidence of chromatic aberration.
Nikon 24mm ƒ/1.4G ED AF-S ~$2,200
At almost three times the price, you'd expect superior performance out of the 24mm ƒ/1.4 -- but the truth is, unless you really need the ƒ/1.4 aperture, the performance is quite similar between the two lenses.
Sigma 24mm ƒ/1.8 ~$480
Sigma's had a 24mm ƒ/1.8 lens for quite some time, and it is (at the time of writing) still available for purchase -- it's not as sharp as the Nikon version, especially wide open, but stopped down, it's quite good, and much less expensive.
Sigma 24mm ƒ/1.4 DG HSM "A" ~$850
We haven't yet tested this lens, but it's about the same price as Nikon's ƒ/1.8, and offers a bit more light-gathering ability.
Nikon's 24mm ƒ/1.8G is an excellent addition to its prime lineup, however most shooters are going to be wondering if it is worth saving a significant amount of money by buying this lens in comparison to the ƒ/1.4 version. The short answer is -- unless you need the ƒ/1.4 aperture setting -- yes. Both lenses provide very similar performance, and while there are some small differences (7 aperture blades here instead of 9 and an extra lens element, for instance) there is no other single feature which makes a clear buying distinction.
The 24mm ƒ/1.4G was released five years prior to the ƒ/1.8G -- making it the only option at the time. Now, Nikon has a new lens that offers great results at a good price point.
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.
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