Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor
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December 1, 2009
by Andrew Alexander
We originally reviewed the Nikon 24mm ƒ/2.8 prime almost exactly three years ago, well before Nikon had released its first full-frame digital SLR, the D3. We're now able to provide a full-frame test for this lens.
The 24mm ƒ/2.8 AF was originally marketed in 1986, with a thin plastic focus ring; subsequent versions were released in 1991 (AF-N, using the newer rubber focus ring) and 1994 (the current AF-D version, which sends distance information to the camera). The model we've tested is actually the AF-N version, but the optical formula remains unchanged between all three versions.
The 24mm ƒ/2.8 was designed to work with film cameras, and is compatible with sub- and full-frame Nikon digital SLR camera bodies. The lens uses a mechanical screw drive to focus, powered by the camera body, so it won't autofocus on entry-level Nikon dSLR cameras (at time of writing, D40, D40x, D60, D3000 and D5000). The effective field of view on these and other DX-sensor based cameras is 42mm.
The lens is available for around $350. An optional HN-1 screw-on lens hood is available separately. The lens takes 52mm filters.
For a lens design that is over twenty years old, the 24mm ƒ/2.8 stands up quite well in our testing. Mounted on the subframe D200 and used wide open at ƒ/2.8, corner softness is significant (3-4 blur units) but there is a generous sweet spot of sharpness in the center of the image, at around 1.5 blur units. Stopping down improves sharpness results significantly; at ƒ/4, the corners become much less soft, at around 2 blur units, and the sweet spot of sharpness extends much further to the corners. Central sharpness improves slightly as well, ranging between 1-1.5 blur units. There's not much additional improvement stopping down further, and by ƒ/16 diffraction limiting has set in. At this aperture we note approximately 2 blur units across the frame. At ƒ/22, it's around 3 blur units across the frame.
We note almost identical results when the 24mm ƒ/2.8 is mounted on the full-frame D700 - until the lens is substantially stopped down. It's not surprising to note increased corner softness with the 24mm set to ƒ/2.8 on the D700 - the full-frame sensor reveals more of the inherent softness of the corners - it's hitting a maximum of 5 blur units in the corners, and there's still a good sweet spot of sharpness in the center. Stopping down to ƒ/4 improves both these factors, with the center reaching 1-1.5 blur units and the corners showing around 3 blur units. In contrast to the results shown on the D200 however, stopping down further on the D700 produces very sharp images at ƒ/5.6 and smaller. These results had us briefly scratching our heads when we recalled that the D700 introduces automatic chromatic aberration removal, and without this edge degradation, image are much sharper. It's quite possible that RAW images produced with this lens would show results for sharpness similar to those seen on the D200.
The images produced on the D700 with the 24mm stay sharp all the way to ƒ/16, between 1 and 1.5 blur units across the frame. At ƒ/22, we note performance of just under 2 blur units.
CA is a bit on the high side for this lens, but then, we have to remind ourselves that this is a 20+ year old design we're looking at. CA is lowest at the widest apertures and degrades substantially as the lens is stopped down. We note these results on the D200; on the D700, which features automatic chromatic aberration removal, results are much improved, showing next to no chromatic aberration throughout the majority of the image, and only marginal CA in the corner regions.
With the 24mm ƒ/2.8 mounted on the D200, corner shading isn't much of an issue - we note corners that are a half-stop darker than the center when the lens is used wide open at ƒ/2.8. At any other aperture, there is no significant light falloff. It's a bit of a different story when the lens is mounted on the full-frame D700, where we note corners that are almost 1 1/4 stops darker than the center. This light falloff improves as the lens is stopped down: at ƒ/4, we note a differential of 2/3 EV, and by ƒ/5.6 and smaller it bottoms out at a 1/3 EV differential.
Results for distortion are fairly low, and are essentially the same between both the D200 and the D700: just +0.3% average barrel distortion throughout the image, rising to +0.5% barrel distortion in the corners. This level of distortion is fairly easy to correct in post-processing.
The 24mm ƒ/2.8 uses the body-mounted screw to drive autofocus, meaning it will not autofocus on screw-less Nikon bodies such as the D40, D60 and D5000. On other bodies it focuses very quickly, slewing through focus in less than a second. As focus is conducted mechanically there is a fair amount of noise during autofocus operations. As well, the focus ring will move during autofocus. Attached filters will not rotate during focusing.
Macro performance with this lens is quite poor, with a magnification rating of just 0.11x. The minimum close-focusing distance is 30cm (12 inches).
Build Quality and Handling
The lens shows off a smooth black finish, built with dense plastic, making for a very small and light package (just 269g, or 9.5 ounces). At this size and weight there isn't much of an excuse not to drop the lens into a spare corner of the camera bag. The lens mount is metal and the filter threads are plastic.
Given the age of the design, it's not surprising to find an honest-to-goodness aperture ring, complete with a lock switch to keep it in its ƒ/22 position. A distance scale is featured under a clear window, marked in feet and meters. A depth-of-field scale is also present, showing markings for ƒ/11, ƒ/16 and ƒ/22. An infrared index is also present.
The 3/8-inch wide focus ring is rubber, using a pattern of deep segmented ribs running parallel to the lens body. There is a fair amount of travel in the focus ring, about 90 degrees from close to infinity focus. These points in the focus spectrum end in hard stops, and you shouldn't hold the focus ring while the camera autofocuses, as the ring will rotate and you don't want to work against the gearing. During autofocus there is significant (3/4'') extension of the lens. Mounted 52mm filters won't rotate during autofocus.
The HR-1 lens hood, sold separately, is a 1/2-inch deep, circular-shaped hood that screws onto the lens' filter threads and offers improved resistance to both specular and veiling flare.
Sigma 24mm ƒ/1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro ~$400
Sigma offers the only non-Nikon alternative in this focal length, and unfortunately we haven't yet tested it. It's very different from the Nikon 24mm, a larger, heavier lens that takes 77mm filters and offers 1 1/3 extra stops of light-gathering ability. The lens doesn't incorporate HSM focusing, meaning it won't autofocus on the same bodies that the Nikon 24mm won't autofocus on. User reviews suggest the lens is a bit soft at ƒ/1.8, but stopped down, is very good.
Nikon Kit lenses (18-55mm, etc) ~$150+
The consumer-level zooms include the 24mm focal length in their range, and generally offer the same level of distortion. For entry-level dSLR cameras, the kit lens series will autofocus correctly, however, the widest aperture is slightly smaller than the 24mm prime's constant ƒ/2.8. Generally, light falloff is a bit more prominent in the kit lens series, and build quality isn't as strong.
Nikon mid-level wide-angle zooms (16-85mm, etc) ~$400+
Nikon offers three compelling lenses to challenge the 24mm prime: the ultra-wide 10-24mm, the original 12-24mm ƒ/4, and the 16-85mm. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, but generally, when stopped down the zooms are comparable to the 24mm prime. These options are really only a consistent option for DX-body users; there may be some hard vignetting issues when these DX lenses are mounted on FX bodies.
Nikon pro-level wide-angle zooms (14-24mm, etc) ~$1,600+
FX body users may wish to consider the 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 or 17-35mm ƒ/2.8, both of which accommodate the 24mm focal length, have a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture, and mount on FX bodies. We haven't yet tested the 17-35mm ƒ/2.8, but the 14-24mm is probably one of the best lenses we've ever tested: at 24mm, it's head and shoulders above the 24mm prime in terms of sharpness, and offers zero distortion to boot.
Optically, the lens holds its own, despite showing some signs of age: wide open it shows some corner softness, and chromatic aberration is a problem for Nikon bodies which don't automatically remove it. Nikon bodies which do remove it automatically however, breath new life into the lens, and when stopped down to ƒ/5.6, the lens is extremely sharp.
Whether you should buy the lens depends entirely on your needs: Nikon's mid-level zooms offer about the same level of performance, and depending on your camera body, autofocus. It's still sold new, but many copies of this lens float around on the used market. If you can find a good copy of it, it's probably worth a place in your camera bag.
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 24mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by sjkip (17 reviews)Handy size, relatively inexpensive, sharp enough for most real-world usageNot terribly sharp wide open; soft edges
I bought this lens for architectural interiors with my Nikon D610. For such uses, it'll be fine. I can set the ISO high enough that even at f/5.6 or f/8, which is what I would likely use, the exposure would be fast enough for fairly easy hand-hold. So lack of VR won't matter. Since I very seldom shoot outdoor, low light wide angle, the soft edges won't matter, either. I agree with those who say that the lens is not super sharp at less than f/4, especially at the edges, but even wide open, it's adequately sharp, just not as sharp as when it's stopped down to f/4 or, better, f/5.6. For what I paid, I'll get my money's worth with interior shots of ceilings and domes, and along corridors.reviewed February 16th, 2015 (purchased for $205)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by vitalishe (2 reviews)cheap wide angle for FX, fast (for the money), very small, solid builddoes not come with a hood, overlaps the standard 14-24 and 24-70 zoom ranges
I recently bought a used earlier version (non D) of this lens for my newly acquired D700 and I am very happy with it.reviewed September 23rd, 2013 (purchased for $200)
I wanted a cheap fast wide angle lens for FX to take pictures of the stars and the Milky Way to utilize the superior low-light performance of full frame. Until I saw this lens for sale I was considering Tokina 16-28 f/2.8. The later goes for around $700 and long-term is a much more flexible and better lens (and much heavier too).
I have both DX and FX cameras which I use side-by-side:
- On FX I have a vintage 35-70 f/2.8D, which is a very good cheap (~$450) alternative to its modern counterpart 24-70 f/2.8 (~$1,500).
- On DX I have a proper ultra-wide angle 12-24 Tokina f/4.
So, I "needed" a lens mostly for one application. This lens was a perfect solution:
- Fast at 2.8 and cheap ~$200.
- Solidly built.
- Extremely small (compared to other UW zoom lenses) non-intimidating. It is about the size of 35mm and 50mm f/1.8 lenses. There is something very satisfying about having a very small lens on the camera.
- Sufficiently sharp.
- Focuses fast without focus-hunting, has a hard infinity stop.
The reasons you may want this lens:
- It's a cheap good quality solution for the range and aperture.
- It is very small and relatively light.
- Perfect complement to the 35-70 f/2.8 lens.
The reason you may NOT want this lens:
- Once you sacrifice your limbs to get either of the dream 14-24 or 24-70 lenses (unless weight is an issue) this lens will become obsolete.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by Tidalflow (1 reviews)
Bought a mint second-hand lens for 200GBP (Dec 2012) for a D7000. Initially was very disappointed as the lens seemed soft. However when the fine focus lens setting were optimised for the D7000 the performance improved dramatically. (guess this was the reason it was sold in the first place). As a compact combination fitted to the D7000 it's certainly an excellent modest wide angle. When I couple this with my 50mm and 85mm I can cover the useful range 35-135mm FX format.reviewed February 13th, 2013
8 out of 10 points and recommended by rcoder (6 reviews)compact, good view angle on a digital body, perfect "street" lensprone to flare, f/2.8 aperture not as fast as many other primes
I bought this lens used a few weeks ago specifically for street photography, and have been pretty happy with the results. On a cropped digital body like by D70, the 24mm focal length is only mildly "wide", works well for candid and from-the-hip shots.reviewed January 14th, 2007 (purchased for $200)
AF performance is quite respectable, and and MF ring feels very smooth, with just enough resistance to make it unlikely you'll accidentally bump it out of focus. Bokeh is also quite nice when wide open, giving lovely, circular out-of-focus highlights.
Since there wasn't a hood included with this used gear, though, I have had some problems with flaring when shooting into the sun. I haven't examined many of the shots at extreme detail to evaluate CA or vignetting, but I can't recall any real "stinkers."
Overall, I'd say I got what I wanted: an affordable, compact street lens with good handling and decent performance. I'm hoping to replace it for most uses with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 fairly soon, but I suspect I'll keep it around as it's the most compact and lightweight lens I own.
7 out of 10 points and not recommended by wishbone (6 reviews)Small, sturdy, good walk around lensNot very sharp on a digital, slight distortion
When I had my F100, I wanted a true wide angle lens that goes beyond my 28-70. This little thing worked well on my film camera, but items on the side borders will be distorted, especially if you shoot people up close. This is truly more suited for landscape.reviewed January 5th, 2007 (purchased for $250)
I was very disappointed to see its performance on my D200 and D70. The image quality seems to suffer from softness, and I have not been able to get many good shots . While this is a light and small lens, it is inflexible on a digital because the 17-70 kit lens arguably performs better and is much wider. I am planning to sell my 24mm soon to fund another lens. I also have a Tokina 12-24 f4 and it is much better!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by anabasis (9 reviews)small, well constructed, good IQheavy for size, some CA on digital
The Nikkor 24mm F2.8 is an autofocus prime that offers sharp images in a compact, and reasonably fast lens. The 24mm is a good landscape and street lens. It is slightly larger and heavier then the 50mm f1.8 lens, but keeps the 52mm filters. The lens is a screwdriver lens that focuses with good speed and minimal noise on the professional line camera, and a bit slower on the consumer bodies. The lens has DOF preview lines from F11 to F22 on the window which is rather disappointing. I miss the older Nikkors with a much more complete DOF scale on the lens. The MF dial is large enough for easy manual focusing, and there is an aperture ring for use on older bodies.reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $250)
The lens offers good wide angle performance on film bodies, and acts like a 35mm lens on the digital bodies. This makes it a good “walk around lens” on digital bodies, and a good medium wide angle on film bodies. The images are sharp, contrasty and with minimal distortion. This lens can also be mounted in reverse on a bellows unit for approximately 9:1 magnification with good results.
This lens is a favorite of mine for walk-arounds with my DSLRs. I like the 35mm angle of view that seems to be more useful then the 50mm focal length. Although 2 stops slower then my 50mm, the speed of the lens is more then adequate for most applications.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by usul3084 (4 reviews)Optics, build, handling, size, metal hood.CA on digital.
A very sharp lens for wide landscapes on 35mm. On my film body I have no complaints and love this little lens.reviewed December 7th, 2006 (purchased for $250)
Build quality is good enough, and the metal lens hood does a good job protecting the front element. In my real world shooting, I haven't noticed distortion, though in the lab you may see it.
The one drawback is that this lens loses its wide feel on an APS-C digital body due to the crop. Chromatic Aberration is also noticeable in the corners on high-contrast subjects with digital.
Highly Recommended for 35mm film work.
Recommended for Nikon digital.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by bullfr (9 reviews)optics and build quality, sharpness, wide angle on argenticnot a wide angle for digital
In the pre-digital days, this lens was my favorite on the F801 body; I love the wide angle field of view for landscapes and travel pictures. This lens was a perfect companion for many years, and has proved extremly reliable under any circunstances. Optics are very good, providing very sharp images (really goood even on the sides), and the build quality is Nikon's...reviewed November 24th, 2006 (purchased for $700)
I was a bit disappointed at first when reading about the 1.6 crop factor for digital SLRs; but this lens is now equivalent to a 35mm, which makes it perfect for street photography and every day snapshots; additionally it is not as impressive and intimidating as bigger zooms for peoples photography. However, you may have to add a replacement lens if you want a wide angle...
10 out of 10 points and recommended by TeoK (5 reviews)small , light, easy to use, superb optical qualitynone
Probably the best lens I have ever used. Super sharp, with quite acceptable nominal distortions of a wide angle lens.reviewed November 21st, 2006
This lens however, like many other great Nikkors was designed with film cameras in mind, so it may not work optimally on digital cameras. The digital sensor relies on the light path to hit it at 90 degrees angle which is not an issue with film, so ( and this especially true with wide angles) you may experience light fall off at the corners.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by julioalperi (15 reviews)Excelent center resolution. Good construction.Soft corners.Distortion. CAs.
Resolution is very good to excelent in center, but only good in corners. With med- high barrel distortion, high vignetting (at f/2.8) and pronounced CAs. the AF 24mm f/2.8D is not a bad lens, but as a fix-focal I expected a better performance.reviewed November 17th, 2006 (purchased for $320)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by afs (4 reviews)Sharp, Small, and at a great price, excellent FOV.Plastic build (not bad considering price), heavy despite its size, not as versatile as a zoom.
Well, I had this lens for a while, and I intend to get one again soon, because of its quality.reviewed October 20th, 2005 (purchased for $200)
This is a small lens and can be used on any Nikon made. It provides great optical performance at a reasonable price. I picked mine up for $200, and I used it in place of an 18-70 zoom on my D70. It is more solidly built and has a nice heft to it, despite its small size.
This lens offers a great focal length, particularly on digital. The sharpness the lens offers is also excellent. At f/2.8 it grabs a huge amount of detail. at f/4 it improves even more. The only con is that in the sharpness department, the 17-35mm f/2.8D AF-S ED-IF zoom beats it once stopped down past f/4 or so....but it does that to every prime in its range and costs $1400.
The 24mm f/2.8D is an excellent lens for people pictures, candids, basically anything. It is one SHARP lens. It is far less obtrusive than my 17-35 AF-S, too. It has my preferred rubber focusing ring with internal distance scale.
I loved it, only sold it because I needed the 17-35 more, and I want it back for those times when having a lens that's bigger than the camera isn't preferable.