The 24-120 F4G VR on D800: Introduction to the "Swiss Army Knife" lens

July 23, 2012  •  2 Comments

The 'Swiss Army Knife' Lens

 

62mm @ f4.5 1/250th ISO 500

_DSC3528

There were a few surprised faces when Nikon's Technical Guide to the D800/E included the 24-120 as one of the lenses suggested for use for 'enhanced sharpness'. After all, this was a lens that had disappointed and irritated many with its performance on other 'serious' Nikon FF cameras, and which had something of a reputation for QC issues.

Yet here, in a nervous little booklet apparently intended as a pre-emptive strike against complaints from people not used to working with a sensor this good and this fussy, was a suggestion to use a lens that a lot of people regarded as barely more than a consumer zoom with a gold collar on it.

No: 'serious' users would stick to 'The Trinity' of 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 plus a few well-chosen primes, thank you very much.

 

75mm f4.5 1/320th ISO 640

_DSC3520

Then reports started to filter through from the those lucky enough to get early copies of either camera: the first two members of The Trinity were not pleasing everyone as much as they'd hoped... and the 24-120 was surprising some people who hadn't much rated it before.

This seemed too good to be true, especially to Canon switchers who were used to the venerable 24-105, a lens which was by no means perfect but overcame its imperfections by being just so damned useful.

 

24mm F4.5 1/160th ISO 200

_DSC3522

So I bought one. And I love it, but it does have 'issues' and over a few posts (one related to each of Wide, Mid and Long focal length ranges and one on When to use VR) I'll go into what it does and when.

But today a simple overview, a 'what it's so good for' and a 'fly in the ointment'.

 

120mm f4 1/500th ISO 280

_DSC3499

Overview

  • It's lighter than the 24-70 AND it has the VRII missing from the Trinity mid-zoom
  • It can show CA at all focal lengths and apertures if provoked but never too bothersome and always PP-able
  • It vignettes quite a bit at all apertures, and at the wide end that vignetting stays even as you stop down
  • Distortion goes from barrel to pincushion as you zoom in. Nothing new there, and all correctable
  • It has really surprisingly great sharpness on centre at all focal lengths at F5.6 (and even wide open at the wider end)
  • Edges and corners are more variable but actually, given that this is a Swiss Army Knife lens, not too bad at all and, stopped down to f8, really pretty impressive up to mid portrait range

 

120mm f4 1/500th ISO 1250

_DSC3507

What it's Good For

A good copy (see below) combines really well with one light, fast lens such as the 28mm F1.8G to make a perfect light travel kit which is still capable of serious work. Bang in one 'super lens' of you choice (mine is the 50mm Leica R Cron with Leitax adaptor) and you can cover a LOT of bases.

If you need one lens for an event, then for me at least, this is the one. I joined friends the other day to watch the Olympic Torch on part of its progress through the UK prior to the opening ceremony. It was pissing down with rain and I had to walk a long way due to parking restrictions so, one lens was required to cover all bases -  and it had to be one that was sealed against the weather. The shots in this post are nothing special but they range from 24mm to 120mm and they are all sharp where it matters. This is a very, very useful trait in a lens.

 

120mm f4 1/500th ISO 2200

_DSC3503

Fly in the Ointment

Mine has a blurry right hand side. Not at every focal length, not always even at the focal lengths afflicted, but too often to be right and too often for me to trust it for serious use. This may be a decentred element, it may be poor VR 'parking' (I will cover that in the VR post) but it has to go back to the great Nikon Hospital. At current count, around half the Nikon lenses and bodies I have bought have needed return or repair. They make lovely stuff but IMHO QC needs bumping up a notch or two.

But like I say, a good copy of this lens is a must-have and a few very serious photographers I know use it as their 'body cap'. 

 

112mm F4 1/500th ISO 900

_DSC3486 100% crop from the above:

_DSC3486-2

 


Comments

Tim Ashley Photography
Typos R US.. Never blog from an iPad.... Errors corrected, thank you Eagle Eye!
CarstenW(non-registered)
I would love to get my hands on that 20-70mm you mention. Is it f/2.8? How does it compare to the 24-70mm?

Interesting idea to use a lens as a lens cap. I have only ever used them as body caps.

:)
No comments posted.
Loading...
Subscribe
RSS
Archive
January February March April May June July (24) August (11) September (8) October (4) November (5) December (4)
January February March (2) April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December