Monday, July 30, 2012

Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR

I recently had a chance to play around with Nikon's newest standard zoom lens for FX cameras the AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR. Here is a quick assessment of what I thought of the lens.

Nikon has had a few incarnations of the 24-85mm lens, first the 24-85mm f/2.8-4D (which is still available) then the slower AF-S version the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G which has now been updated by adding VR technology. So it's pretty much the same lens design; a cheap plastic lens similar in construction to the 18-55mm kit lens.

The bottom line is that this lens is disappointing with Nikon's newest high-megapixel cameras. The sensors on these cameras out resolve this lens at pretty much any aperture. The center sharpness is pretty good at most apertures, but not that great but the corners are especially soft wide open and get a little better when stopping down, but not by much. The corners also suffer from quite a bit of chromatic aberration at all apertures.

As with the non-VR version of this lens it suffers from severe barrel distortion at the wide end and starts pincushioning at 35mm. Upon reaching out to 85mm the pincushion distortion is very severe. Hopefully Nikon includes this lens profile in the automatic distortion control in-camera, because you're going to need it when shooting JPGS. If you're shooting RAW you'll need to make a lot of correction in ACR or Lightroom.

The lens vignettes severely wide open and doesn't get much better upon stopping down especially at the wide end. 50mm @ f/11 is about the best setting to see no light falloff.

In short, this lens isn't really made for high-res DSLR like the D4 or D800 which easily show every flaw. Of course the rumor is that Nikon made this lens for the upcoming mid-range D600. I really think that they should have held off releasing this lens until they announced the new camera, for now I'd recommend buying an 18-55 VR kit lens and shooting on crop mode before buying this overpriced, underperforming kit lens.

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