Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR

Nikon camera lenses can be fairly expensive including the most affordable ones being sold today. While photography enthusiasts and non-professionals need not to worry about the entry level Nikon DSLR cameras that come with kit lenses, beginner photographers that have mid-range cameras and above still need to get a good lens that can handle different tasks. With each lens priced at $200 or more, photographers on a budget do not want to purchase two or more lenses just to get all the functions that they need. This is why standard zoom lenses are popular and the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR lens serves as a great choice because of its convenient focal length range.

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Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR

Design & Construction

The Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED is one of the cheapest AF-S lenses coupled with lots of features and therefore the lens is made up primarily of plastics to make sure the costs are low. The size is pretty modest too making it bigger and heavier than some of the other lenses justifying the use of plastics for the design.

Handling the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G requires some adjusting for those that are used to the other camera lenses as the focus and zoom rings aren’t easily distinguishable and they are reversed too. The focus ring is a bit tighter than the rest of the models and the zoom ring is a bit stiff. It takes nearly a half turn to go from one extreme to another for the focus ring and just a quarter of a turn for the zoom ring. Overall, the design and construction isn’t built for beginner photographers to use, but it is still solid and the some of the features listed below make up for it.

Actual user review:
“Since my photographic interest cover a verity of different genres, I was looking for a high quality lens that could accommodate my varied requirements providing wide angle, candied and personal one on one casual photos. Since my purchase I have had the opportunity to test this lens extensively and am delighted with the results. I have used it to take over 400 photographs ranging from landscapes at Yosemite and the Monterey coast to candied private gatherings and even shot a couple of advertising layouts for one of my web sites. All in all I am pleased to say the lens lived up to and in some cases exceeded all my expectations. This lens, at around $700 +/-, is not cheap but in my opinion it provides great value when compared to the other candidates hanging in the rather pricey $2000 neighborhood. I should add however if your needs are more casual and you are using one of the excellent DX series (D80 to 300) Nikons there is another Nikkor lens at about half the price. It is the 18-135mm which I have also used extensively with very good results. For whatever it is worth, I would highly recommend both lenses depending on your needs and your budget.” – J.Haynes (CA,US)

Features & Specifications

With such a wide focal length being introduced at an affordable price tag, the sharpness quality had to be sacrificed as well. It isn’t very sharp in the areas that matter when using near-maximum aperture settings though better results can be achieved when stopping it down a little bit. The “sweet spot” starts at f/8 at 24mm all the way to f/11 at 50-85mm and f/16 at 120mm.

Chromatic aberration stays at an average range at around 0.06% of picture height no matter what focal lengths are used. It dips down a bit when smaller apertures at 50-85mm are used. The average value of CA is a bit high, but the maximum CA value is thankfully not the highest among the standard zoom lenses thanks to the 2 ED glass elements that help minimize the CA.

The rest of the camera is all good news starting from the exposure uniformity. Light falloff greatly decreases when the lens is stopped down and even at maximum settings, the light falloff is around ¼ f-stop. Distortion is also low because of the 2 aspherical lens elements and the Vibration Reduction encourages more sharpness by offering the equivalent of using a 3 stop faster shutter speed at 120mm. It is noted to be the first wide-angle zoom lens that has this feature.

Auto focus also deserves some recognition as it has the Silent Wave Motor for very quick auto focusing while retaining accuracy and operating silently. It also has a rounded diaphragm to improve the look of all the elements that are out-of-focus thus appearing more natural. Combined with the Internal Focus design that is found in several other standard zoom lenses, auto focus operation is smooth and balanced for general photographers to enjoy.

Bottom Line

The average build and optics quality is what makes the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR lens affordable, but when for those that want flexibility for a wide variety of different occasions, this is a great lens that doesn’t destroy the budget. The auto focus makes up for the other minor weaknesses and the VR feature can be useful in some occasions to keep the photos sharp when using the best settings. Optical performance is sacrificed in this lens and that could be made up for by engaging in photo editing and post-production procedures. Those that want optics might want to think twice before getting these lenses, but as a solo lens, it is a great performer that could save some people from buying other prime lenses.

Average User Rating:

I’ve been a semi-professional photographer since 2004 and have a huge investment in Nikon equipment including a Nikon 200-400 zoom that I paid $5,500 for. I also have the 70-200 2.8, which is another superb lens. However, the 24-120 goes with me everywhere. It is one of the most versatile lenses I own. I use it in the studio under dim lighting conditions and for most of the outdoor shooting I do. The other lens I rely on for outdoor shots is the 70-200, which I cannot ay enough good things about (although it’s heavy). Bottom line: the 24-120 is worth every penny you pay for it. Don’t think twice about buying one. My $0.02 worth.” – S.Dow (MA,US)

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Despite what certain self-appointed web pundits have said about this lens, it’s actually a highly useful piece of glass. On a Nikon D700, its sharpness ranges from acceptable to impressive. Predictably, it works best in the middle of its zoom range. I recently compared it pretty carefully in the 50-55mm range with a 55mm Micro Nikkor f/2.8 AIs and a 50mm Nikkor f/1.4 AI. The 24-120 matched those lenses at both the center and the edges from f/4.8 (wide open on the 24-120) on out. In fact, it beat the 55mm Nikkor much of the time, especially at the edges. I’ve had similarly impressive results comparing the 24-120 to a 35mm Nikkor f/2 AI. At its extremes — 24mm and 120mm — center performance is very good but edge performance doesn’t match prime lenses or even some zooms, though it’s still acceptable. Chromatic aberration is surprisingly well controlled and the vibration-reduction (VR) feature seems to help. Focusing is quick and silent. Admittedly, the 24-120 is a lens with peculiarities — like the fact that it reverses the usual positions of focus ring and the zoom ring. But it’s an autofocus lens, right? Who cares about the focusing ring? Considering the overall capability, convenience and relatively low price of the 24-120, I consider it a strong lens. In fact, I got my 24-120 for $280 as part of the D700 kit from Amazon before Christmas 2008, so I’m very pleased with myself.” – R.Wally (TN,USA)

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