Join ePHOTOzine, the friendliest photography community.
Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more for free!
A standard zoom for FX format DSLRs covering wide angle to telephoto focal lengths without the size, weight or cost of f/2.8 equivalents. This lens costs around £520 and includes Nikon's second generation VR system and silent focusing with full time manual focus override. Can it really compete for quality with Nikon's professional lenses? We'll find out in this review.
A silent wave motor powers autofocus, and speeds are good, with the lens locking onto a subject quickly and precisely. The narrow focusing ring is located close to the camera body and its action is well damped and smooth, which makes fine adjustments quite easy to apply. The zoom action is also smooth and has quite a short throw. A quarter turn bring you from wide angle to telephoto, which helps with adjusting composition quickly. The zoom doesn't creep forward when pointed downwards as just enough resistance has been applied to the mechanism to prevent this.
Closest focus distance is 38cm, and focusing is performed internally, so the 72mm filter thread does not rotate, which should make this lens ideal for use with graduated filters and polarisers.
Nikon's second generation Vibration Reduction system promises to allow hand held shooting at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp hand-held photos. With care, sharp shots can be taken at 85mm and 1/10sec around half the time, which is roughly three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp hand held images would allow. The VR system has very little lag, stabilising the image in the viewfinder in a fraction of a second.
Zooming to 50mm results in a drop in overall clarity, but sharpness in the centre is still very good in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture. Clarity towards the edges of the frame falls just below good levels at this setting. Peak quality across the frame is achieved with the aperture stopped down to between f/8 and f/11 where sharpness in the centre is excellent and very good sharpness is present towards the edges of the frame.
Zooming to 85mm sees a slight increases in sharpness towards the edges of the frame, with good levels of clarity being recorded during testing. Sharpness in the centre of the frame remains very good at maximum aperture and peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/11.
Resolution at 24mm
Resolution at 50mm
Resolution at 85mm
How to read our chartsThe blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.
The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.
For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.
Chromatic aberrations are well controlled throughout the zoom range barely exceeding half a pixel width between 24mm and 50mm. There is a slight increase in fringing at 85mm, but CA levels of 0.75 pixel widths should not pose any issues for general photography.
Chromatic aberration at 24mm
Chromatic aberration at 50mm
Chromatic aberration at 85mm
How to read our chartsChromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.
Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.
For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.
Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite pronounced for a lens sporting a moderate maximum aperture. At 24mm the corners are 2.83 stops darker than the image centre and at 85mm the corners are 1.93 stops darker. Visually uniform illumination isn't achieved until the lens is stopped down to f/8 or beyond throughout the zoom range.
Distortion is also quite strong at the extremes of the zoom range. At 24mm 4.74% barrel distortion is present and this is replaced with 2.78% pincushion at 85mm. Both these distortion values can be quite visible in images with straight lines towards the edges of the frame. Luckily the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame throughout the zoom range, which should make applying corrections relatively straightforward in image editing software afterwards.
A particularly deep petal shaped hood is provided with this lens, which does an excellent job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause flare or loss of contrast. This lens is pretty resistant to flare, although some flare may appear when shooting into the light at 24mm, and a slight loss of contrast can be seen at 85mm under the same conditions.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Sample Photos
Wideangle | 1/800 sec | f/4.0 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200
Telephoto | 1/160 sec | f/11.0 | 85.0 mm | ISO 200
Close focus is 38cm | 1/125 sec | f/8.0 | 85.0 mm | ISO 3200
Barrel distortion at 24mm may cause issues when shooting architecture | 1/1600 sec | f/4.0 | 24.0 mm | ISO 200
1/250 sec | f/8.0 | 28.0 mm | ISO 200
1/125 sec | f/4.2 | 52.0 mm | ISO 320
1/320 sec | f/8.0 | 26.0 mm | ISO 200
1/320 sec | f/8.0 | 44.0 mm | ISO 200
Value for MoneyThis 24-85mm lens costs around £520, has a maximum aperture of f/3.5-4.5, VRII and internal, silent focusing with full time manual override. The price and compact size should make this lens the ideal choice for those looking for a quality lens, who don't require a constant f/2.8 aperture, or the build quality and resulting weight of a professional lens.
By comparison, Nikon's high-end 24-70mm lens is more bulky, has a weather sealed build, lacks VR and costs around £1300. However it does have a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture. Their 24-120mm is slightly longer at the telephoto end and is also more bulky as a result. However it sports a constant maximum aperture of f/4, otherwise it is similarly specified and costs around £830.
Third-party manufacturers tend to only offer lenses with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture in this focal range. Sigma's 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM costs around £600 and includes silent, internal focusing with full time manual focus override but lacks stabilisation. Tamron's 24-70mm f/2.8 is similarly specified of the Sigma, except it includes stabilisation and costs around £995. Finally, Tamron's 28-75mm f/2.8 is the most basic lens of these. It lacks silent focusing and stabilisation, but is available for around £350.
It is capable of delivering sharp images with low CA, and although distortion is quite strong, it should be easily correctable in image editing software afterwards. The addition of Nikon's VRII stabilisation should help when shooting at low shutter speeds in low light too.
|The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR is a high quality standard zoom lens.|
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR ProsGood sharpness in the centre throughout the zoom range
Relatively compact and lightweight when compared to Nikon's other FX lenses
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR ConsDistortion at both ends of the zoom range
Falloff of illumination towards the corners at maximum aperture
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Specifications
|Focal Length||24mm - 85mm|
|Angle of View||No Data|
|Max Aperture||f/3.5 - f/4.5|
|Min Aperture||f/22 - f/29|
|35mm equivalent||24mm - 85mm|
|Box Contents||lens case CL-1118 and hood HB-63|