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Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Interchangeable Lens Review

Amongst the first of its kind, being a professional standard ultra-wide angle for DX format SLRs. Here we'll see whether the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor can still hold its own.

|  Nikon AFS DX 12-24mm f/4G in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and features

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor
ePHOTOzine lens tester, Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at the 12-24mm G ED lens from Nikon.

As an innovative lens when it was released, can it hold its own against the new third party lenses?

Nikon's 12-24mm costs around £806 and has a constant maximum aperture of f/4, a silent-wave focusing motor and uses aspherical lens elements and ED glass in its design. It's no longer the only lens covering this focal range in Nikon's line-up, the newer 10-24mm fits into Nikon's consumer range, costing around £640. As well as having a slightly longer zoom range, it has a variable maximum aperture of f/3.5-4.5.

The market has changed somewhat since this lens was released, and all of the major third party manufacturers offer optics covering this focal range. Two lenses are currently available from Sigma, both with a range from 10mm to 20mm. The newer of the two has a constant maximum aperture of f/3.5 and costs around £480. The original Sigma 10-20mm has a maximum aperture of f/4-5.6 and costs around £400. Both have Sigma's HSM focusing motor.

Tamron offer a 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, which costs around £385 but doesn't have a silent focusing motor.

Finally, Tokina have three lenses in their line-up covering this range, Two 12-24mm lenses with a constant maximum aperture of f/4 are available, which is the same specification as this Nikon lens, but without the Silent focus motor. The older of the two costs around £430, and the newer version, which has an improved, but not silent, focusing motor costs around £485. Tokina are currently the only manufacturer to offer a lens in this range with a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8. Their 11-16mm lens only has a limited zoom range, but will be more suitable for work under low-light conditions and costs around £490.

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor: Handling and features
Nikon's 12-24mm is a very lightweight lens, especially when compared to other lenses Nikon designate 'professional' by placing a gold stripe around the front filter ring. Much of the lens barrel is constructed from high-quality plastics and the lens doesn't extend during zooming or focusing. The lens accepts 77mm filters and the filter ring is made of plastic, so care may need to be taken when attaching filters in a hurry, to reduce the risk of cross-threading.

The zoom action is very smooth and light, taking only the slightest touch to move. Due to the design of the lens, there is no zoom creep to speak of though, despite the loose zoom action. A slim focus ring is located close to the mount on this lens. The Silent Wave Focus Motor allows for manual focus adjustments to be made at any time, without having to first switch to manual. A distance window just behind the focus ring clearly displays the focused distance, but no hyper-focal scale is provided. Photographers wishing to find the hyper-focal distance will have to resort to a separate scale if they wish to shoot in this way. This is typical of most modern lenses.

Due to the light weight, the lens balances perfectly on the Nikon D80 used for testing, and I believe it would feel right at home on Nikon's smaller bodies too.

Overall it was a pleasure using this lens due to the weight and excellent handling.

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor: Performance
For this review, the lens was tested on a 10Mp Nikon D80 using Imatest.

Nikon's 12-24mm is a very high resolution optic, especially at 12mm, where it only appears to be limited by the effects on diffraction, which effects the resolution more with smaller sensor cameras, such as Nikon's DX format. Right from f/4, the centre resolution is excellent and very good towards the edge of the frame. Stopping down improves the resolution towards the edges slightly until f/8 where images will be equally sharp across the frame. Beyond f/8, diffraction reduces the resolution further but is still at good levels at f/11 and acceptable thereafter.

Zooming in a little to 18mm causes a slight drop in resolution, but the results are still very good down to f/8 and good at f/11. The reduction of resolution due to diffraction follows pretty much the exact same pattern as at 12mm.

By 24mm the lens still perform well, but the resolution wide open at f/4 has dropped noticeably. At this focal length, f/8 will yield the best results across the frame, with the resolution actually being higher towards the edges on the sample tested.

Resolution at 12mm
Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor resolution at 12mm
Resolution at 18mm
Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor resolution at 18mm
Resolution at 24mm
Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor resolution at 24mm

Nikon's use of ED glass helps to keep colour aberrations to acceptable levels. At their worst, they approach one pixel-width at f/4 and 18mm, which may become visible in some circumstances. Stopping down generally reduces this effect below noticeable levels.

Chromatic Aberration at 12mm
Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Chromatic aberration  at 12mm
Chromatic Aberration at 18mm
Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Chromatic aberration  at 18mm
Chromatic Aberration at 24mm
Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Chromatic aberration  at 24mm

Light falloff towards the corners is very well controlled at 12mm, with the corners only being 0.6 stops darker than the image centre at f/4. At 24mm, falloff is barely noticeable, with the corners being only a third of a stop darker than the centre at f/4. At all focal lengths, stopping down to f/5.6 produces pretty much even illumination.

At 12mm, Imatest recorded 4.39% barrel distortion, which will be very noticeable in images where straight lines near the edge of the frame are important. To my eyes, the distortion isn't uniform either, with lines close to the long edges of the frame appearing almost straight in the middle, but bending more severely as they approach the corners, which may lead to issues with how easily this distortion can be corrected. Straight lines in corrected images appear to have a slight wave to them, creating a subtle 'M' shape. At 24mm, this strange distortion signature has all but disappeared, being replaced with 0.242% pincushion, which will pose few problems in most cases.

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor wide angle view
Wide angle view.
Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor full zoom view
Full zoom view.

This 12-24mm lens doesn't have Nikon's latest Nano-Crystal Coat, as their latest professional grade lenses do, but it still performs reasonably well when it comes to ghosting and flare. Strong light sources may cause bright flare patterns across in the opposite corner of the frame if they catch the front element a certain way, but in most cases, flare isn't too much of a problem. The lens comes supplied with a shallow petal-shaped hood, which helps a little with keeping extraneous light from causing any problems.

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor: Verdict
Despite being among the first of its kind, Nikon's 12-24mm f/4 DX still holds its own against competition from third party manufacturers and even other manufacturer's offerings.

Although the price may seem a little steep, when there are alternatives available which are both wider and cheaper, it's capable of producing images with very good resolution across the frame, even at f/4 and as a result is deserving of its 'pro' designation.

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor: Pros
Excellent sharpness, especially at 12mm
Light weight design
Good build quality
Decent flare performance with included hood

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor: Cons
Strange distortion signature at 12mm may be troublesome to correct in software


Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor: Specification
Price £805.99
Filter size 77mm
Format DX/APS-C
Construction 11 elements in 7 groups
Angle-of-view 99° - 61°
35mm equivalent focal length 18-36mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 30cm
Maximum focus f/4
Minimum aperture f/22
Weight 465g
Size 90x82.5mm
In the box Lens hood

The Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor costs £805.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor


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