Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Review

John Riley reviews the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, which adds Vibration Reduction optical image stabilisation.


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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Nikon 24 70mm FrontReplacing the previous Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S ED lens, Nikon has released this new version, adding more complexity to the optical design and also their VR (Vibration Reduction) system. The lens promised the highest optical quality and durability, for the most demanding professional requirements. Let's see how it delivers.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Handling and Features

Nikon 24 70mm Front Element

Despite the extensive use of high quality plastics, the sheer amount of glass under the skin results in a fairly heavy lens at 1070g. Physically quite large, but well balanced and easy to use on the Nikon D810 provided for this review. The finish throughout is of the highest standard and all the controls work smoothly, with no excess play in their operation. The overall feel of the lens is very satisfactory and it does inspire confidence from the outset.

Internal focusing (IF) means there is no change in the lens extension as we focus. However, the zooming action does increase the extension, as expected. The constant aperture can be useful and especially so with a fairly wide zoom range of 24-70mm. This is a good range for general applications, from landscapes to portraits. AF is quick, positive and silent thanks to the SWM (Silent Wave Motor) focusing mechanism.

There are 9 blades to the diaphragm, which should enhance the bokeh, and for the greatest accuracy this is electronically controlled. This is indicated by the E designation in the lens description. The filter size is 82mm.

Nikon 24 70mm On Nikon D810

The VR system claims to give a 4 stop advantage, enabling much lower shutter speeds to be employed when hand holding. The Normal setting is for general use and the Active setting for action subjects. This setting only reduces vertical shift, so that VR can still be used to best effect when panning.

In terms of optical construction this is a complex 20 elements in 16 groups. To maintain the highest quality over the entire zoom range at a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture is no mean feat. To this end, Nikon include 2 ED (extra low dispersion) elements, 1 aspherical ED element, 3 aspherical elements, 1 High Refractive Index element and also add Nano Crystal and Fluorine Coatings. These coating processes reduce flare, especially needed with so many optical elements, and in the case of the Fluorine coating repel grease and moisture. The latter makes the front element easier to clean and keep clear of rain drops.

Nikon 24 70mm Rear

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Performance

In terms of sharpness, the lens does indeed deliver across the range. At 24mm results are excellent from the start, peaking at f/8 and only really dropping significantly to very good levels at f/22. The edges do lag behind, but are already approaching very good levels wide open and peaking at around f/11. An overall very impressive performance.

35mm follows this with another impressive performance, excellent throughout and peaking at f/8. Sharpness does dip at f/22 but remains very good. The edges maintain a good to very good level of sharpness, except at f/16 and f/22 where performance falls off, reaching only fair levels at f/22. Nonetheless, still impressive, especially in the centre.

At 70mm sharpness is lower at f/2.8, but still very good. This becomes excellent by f/5.6, peaks at f/8 and maintains this level well at f/11. Again. f/22 sees a drop off in sharpness. The edges are fairly soft at f/2.8, although perhaps in portraiture this could even be an advantage. The sharpness gradually improves and reaches an excellent peak at f/11. There is the expected fall off at f/22, although even here the result is good.

24mm MTF
MTF @ 24mm
35mm MTF
MTF @ 35mm
70mm MTF
MTF @ 70mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. 

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D810 using Imatest.

 

CA (Chromatic Aberration) at 24mm is fairly well controlled at the centre, being well held to less than three quarters of a pixel. The edges are more obvious and there is some colour fringing in tree branches and similar subjects. At 35mm the central CA remains tightly controlled but the edges slip a little further. At 70mm the centre is almost as good and the edges actually come back under control to quite an extent. It can be dealt with in software.

 

24mm CA
CA @ 24mm
 
35mm CA
CA @ 35mm
 
70mm CA
CA @ 70mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic 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 D810 using Imatest.

 

Looking at the results, the bokeh, that is, the rendering of the out of focus areas in an image, is very smooth and pleasant. This gives a very pleasing pictorial quality to images, making the lens ideal for a very wide variety of subject matter.

The VR system proves to be quite correct in its claim to give a 4 stop advantage when hand holding. At 70mm, shots at 1/5s are hopelessly blurred with VR switched off. With VR on, they are sharp and could in isolation be very acceptable. However, at 1/10s they become critically sharp and the difference can be seen. VR seems to work less well at higher shutter speeds, so for action shots it may not be needed and be better switched off. Likewise, on a tripod it may well be better to switch off. In any event VR will be no help with subject movement, but it is of immense value with most hand held shots.

Looking at the optical performance, distortion is quite evident. 24mm measures at -3.73% Barrel distortion. By 35mm this measures +0.68% pincushion and this increases at 70mm to +1.94% pincushion. This is pretty much in line with expectations for a zoom of this type and although the 24mm level is quite noticeable the telephoto end of the scale give fairly acceptable levels. This can of course be addressed in software.

Flare is probably the least satisfactory quality of the lens and results in quite a reduction in contrast and detail when shooting directly into the sun. In less extreme and more normal shots flare levels are manageable and at least do not result in excessive image artifacts. Nikon has overall done well with such a complex lens construction.

The overall optical performance is of a very high standard and should easily satisfy the most critical users.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens is currently priced at £1849, although this may well fall over time. The previous lens is the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S ED at £1199, but personally I feel that the added VR and improved optical design could well be worth the difference.

Alternatives include the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD SP (£679) and the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM (£549).

Looking further afield, for comparison, Canon users would perhaps be looking at the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM lens at £1400. This might indicate that the new Nikon will fall a bit in price yet, which would need to happen for it fall into line more with the others. It could still be worth its premium price.

For more options have a look at to Top 5 Best Nikon Lenses of 2015.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Verdict

This is a very impressive lens and a very desirable choice for Nikon users. It would be nice to add full weather resistance, although there is at least a gasket at the mount to prevent water entering the camera. There is very little to dislike and it would be at the top of my list if I were planning a Nikon camera system.

 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Pros

Excellent sharpness
Beautifully made
Fast and silent AF
Sophisticated and effective VR
Smooth bokeh

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Cons

No weather resistance
Flare into the light
Some edge CA

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR is a very impressive standard zoom lens for the most critical use.

 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
Lens
Focal Length24mm - 70mm
Angle of View34.2 - 84
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size82mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus38cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements20
Groups16
Box Contents
Box ContentsLC-82 82 mm snap-on Front Lens Cap, HB-74 Bayonet Hood, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap, CL-M3 Semi-soft Case
Dimensions
Weight1070g
Height154.5mm

View Full Product Details

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Comments


1 Feb 2016 11:17PM
You tested the original 24-70mm back in 2010. Looking at the sharpness data the MTF was classified as excellent, good, fair, and poor.
Now you are posting the actual MTF value (from 0 - 4000).
To aid some comparison between old and new reviews can you please inform your readers of the numerical values you used to associated with the excellent, good, fair, poor descriptors.

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lemmy 12 2.8k United Kingdom
2 Feb 2016 9:14AM

Quote: The edges are fairly soft at f/2.8, although perhaps in portraiture this could even be an advantage.
That really is looking with rose tinted glasses Grin

If I want soft edges to a portrait, I expect to start with sharp edges and soften them as I wish in post processing, not have the lens make the decision for me. This is a lens costing nearly 2,000, after all.
2 Feb 2016 1:34PM
Fair enough lemmy. Lenses have sometimes been designed with soft wide-open performance deliberately built in, for the purpose of making them suitable for portraits. This especially happened with 85mm lenses. As tastes changed, the lenses were designed to be as sharp as possible wide open as well as stopped down.

I only made the comment as sometimes lens defects can be used to our advantage when it suits the style of what we are trying to do. I suppose if something had to give, then we can accept it at 70mm for some applications. Or not, as we decide, but at least we know the choice is there.

lemmy 12 2.8k United Kingdom
2 Feb 2016 3:48PM
True, and any lenses especially wide ones must compromise somewhere. The 'portrait lenses' you refer to I remember, such is my age! They were cheap, though. This lens seems good but not as good as its price would/ should imply.

The only lens I've used that seems not to have made any compromise is the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8. It's for a smaller format, of course but the optical performance is astounding, excellent sharpness centre and edge at 12mm, plus it is of metal construction and weather sealed.

What is most relevant, though is that its price is not much more than one third of the price of the Nikkor - I would have expected better of a Nikon lens that is on the edge of affordability even for may professionals.

themak 6 1.0k Scotland
2 Feb 2016 4:39PM
Tamron's competition in this focal range is also 1/3 the price and has far less CA.
13 Mar 2016 7:39AM
I have just purchased this lens and so far the image results are outstanding, at least as sharp as the predecessor 24-70 f2.8G and overall IQ seems to be better in nearly all areas, which is quite a feat as the old lens was a real gem and legendary for it's ability. Wide to tele zooms in this focal range are difficult to design for top quality performance at all focal lengths, all apertures and all camera to subject distances, but this lens has delivered the goods. Looks like I will be selling off the G version. Smile

There is one question, you state in "Cons" that it doesn't have weather sealing, but other reviews say that it does and when I contacted Nikon's on-line help, they said that it has weather sealing as well. What is the real answer? I would have thought it was weather sealed like it's predecessor and the fact that it is a pro spec lens.

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