Photography News Issue 28 absolutephoto.com
46 First tests
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR £1849
Format Full-frame and APS-C Mount Nikon Construction
20 elements in 16 groups Special lens elements One HRI, three Aspherical, two ED glass elements Coatings Nano Crystal, Super Integrated and Fluorine coating Filter size 82mm Aperture range f/2.8-f/22 Diaphragm 9 blades (electromagnetic) Internal focus Yes Manual focus Yes Minimum focus 38cm (at 35-50mm), 41cm (at 24, 28, 70mm) Focus limiter No Maximummagnification 0.27x Distance scale Yes Depth-of-field scale No Image stabiliser Yes Tripod collar No Lens hood Yes, (HB-74 bayonet hood included) Weather-sealed Yes Dimensions (lxd) 154.5x88mm Weight 1070g Contact nikon.co.uk
When a lens arrives that’s larger and heavier than its predecessor, it’s always a little surprising. The 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, which supersedes the 24-70mm f/2.8G as Nikon’s pro-spec workhorse standard zoom, is one such beast. Being over 2cm longer and 150g heavier than its forebear doesn’t sound like much, but stand them up together and the difference is obvious. The new lens is also wider in diameter, but with the same focal lengths and aperture range, so what’s with all the extra heft? And how does it compare against the older version in a hands-on test? There are two main additions to the design; the first being a hybrid Aspherical Extra-LowDispersion (AS/ ED) element used alongside regular AS and ED glass, to improve optical quality. The second is that the lens now features Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilisation system. Though heavy, the lens handles exceptionally, and, as you’d expect at this price point, feels very sturdy. Away from the zoom and focus rings, the barrel now has a mottled plastic finish, which feels a littlemore grippy, and the set-up is well balanced when twinned with a D810, D4 or similar sized body. A downside of the increased girth is that the filter size has increased to 82mm, so while there was a helpful (and money-saving) commonality between lenses like the 16-35mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8G and 70-200mm f/2.8G at all 77mm, you’ll need a new set of filters if you upgrade.
The zoom ring is deeper and feels more grippy, the benefit being that it fits more naturally under the gripping position of your left hand; making the longer, heavier lens easier to support. The zoom ring takes a little over a 90° turn to shift from one end of the zoom to the other, which I achieved in just over one movement, though it might take longer if you have small hands. The focal length markings have now been moved above the zoom ring, making them easier to see from your shooting position and the focusing ring is excellent, as before, with a light, accurate feel and a slightly shorter travel than the zoom. You can go from near to far in a single turn. Autofocus is excellent and, while the 24-70mm f/2.8G was no slouch, is noticeably faster with a very snappy feel. Twinned with a D800 body I noticed no problems locking on in low- light, and it performed in near silence with Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor. Like the older version, adjustments can be made using the manual focus ring without decoupling the AF. The use of VR in this lens presents a massive advantage. A 24-70mm f/2.8 is meant to be a versatile zoom, capable of shooting in any situation, and image stabilisation only strengthens that position. Using Nikon’s second generation VR, the lens offers up to four stops of compensation, and when shooting at 70mm, I achieved sharp shots all the way down to around 1/15sec and even slower; my hit rate at
1/4sec was about 50%, which is very impressive. Through the viewfinder, youget a tangible feeling of theVR, and when it kicks it feels as though an extra hand is supporting the lens. Optically, performance is very good and at 24mm and f/2.8 sharpness only fell off in the corners slightly. The best results were seen at f/8 and there it was also was sharpest in the corners, outperforming the older lens throughout. At 50mm and f/2.8, sharpness is again very good, but it’s not quite as crisp as the older lens at this setting, nor at its sharpest f/5.6, although the performance in the corners is better on the new model. At 70mm and f/2.8, the lens displayed a good sharpness level, and while it was outperformed by the f/2.8G in the middle, it was better across the frame as a whole. This pattern held until f/16 when results evened out. Centre sharpness at 70mmwas best at f/5.6. The new lens did a better job overall controlling fringing and flare – there
was little or none detected. And while distortion was minimal, the vignetting is quite noticeable when shooting wide open; this was true of the f/2.8G, too, but it’s more pronounced here. KS Left Optically, this standard zoom is very strong and consistently good across the frame. Vignetting is obvious at f/2.8 but this goes with stopping down.
Yes, the 24-70mm f/2.8E VR is a large and heavy lens, but so are the camera bodies it’s designed for, and it balances well with excellent handling, so that shouldn’t take prospective users by surprise or put them off. It’s not cheap and extra outlay will likely be required in equipping users with 82mm filters – but again, that’s unlikely to offend the target market. Bargain hunters, though, should be on the look out for the older lens when it’s reduced in the wake of the new model. Image quality is very good overall, and the VR and focusing speed are exceptional.
Features It adds VR to the potent mix of the fast maximum aperture and SWM
Performance AF speed and VR are impressive and it’s optically very good, too
Handling Smooth controls, effective VR both plus points; bigger filter size a slight minus 22/25
Value for money You certainly get what you pay for – excellent build and great performance
Overall An excellent lens, but not a vital upgrade from the oldmodel, unless you want the minor increase in overall image quality and (admittedly brilliant) VR. Pros Image quality, focusing speed, handling, Vibration Reduction Cons Size and weight may offend some, vignetting wide open, large filters 91/100
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