Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Review

4.0
December 4, 2012 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR is a new standard zoom lens that can be used with both full-frame FX and cropped DX Nikon DSLR cameras. Featuring a constant maximum aperture of f/3.5, the Nikon 24-85mm is an affordable partner for new DSLRs like the D800 and D600. Read our full Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/4G ED VR review to find out if it's a bargain or not...

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR is a new FX-format zoom lens. Weighing in at 465 grams, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR features an inner focusing mechanism, with autofocus controlled by a Silent Wave Motor (SWM). The optical formula comprises 16 elements in 11 groups, including 1 ED and 3 aspherical lens elements. The minimum focus distance is 38cm from the focal plane at all focal lengths. Also featuring an iris diaphragm with 7 rounded blades for a pleasing bokeh, the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR takes 72mm filters and comes with an HB-63 lens hood and a CL-1118 soft pouch as standard. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens is available now priced at around £520 in the UK and $600 in the USA.

Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR lens mounted to a Nikon D600 body

Weighing 465g, the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR is significantly lighter and more compact than most of Nikon's other pro-level standard zoom lenses. We found that it balanced well on the Nikon D600 body and proved to not be too much of a burden when used all day long.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR, isometric view

Build quality is similar to the majority of Nikon lenses we have tested so far. Most exterior parts are made of plastic, but that doesn't stop the lens from feeling solid and substantial in the hand.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR, isometric view

Zooming is not internal, with the front extending somewhat upon zooming to 110mm. The ribbed zoom ring is sufficiently wide and neither too stiff nor too loose. Zoom creep is not an issue. The lens accepts filters via a standard 72mm thread around the – non-rotating – front lens element, which is great news for those who like to use polarisers or ND grads. The Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR ships with the HB-63 bayonet hood, but it wasn't provided to us for this review.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR alongside the D600

In terms of features, the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR has quite a lot to offer. It has an internal focus (IF) mechanism and a Silent Wave Motor, allowing you to use manual focus even when you are in auto-focus mode (denoted with the usual M/A sign on the lens barrel). It also features Vibration Reduction (VR), which offers a generous 4-stops of compensation.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR

There is a distance scale sheltered behind a window, but there are no depth-of-field marks and no infrared focus index either.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRRear of the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRIsometric view of the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR in-hand

The lens is not claimed to be weatherproof, but there is a rubber seal around the lens mount that should provide basic dust protection.

Focal Range

One of the main attractions of this lens is the versatile focal range that goes from ultra-wideangle to moderate telephoto.

At the 24mm end of the zoom range, the angle of view is 84°.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRField of view at 24mm

At the 85mm end, the angle of view narrows to 28° 30'.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRField of view at 85mm

Focusing

In Spot AF mode, the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR lens focuses fairly quickly but not instantly. Switch your camera to Continuous AF though, and you'll be surprised at how well it copes with fast-moving subjects. Thanks to a Silent Wave Motor, auto focus operation is very quiet, and instant manual-focus override is available at all times. The ridged focus ring is quite slim but is entirely adequate for the job. It requires an approximately 90° turn to get from the close-focus point to infinity. Note that there is no hard stop at either end of the range.

Distortion

A zoom lens that goes out to 24mm is bound to suffer from noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end, and the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR is certainly no exception.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

The good news is that this barrelling rapidly decreases upon zooming in a little, becoming essentially imperceptible once you get past the 35mm mark. The bad news is that it quickly turns into heavy pin-cushioning, which you will easily notice at around 50mm at the latest. The pincushion distortion remains strong across the rest of the zoom range – the example below was taken at a focal length of 85mm.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Fortunately, both types of distortion are fairly easy to correct in post-processing.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, can be noticed in photos taken at maximum aperture but they aren't too excessive, and tend to go away upon stopping down.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Light Fall-off

With the lens set to its maximum aperture, you can see some heavy light fall off in the corners at all focal lengths, and especially at the extremes of the zoom range (see the Distortion shots above for an example). Stopping down reduces the phenomenon, especially at the long end.

Macro

The Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR lens has a close-focus point of 38cm throughout its zoom range (measured from the sensor plane rather than the front lens element). Nikon claims a maximum magnification of 0.22x at the telephoto end.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRClose-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. In the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR lens, Nikon employed an iris diaphragm with 7 rounded blades for a more pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus areas – however, they succeeded only partially, as we have found the bokeh to be quite “nervous” at times.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
   
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.

Entry Tags

review, lens, nikon, 24mm, zoom, standard, nikkor, f3.5, aperture, 85mm, constant, f4.5, 24-85mm, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR, 24-85

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