Well suited to full-frame Nikon bodies such as the D700, D3S or D3X, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR features a maximum aperture of f/4 throughout the zoom range, with a minimum of f/22, and boasts an impressive construction of 17 lens elements in 13 lens groups.
To help produce bright, clear and distortion-free images, two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements are used in combination with three Aspherical (AS) lens elements, with the VR abbreviation in its name being the giveaway that this lens is also fitted out with Nikon’s second generation of Vibration Reduction technology – also referred to as VR II. Offering greater compensation for camera movement, the VR II system gives you the flexibility of being able to shoot four stops faster than would otherwise be possible and has become a sought-after feature for many Nikon users working under low-light conditions when shake can be a real cause for concern.
Just beneath the VR On/Off switch you’re given two VR modes. Most of the time you’ll probably use the Normal setting for general hand-held shooting, but on the odd occasion you want to rule out high frequency mechanical vibration, such as when you’re travelling in a moving vehicle, you’re given the option of changing it over to Active.
Weighing 710g, it works out at only 200g lighter than Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S and shares a huge likeness in terms of its high-quality build. The zoom ring is consistently smooth with no indication of stiffness from the widest to the longest end and although the manual focus ring is on the slim side, it’s beautifully weighted for precise and accurate control. The three switches to control AF/MF and VR are all quick to find when the camera is held to the eye and, importantly, they all feature rubber seals to prevent moisture, dust or dirt creeping in to the internals.
Tested with a D3S, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR proved its practicality and versatility in a single shoot. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) did an outstanding job of keeping AF operation quiet and we experienced a superb AF performance to match with no signs of hunting, even when we were shooting at night, which is always a stiff test for any lens and can often reveal its shortcomings.
The impressive performance out in the field was matched by excellent sharp results back on the computer. We found very little, if anything, to grumble about at any focal length when it came to assessing sharpness and were particularly impressed by the definition that was captured at the long end. As for distortion, the lens did exhibit barrel distortion at the wide end and lesser signs of pincushion distortion at full telephoto. These were corrected for in Photoshop CS5 using the Lens Corrections filter, found by going to Filter ‘ Lens Corrections.
Reviewing our wide-angle and telephoto shots for vignetting revealed minor signs at the widest point when shooting wide open and it became more noticeable at 120mm when shooting at f/4, but any vignetting was quickly minimalised in Camera Raw using the Vignetting sliders found under the Lens Corrections tab.
If you’ve made the jump from a Nikon APS-C D-SLR to a full-frame D-SLR and would like to benefit from a 5x zoom that combines a superb build with a good optical performance, this lens makes an excellent case for itself. If you’re looking for something a little faster, though, and don’t think you’d truly benefit from the long end of this zoom, Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED AF-S could make the better alternative, the only drawback being that it costs £240 more.
If we were considering buying a Nikon FX-format D-SLR, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR would definitely be on the shortlist to accompany it. The focal lengths and image quality cover general-purpose shooting, and the build quality serves well for day-to-day use.
- Street price: £849 (As of July 2016)
- Aperture range: f/4-22
- Construction: 17 elements in 13 groups
- Minimum focus distance: 45cm
- Diaphragm blades: 9 (rounded)
- Focusing: AF with built-in SWM and MF
- Filter thread: 77mm
- Dimensions: 84x103.5mm
- Weight: 710g
- Visit: www.nikon.co.uk
This review was first published in the March 2011 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.