Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 with or without VR?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by RaymondC, Nov 19, 2017.

  1. I know that the VR doesn't stop action. For you guys have you encountered situations where VR was useful? I mainly would use a lens like this for portraits ie group shots and 1 or 2 people etc indoors at a function room or a dimly lit restaurant, inside a church etc. I could see it can be useful journalistic or walkabout style right without a tripod under low light.

    Just pondering about this idea, as the 24-70 without VR can be quite a bit cheaper now, for now I am just making do with a 35-70 F2.8 as it's not my main photog topic. The VR's larger filter thread my Cokin P would probably not be usable so it's gonna be a filter'less shooting ie - events, people etc....

  2. No comments one way or another on VR, but something worth mentioning in the discussion is that the VR version is also an "E" lens. For many folks, this isn't an issue, but if you want to use it on any film cameras or older DSLR bodies(I forget the cut-off-I think it will work on anything made since 2008 or so) you can only use it at full aperture.

    I admit that I'm a bit prejudiced against fast mid-range zooms. I love my 24-85 3.5-4.5 VR, but it's a nice small lightweight lens. I'd rather carry 2 or 3 even faster primes than a heavy 2.8 mid-range zoom, but that's me.
  3. Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC? (I have the previous version. Not perfect at f/2.8, but good, and much smaller than the Nikkors.)
  4. So am I. Especially given their price which for me is not in line with their performance characteristics at all. These lenses seem to be the bread and butter for PJs and event photographers, but they do entail optical compromises especially when used wide open (which isn't all that fast to begin with). A recent comparison give the highest marks to the Nikon 24-70 E VR with the Tamron 24-70 VC not all that far behind (especially considering it only cost half as much). The just released Sigma 24-70 Art is said to not be worthy of the ART moniker given its rather mediocre performance.

    Stopped down the f/2.8 zooms perform better than most other mid-range zooms though - and one only needs to deal with the limited focal length range, high price and heavy weight.
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Maybe I'm missing something, and I still love fast lenses, but with the (now) available and previously unimagined ISO, how much difference does a couple of stops make? Not picking a fight, just asking. I am constantly amazed with low light shots, at the difference between what I saw through the viewfinder and what I see in the captured image.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2017
  6. Well, the difference is a couple of stops ;)
    If (and that's a big if) DOF at the faster aperture isn't going to get in the way; the one or two stops in shutter speed gain can make the difference in freezing motion or the faster aperture allows a lower ISO with better DR and less noise. And if (another big one) LoCA doesn't kill the shot taken at the faster aperture. A brighter viewfinder can aid composition and help AF performance (though there is the issue that AF may actually have to slow down for the larger aperture lens to ensure accurate focusing).
  7. I didn't used to like mid-range zooms either, I felt the 35-70/2.8 was comparatively bulky (at the time! Today it is seen as a compact lens for an f/2.8 zoom) and not as good at f/2.8 as the 50/1.8 or other similar primes. I did find that lens excellent at f/5.6 but I would have preferred a bit more zoom range. The 28-70/2.8 was even larger and more expensive and I could not afford it at the time. The 17-55/2.8 DX was a nice lens in that it provided a good focal range and pleasing imagery (particularly I liked the way it rendered portraits) but it was prolific in ghosting in night scenes and there was some field curvature at the wide end. The 24-70/2.8G solved the ghosting problem (thanks in part to nano coating) and was sharper wide open, but it had a lot of field curvature at 24mm which meant it was tough to get everyone sharp in group shots so I had to use a prime for those. I was using the 24-70/2.8G for many years until the 24-70/2.8E came about.

    The E version has (1) flatter field at 24mm and generally (2) better sharpness in the edges and corners of the frame than the G version. I've had no problem getting even sharpness in a group shot with the E without having to stop down excessively. I often have to do groups of 10-25 people indoors and prefer to include some window light so I stop down to f/4 and use an intermediate ISO and typically bounced flash. For me the flatness of field of the E version is its most significant advantage over the G version. Other advantages include (3) faster AF, (4) smoother zoom ring rotation and an impression of more rugged build, (5) less color fringing in out of focus corners (this was an issue in outdoor portraits with the G version), (6) generally nicer out-of-focus rendering, (7) more contrasty images and vivid colors, and (8) VR. I don't really need VR at these focal lengths often but occasionally it helps a bit. For example when taking an overview of a large interior, the people in the frame are usually quite small, and thus their movement may not be an issue even when using a slightly longer exposure time to get more depth of field at a lower ISO can help maintain good image quality and dynamic range.Personally I am happier in general with fast shutter speeds and would not have paid extra to get VR in such a short focal length lens but now that I have it I do take advantage of it occasionally. However, if you need to save money the 24-70/2.8G is prolifically available on the second hand market and may do the job fine. However, if you shoot a medium to large group I would not recommend the G version as a first choice. If you do that, be prepared to stop down a lot and expect some variation in sharpness between center and outer areas of the shot. The 14-24/2.8, 24/1.4, or 24-70/2.8E do a much better job of capturing groups at 24mm. (I realize 24mm may not be the ideal focal length for groups aesthetically, it's just that in practice it has been what I've often had to use due to constraints of available space.)

    In short, I'd be using the G version if the E didn't exist and probably not complain a lot, but I do find the E version better and if money is not an issue I can recommend it; if you are not concerned about the field curvature at 24mm, the G version is almost as good (and may have a slight center sharpness advantage at some focal lengths). I have not used the Sigma or Tamron versions.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2017
  8. I routinely have to shoot indoor events in lighting conditions that give f/1.4, 1/200s, ISO 6400 (or one stop darker) and if I were to use an f/2.8 lens I would have to increase the ISO to 12800 and subject my images to some subject movement blur at 1/100s or sometimes 1/50s. I often take photos during speeches and am looking for strong facial expressions and don't like blurred facial features on the speaker. Hands are often moving vividly as well. ISO 12800 may give acceptable results but the images look "thin" and not as rich in tone as those captured at lower ISOs. Thus in those circumstances although I could get away with a 24-70/2.8 in emergency I prefer to use f/1.4 or f/1.8. However, if there is more light I typically do use the 24-70/2.8E a lot of the time at events. It gives the benefits of zoom, very fast AF, and is a balanced lens which produces pleasing image quality consistently. For action (such as dance in low light) the 24-70/2.8E by far outperforms other lenses I've used (in its focal range) in terms of autofocus. I continue to have a lot of application for wider aperture lenses but I am always glad to pick up the 24-70/2.8E because it is a lens I trust.

    I don't find there to be any "performance" issue with the 24-70/2.8E at all, it focuses faster than any of my other lenses in its range, and the image quality is among the best as well, in my experience. It provides function of allowing a group of people (or an environmental portrait of a person) to be photographed along with portraits of individuals, as is often needed when photographing people. It is also the lens I would use when documenting a place with limited space to move, for example I used a 24-70 when photographing a steam powered harbor ice breaker, it could be used to document details as well as larger views in the boat. Indoors the wide aperture permitted hand held photography of the engine room. At that time the lens didn't have VR which would likely have slightly improved the results. In terms of usefulness the 24-70/2.8E easily occupies the #1 spot among my lenses. It may not be as sharp as the 70-200/2.8 E FL but the difference is not of material significance to me especially since I'm not likely to crop images from the shorter zoom significantly (I will simply use a longer lens). I never liked superwide angle zooms because they do not permit me to zoom to the quintessential short tele where I take many (perhaps most) of my photographs. I do not like dangling two cameras around at the same time as I would not be able to keep them from bumping into stuff while working.
  9. It's the difference between a decent amount of subject separation for an emergency portrait at 70mm and very little. On longer lenses, it's the difference between losing the background entirely and having it fairly visible (e.g. my 200 f/2 wide open vs my 70-200 stopped down to f/4 for sharpness). It's the difference between ISO 3200 and ISO 12800, which is significant in noise on a D810. It's the difference between ISO 100 and ISO 400, which is two stops of shadow recovery. It's 1/50s vs 1/200s for freezing a subject, or 1/10s vs 1/40s for hand-holding.

    You can't always use a paper-thin depth of field, and fast lenses are rarely at their best wide open (a lot of aberrations get worse with aperture - one reason larger sensors have a bit of an advantage in quality at the same light gathering/depth of field). But there's a reason I throw money at fast glass.

    It's also why my 24-70 f/2.8 Tamron gets a lot more use than my 24-120 f/4 Nikkor. (Although that's had a lot more use recently because I don't know where my 82mm polariser has gone.)
  10. Initially I thought having VR on a midrange zoom would be a bit useless, but it does come in useful for static scenes (or mostly static anyway). I've found VR quite effective, and generally I prefer it over bumping the ISO up if possible, as the negative effect of VR on those kind of images is quite nill, while higher ISOs can cause visible problems (loss of dynamic range as well as noise). I wouldn't say it's a must-have for me, but it is added value.

    (then, none of this is based on any f/2.8 midrange zoom - I do prefer the combination of a slow zoom with faster primes, but for a PJ, wedding/event photographer etc. I can easily see the f/2.8 midrange zoom being the bread and butter of the business)
    Landrum Kelly and Andrew Garrard like this.
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Any 24-70mm/f2.8 zoom is for FX, and all Nikon FX DSLRs are fully compatible with E lenses. Compatibility really shouldn't be an issue for DSLRs.

    For those who still shoot film, even the older 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S without VR is a G lens, and any Nikon film SLR before the F5 is going to have a lot of limitations anyway. Only a few late film SLRs such as the F5, F6, and F100 are fully compatible with G but not E.

    To me, E is the future. Any future Nikon mirrorless cameras are unlikely going to have the mechanical aperture control, similar to all Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras. If you adapt any G or earlier lens to mirrorless, most likely you'll need an adapter with a build-in motor to mechanically control the aperture.

    To me, the main limitations for the new 24-70mm/f2.8 E AF-S VR are its price as well as size and weight. It is heavy enough that I probably won't go hiking with it.
  12. I wonder if Nikon will ever modify the F6 for E lenses?
  13. And scupper the chances of everyone upgrading to the F7?

    I was surprised that Nikon made the Df. I'll be much more surprised if the F6 gets any updates. At this point I'm not clear whether someone is still employed part time to make them on demand, or whether Nikon has a cupboard full of them that they dust occasionally.

    Not, I should stress, that I find the newly-announced film camera kickstarters any more appealing (especially at the price) - partly because I believe they won't play properly with E (or even G) lenses.
  14. An F7 would be a pleasant suprise, but I don't expect it. I hope a few F6s are being produced but haven't seen any recent information.
  15. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    I have been toying with the idea of getting one, there are plenty available on line in condition anywhere from new to parts.
  16. On the behalf of the old version (G) : I use the same lens for almost 10 years , with more than one million pictures taken , and zero problems . I doubt the VR in the new version will last so long. I'm maybe unlucky, but I return my "E" version due to lack of sharpness and size/weight unpleasant personal feeling ; and now, reading above comments, I think that I should give'it another try !? The field curvature at 24mm was never been a problem for me, but barrel distorsion from 24mm to 35 mm , it was. The sharpness at F2,8 is amazing with just enough depth of field , focus fast and precise but the zoom ring rotation was not so smooth as the one from "E" version or 70-200 F2,8/F4 zooms. Never had the chance to observe the other optical differences between the "G" and "E" versions but I'm sure Ilkka is right...
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2017
  17. I'm shooting different brands but would want the VR, arguing it should conquer 1/60 sec for me.
    Suggested proofs of concept: Do your own marksmanship test; find a resolution target and compare hand holding attempts of 1/60 - 1/500 sec with or at 50mm.
    Maybe repeat the entire thing after raising your coffee tide and doing 5 star jumps before each shot.
    IMHO 1/60 at 50mm shouts for VR at full resolution. - You can get away with it for somewhat acceptable HD stills / 4x6" prints. If your light permitts 1/250 at f2.8 and you are going to frame a 2nd person, you 'd be most likely better off with 1/60 & f5.6 to get the 2nd face into DOF.
    I did my share of shooting events wide open and believe coworkers friends and family would be happier with more faces in focus. f2.8 & wider seem for picking one face at a time, at least with 50+x mm on FF.
    AF & framing aren't instant. - People notice smile, pose and freeze. - Spray & pray is quite easily done when you don't have to wait for your flash to recharge and a motion blurred hand feels more acceptable than an OOF face to me. - YMMV. - I think folks synced their flash bulbs at 1/30 in the old days?
  18. My bad, I should have been more specific - I have not tried the E version and was referring to the older non-VR G version. Which, until Nikon came out with the AF-S f/1.8 prime lenses certainly did better than the older AF-D f/2.8 primes available. And provides better optical quality than any of the cheaper mid-range zooms that Nikon offers - albeit, as already mentioned, at the expense of high cost and heavy weight as well as a limited range (which to me, in form of the 17-55, was the largest detriment in using the lens for general walk-around).

    I am certain that if I would do more of this type of shooting, a 24-70/2.8 would certainly be my first choice too as juggling three or four primes (24, 35, 50, 85) instead doesn't sound to appealing an alternative.
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    It is one thing if you shoot portraits or some still subjects inside a studio. A lot of situations are dynamic and we need to change focal lengths quickly, such as weddings, parties, news, sports .... That is why the 24-70mm/f2.8 has so much appeal to pros. Perhaps I can carry two bodies simultaneously, one with a 24-70 and the other 70-200. Having 3, 4 fixed lenses doesn't make much sense in plenty of situations.

    There is no doubt that the 24-70mm/f2.8 E VR is expensive and heavy. It is an excellent lens, but it is going to be just a bit better than some third-party lens that may cost half as much. If one is after value for the money, definitely go for something less expensive.
  20. Are you comparing the zoom action of the E version to your older G sample that has seen more use or are you comparing two brand new samples?
    How do you define better in this case? Granted you wrote some third-party lenses. According to DxOMark some third-party lenses are optically better. Both the Tokina AT-X 24-70 F2.8 PRO FX and Tamron's SP 24-70 F2.8 Di VR USD get higher DxOMark Scores and higher points for sharpness than both Nikon 24-70s do on the D810. Surprisingly the E version scores lower than the G version, which is contrary to most other comparisons of the two.

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