Nikon 24-85mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S VR Early Impressions

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by shuncheung, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    This lens was announced 11 days ago along with the 18-300mm DX lens: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00aV9s. Nikon was very quick sending photo.net a test sample. I have used it for a few days. Since there seems to be some interest in this lens, I am posting some of my first impressions. We also had a brief discussion on this entire thread: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00aWsd
    This new 24-85mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S VR essentially is the VR replacement of an earlier lens with the same zoom range and aperture specifications but without vibration reduction. I used to have that older version that I bought 10 years ago in 2002 for about $300. That old version was very popular back then. Nikon prices have gone up quite a bit in the last few years due to the rising yen, and this new VR version is $600.
    Other than that price increase, the new version is generally similar to the old version and there are few surprises:
    • The new 24-85mm is a plastic barrel and is quite light. Construction quality is very typical consumer grade but with a metal mount and an A/M switch; i.e. you can manually override AF without first switching the lens to manual focus.
    • Similar to its predecessor, sharpness is very good throughout its zoom range. I have tried this lens on the very demanding 36MP D800 and D800E, and sharpness is still fine on those cameras.
    • Geometric distortion is quite pronounced, as its predecessor. As expected, you get quite serious barrel distortion at 24mm. It switches over the pincushion distortion around 35mm. From 50mm to 85mm, pincushion distortion is very obvious. Unlike 10 years ago when most people were still using 35mm film, today, such distortion is not difficult to correct in post processing and sometimes automatically in camera.
    • Auto focus speed is decent. Under dim light or on subjects with little contrast, AF with the 24-85 VR tends to hunt noticeably more than the faster 24-70mm/f2.8.
    • Chromatic aberration is well controlled.
    • Last but not least, VR is indeed helpful indoors with slow shutter speeds, but that is not exactly news.
    I'll continue to use this lens in the next month and prepare a review for photo.net. Personally, I already have the earlier 28-70mm/f2.8 AF-S and the 24-120mm/f4 AF-S VR, I have no need of another mid-range zoom. I prefer the 24-120 for its wider range on the long end, but that is also considerably bigger and more expensive.
    [​IMG]

    Size Comparison
    00aXdz-476893584.jpg
     
  2. Thank you for this Shun.
    It all looks good, but the photographic price we pay is some geometric distortion. However, for many casual subjects, this is not a big concern. And as you mentioned, it can be fixed after the fact when it is noticeable.
     
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    No problem, Dan. Since you have pre-ordered this lens, when you receive it, please also post your own impressions here. You may be using it quite differently from the way I use these lenses, and you may have other observations.
    But generally speaking, this is a good consumer zoom; strengths and weaknesses for this type of Nikon lenses are quite well known. IMO there are few surprises here.
    Again, when it was announced two weeks ago, Nikon USA expected that it will become available around June 28, which is merely a few days away.
    I stopped by my local post office and captured an image of these mailboxes at 24mm on the FX-format D700. Barrel distortion is quite serious. In PhotoShop, since this is a brand new model, auto correction is not available yet, but it is not difficult to remove most of the distortion manually.
    00aXez-476907584.jpg
     
  4. Thanks for your early impressions Shun. I still own the original AF-S 24~85mm f/3.5-4.5 and use it daily on DX format (and prior to that on an F100). The older lens has held it's value very well since being discontinued, with used samples frequently selling for $250 and up, which is about what I paid for a Nikon USA factory refurbished demo quite a few years ago.
    Not sure that I want to fork out double the price just for the added benefit of VR however, so I'll probably not update. But it's nice to see this lens return to the lineup. Was always puzzled why it was discontinued in the first place.
     
  5. At least it's not mustache distortion, which I believe was the case with the 2002 24-85 that came with my D100, IIRC.
     
  6. I've been using the 24-85AFS (old version) on my D700 for some time as a compact/light weight walk around lens on vacations or for hikes/backpacking. It's very very good with my only issue being light fall-off at the long end when shot against deep blue sky.
    The new version looks like a worthy replacement due to not only the addition of VR, but it appears from the MTF data that it's potentially a bit sharper. All for a very modest increase in size (a little longer) and weight (just a tad heavier). Hopefully the build quality is still the same or a bit better.
    When I get mine I'll be doing a direct side-by-side comparison using my new D800.
    John
     
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I too had the old version of 24-85 AF-S once upon a time, but after I got my 28-70mm/f2.8 AF-S, I sold the 24-85 for like $200 several years ago. Therefore, I no longer have one for side-by-side comparison. Again, for those of you who are getting this lens, by all means please post your experience here when you receive it.
    If I recall correctly, the zoom ring on the old version was a bit loose. This new version feels a little more solid. This new lens is a consumer zoom with a decent build. It is not going to feel like a 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II or 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S, but it is a good, solid lens that is reasonably compact.
    As Jose noticed on the other thread, the included HB-63 lens hood is rather deep. If you mount the hood on the lens in the reverse position for storage, it'll cover up the zoom ring to a dregee that it is hard to access the zoom. Moreover, as you can see, the 24-85 VR has a front element that is close to the rim and is rather prone to scratching. I don't want to restart the protection filter debate so please don't debate about that again, but if you tend to get protection filters, this lens is a good candidate. Of course, that deep hood will also protect this lens quite well.
    The 24-85mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S VR accepts 72mm front filters, up from 67mm (as I recall) on the old non-VR version.
    00aXh5-476945584.jpg
     
  8. You`re right, the older version has a 67mm filter thread.
    ---
    I think this lens will be the main competitor for the 24-120/4... being much lighter and smaller, it could be the perfect lens for casual trip and everyday shooting.
    I`m so pleased with the longer range and constant aperture of the f4 (which I had been waiting for a long time) so I`m not so excited about this one. Anyway, I think performance could be on pair.
    I`m still owner of the first version, which was very appealing to me, not only for the size&weight and performance but also for the price; I find so relaxing to go to harsh environments with a cheap lens on the camera. This one is not as cheap, but still cheaper than most other options. Maybe this is the reason of being the latest to be released.
    Now it`s the turn for the longer lenses.
     
  9. I don't want to start a speculation thread, but I will note that if the D600 comes to fruition, this new 24-85 VR is the obvious kit lens. In fact, Nikon doesn't have any other lens that would make sense to kit with a popularly priced FF body.
    I predict great commercial success for Nikon with this new lens.
     
  10. I just compared my old version to your pictures Shun and it certainly appears that the new front element is larger and just as exposed as the old one. Just for comparison I threw the hood on it and it too covers up the zoom ring mostly, though you can just grab it with your fingers if they are not too large (mine are average). I've never used the hood with mine anyways.
    I also checked out the zoom ring and mine is not loose at all - it's just about right - as with many things mechanical it may wear into being very loose with age. Mine was bought used but looked like it had just come off the Nikon assembly line.
    I have the new version on order (ordered it moments after it was available from B&H) so hopefully I'll get one in a couple of weeks. I'll do a comparison for sure and post it here.
    John
     
  11. This may be a dumb question, buy why doesn't Nikon make their "consumer" line of lenses with a constant f4 aperture rather than a variable 3.5~4.5? When I was a teenager my step dad bought a new Minolta Maxxum 7000 with a 35-70 f4; it was compact, light, reasonable priced, and had great optics. Would Nikon's lenses be that much larger and/or more expensive with a constant f4?
     
  12. Would Nikon's lenses be that much larger and/or more expensive with a constant f4?​
    It appears that a variable aperture zoom can indeed be produced cheaper than a constant aperture one. Besides, f/3.5-f/4.5 isn't a big variation and the deviation from constant f/4 is so small that I consider an f/3.5-f/4.5 as "nearly constant". The new 24-85/3.5-4.5 is a good deal cheaper than the 24-120/4, and the same is true for the 10-24/3.5-4.5 vs 12-24/4. Whether variable or constant aperture, the entrance pupil diameter on either zoom will have to change as the focal length changes - but apparently to a lesser extent on the variable aperture zoom.
     
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Nikon does have two constant f4 zooms: 16-35mm/f4 AF-S VR and 24-120mm/f4 AF-S VR; the latter is the right-most lens in the image of four zoom at the top of this thread. There is still no 70-200mm/f4 AF-S VR yet.
    When you need to maintain a constant f2.8 or f4 aperture, the lens needs to be bigger as you need a larger front element to maintain that aperture at the maximum focal length. If you can get away with progressively smaller maximum aperture when you zoom to the long end, the lens can be smaller. That is a design trade off.
    Attached is another sample image with the 24-85mm AF-S VR zoomed to 80mm, wide open at f4.5. We were inside a dark restaurant so that I used ISO 6400 on the D800E, hand held. There is plenty of noise at ISO 6400 and you lose sharpness, but it shows the lens is still very sharp. The D800E gives you a lot of room to downsample.
    I printed this image to 8.5x11"; while it is clear from the print that it wasn't captured at base ISO 100, I am quite happy with the result.
    00aXt5-477169584.jpg
     
  14. First, let me say that I do appreciate your testing and reporting on the new lenses. However, I think the ISO 6400 crop is so noisy it's quite hard to perceive how it would look in a "normal size" print. Yes, there is some detail, but there is also a huge amount of noise and any method that will reduce the noise will also affect the detail somewhat. The problem with D800 100% crops is that they are such small sections of a typical print that it's hard to put them into perspective! :) Maybe a 50% crop more realistically portraits the effect seen in a print. At least I never print images shot at ISO 6400 at bigger than 5x7 or 8x10 (my high ISO images are typically of concert, wedding, or academic events and collections of 4x6 or 5x7 prints are usually the output).
    Anyway, I don't want to try to tell you what to do but I think the 50% crop would be informative when viewing D800 images shot at high ISO on the web. For low to medium ISO (up to about ISO 1000) I think 100% view can be ok also from the quality point of view, but still the "zoom factor" is so great that it puts my head spinning when I try to visualize the crop in the whole image.
     
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Ilkka, this thread is more about the 24-85mm VR lens than the D800/D800E, but I am reasonably happy with ISO 6400 results from those cameras, after down sampling, better than what I can get from the D700. As I said, I printed that particular image to 8.5 x 11. Now I am in the moring at 8:30am, I looked at it again with daylight and it is pretty good. The bigger issue is the lost of contrast and dynamic range at ISO 6400, rather than noise. But if I have a choice, I would still use ISO 1600 or 3200 instead of 6400.
    My point is that even at ISO 6400, the girl's hair is still very clear, showing the sharpness of this lens wide open at 80mm. I have only had this lens for a few days. After another couple of weeks, I should have more sample choices. And again, when others receive theirs, please post your impressions as well.
     
  16. I need a zoom equivalent starting from 28 mm FOV. And the 16-85 is out of stock everywhere. I think Nikon has apparently abandoned the prosumers for the DX and likely will not invest in good lenses for DX. They will likely focus on FF or 18-200, 18-300 types. (If I were to speculate the future is FF and CX and they will milk DX with D3200 and kit lenses as long as they can)
    That being said, I am willing to get 24-85 so it becomes a good usable 36-128 mm eq. on D7000 and if I could reuse it on the D600 or other affordable FX a few years down the line.

    Of course this still leaves a gap on D7000 between 28-36 mm...a 24 mm DX prime would be HEAVEN but looks unlikely
    (I am not sure whether 3rd parties 17-50 f2.8 make better sense than 24-85 for DX. On paper at least they do since they satisfy the 28 mm eq. requirement but the image quality lags 16-85, as does weather sealing and build).
    So far I only use the 35 mm DX and rarely use the 50 mm AF-D. The latter isn't as good on D7000 as it was on D70. Plus 75 mm eq. FOV gets too long except for single portraits.
    Would this be an excellent lens for D7000?
     
  17. Personally the big issue for me would be how the 24-85 VR stacks up to the 24-120 f/4 in IQ over the same range.
     
  18. Gurpreet, the 16-85 DX and 17-55 DX are good choices for DX. If the item is not in stock you can place an order and most likely it will be delivered in a few weeks.
     
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Personally the big issue for me would be how the 24-85 VR stacks up to the 24-120 f/4 in IQ over the same range.​
    First of all, I haven't tested these two lenses that thoroughly side by side, but given the "first impression" context of this thread, I would say that is not an issue I would worry about.
    Both of these lenses have good sharpness throughout the zoom range; distortion is pretty serious in both cases, but in these days, it is not difficult to correct that in post processing. Chromatic aberration is not much of an issue.
    The reason I posted that ISO 6400 image from the D800E is that a typical usage of these lenses is hand held indoor situations. Noise from high ISO is going to rob a lot of the sharpness at the pixel level anyway. Therefore, IMO it is unnecessary to focus too much on sharpness. If you need very sharp images, I would put the camera on a tripod and stop down to f5.6, f8.
    Therefore, the main tradeoffs between the new 24-85mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S VR and the 24-120mm/f4 AF-S VR boil down to:
    1. Price: the 24-120 is almost $1300, over twice as expensive as the 24-85
    2. Size and weight: the size difference is shown in the first image on this thread. The 24-120 uses 77mm filters, the 24-85 72mm.
    3. Zoom range: personally I prefer to have the additional 85 to 120 range
    4. Constant f4 vs. variable f3.5 to 4.5, not a huge difference.
    1, 2, and 3 above are the main differences. I prefer the 24-120, but your preference may vary; that is why Nikon makes both versions.
     
  20. I would also suspect that the 24-120 has significantly better build quality and sealing than the 24-85.
     
  21. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Dan, I have all of those lenses right in front of me. The 24-70mm/f2.8 definitely has better build as its barrel is metal with rubber and plastic around it, but it is also the biggest and heaviest so that it demands better construction. I would say the 24-120 and 24-85 have similar build quality.
    Not that it makes a big difference, the 24-70 is made in Japan, 24-120 Thailand, and 24-85 China.
    I bought my 24-120 back in 2010 when Nikon had a $300 rebate when I bought it along with the D7000. The current price is very close to the $1300 initial MSRP.
     
  22. I would also suspect that the 24-120 has significantly better build quality and sealing than the 24-85.
    I disagree; they're about the same. The 24-85 VR I tried today didn't have any wobble of the projected image when autofocus is activated whereas the image projected by the 24-120/4 I used to have nudged significantly to the right when AF was activated and then returned, which was not a big concern, but it was distracting and didn't give an impression of good build quality. The focus ring gave a "geary" feel. Otherwise there was nothing wrong with its build. The 24-85 VR has smooth MF action though there is a bit of play in the initiation.
    I think one of the main applications for this type of lens is outdoor walkaround photography and travel photography. The 24-85 VR balances nicely with the D800 in contrast to the 24-70 which points down, making it less comfortable to carry the camera on the neck (since the lower edge rather the back panel of the camera body is then against the photographer's stomach). For travel photography, sharpness is important as many people take their best images when they're traveling and a lot of people actually buy cameras to be able to document what they see.
    I took some images with the 24-85 VR and 24-70. The 24-70 has better sharpness towards the edges but in the center it's quite close.
    00aYQy-477785584.jpg
     
  23. 24-70 100% crop from the railing in the lower part of the image in the center (contrast detect AF used).
    00aYQz-477787584.jpg
     
  24. 24-85 VR from the same area.
    00aYR2-477789584.jpg
     
  25. Sorry for the mismatch in crop image size. Here is a part of the edge of the image so you can see an area where there is more significant difference. 24-70 first, again 24mm focal length, f/8.
    00aYR5-477791584.jpg
     
  26. And 24-85 VR again top edge.
     
  27. Here is the image.
    I took images at different apertures and focal lengths with both lenses and my overall impression was that the quality of the images in the center was very similar, but towards the edges and also at f/3.5-f/4.5 apertures the 24-85 VR produced a bit lower quality image. However, since these images are 100% crops of 36MP images, the details are very small in the print and the differences are hardly worth making a fuss about. I think this is good performance from a lens of this price class and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to people who need this type of a lens. Certainly performance has improved much from the days of 28-105's on F100 bodies.
    00aYRA-477795584.jpg
     
  28. The lens I pre-ordered shipped today, 6/28, so the early forecast from Nikon was spot-on. Should have it early next week.
     
  29. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Ilkka, since your subject is not at all flat and parallel to the sensor plane, it is a bit difficult to tell, but I am glad that you also find sharpness to be good on the new 24-85 VR.
    Here is another sample I captured. I focused to the area indicated by the yellow circle to get front/back sharpness at 24mm, f8. Sharpness is very good. I cropped a 700x700 are as indicated by the yellow square. Since the right side of the building was directly facing the sun, you can see some chromatic aberration under the serious magnification from the D800. But I am glad that the new 24-85 VR still stands up quite well under the scrutiny of 36MP.
    Dan, I am looking forward to hearing about your impression.
    00aYaB-477931584.jpg
     
  30. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Pixel-level crop
    00aYaD-477931684.jpg
     
  31. I received my 24-85mm /f3.5-4.5G AF-S VR Nikkor today.
    I true NAS gear-hound pixel peeper fashion, I ran straight out and took some non-creative pictures to see if the new lens was the be-all and end-all Nikkor.
    Tests were shot at 35, 50, and 85mm. All shots are from a tripod, VR turned off, Aperture priority at f5.6. Camera was a D700 at ISO 200 captured in JPEG/FINE, Auto WB, Matrix metering, and no post processing. Crops are 100%, a tad larger than 600x600 pixels. Border crop is from the right side.
    Contender lenses were the 35/f1.4G, 50/1.4D, and 85/1.8D. All of these lenses are near their peak optical performance at f5.6.
    This first shot is full frame to get a sense of where we are.
    Establishment shot; 24-85 @ 35mm
    [​IMG]
     
  32. Center Crop 24-85 @ 35mm
    [​IMG]
     
  33. Center Crop 35/1.4
    [​IMG]
     
  34. Border Crop 24-85 @ 35mm
    [​IMG]
     
  35. Border Crop 35/1.4
    [​IMG]
     
  36. Center Crop 24-85 @ 50mm
    [​IMG]
     
  37. Center Crop 50/1.4
    [​IMG]
     
  38. Border Crop 24-85 @ 50mm
    [​IMG]
     
  39. Border Crop 50/1.4
    [​IMG]
     
  40. Center Crop 24-85 @ 85mm
    [​IMG]
     
  41. Center Crop 85/1.8
    [​IMG]
     
  42. Border Crop 24-85 @ 85mm
    [​IMG]
     
  43. Border Crop 85/1.8
    [​IMG]
     
  44. I need to sort out a couple of these linked images, please be patient.
     
  45. Now that I have studied these a bit more, I am very impressed with how well this new 24-85 performs. More to follow once I get some more time with the lens.
     
  46. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Now that I have studied these a bit more, I am very impressed with how well this new 24-85 performs.​
    That would be my conclusion also.
    Obviously it is not an f2.8, but otherwise the 24-85 VR matches up against the 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S quite well at the same focal lengths. And nowadays I scrutinize lenses with the D800E.
    Distortion is quite serious at 24mm (barrel) and again from 35mm and up (pinchusion). However, I went back to the post office and captured that same mailbox image with the 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S @ 24mm, and its barrel distortion is almost as serious.
    Comparing to the older 24-85mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S without VR sold about a decade ago, this new VR version costs about twice as much at $600 vs. around $300 for the non-VR version several years ago. However, the yen has appreciated a lot since 2009 and so have Nikon lens prices. Therefore, this new lens is more like 50% rather than 100% more expensive than the old version on a currency/inflation adjusted basis. The old version was simply a major bargain a decade ago. Today, this new version is also a good deal.
    P.S., back in late 2008, early 2009, the 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S was around $1450. Today, it is about $1900.
     
  47. I bought Nikon 24-85mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S VR today at my local Nikon dealer. I was lucky that the dealer got two of them and that I was allowed to try both in the vicinity of the store. I made a quick test with my D800 camera. I put he camera on the tripod, leveled it and took the pictures of the wall covered with travertine tiles from the distance of few meters. I was surprised at the difference between the two lenses. The one that I later bought was sharp almost to the extreme borders at 24 mm at f8 while the second was much worse especially in both upper corners. It was a little bit mushy even at the center.
    So again it seams that we have consumer zoom with big variation between samples and there will be a lot of conflicting reports about this zoom. My advice is try it before you buy it.
    The sharpness of the better sample at 24 mm and f8 was almost as good as my old 24 mm/f2.8 AIs at f11. The zoom has a very pronounced barrel geometric distortion so i will have to wait for the Lightroom profile of the new lens. Comparing the 24-85mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S VR to the 24 mm/f2.8 AIs I would say that the zoom is not really 24 mm but rather 24.5 mm at the widest setting.
    Regards, Marko
     
  48. Nobody has compared this to the discontinued 24-85 f2.8-4 which does not seem to get much love.
    Really someone needs to shoot flat field newspaper or test chart to get an idea of curvature and sharpness. A lot can be hidden in these landscape shots.
     

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