Which standard zoom for D850?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jorish, Mar 2, 2019.

  1. Hi,

    I'm planning on getting a D850. I have a couple of primes for my theatre work, but I'm looking for a one-lens solution for holidays and hikes. I don't want to take 4~5 lenses with me when I'm going for day-trips, and maybe more importantly, don't want to change lenses so much anymore 'in the open'.

    So, I'm reading up on the Nikon 24-120 F/4, and the Sigma 24-105 F/4.I don't need larger apertures.
    The verdict on those two lenses seems to be "ok to good, but not great".

    Any thoughts or experiences? From D850 users even? Or tips for a secret gem lens that I overlooked?
  2. I would go with the 24-120/4 as a GP lens. That is the lens I would get with a D750.
    A GP lens only has to be "good enough."
    If you want GREAT, then you go with the specialty lenses.
  3. I own the Sigma 24-105/4 that I use on a D810; it was purchased in favor of the 24-120/4 on the - as it turned out largely erroneous (thanks to Roger Cicala from lensrentals.com) - assumption of better optical performance. Three drawbacks of the Sigma - 82mm filter (although that seems to become the new standard), weight (my D810/L-plate/24-105 weighs 2.05kg or 4.5lbs), and the Sigma OS requires constant power even if turned off (which prevents the camera (at least the D810) to ever go into standby mode) with the predictable result of draining the battery more than necessary.

    All 24-105 or 24-120 lenses I know come with severe vignetting wide open at the shorter focal lengths.

    Many use the 28-300 as their general lens - even though the lens design entails even more compromises than that of the 24-120 with the concomitant degradation of optical performance. Personally, 28mm would definitely not be short enough for me to consider that lens at all.

    Better performance than with the f/4 lenses is obtained with the f/2.8 one - but at least for me the drawbacks are weight, size, and the rather limited range (in particular the long end).

    Nikon's 24-85/3.5-4.5 VR presents a compromise - less range than the 24-120 but much smaller and lighter. Optically, unfortunately, it doesn't quite match the 24-120 performance. I owned both AF-S 24-85 lenses (non-VR and VR versions) and wasn't overly impressed with either.

    Travel or hiking to me usually ends up requiring at least three lenses: 16-35, 24-105, 70-200/4 or 80-400/4.5-5.6; most of the images are usually taken with the mid-range zoom and for a while I have - unsuccessfully - experimented with a 16-35, 50, 70-200 set (the main drawback was the need to constantly change lenses; this approach definitely works better with two camera bodies).

    FWIW, I am currently experimenting with a (used) Sony A7RII (and A7II) and Sony's 24-105/4 lens (including the L-plate, the combo weighs 1/2kg (1.1lbs) less than the above mentioned D810 combo) as my "walkaround" combo. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that the days of my Nikon 16-35 and Sigma 24-105 are numbered and that the D810 will be used exclusively with prime lenses.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Do not have the D 850, do have DF and D 750, also have 24-85, 24-120 and 28-300. 24-120 is my favorite walk around lens, though the 24-85 is good as well. I don't find the 28-300 to be particularly good, but it just may be my "copy" of the lens. If I'm going to shoot at night, I switch to a fast 50.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  5. I struggle with this question constantly for hiking/backpacking (or maybe let my ocd run). Best kit at the lowest weight for landscapes plus in town touristing. Here are some solutions with my D850. I don't have a 1 lens solution and don't think I will ever have one. With tripod, these are in the 8-10 pound range.

    -usually 24-70 f2.8G with 20 f1.8 AFS nikkor or 21 f2.8 Zeiss. and the 135 f2.8 MF nikkor. I used this in Colorado backpacking last September.

    -recent addition of a Sigma Art 24-35 f2.0, with 50-135 f3.5 MF nikkor zoom. This might be as good as it gets.
    -20/21, 24-70 f2.8G with zeiss 100 f2 macroplanar or the 135 f2.8 MF nikkor maybe.

    I hate changing lenses so I keep coming back to the 24-70 f2.8, which gets probably 60% of my images, maybe more. But it is a brick. I keep thinking that three(4) primes might do me-20/21, 28, (50), 100 or 135 but then it is back to lens shuffling, hard to do when hiking miles.
  6. Not sure if i would choose a D850 for "Holiday & Hikes", for me that would be to heavy allready i think, but that is just me i guess...
    Possiblythis is an area where the 'Z-series' would excell because they are compact and lightwaigth ?
  7. I once owned a Nikon 24-120/F4. It was liberated from me and I have missed it ever since. It is not an exceptional lens but is a great one. I never felt the need to take it off my camera, even though I always carried primes too.
  8. I don't have the D850 but only have the Df. I use the 24-85 for most of the time. I don't see the 120mm is an advantage as whenever I need more than 85 it's more like 200 or 300.
  9. I have the D850 and the 24-120/4 VR and here is what I think.

    When I had the D610 looked into the 24-70/2.8 Nikkor and the 24-120/4 VR. The lack of VR and the test results (mainly corner sharpness) made me loose interest in the 24-70/2.8. I knew the 24-120/4 VR was not perfect with its increasingly soft image beyond 70mm. But hey, it had VR and cost less. It was purchased used as a compromise. A dealer gave me a very good price for a mint sample they had on the shelf. I knew I could sell without a loss, should it prove to be a disaster.

    I got a D800 and soon a D800E. By that time I used the auto focus fine tune for the first time. I realised my 24-120 shifted from needing a positive value to a negative value just after 70 mm. Whatever value I would finally go for, it would not be optimal for the entire range. Still, it did produce good results. However, 24-35 mm was softer than my 16-35 mm and 70-105 mm was softer than my 70-200/2.8 VR II. Part of the latter was probably due to the lens shifting focus, but still ok.

    I read up on the Sigma but stumbled upon one review (that seemed credible) that found the OS to be useless and then there were talks about Sigma lenses that had issues with some D810 firmware. I then decided I had made the right choice. A friend got the Tamron 24-70/2.8 G2 VC. I found it too bulky and too limited, but very nice. Very nice indeed, about equal to the Nikon 24-70/2.8 VR (which I find too large, too limited and too expensive). I decided I was still pleased. My friend later got the 24-120/4VR as a walkabout (or actually as his go-to lens when packing light for motobike trips). He uses a D850. I have not asked him which lens he uses the most, of the two.

    Enter the D850 and I had to go from +4 to +1 on my D850 from 24-70 mm. By 85 mm it needs -5 and at 120 mm it wants -9 dialed in. I ended up dialing in +2, so I know it is not optimal for the longer end. Still, it does a fine job on my D850. No, it is not as sharp at 24-35 mm as my 16-35/4 VR (which is really good at35 mm). And no, it is not as sharp as my 70-200/2.8E FL at 70-120 mm, but it is still good enough for everyday use and travel. It is not for the pixel peeper. I have found that when I travel, I usually bring the 16-35, 24-120 and the 70-200. I then either bring the 24-120 or the 16-35+70-200. Selection usually depends on what I expect for that day. On last weeks trip to Paris, the 24-120 stayed at home.

    Having said all this, I would still recommend getting a used 24-120/4 VR. For its going price used, I would say it fits the bill and that it will not disappoint. For full retail new, it is not what I would call a bargain. It is not a lens to get exited over, but neither is any other lens in the same range. Yes, the Tamron G2 and Nikkor VR are sharper, but both require 82 mm filters, weigh more and stop at 70 mm.
    Albin''s images likes this.
  10. My primary camera is a D800. I used the 24-85 f/3.5-4.5 VR as my main walk-around lens on the camera for a while, but "upgraded" to the 24-120 f/4 back late last fall(the 24-85 got "demoted" to my D600 for when I want a lightweight carry around package).

    Optically, I don't see any difference between the 24-85 and 24-120 over the ranges they both cover, although the obvious advantage of the 24-120 is the longer range, and also the fact that it's a half stop faster at the long end(and a half stop slower at the slow end, where you need the speed less).

    The 24-120 is definitely better built-is actually quite a hefty lens, and it took some getting use to at first. I do think it balances better on the not-exactly-light D8x0 bodies, though.

    Optically, it's great but not outstanding. My 14-24mm f/2.8 kicks its rear in almost every way at 24mm, but it's definitely in the "special purpose" category. I often carrying the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D, and there's no comparison at that focal length. I can see the difference on the D600, although film and the D3s "hide" most of the ills of the 24-120 aside from the vignetting and distortion.

    The 24-120 has definitely earned its place in my bag, and it's great as a general purpose zoom.

    BTW, I'll mention that I live for wide angles, and prefer to give up 100+mm on the long end(as is commonly available now) for an extra 4mm on the short end. The difference between 24mm and 28mm is huge.
  11. If you want a zoom lens with image quality nearly as good as the prime lenses in that range, then the 24-70/2.8 is arguably the best choice. It is not light, small, nor inexpensive, but it is probably one of the lenses used most often by working professionals.s

    At the other extreme, if you want a do-everything, walk-about lens, than an 18-300/3.5-6.3 is probably the best choice. You can expect noticeable distortion, vignetting and soft edges at all settings. For some applications, that may not matter. There are other choices inside these brackets.

    I've done plenty of walking with a 24-70/2.8, but I'm not into overnight hiking. When I travel, it is precisely to take pictures. Anything further than 1/2 mile from the car has little interest for me. If I want prime quality, I carry prime lenses. In total, they weigh (and cost) more than the equivalent zoom lens, but I only use one at a time and the rest go in a small shoulder bag.

    When working, it's always a zoom lens, sometimes with a second body and a different zoom. Why take time to change lenses for events you can't stage or repeat?
  12. @ c.p.m._van_het_kaar: I'm not getting the D850 for these hikes. I'm getting the D850. I don't (at this moment at least) want a second camera, so for hikes, day trips, etc. I'm looking for a general purpose lens that will prevent me having to change lenses, yet will still be good enough to print enlarged images now and then.

    @ everyone else: Thanks very much for your input. It confirms some of the things I thought and read, and clarified some other points. The 24-70 F2/8 models were taken off the short list because of price and (less so) weight. The 28-300 was taken off because I really want the wider 24 mm.
    As for the 24-85; I have only ever owned 2 variable aperture lenses; the 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses that came with my first ever camera, the D50. I could never get used to the variable aperture (though admittedly I was also overwhelmed with everything I was learning). Still, I've mentally blocked considering the 24-85. I'll read up on it.

    I'm hoping to find the time tomorrow to go to the store and try out the Nikon 24-120, the Sigma 24-150 and maybe the Nikon 24-85.
    Up till now I was very much undecided between the Nikon and the Sigma, but I just read somewhere that the Sigma turns the 'wrong' (Canon) way. That, and the constant power requirement mentioned by Dieter, may very well be the deciding factors.
  13. There's that too.
    This might be a D810-thing and not happen on the D850 - just keep an eye on it.
  14. One more for the 24-120, I use it on my full frame bodies regularly. It's a bit big but quite good.

    Rick H.
  15. Variable aperture lenses are just fine.
    It is a way for the manufacturer to reduce the cost of making a zoom, vs fixed aperture.

    For me there are only a couple problems with variable aperture lens, and they are very specific/limited.
    • If I use a hand meter, what is the actual aperture of a lens at X focal length?
      • It was/is impossible with my old film cameras.
      • With my dSLR, I see it in the viewfinder.
    • When shooting sports in Manual mode, I could not take advantage of the faster aperture at shorter FL. I end up using the lens at the smallest max aperture of f/5.6, not f/3.5, which is loosing 1-1/2 stops. :(
  16. This is not the solution you asked for, but it is MY solution, and might be something to consider.
    For situations where you are weight limited, consider a lighter/smaller camera/system.

    Example1, I switched from a DX D7200 to a m4/3 EM1 to reduce carry weight and packing size, primarily for travel.
    But I still shoot the D7200 for fast sports, where the EM1 does not work as well.

    Example2, I shoot an EM1 as my primary camera, but I also have an EM10 for when I don't want to carry the heavier EM1.
    Similarly I have smaller/lighter consumer grade lenses, when I don't want to carry the larger/heavier pro lens.
    Then when I want to shoot, I study the situation and build the kit to take based on the situation.

    So the lighter D750 might be part of an alternate solution for you.
  17. My second hand 24-120 is pretty good. Maybe they are a little big and heavy, but not too bad.

    I had the 24-85VR and just did not like the lens, hard to put a finger on why. Maybe it was that the zoom ring had some stiction. The older 24-85G non-vr is decent and small, so I keep one of those around to go light.

    I never spent the $ for a 24-70/2.8, and rarely used the 28-70/2.8 I used to have. Just too big and expensive for limited zoom and not really that fast. When shooting events, I use 2 bodies with 17-35/2.8 on one and 70-200 on the other, so the middle zoom is not needed. Alternately, load up with a 24/1.8 on one body and 85/1.8 on the other, and gain quality.
  18. It's that balance between choosing FX for better ISO performance versus light weight, smaller DX body wise.

    Equally, it's that balance between choosing 'slow' lighter zoom lenses versus fast heavy primes/zooms.

    Personally, I'd sacrifice body before glass for travelling.

    So DX with 18-35mm 1.8 & 50-100mm 1.8. The resolution with either my D500 or D7200 means I can 'crop-zoom' to 200mm easily enough.... aslong as it's in sharp focus with no camera shake.

    Studio or short range I go heavy. D850 with Art primes to suite the job.... and maybe the 24-35mm f2 for some walk-around flexibility.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say there's no point using hi-res FX bodies with zooms 'cos any IQ advantage in body is negated by lower IQ lenses.. but I'm close.

    Bit like the only way to realise the very hi res of the D850 is to bolt the thing down with the lens at optimum aperture with mirror lock up etc etc, not wondering around an old medieval town with a mediocre zoom stuck on the front.

  19. I would still choose 24-70/2.8 rather than one of the smaller aperture zooms, but if you must have a lighter zoom, then the Nikon 24-85 AF-S VR is quite good and fairly priced.
  20. One more against the 24-120 f/4. I had one, alongside the 24-70 f/2.8 Tamron, which is much smaller than the Nikkor versions. I may not have tried adjusting the fine tuning on the 24-120 for different ends of the range, but generally stopped down a bit; I found it appreciably softer than the Tamron. While I knew it was somewhat heavier, I was hoping the 24-120 would be used like the 28-200 f/3.5-5.6 G that used to live on my D700, but with shorter range; instead it's much heavier and less appropriate as a "virtual lens cap" - my 28-200 stayed on my D700 for the times when I didn't know what I was going to be shooting, but it doesn't really hold up to 36+MP. The 24-120 isn't not terrible (unlike, allegedly, the variable aperture version) but it's also a lot of money and weight for what it is. The Tamron is slightly bigger, but at least you get f/2.8 and a bit better performance.

    I traded it before I got my D850. The Tamron (I have the mk1) certainly isn't perfect, especially at 70mm wide open, but it's not at all bad, and I found myself taking it with me and leaving the Nikkor at home. It misses out on being a portrait lens through being a bit short, but then by the time you've stopped the 24-120 down, it's only barely in that category anyway - I have a 70-200 and some primes if I need that. I care more that the Tamron is good at 24mm, since below that range my 14-24 is a substantial thing to carry around when I don't need it. I'm more likely to have a longer lens with me anyway. The new 70-300 AF-P (FX) would be a good complement that's more affordable and portable; I don't find the extra 70-120mm to be worth the disadvantages (especially since I'm more of a nature shooter, and that's still too short for most uses).

    Probably the nail in the coffin is that I have a mk1 RX100 with a 28-105mm-equivalent lens on it, so if I want something to walk around with, I can just put that in my pocket.

    YMMV, and it depends what you end up doing with it. I certainly don't subscribe to the "perfect lens and technique or nothing" category - I've gone through D800e/D810/D850, and a very small fraction of my shots are on a tripod. DxO can also recover some lens softness pretty well. Be aware that the 24-120 isn't as small or sharp as you might hope - but if you go in with realistic expectations it's okay. But do check you wouldn't prefer the 24-85 (which is optically worse but actually small) or the Tamron 24-70 (which is mostly optically better but more restricted and a bit bigger).

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