Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor & Nikon D600 (N FF)Mid-2012, the Nikon 24-85 mm has entered the market with the Nikon 18-300 mm, which we have already reviewed. This lens is designed for use with the full frame / FX format SLRs and has a – for a full frame lens – attractive price tag. That is why the Nikon 24-85 mm is also available as kit lens with the Nikon D600. This Nikon 24-85 mm lens is the successor to the Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED from 2002 and is a cheaper alternative to the Nikon 24-85 mm f/2.8-4D IF. The Nikon 24-85 mm lens is compact, light and comes with integrated image stabilization. This lens will probably become one of the most popular Nikon zoom lenses for everyday use with FX-format SLRs. We have tested this Nikon 24-85 mm lens in combination with the Nikon D600.
Nikon 24-85 mm @ 85mm f/4.5, 1/500, 400 ISO The zoom range of the Nikon 24-85 mm on the Nikon D600 includes a range of popular focal lengths ranging from wide angle to portrait (24 mm, 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm and 85 mm). The Nikon 24-85 mm can also be used on a camera with a DX sensor / APS-C sensor, but this changes the field of view to 36-127.5 mm full frame equivalent.
Construction and autofocusThe construction quality of the Nikon 24-85mm VR is good, as we are used to from Nikon. The body is made of high quality plastic and the mount is of metal. The mount is provided with a rubber ring to prevent dust on the sensor or in the lens. The Nikon 24-85 mm weighs only 465 grams and is 30% lighter than the Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8. It comes with a lens case and lens hood. Thanks to the IF focus, the lens does not change in length when focusing and the front lens does not rotate, which is nice when using polarizing or graduated ND filters. Some zoom lenses get considerably longer when you zoom in, but it is not so bad with this lens. The SWM (Silent Wave Motor) honors its name and indeed makes for a quiet and accurate autofocus. Like almost all Nikon lenses, there is a switch on the lens for two AF modes: M/A (autofocus with manual priority) and M (manual focus).
Image stabilization Nikon 24-85 mm VRThe built-in image stabilization (VR) is controlled by an on / off switch on the lens. More expensive lenses also have an option for VR during the following of moving subjects in addition to an on / off switch. Unfortunately, the Nikon 24-85 mm VR does not have this. The vibration reduction system (VRII) makes it possible, according to Nikon, to take pictures from the hand with shutter speeds up to four stops slower. We have tested the VR at an 85 mm focal length and only took sharp photos at a focal length of 85 mm at a shutter speed of 1/6 sec when the VR was enabled. A very good achievement! The Nikon VR is also completely silent.
Vignetting Nikon 24-85 mm VR @ FXOn a camera with a full frame sensor, it is not unusual to be dealing with 1 stop or more vignetting. That is why the Nikon D600 has been set to in-camera correction of vignetting (Normal) in jpg files. Apparently, that was not enough yet, because vignetting is, especially at the shortest focal length and open aperture, visible in the jpg files. In general, vignetting in jpg files is sufficiently low after stopping down 1 or 2 stops to no longer be visible in most practical situations. Nevertheless, in RAW files, you can even encounter visible vignetting at aperture 11. Incidentally, this is easily corrected in Lightroom, Photoshop, or Capture NX.
Distortion Nikon 24-85 mm VR @ FXAs many cheaper lenses, Nikon 24-85 mm VR exhibits a strong degree of distortion. In RAW files without in-camera correction, there is visible barrel distortion at 24 mm and 35 mm, and pincushion distortion at 50 mm and 85 mm. Activating in-camera correction of distortion makes it better, but visible barrel distortion remains present particularly at 24 mm and 28 mm. Because distortion can simply be corrected by software, this part weighs relatively little in the final judgment of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR. However, when you take a picture, you should already take into account that you are going to correct the perspective afterwards, because a part of the image at the edges will drop out.
BokehThe aperture of the Nikon 24-85 mm consists of 7 rounded blades, which yields a quiet OOF (Out-of-focus), according to Nikon. Yet the bokeh of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR is, despite the seven rounded aperture blades, restless. Only at an 85 mm focal length and at full aperture, the bokeh is calm. This makes the lens suitable for portrait photography, although a slightly faster larger aperture than the Nikon 24-85 mm VR, like the Nikon 105 mm macro, still has my preference.
FlareNikon Super Integrated Coating greatly reduces ghosting and flare. Yet this lens is not free from ghosting in all situations. In this sample image, a red ghost and a small rainbow can be seen in the water because of the bright sunlight.
ResolutionPartly thanks to the use of elements of ED glass, the resolution of the Nikon 24-85 mm lens is, especially in the center, high. At the edges and in the corners, the resolution is less than in the center. Nevertheless, the resolution at the edges, when using this lens with the Nikon D600, is almost anywhere above 1500 LW / PH. That means that this lens on a Nikon D600 delivers images that are sharper in the corners than a large number of (more expensive) lenses that we have reviewed on older cameras. In this regard, we expect that a large number of amateur photographers will be satisfied with the resolution in the corners. Provided that this lens is used on a camera with a high resolution like the Nikon D600, of course. How bad is the lower edge resolution of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR in practice? Is this a difference for you to worry about? It depends on how you look at it: here we have added two shots for illustration. Bottom right is an image cropping of a corner of an image taken with the Nikon 24-85 mm VR at a focal length of 85 mm and open aperture. The resolution is indeed less than in the center. However, if you are switching from a camera with a lower resolution, such as the Nikon D7000 or Nikon D5100, to a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 24-85 mm lens, you could also look at it from a another perspective. Bottom left, we have placed an image cropping of the center of an image taken with the Nikon D7000 at a focal length of 50 mm (75 mm @ FF) next to an image cropping from the outer corner of an image taken with the Nikon D600 and the Nikon 24-85 mm at a focal length of 85 mm at full aperture. The corner resolution of the kit lens on FX format comes close to the center resolution of a kit lens on your current DX camera. Is this a difference for you to worry about? That is up to everyone to decide for himself or herself. In terms of image quality, I would immediately switch from a Nikon D7000 or a Nikon D5100 to a Nikon D600. Images shot with a Nikon D600. Click on the images below for a 100% view of these examples.
Nikon 24-85 mm VR @ 24 mm f/4.5, 1/1000, 400 ISO
Chromatic aberration Nikon 24-85 mm VRTo keep the chromatic aberration as low as possible, a lens element of ED glass (extra low dispersion) and three aspherical lens elements have been used in the design of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR. The Nikon D600 probably corrects the chromatic aberration in jpg files, because chromatic aberration is almost completely absent in jpg files, while chromatic aberration is visible in RAW files especially at the longer focal lengths. Below is an example of the chromatic aberration in the outer corner of an image taken at a focal length of 85 mm, in which chromatic aberration is visible in a RAW file magnified to 200%. Software-wise, chromatic aberration can be removed easily by Photoshop, Lightroom or Capture NX. Conclusion Nikon AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR review
- High center resolution
- Compact, attractively priced zoom lens with a widely used zoom range
- Effectively integrated image stabilization
- Edge focus remains behind on center resolution
- Visible vignetting and distortion at shorter focal lengths
- Susceptible to ghosting
- Just visible chromatic aberration in RAW files