Nikon 24mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens Review

bythom 24mm-g-series.jpg

From left to right: 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm f/1.8G


What is It?

The 24mm f/1.8G is one in a continuing series of Nikon’s redesigned primes. We now have 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm f/1.8 lenses, with very similar feature sets and all designed using Nikon’s newer approach to lenses.

Aside. One thing is clear from this series, someone at Nikon didn’t get the message about video in DSLRs. We don’t have an aperture ring or E-type electronic aperture functions, nor do we have focusing well suited to video. Sad. 

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Primes don’t tend to be complicated lenses. The pertinent things you’ll want to know about the lens being reviewed are:

  • Maximum f/1.8 aperture, minimum f/16, with a 7-blade aperture diaphragm
  • Minimum focus of just less than 10” (0.23m) with an almost 1:5 maximum magnification
  • 12.6 ounches (355g) and only about 3.3” long (83mm)
  • 12 elements in 9 groups, with 2 aspherical and 2 ED elements plus Nano coating
  • AF-S focus  (works with all Nikon DSLRs, even those without in-camera focus motors)
  • No VR, no tripod mount, simple MA/M switch
  • 72mm filter ring
  • The HB-76 lens hood and CL-1015 soft pouch come with the lens

There’s a wide focus ring and a minimal depth of field scale (markings for f/16 only). 

Nikon’s page for the lens is here. The lens is made in China and retails for US$750. 

Source of the review sample: personal purchase. Results compared to no other sample lens available to me.


How’s it Handle?

This lens is probably not the shape or size you expect for a 24mm. It doesn’t have a large diameter, but it does have a slightly long length. Looking at it you’d think it was a modest telephoto lens. Still, the lens feels light, even for its size, so it’s not exactly a burden to carry.  On a DX body, however, it seems awfully big for a 36mm effective focal length, once again pointing out that Nikon has neglected the DX wide angle market.

The focus ring on the lens rotates a bit less than one-quarter turn from minimum to infinity focus. On my sample the ring feels tight but sounds rough when turned. Unlike a few of the f/1.8G’s, I do seem to be able to dial in a precise focus point, though. 

One peeve with all the f/1.8 lenses I have that relates to handling is the differing filter size: 77, 72, 67, 58, 58, and 67 for the 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm respectively. This means you need probably at least three sets of filters, maybe four (I’d probably handle the 72 and 77 requirements with a 77mm filter and 72-77mm step-up ring.)


How’s it Perform?

Focus: As with all the f/1.8G primes, focus performance isn’t what anyone would call snappy. As with many of Nikon’s lower-priced lenses lately, the initial focus acquisition can be just a little bit more buh-zip instead of zip. Tracking performance once focus is acquired seems to be just fine, though. Overall, I find the 24mm f/1.8G to be adequate for my needs, but the 24mm f/1.4G is, in my experience, a bit faster to focus acquisition.

Sharpness: In many ways, similar to the 20mm. On FX bodies wide open the center is sharp but the corners have clear blur to them. This improves as you stop down, with f/2.8 already being quite good in the corners, and f/4 being particularly sharp edge to edge, performance I’d call excellent. At f/5.6 the lens already starts to lose just a bit of its acuity, though not enough to drop it from excellent. As you’d expect, above f/5.6 diffraction begins to be the primary element that determines acuity on the high resolution bodies. 

On DX bodies the 24mm is also like the 20mm: pretty darned sharp edge-to-edge, enough so that I’d tend to say it’s almost excellent. Stopping down even a little bit puts it clearly in the excellent category.

Chromatic Aberration: another of those very good results that the f/1.8 primes have been recording. While present, latitudinal chromatic aberration is pretty well controlled, and doesn’t vary a lot across apertures. What little there is can be easily removed, either in camera with JPEGs, or with post processing for raws. Longitudinal chromatic aberration is, like most fast primes, clearly evident and you’ll need to stop down to at least f/4 to get it under control.

Vignetting: As we’ve seen with other f/1.8 Nikkors, this is the probably the worst characteristic of the lens, with slightly over a stop of vignetting wide open on FX (only a half stop or so on DX). Dropping to f/2.8 makes the vignetting mostly ignorable, and using any smaller aperture gets you down into very good performance. As with CA, vignetting can be removed by the camera or post processing.

Distortion: About a half percent barrel distortion, and very well behaved, so easily removed. 

Bokeh: Nothing exceptional. My sample’s aperture diaphragm is clearly misshapen and asymmetrical. This makes for elongated out of focus specular highlights, and at some apertures ones that have a bit of a point at their bottom. The longitudinal chromatic aberration gives a bit of onion skin to the bokeh circles, as well. 

Overall, the 24mm is like the other f/1.8 primes Nikon has been making: not stellar like a Zeiss Otus, but solid performers that behave pretty much as you’d expect, and whose “flaws” other than corner sharpness that are easily post processed out. That makes the only thing to be careful of is the corners from f/1.8 to f/2.8 on FX bodies. Pretty much any other shooting will produce excellent images that are easily corrected for any additional issue. 


Final Words

This is one of the f/1.8 primes that definitely has a place in my kit. Indeed, it’s good enough that I no longer feel that I need the larger and heavier 24mm f/1.4. It also makes a very nice near 35mm equivalent prime for DX, though in a lens bigger than I’d like for DX bodies. Not terribly big, but bigger than it probably needs to be for DX use. 

Overall I like this lens a lot, and it’s just small enough to typically find a place in my bag.


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