A fast, high-performance ultra-wide-angle lens for professional architectural and landscape photographers.When it was announced in August 2007, the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED was credited as having 'one of Nikon's best optical designs with performance that rivals that of prime lenses'. Engineered to Nikon professional DSLR standards, it has a metal barrel with effective dust- and moisture-resistant sealing. Significantly, this lens is almost distortion free, making it ideal for architectural and landscape photographers. Its wide aperture range and flat field could also make it suitable for photojournalists who work in confined spaces. . . [more]
The AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED showing the bulging frotn element and permanently-attached lens hood.
Weighing roughly one kilogram, this lens is the heaviest of its type on the market but a comfortable match for the Nikon D3X body we used for our tests. However, its size and weight could be problematic on smaller Nikon bodies, although it can be used on cameras with DX sensors, where its focal length range equates to 21-36mm.
Optical construction uses 14 elements in 11 groups, with two ED (Extra-low dispersion) glass elements to minimise chromatic aberration plus three aspherical lenses, including large-diameter PGM (Precision Glass Moulding) elements to reduce the effects of various aberrations, particularly at wide apertures.
Optical construction diagram for the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED showing the location of the special elements. (Source: Nikon.)
Nikon's proprietary Nano Crystal Coat has been applied to one optical surface (as shown in the diagram above) to eliminate internal reflections, thereby reducing the incidence of flare and ghosting. In addition, Nikon's Super Integrated Coatings further reduce flare and ghosting and ensure colours are reproduced with optimal brightness and saturation.
IF (Internal Focusing) focuses the lens by moving internal elements, thereby enabling focusing to take place without changing the length of lens barrel or rotating the front element. However, these factors are relatively unimportant in a lens that can't accept angle-critical attachments. Nikon's Silent Wave Motor technology provides fast, almost silent autofocusing.
The lens measures 131.5 mm in length (excluding the lens hood) and has a diameter of 98 mm. In line with G-type lenses, this lens has no aperture ring. The focusing ring, which is approximately 15mm wide, is just behind the lens hood. The zoom ring, which is approximately 25mm wide, is close to the camera body. Both rings have ridged rubber coatings to provide a secure grip. The ridges on the zoom ring are noticeably wider than those on the zoom ring and have two notches cut into each ridge for added grip security.
A distance scale just behind the ring provides five settings in metres and feet, the former covering 0.28, 0.35, 0.5 and 1.0 metres and infinity. Left of the distance scale is a slider with M/A and M settings, the former engaging autofocusing with manual over-ride, while the latter sets the lens for manual focusing. Engraved on the trailing edge of the zoom ring are the following focal length settings: 14mm, 15mm, 16mm, 18mm, 20mm and 24mm.
Other features include a nine-bladed iris diaphragm that closes to a circular aperture for attractive bokeh and an M/A mode that allows instant switching from autofocus to manual focus, even during AF servo operation. Closest focusing distance is 28 cm between 18mm and 24 mm focal length settings. The lens is supplied with a CL-M3 semi-soft case, fit-over lens hood and end cap.
The review lens felt nicely balanced on the Nikon D3X body we used for our tests. The zoom movement was positive and even throughout the focal length range. Shifting from the 24mm to the 14mm position requires roughly a quarter of a turn and moves the front element forward by about 15mm. The focus ring has 360 degree movement with the M setting but it takes only a quarter of a turn to go from close focus to infinity.
We found no tendency for the lens to extend when the camera was carried with the lens pointing downward and no unwanted changes in focal length as focus was adjusted. Despite lacking built-in image stabilisation, we were able to use shutter speeds as slow as 1/4 second in the course of our tests, thanks to the very solid platform provided by the D3X body.
The review lens turned in an impressive performance in Photo Review's Imatest tests, which showed consistently high resolution throughout the aperture and focal length range. Edge softening was revealed at the widest aperture settings, particularly at the 14mm and 24mm focal length settings but, for other focal lengths the differences between our centre and edge resolution figures were small enough to be negligible. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was effectively negligible, as shown in the graph below. To reveal just low the CA results in our tests were, the red line on the graph marks the border between 'negligible' and 'low' CA. (Very few lenses record negligible CA throughout their aperture ranges.)
Autofocusing was generally fast, almost silent and accurate and we did not observe any hunting in the course of our tests, which covered a wide range of light levels. For an ultra-wide lens the review lens was remarkably distortion-free - provided the focal plane of the camera was parallel to the subject. Some barrel distortion was noticeable with the 14mm setting but by about 18mm this had been largely corrected and by 24mm the lens was effectively distortion-free. Examples are shown below.
14mm setting at f/2.8.
24mm setting at f/2.8.
However, in normal shooting, even a slight tilt of the camera produced the exaggerations that are typical of ultra-wide lenses, particularly with the 14mm setting. This lens is not really suitable for portraiture - if you want natural-looking facial and body proportions. (Some examples are reproduced in the Sample Images section.)
Vignetting, which can be serious with ultra-wide lenses, was also very low and only noticeable with the 14mm focal length at f/2.8. By f/4 it was effectively invisible. Examples are shown below.
14mm setting at f/2.8.
24mm setting at f/2.8.
Despite the special coating technologies, flare can be an issue with this lens, particularly when it is pointed towards the sun (without the sun being actually included in the shot) and with backlit subjects. However, this is to be expected since no ultra-wide lens can ever be totally flare-proof. In the case of the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, the protruding front element directs light into the lens, with the 14mm focal length producing the kind of flare shown below in shots with the sun a little off-axis.
14mm setting, ISO 100, 1/60 at f/11.
Because the front element doesn't protrude as much in the 24mm position, flare was less frequent with the 24mm focal length, although not entirely absent in backlit shots. An example is reproduced below.
24mm setting, ISO 100, 1/60 at f/11.
That said, the review lens turned in an impressive performance when pushed very close to its limits. We certainly succeeded in forcing it to flare but, with backlit subjects, we were often able to produce punchy-looking contre-jour shots with only a little post-capture editing. Some examples are shown in the Sample Images section below.
Bokeh wasn't spectacularly attractive - but that's to be expected for an ultra-wide lens with aspherical elements. This is pretty much a non-issue, since this lens is unlikely to be used for either portraits or close-up shots. Otherwise, when this lens is used for the types of subjects it's designed for, it turns in the kind of performance you would expect for its very high price point and is a real pleasure to use.
Buy this lens if:
- You need a fast, ultra-wide zoom lens and want the best of its class in build and excellent image quality.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You want close-up versatility and performance.
- You're portrait photographer.
14mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/16.
24mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/16.
Flare:14mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/609 second at f/11.
An enlarged crop from the image above showing typical ultra-wide-angle distortion of subjects toward the edges of the field.
Not a lens for portraiture. 14mm focal length, 1/20 second at f/8. (Note the flare due to moderate backlighting and the distortion caused by the ultra-wide angle of view.)
14mm focal length, 1/6 second at f/11.
Close-up: 14mm focal length, 1/8 second at f/9.5.
Close-up 24mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/2.8.
24mm focal length, 1/30 second at f/16.
14mm focal length, 1/45 second at f/16.
(Additional sample images can be seen with the review of the Nikon D3X.)
Picture angle: 114-84 degrees (90-61 degrees with DX-format camera)
Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 14 elements in 11 groups (with 2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and one Nano Crystal Coat)
Lens mount: Nikon AF
Diaphragm Blades: 9 (rounded)
Focus drive: Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
Minimum focus: 28 cm
Filter size: does not accept screw-in filters
Dimensions (Diameter x L): Approx. 98 x 131.5 mm
Weight: Approx. 1,000 grams
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Rating (out of 10):
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