A fast, professional quality 24mm prime lens for landscape and architectural photographers.Claimed as one of 'the most hotly anticipated lenses in recent memory', the new AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED lens has been designed for professional reportage and landscape photography. With its large maximum aperture and wide field of view, it features a new optical design that provides high image quality, minimal distortion and excellent edge-to-corner sharpness, especially at wider aperture settings. . . [more]
Claimed as one of ‘the most hotly anticipated lenses in recent memory', the new AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED lens has been designed for professional reportage and landscape photography. With its large maximum aperture and wide field of view, it features a new optical design that provides high image quality, minimal distortion and excellent edge-to-corner sharpness, especially at wider aperture settings.
Announced - and released - concurrently with the AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR zoom lens, it's a full two f-stops faster. The new lens can be used with both FX and DX-format cameras, providing an equivalent focal length of 36mm with the latter.
The AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED lens. (Source: Nikon.)
Photographers have been waiting a long while for Nikon to release a faster 24mm prime lens than the current AF 24mm f/2.8D lens, which was released back in 1993. Interestingly, Canon has had a 24mm f/1.4L USM lens on sale since 1997 and released a ‘Mark II' update in 2008. The specifications of the Nikon and Canon lenses are similar, as shown in the table below.
AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
Picture angle (full frame)
Picture angle (APS-C)
12 elements in 10 groups
13 elements in 10 groups
2 ED glass elements, 2 aspherical elements, Nano Crystal Coat
2 high-refraction glass elements, 2 UD elements, SWC coating
Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
Rear focusing system with USM
Dimensions (Diameter x L)
83 x 88.5 mm
93.5 x 86.9 mm
Neither of these lenses is stabilised - and stabilisation is not really necessary with such a fast, wide-angle lens. Both lenses are ideal for low-light photography and are particularly good for exploiting the high sensitivities offered by the latest professional and ‘pro-sumer' DSLRs from both manufacturers.
The new optical design of this lens uses 12 elements arranged in 10 groups. Two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) and two aspherical elements are included to ensure high resolution with minimal aberrations and pleasing out-of-focus blur characteristics (bokeh). Nikon's Nano Crystal Coat is applied to reduce ghosting and flare.
The diagram above shows the position of the exotic lens elements. (Source: Nikon.)
Being a G series lens, there's no aperture ring which means it won't work on manual focus cameras (there's no way to set the aperture). It is supplied with a soft carrying pouch and petal-shaped HB-51 lens hood. The hood has been designed to meet the requirements of FX sensors, which means it's a tad small to be fully effective on APS-C sensor DSLRs. However, you can fit a polariser when the lens hood is in place, regardless of the sensor size.
Build and Handling
Build quality is up to expectations for a professional Nikkor lens, as is the overall finish of this lens. The magnesium alloy barrel is beautifully finished and weather- and dust-proof sealing has been applied extensively, including around the lens mounting plate. The f/1.4 aperture and nine-blade rounded diaphragm ensure attractive bokeh at wide aperture settings.
Without its end caps, the lens measures 88.5 mm in length (excluding the lens hood) and has a diameter of 83 mm. IF (Internal Focusing) focuses images by moving internal elements without changing the length of lens barrel or rotating the front element.
The focusing ring begins 15 mm behind the front of the lens and is 22 mm wide with a 16 mm wide ridged rubber grip band. A further 12 mm behind the trailing edge of the focusing ring is a recessed distance scale with six settings in metres and feet, ranging from 0.25 metres to infinity. The focusing ring rotates smoothly through a little more than a quarter of a turn as you scan through this range.
Just around the barrel from the distance scale is the focus mode switch, which has two settings: M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual). No other controls are provided (or required).
As anticipated, the review lens delivered an impressive performance in Photo Review's Imatest tests, which showed consistently high resolution throughout its aperture range. Best figures came from apertures between about f/2.5 and f/11 but resolution was maintained right up to f/16, where there was no evidence of resolution loss due to diffraction. Edge softening was found at wide apertures but at a relatively minor level. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration never rose above 0.011% of distance to corner in our Imatest tests, indicating a lens that's not affected by this defect. (0.04% of distance to corner marks the border between ‘negligible' and ‘low' CA.) No coloured fringing was observed in test shots taken in contrasty outdoor lighting.
Barrel distortion was also very low for such a wide angle lens, as shown in the sample image below.
Vignetting (edge and corner darkening) was also surprisingly low for a fast, wide angle lens. Although some slight corner darkening could be seen in shots taken at f/1.4, it was gone by f/4 and would be unlikely to trouble most photographers. Examples are shown below.
Vignetting at f/1.4.
Vignetting at f/4.
Backlit subjects were handled very well, with no loss of contrast due to veiling flare but a slight tendency to produce diffraction artefacts in the form of small rainbow dots. An example is shown below.
ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/13.
The close focusing limit of 25 cm makes this lens relatively unsuitable for close-up work but the wide angle of view could be handy for shooting group portraits. The real fortes of this lens are landscape and architectural photography, along with street photography and photojournalism, where the fast maximum aperture and high ISO settings on modern DSLR cameras will enable you to take available-light shots in very low light levels.
Buy this lens if:
- You want very fast, wide angle prime lens for landscape or architectural photography.
- You require professional performance and build quality.
- You want high resolution at all focal lengths, along with good flatness of field.
- You'd like a lens that requires no readjustment when you fit polarisers and graduated filters.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You need close focusing and macro capabilities.
- You need a general-purpose lens that can handle a wide range of subject types.
(based on JPEG files from the Nikon D3s)
(all photographed with the Nikon D3s)
ISO 100 (Lo 1), 1/250 second at f/14.
ISO 200, 1/25 second at f/5.6.
ISO 100 (Lo 1), 1/80 second at f/7.1.
ISO 100 (Lo 1), 1/200 second at f/11.
Close-up; ISO 100 (Lo 1), 1/4000 second at f/1.4.
ISO 200, 1/1250 second at f/7.1.
ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/13.
ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/10.
Picture angle: 84 degrees with FX format; 61 degrees with DX format
Maximum aperture: f/1.4
Minimum aperture: f/16
Lens construction: 12 elements in 10 groups (2 ED glass elements, 2 aspherical lens elements and Nano Crystal Coat)
Lens mount: Nikon AF
Diaphragm Blades: 9 (rounded)
Focus drive: Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
Minimum focus: 25 cm
Maximum magnification: 0.18x
Filter size: 77 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 83 x 88.5 mm
Weight: 620 grams
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9.5
- Handling: 9.0
- Image quality: 9.0
- Versatility: 8.0
- OVERALL: 8.5