With plenty of functionality delivered at a reasonable price, what's not to like about this Nikon optic?

Product Overview

Overall rating:

89%
Overall score:89%
Value:85%
Performance:90%
Image Quality:90%
Design:85%
Features:95%

Pros:

  • Lots of features and solid all-round performance

Cons:

  • Lower MTF figures wide-open at longer focal lengths

Product:

Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF VR

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£550.00

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This lens is packed full of features, the most obvious of which is a generous 5x zoom range that will cover the majority of eventualities for many full-frame users. It also represents a useful mid-wide-to-telephoto zoom range (36-180mm) on a DX body.

Deeper within, Nikon has installed its Silent-Wave Motor (SWM) AF system. This means that focusing is quick and almost silent: if the focus-lock audio confirmation beep is activated then that’s by far the loudest sound that you will hear when using this lens. SWM also means that the AF mode allows full-time manual intervention and the feel of the manual-focus ring in MF mode is absolutely perfect.

Finally, on an individual-element level, the lens incorporates two extra-low dispersion (ED) glass elements and aspherical profiles in an attempt to control chromatic aberrations. It has to be said that this is not entirely successful as some colour fringing was detected at both ends of the zoom range during technical testing but the extent is very small.

Ergonomically, the 24-120mm lens is an absolute joy to use once the lens hood has been fitted (the lens simply cannot be used if the lens hood is reversed for storage). The zoom ring is furthest forward and sits nicely under the fingers and thumb of the user’s left hand: it is perhaps just a shade stiff but that really is being a bit picky. The focusing ring is just behind and offers just the right amount of resistance.

To the rear of both rings is a focus-distance window, with the AF/MF slider immediately below to the left and the VR Off/On slider further below that. The switches are awkward to reach and a little stiff but this is not a serious problem.

Technical testing shows that the lens performs well when it is used under the optimum conditions but there definitely are sweet spots that need to be hit in order to get the highest results. The lens works best at focal-lengths below 50mm (when it holds at least 0.25 cycles-per-pixel from wide-open to roughly f/22). When setting longer focal-lengths it is best to avoid maximum aperture if maintaining optimum image quality is important and at 120mm all aperture settings below f/16 should also be avoided.

 

Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 MTF chart

 

Verdict

Overall this is a decent, feature-packed lens. It is a solid all-rounder and scores more highly using a DX D80 than when mounted on a full-frame D700.

Full Specification

Dimensions:
77 x 94mm
Focal Length:
24-120mm

Maximum Format Size:
Full frame
Diagonal Angle of View:
84-20º

Weight:
575g
Maximum Aperture:
f/3.5-5.6

Lens Construction:
15 elements in 13 groups
Minimum Focus:
50cm

Focus Method:
AF/MF, MF
Image Stabilisation:
Yes

Filter Thread:
72mm
Lens Mount:
Nikon F

Minimum Aperture:
f/22-36