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Brian Tobey
Nikon 24-85mm AF-S

NIKON 24-85mm 3.5-4.5 AF-S

FAST WIDE PRIME | LOW LIGHT | PRICE $699

SHARPNESS:
 
9.1
BOKEH:
 
5.5
BUILD:
 
7.6
VALUE:
 
9.6
OVERALL:
 
8.2

PROSCONS
LOW LIGHT
SHARP
AFFORDABLE

Last Updated: June 18, 2012 | By Brian Tobey Email Google+

SUMMARY


INTRODUCTION

Nikon 24-85mm AF-S

The Nikon 24-85mm AF-S is an affordable versatile zoom lens for full frame FX DSLRs. Note that this review is for the older NON-VR version. It has been redesigned in 2012 to incorporate vIbration reduction. The newer 24-85mm VR is larger and costs twice as much. However, after using this on my D800E, I found this older lens to perform excellent for most uses. I really like that at 85mm its maximum aperture is still f/4.5 instead of more common zooms which are limited by f/5.6 on the long end. The image quality is surprisingly good for $300. Its biggest troubles are distortion both on the wide end and tele end. But it can be fixed in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Introduced in early 2002, it was only around for a short time as it was discontinued in 2006. This puzzled many as the lens was a simple design that worked great for most and is easily produced. In fact many thought it performed better than the more expensive 24-85mm f/2.8-4 lens, which Nikon decided to keep in production.

Unlike the new 24-85mm VR, this lens was made in Japan. You can usually find them on eBay from time to time. Or buy it from Adorama used. If you do not need VR, this lens is far less costly and performs great.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Nikon 24-85mm box

The lens feels like pure plastic. The zoom and focus ring move far too easily for my taste, with hardly any resistance. The lens just feels like a toy. But this did not stop me from mounting it on my D4 and D800E. Wow did I appreciate the weight. The lens was sharp nearly from corner to corner by f/8. Itís out of focus area, or bokeh, was horrid. Flare was never an issue. I kept using it and was pleased with its results. Distortion was present heavily on both the wide and tele ends. It was all linear distortion, which is easily correctable. Overall I was pleased with it. Not something I would use professionally, but perfectly adequate for family occasions and travel, etc.

AVAILIBILITY

The lens has been out of production for some time. You can typically find it on eBay on occasion. eBay was how I purchased mine. You should try to find one with a box and a hood. I did and paid $300.


PERFORMANCE


SHARPNESS:

This lens is sharp. It is soft in the corners when used wide-open. But by f/8 its nearly sharp everywhere. I used it on both the Nikon D800E and D3200 (high pixel density) and found it sufficiently sharp for those cameras, at least in the center.

Remember that a lens' sharpness is only one aspect of a lens and should not be the primary reason for purchase. Other factors, like aberrations, distortion, and mechanics, should play an equal part in any decision process.


- SPECIFICATIONS -
GLASS15 ELEMENTS / 12 GROUPS
DIAPHRAGM7 ROUNDED BLADES
MINIMUM APERTUREf / 32
CLOSE FOCUS1.25 FT (38.1 CM)
DEPTH OF FIELD SCALEYes
WEIGHT415 GRAMS (14.64 OUNCES)
DIMENSIONS83mm Diam x 88.5mm L
FILTERS67MM
MAXIMUM REPRODUCTION RATIO1:4.54


SAMPLE:

The sample below shows how sharp this lens is in the center at f/8. This sample was taken on a D800E which is capable of resolving 36MP detail.

Nikon 24-85mm AFS Samples

Nikon 24-85mm AFS Crop

DISTORTION:

The distortion is horrible. Should we care? Well yes and no. The distortion is linear and easy to fix. However, because this lens is older, Adobe does not have a convenient profile to fix this easily. Instead, you need to correct for it manually which can get time consuming in post processing. It is easy to fix, you can just put in the correction below based on your focal length. You can read more on distortion in the learning section.


nikon 24-85mm G AFS distortion

CHROMATIC ABBERATION

There is some lateral chromatic aberration on the edges of the frame, red / blue fringes. Nikon corrects for this in the camera when using JPEG output. You can correct for this in lightroom manually as well, when shooting RAW.


FLARE:

Nikon 24-85mm AFS Flare Flare is not a big issue with this lens. The image to the right is the worst flare I could produce pointing it directly in the mid day sun. Just use the hood and flare wonít be a concern.


VIGNETTE | LIGHT FALL OFF

There is significant (-1.5EV) vignetting or light fall off at 24mm f/3.5. Itís gone by f/8. On the long end, there is some light fall off wide open at f/4.5, but it is also gone by f/8.



Nikon 24-85mm AF-S Light Fall Off Vignette

BOKEH

Nikon 24-85mm AF-S Autofocus

Bokeh, what bokeh? The bokeh sucks. Bokeh is the quality of the out of focus regions of a photo. It is a subjective aspect of a lens. In my opinion, this lens exhibits poor bokeh. It is busy and distracting.

AUTOFOCUS

The autofocus is quick but not always accurate. The image to the right shows how it focuses beyond the target +3. This was taken at 85mm. It is worse at 24mm, where it requires an 8 step adjustment. You can use AF-Fine Tune on your camera to help mitigate the autofocus shift.

It also features manual focus override. Just grab the focus ring at anytime to override the autofocus.


SIZE AND WEIGHT

This lens is small and light for an FX Zoom. It is easy to carry around with you. I bring it around for casual photography.


Nikon 24-85mm AFS Focus

Nikon 24-85mm Rear Mount


SERIAL NUMBERS

Nikon 24-85mm AF-S Serial Numbers

USA serial numbers are prefixed with "US". The first production run was made in Japan which serial numbers run from 2000000-2056700. Later the lens was produced in Thailand. Those serial numbers range from 2072000-2118500. You can find the serial number just below the MADE IN JAPAN on the backside of the lens, opposite the gold nameplate.



FILTERS

I would keep a clear filter on it at all times for protecting the front element. Unlike the new VR version, it uses 67mm filters which are more common. I prefer Hoya HD. If you use more than two filters be cautious of vignetting.



WHAT'S INCLUDED

Packaged with the lens is a plastic bayonet lens hood (HB-28), a lens pouch, and rear and front lens caps. The lens hood is a simple plastic hood unique to this lens. The rear cap is the old LF-1, which I personally prefer.





PRICING - PURCHASE SUGGESTIONS


NIKON 24-85MM PRICING HISTORY:


Current eBay Auctions
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 G ED IF Camera Lens| AS-IS | 197488-1

CURRENT PRICE: $99
BID COUNT: 0
END DATE: Thursday the 30th
END TIME: 20:39 ZULU

PURCHASING SUGGESTIONS:

The only way you can buy it is used. Nikon produced a decent amount of these lenses.

It is also a fairly modern lens, so I would not be too concerned which serial number you get. Instead, I would be more concerned about finding one with minimal wear and tear. Do not buy one that has been dropped or has any indication that it has been dropped. Try to find one with a box and hood. The table to the right shows current ebay auctions. I would recommend purchasing it from eBay or locally on craigslist, etc.

If you are not up for buying a lens used, you will have to settle for the new VR model which costs twice as much. You can find that here at Amazon or Adorama.



CONCLUSION


Nikon 24-85mm AFS

RECOMMENDATIONS:

I use this lens more often than I use my 24-70mm 2.8 pro zoom. It is just easier to carry around. Sure for professional uses I prefer my 24-70mm or a prime lens, but this lens works great for most occasions. If you need VR, youíll need the new 24-85mm VR. However, that lens costs twice as much. If you do not need VR and are in the market for an affordable versatile zoom, this is it for full frame FX cameras. It is sharp enough for my D800E.






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