NIKON 24mm f/1.4 G AF-S ED N
UPDATED: OCTOBER 24, 2011 (NEW $1,996.95)
|ULTRA LOW LIGHT||EXPENSIVE|
The 24mm f/1.4G AF-S is an extraordinary lens. It is of professional quality, both in its optics and construction. Of course it comes with a large price tag. But this lens can go where other wide angle lenses cannot, f/1.4.
The 24mm f/1.4G AF-S is a big and heavy prime lens. It is almost a casual walk around lens, but its partner prime, the 24mm f/2.8 AF is more portable. However, this 24mm packs extraordinary optical performance. Dim light is never an issue. It has pleasing background blur. Colors are rich. Flare, vignetting and distortion are well controlled. Lateral CA is nonexistent. And it is sharp corner to corner!
VR is not required. Like all wide angle lenses, stabilization or VR is not as effective as it is with telephoto lenses. VR is designed to mitigate vibrations and shake from the camera. Blur caused by camera shake is less evident in wide angle lenses because the impact is less obvious in the large field of view.
Unlike most 24mm lenses, the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G AF-S has a large maximum aperture of f/1.4. This not only allows for ultra low light photography, but it permits a shallow depth of field. The ability to blur backgrounds in wide angle lenses is rare because depth of field is determined by both focal length and the f-number. Read more about depth of field. Additionally, the bokeh, or out of focus blur, is pleasant.
Upon receiving the lens, I was not initially impressed. I was mistakenly expecting more punch at f/1.4, more like the 85mm f/1.4. However, after using the lens for a few months, I realized its capabilities and strengths. It is by far the best wide angle lens I have ever used. This paired with an 85mm f/1.4 cannot be beat.
Most DX users should look elsewhere. The 24mm f/1.4 is some expensive glass and designed for FX cameras. So why pay for such expensive glass and crop half of it away? Yes this lens will work on DX cameras and produce magnificent images. But, generally it doesnít make much sense for cost and weight reasons. If you need a small low-light prime, stick with the 24mm f/2.8 AF D instead.
Also consider the 35mm f/1.8 DX. Although it is not considered a wide angle, it is much more portable and excellent for low light situations.
With such an expensive piece of glass, one attempts to signify its purpose? The 24mm f/1.4 is an incredible lens. It is very unique in its ability to shoot so wide at f/1.4 and it is what makes it so expensive. Itís predecessor, the 28mm f/1.4. was praised for years on its near perfect image quality. Now this 24mm f/1.4 improves on it, with pleasing bokeh, sharp optics, and minimal aberrations. So what is its purpose? Simply, low light, shallow depth of field, wide-angle, perfection.
The only limitation exhibited by this lens is that it cannot zoom, as expected. The lack of VR is not a limitation, it is simply not needed.
If youíre buying this lens strictly for sharpness, look elsewhere. Yes this lens is extremely sharp, but it is not its soul characteristic. The 24mm f/1.4 AF-S G is sharp in the center at f/1.4 and has some soft edges. It has some significant improvement at f/2. And by f/2.8, the lens becomes extremely sharp from corner to corner. It exceeded my D700ís 12MP sensorís ability to render any finer. Iíll either need a Nikon D4, or Nikon D800 to fully assess its sharpness.
At f/16, diffraction begins to become obvious, as the overall sharpness is reduced.
Nikon's published MTF chart shows how sharp this lens can perform at f/1.8. It is impressive for such an inexpensive lens. MTF Measurements describe only a sub set of overall lens performance and should be used cautiously. Learn more about MTF.
|- NIKON SPECIFICATIONS -|
|GLASS||12 ELEMENTS / 10 GROUPS|
|DIAPHRAGM||9 ROUNDED BLADES|
|MINIMUM APERTURE||f / 16|
|CLOSE FOCUS||0.82 FT (25 CM)|
|DEPTH OF FIELD SCALE||Yes|
|WEIGHT||620 GRAMS (21.87 OUNCES)|
|DIMENSIONS||83mm Diam x 88.5mm L|
|MAXIMUM REPRODUCTION RATIO||1:5.58|
Distortion is well contained in the 24mm f/1.4 G AF-S. Like most Nikon fixed focal length lenses, it exhibits some mild barrel distortion. However it is simple and easy to correct. Add approximately +2 in Photoshopís lens correction tool. Lightroom, currently does not have a lens profile to automatically correct distortion. I am sure it is in the works. You can read more on distortion in the learning section.
LIGHT FALL OFF:
There is some minimal light fall off on FX. It is gone by f/2.8. DX has no issues. The examples below show an exadgeration of the falloff produced from this lens.
Flare is not a concern with this lens. I was surprised at how well this lens performed pointing it directly at the sun. So much for Nikon's Nano Crystal Coating marketing bull. The truth is Nano is probably not needed for such a simple lens, but Nikon still did a great job here.
Although this lens features a 9 round bladed diaphragm, it can produce some great sunstars. Sunstars are produced when very bright point sources of light are present. The flares from the point sources form a star shape. Stopping down the lens to f/8 or beyond makes the sunstars more distinguished. Read more about Sunstars.
In the example above, you can see how well the sunstars are produced from this lens compared to the 24mm f/2.8 AF-D and the 24-70mm f/2.8. Another thing to note is how well the light sources are contained into a single point. This means that for night shots, bright point sources will be sharp.
Most Nikon lenses produce accurate color. This 24mm is no different. In the above example, I found the color rendering to be more accurate with the 24mm f/1.4 and the 24-70mm f/2.8. All the photos were taken from the same camera using the same white balance setting.
Bokeh is defined by the quality of the out of focus area of an image. The keyword is quality. Do not mistake this for the amount of blur. See here for more insight on bokeh.
Bokeh is a pretty important aspect of this lens. The ability to shoot at f/1.4 wide angle makes it unique and you'd expect to see some nice bokeh. Overall, you do. The 24mm f/1.4 AF-S produces some nice bokeh. However, the bokeh in the corners are not perfect and exhibit some skewing or ovals instead of spheres. Further the overall Gaussian blur is not maintained well at the outer portion of the frame. I don't believe this is much of a concern, but for the price tag I would expect a little better performance.
Now when comparing to other serious lenses in Nikon's lineup, it outperforms them all in bokeh. The plot below shows an older Nikon prime 24mm along with the popular Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. The older 24mm has poor bokeh. The 24-70mm does not have great bokeh at 24mm. Further, the 24-70mm does not have that great of a maximum reproduction ratio at 24mm to create significant blur. Overall, the 24mm f/1.4G AF-S can achieve a more shallow depth of field, not because of its ability to shoot at f/1.4, but because it has a greater reproduction ratio. So if blurring backgrounds is your thing at wide angle, the 24mm f/1.4 is the lens for you.
Overall has a good feel to it and is well balanced on heavier cameras, like the D700 and D3s. The focus ring is smooth and preciese with a comfortable rubber exterior. It features M/A switch to switch between automatic focus with manual overide to just manual focus.
The overall exterior of the lens is mostly plastic. However, the internal is mostly metal. This is common with today's Nikon professional grade lenses. Overall the lens feels solid. The focus ring is well designed with a comforting rubber grip. The back end has a metal mount and a dust seal where it mates to the camera. The only weak point is the filter threads are plastic, but that isn't too serious.
All modern Nikon cameras work great with this lens. However, older film cameras which require an aperture ring will lose some functionality.
The 24mm f/1.4G is a lot larger than one might expect for a prime wide angle lens. The diameter compares to the 24-70mm f/2.8. It is significantly larger than the 24mm f/2.8 AF-D. The size is mostly attributed to its large aperture and the fact that it has a built in AF motor that requires a high level of accuracy at f/1.4.
It takes 77mm screw on filters. Vignetting may be an issue if you stack multiple fitlers. I'd stick with one filter at a time.
The 24mm f/1.4G AF-S comes with a modern nikon plastic twist on bayonet lens hood (HB-51). Since this lens has no issue with flare, I would only use it for some added protection, otherwise store it away!
24mm f/1.4 G AF-S Mounted on D700
Focus has been a big discussion with this lens. At first there were some reports that it did not focus accurately for focal planes greater than 5 meters. This was not the case with my copy. The focus was dead on accurate across the entire focus range.
Further, there has been some discussion on the web regarding the speed of the autofocus. A common myth is the belief that autofocus should be quick for fast prime lenses like this one. However, although autofocus is dependent on the amount of light, it also depends on the size of the entrance pupil. The entrance pupil is defined by the focal length divided by the f number. So for this lens it is 24 / 1.4 = 17.14mm. This is not a large entrance pupil when comparing it to other prime lenses. A high level of accuracy is required for an f/1.4 lens. Further, this lens provides a descent size reproduction ratio at close distances for such a wide angle. Accuracy is difficult to achieve. Therefore this lens is not the fastest at autofocus.
I found the autofocus to be more than adequately fast. If you have a problem with autofocus speed using this lens, it is probably your skills to lock autofocus in tight situations, and not the lens.
The serial number is located on the bottom of the barrel towards the lens mount. US lenses will be prefixed with "US". The serial number is a label glued into an inset of the lens.
Gray market serial numbers range from 200001 - 208000
USA market serial numbers range from 600001 - 604000
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I suggest purchasing the Nikon 24mm f/1.4 new from sites like Amazon or Adorama. They often run discounts even with Nikon's new pricing policy.
When considering buying it used, I would pay close attention to the seller. With an expensive lens, transaction integrity is important. I would buy from eBay if the seller is the original owner and has 100% feedback with many similar items sold.
To the right is current eBay auctions for the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G AF-S. The chart above does not have enough data yet to determine key buying opportunity or trends.
I would highly recommend this lens for professionals and or if you have the money. This is the kind of lens that will separate you from the common zoom lenses. It is very unique in its ability to shoot at f/1.4 and by f/2.8 itís near perfect in all categories. The overall quality is outstanding.
This lens has been a favorite of mine along with the 85mm f/1.4. I find them to complement each other quite well. Below is a sample shot that would not have turned out so well on any other lens. The autofocus was nailed and the wide angle really shows all the action.