Review Nikon 24-85mm VR
Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor & Nikon D600 (N FF)
Mid-2012, the Nikon 24-85 mm has entered the market with the Nikon 18-300 mm, which we have already reviewed. This lens is designed for use with the full frame / FX format SLRs and has a - for a full frame lens - attractive price tag. That is why the Nikon 24-85 mm is also available as kit lens with the Nikon D600.
This Nikon 24-85 mm lens is the successor to the Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED from 2002 and is a cheaper alternative to the Nikon 24-85 mm f/2.8-4D IF. The Nikon 24-85 mm lens is compact, light and comes with integrated image stabilization. This lens will probably become one of the most popular Nikon zoom lenses for everyday use with FX-format SLRs. We have tested this Nikon 24-85 mm lens in combination with the Nikon D600.
Nikon 24-85 mm @ 85mm f/4.5, 1/500, 400 ISO
The zoom range of the Nikon 24-85 mm on the Nikon D600 includes a range of popular focal lengths ranging from wide angle to portrait (24 mm, 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm and 85 mm). The Nikon 24-85 mm can also be used on a camera with a DX sensor / APS-C sensor, but this changes the field of view to 36-127.5 mm full frame equivalent.
Construction and autofocus
The construction quality of the Nikon 24-85mm VR is good, as we are used to from Nikon. The body is made of high quality plastic and the mount is of metal. The mount is provided with a rubber ring to prevent dust on the sensor or in the lens. The Nikon 24-85 mm weighs only 465 grams and is 30% lighter than the Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8. It comes with a lens case and lens hood.
Thanks to the IF focus, the lens does not change in length when focusing and the front lens does not rotate, which is nice when using polarizing or graduated ND filters. Some zoom lenses get considerably longer when you zoom in, but it is not so bad with this lens. The SWM (Silent Wave Motor) honors its name and indeed makes for a quiet and accurate autofocus. Like almost all Nikon lenses, there is a switch on the lens for two AF modes: M/A (autofocus with manual priority) and M (manual focus).
Image stabilization Nikon 24-85 mm VR
The built-in image stabilization (VR) is controlled by an on / off switch on the lens. More expensive lenses also have an option for VR during the following of moving subjects in addition to an on / off switch. Unfortunately, the Nikon 24-85 mm VR does not have this. The vibration reduction system (VRII) makes it possible, according to Nikon, to take pictures from the hand with shutter speeds up to four stops slower. We have tested the VR at an 85 mm focal length and only took sharp photos at a focal length of 85 mm at a shutter speed of 1/6 sec when the VR was enabled. A very good achievement! The Nikon VR is also completely silent.
Click the Imatest chart for a practice shot taken at a focal length of 85 mm and a shutter speed of 1/13 seconds, taken hand held with and without VR.
Vignetting Nikon 24-85 mm VR @ FX
On a camera with a full frame sensor, it is not unusual to be dealing with 1 stop or more vignetting. That is why the Nikon D600 has been set to in-camera correction of vignetting (Normal) in jpg files. Apparently, that was not enough yet, because vignetting is, especially at the shortest focal length and open aperture, visible in the jpg files.
In general, vignetting in jpg files is sufficiently low after stopping down 1 or 2 stops to no longer be visible in most practical situations. Nevertheless, in RAW files, you can even encounter visible vignetting at aperture 11. Incidentally, this is easily corrected in Lightroom, Photoshop, or Capture NX.
Move your mouse over the graph for the Nikon 24-85 mm Imatest results for RAW files without in-camera vignetting correction.
Distortion Nikon 24-85 mm VR @ FX
As many cheaper lenses, Nikon 24-85 mm VR exhibits a strong degree of distortion. In RAW files without in-camera correction, there is visible barrel distortion at 24 mm and 35 mm, and pincushion distortion at 50 mm and 85 mm. Activating in-camera correction of distortion makes it better, but visible barrel distortion remains present particularly at 24 mm and 28 mm.
Because distortion can simply be corrected by software, this part weighs relatively little in the final judgment of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR. However, when you take a picture, you should already take into account that you are going to correct the perspective afterwards, because a part of the image at the edges will drop out.
Move your mouse over the graph for the Nikon 24-85 mm Imatest results for RAW files without in-camera distortion correction.
The aperture of the Nikon 24-85 mm consists of 7 rounded blades, which yields a quiet OOF (Out-of-focus), according to Nikon. Yet the bokeh of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR is, despite the seven rounded aperture blades, restless. Only at an 85 mm focal length and at full aperture, the bokeh is calm. This makes the lens suitable for portrait photography, although a slightly faster larger aperture than the Nikon 24-85 mm VR, like the Nikon 105 mm macro, still has my preference.
Click on the picture for an illustration of the bokeh at a focal length of 85 mm.
Nikon Super Integrated Coating greatly reduces ghosting and flare. Yet this lens is not free from ghosting in all situations. In this sample image, a red ghost and a small rainbow can be seen in the water because of the bright sunlight.
Click on the picture for an illustration of ghosting in Nikon 24-85 mm VR practice shots.
Partly thanks to the use of elements of ED glass, the resolution of the Nikon 24-85 mm lens is, especially in the center, high. At the edges and in the corners, the resolution is less than in the center. Nevertheless, the resolution at the edges, when using this lens with the Nikon D600, is almost anywhere above 1500 LW / PH. That means that this lens on a Nikon D600 delivers images that are sharper in the corners than a large number of (more expensive) lenses that we have reviewed on older cameras. In this regard, we expect that a large number of amateur photographers will be satisfied with the resolution in the corners. Provided that this lens is used on a camera with a high resolution like the Nikon D600, of course.
How bad is the lower edge resolution of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR in practice? Is this a difference for you to worry about? It depends on how you look at it: here we have added two shots for illustration. Bottom right is an image cropping of a corner of an image taken with the Nikon 24-85 mm VR at a focal length of 85 mm and open aperture. The resolution is indeed less than in the center. However, if you are switching from a camera with a lower resolution, such as the Nikon D7000 or Nikon D5100, to a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 24-85 mm lens, you could also look at it from a another perspective. Bottom left, we have placed an image cropping of the center of an image taken with the Nikon D7000 at a focal length of 50 mm (75 mm @ FF) next to an image cropping from the outer corner of an image taken with the Nikon D600 and the Nikon 24-85 mm at a focal length of 85 mm at full aperture. The corner resolution of the kit lens on FX format comes close to the center resolution of a kit lens on your current DX camera. Is this a difference for you to worry about? That is up to everyone to decide for himself or herself. In terms of image quality, I would immediately switch from a Nikon D7000 or a Nikon D5100 to a Nikon D600.
Images shot with a Nikon D600. Click on the images below for a 100% view of these examples.
Nikon 24-85 mm VR @ 24 mm f/4.5, 1/1000, 400 ISO
Chromatic aberration Nikon 24-85 mm VR
To keep the chromatic aberration as low as possible, a lens element of ED glass (extra low dispersion) and three aspherical lens elements have been used in the design of the Nikon 24-85 mm VR. The Nikon D600 probably corrects the chromatic aberration in jpg files, because chromatic aberration is almost completely absent in jpg files, while chromatic aberration is visible in RAW files especially at the longer focal lengths.
Below is an example of the chromatic aberration in the outer corner of an image taken at a focal length of 85 mm, in which chromatic aberration is visible in a RAW file magnified to 200%. Software-wise, chromatic aberration can be removed easily by Photoshop, Lightroom or Capture NX.
|Conclusion Nikon AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR review
|WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score will give you for this lens/camera combination test: "What you see is what you get".
testcamera's: Nikon D7100, D3300 & D800
|Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you use Photoshop, Lightroom or SilkyPix for converting RAW files, then the RAW scores are equal to the jpg scores.
Thanks to the good qualities of the Nikon D600, the Nikon 24-85 mm has done well in this Nikon 24-85mm VR review. It is an attractive partner for the Nikon D600 in terms of size, weight, solid construction quality, built-in image stabilization, and relatively low price. Nevertheless, for demanding photographers (think of a Nikon D3X owner with a few fast fixed focal length lenses), there are a few issues emerging from our Nikon 24-85 mm review: the resolution at the edges and corners remain behind the center and both distortion at short focal lengths and chromatic aberration in RAW files can be improved. Someone who owns a Nikon D5100 or a Nikon D7000 and is thinking about buying a Nikon D600 + Nikon 24-85mm VR kit, will notice a visible increase in terms in image quality if he / she decides to do so.