Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Announcement

NOTE: A full review of this lens can be found in my Nikon 24-120mm VR Review article.

Another lens that has been released today is the Nikon 24-120mm f/4.G ED VR – an update to the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR lens that has been out since 2003. The lens has been completely redesigned with a constant aperture of f/4, now coming with a gold ring around the front of the lens barrel, which is an indication of Nikon’s professional line of lenses.

Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0G ED VR


Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0G ED VR Specifications

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0G ED VR is a heavy upgrade to the previous version of the lens. It is specifically designed for the Nikon FX sensor to deliver sharper results on professional full-frame cameras such as Nikon D700, D3s and D3x. Here are the lens specifications:

  1. Focal length: 24-120mm
  2. Maximum aperture: f/4
  3. Minimum aperture: f/22
  4. Lens construction: 17 elements in 13 groups (with two ED glass and three aspherical lens elements, and Nano Crystal Coat)
  5. Angle of view: 84°- 20°20’ (61°- 13°20’ with Nikon DX format)
  6. Minimum focus distance: 0.45 m/1.5 ft. (throughout the entire zoom range)
  7. Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.24x
  8. No. of diaphragm blades: 9 (rounded)
  9. Filter-attachment size: 77mm
  10. Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): Approximately 84 x 103.5 mm/3.3 x 4.1 in.
  11. Weight: Approximately 710 g/25 oz.
  12. Supplied accessories: 77mm Snap-on Front Lens Cap LC-77, Rear Lens Cap LF-4, Bayonet Hood HB-53, Flexible Lens Pouch CL-1218

From the Nikon press release:

The new AF-S 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR zoom lens redefines the wide-to-portrait lens category, and provides users with a medium focal range lens with a constant aperture that is ideally suited for a wide variety of photographic disciplines. This high performance lens offers a constant maximum aperture of f/4 to maintain exposure settings throughout the entire zoom range and is perfect for photographing landscapes, portraits, interiors and weddings. The 24-120mm f/4 also features two ED elements, three aspherical lens elements, a useful M/A Focus Mode Switch, Internal Focus and Nano Crystal Coat to reduce ghosting and flare for greater image clarity throughout the entire frame.

Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0G vs Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G

So, besides the constant aperture of f/4.0, what else is new with the 24-120mm f/4.0G? The lens design adds 2 more new glasses, one of them being an aspherical element, in addition to Nano Crystal coating. The diaphragm is now 9 rounded blades instead of 7, which should yield better-looking bokeh. The front lens design is similar, except the second lens element has been replaced with ED glass. The filter size has been increased to 77mm, which is a standard for Nikon professional lenses. The new 24-120mm f/4.0G is also about 100 grams heavier than the older counterpart. Everything else is very similar, including focus modes.

The biggest surprise, however, comes in the MTF charts. Take a look at the MTF charts of the older 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G (Left: Wide, Right: Tele):

Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G MTF - Wide Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G MTF - Tele

And compare them with the Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0G (Left: Wide, Right: Tele):

Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0 MTF - Wide Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0 MTF - Tele

Wow, the older Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 looks crappy compared to the new 24-120mm f/4.0, especially in the center frame zoomed at both 24mm and 120mm – a huge difference in sharpness! The corner performance is a world better on high resolution FX sensors, while being average on lower resolution sensors, which indicates that this lens is specifically engineered for FX sensors.

When it comes to wide open performance, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0 is much better, showing excellent center performance, but rather poor corner performance, while having better corners towards 120mm. Bokeh on the new 24-120mm should also be pleasing, which is good news for portrait and wedding photographers.

I am very excited about the new 24-120mm f/4.0 lens, because it gives so much zoom range to work with. The optics look very good and it looks like Nikon finally has a lens to compete against Canon’s superb 24-105mm f/4.0 IS lens, which is a hot seller in the world of Canon. This lens could be my next favorite travel lens and we will see how it performs as soon as I get it in my hands, very soon :)

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4.0G VR will retail for $1,299.95 and you can already pre-order it from B&H.

Comments

  1. August 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Wow this looks tempting. I love my 24-70mm f/2.8, but VR and an extra 50mm of reach would be useful during typical daylight hours as a walk-about lens. Then again, there is the new 28-300mm variable aperture too if you are shooting in the f/8 range and don’t want a lot of weight. I love having options! Thank you Nikon! :-)

    • September 1, 2010 at 11:42 pm

      Aaron, still waiting to get a copy of the 24-120mm…will be comparing it to the 24-70mm and other mid-range lenses. I’m sure it will be a great lens, since Nikon has been doing a terrific job in optics lately.

      As far as the 28-300mm, I’m sure it will be almost 1:1 the same as the 18-200mm when it comes to sharpness/contrast performance. I will be comparing it to the 18-200mm, but the comparison will be a little hard due to FX/DX issue.

      • September 2, 2010 at 4:53 am

        I don’t know how you could honestly compare the 18-200mm DX to the 28-300mm FX without someone, somewhere saying it was an unfair method, no matter which way you try! Haha! :-P

  2. 2
    ) Floyd
    August 19, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Thanks for the quick insight of the lense. Can’t wait for sample pictures from you. Is there any change in the lens length when you rotate the zoom ring? Cause I can’t find any mention of this.
    I have been waiting for a carry-around lens I can use for landscape and moderate zoom for functions shooting. Something more affordable than the 24-70mm.

    • September 1, 2010 at 11:44 pm

      Floyd, I am hoping to get my hands on it later next week, so stay tuned! :)

      In terms of lens length change – yes, it will change for sure when you zoom in/out, especially at 120mm.

      • 16
        ) Floyd
        September 2, 2010 at 12:58 am

        I figured out that it extends by about 50mm when zoomed at 120mm. It also uses two extension tubes compared to Canon’s 24-105mm single tube. I’m comparing this to the DX lens 18-200mm VR which to me is a bit ‘fragile’ when fully extended.

        Hope the build quality is much better than other nikkor zoom lenses constructed that way. Was hoping something like the 16-35mm f4 body. Hmm..let’s wait and see.

        • September 2, 2010 at 1:27 am

          Floyd, I’m sure the 24-120mm will be less fragile than the 18-200mm…I would say it will be similar to 24-70mm, but will extend a little more.

          The build quality will be pro-level (after-all, it is a constant-aperture lens), so I would not worry about that.

  3. 3
    ) Morten
    August 20, 2010 at 3:44 am

    I will eagerly be awaiting your review on this lens as I also find this particular lens very interesting and promising.
    Thanks for the quick update on all Nikons new products, now I am only hoping for a D700 or FX upgrade that I can afford…. He he

    • September 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm

      Morten, I hope so too! I will be comparing it to the 24-70mm f/2.8G, so we will see how well it performs!

      In terms of D700 update – there won’t be one this year, but hopefully next year.

  4. 4
    ) pasquier
    August 23, 2010 at 1:37 am

    Hi Nasim

    Thanks for this detailed update dealing with the new releases by Nikon.
    Small query, could you assist the technically illiterate as to what the MTF charts represent, and what one should watch out for.

    Thanks and best, P:)

    • September 1, 2010 at 11:48 pm

      Pasquier, you are most welcome! In terms of MTF charts, they are the indicators of sharpness and contrast from the manufacturer, when they conduct tests in lab environments. Straight lines, closer to the top and all the way through represent ideal lenses. The lenses that curve and sharply drop to the right mean that the corner performance is not very good. Lenses that have waves indicate that there might be good and poor performance between center and corners.

      But MTF charts are kind of subjective, so use them only as an indication.

      • 22
        ) Rickard
        October 4, 2010 at 7:31 am

        Hi Nasim,

        Thank you for your overall very thorough and illustrative lens reviews.

        Regarding Nikons MTF-diagrams I think there is a misunderstanding in your reviews. They show MTF at 10 and 30 lp/mm, but only at full aperture for each lens (in this case MTF at f/4). Note that MTF for f/8 is NEVER presented in the diagrams. However, that would also be interesting information about the quality of a lens. Especially very large aperture lenses like the f/1.4 ones tend to look a bit inferior compared to smaller aperture counterparts, since the Nikon MTF’s only show MTF for full aperture, i.e. f/1.4 for the very large aperture ones, where the lens contrast and sharpness is the weakest. Therefore viewing MTF diagram for f/4 or f/5.6 would much clearer reveal the superiority of the large aperture lenses to the lesser ones.

        Furthermore, MTF is known to be the most objective measure about lens contrast and sharpness that exist. Thus I do not agree that MTF is “kind of subjective” as many other quality measures often are. Still, MTF diagrams do not give full information about the quality of a lens, although it is still the most objective information that exist about lens contrast and sharpness.

        Best regards,
        Rickard

        • October 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

          Rickard, thank you for your feedback and for pointing out my mistake. I guess I should have paid more attention to what it said in the bottom of the chart without making assumptions that the red line represents f/8 and the blue line represents performance wide open (MTF measurements from other manufacturers such as Canon have wide open and stopped down performance). I will go back and correct the language and analysis in my articles.

          However, when it comes to MTF being objective, I highly disagree with your statement. Often, MTF is a calculated number based on the lens design. Very few manufacturers actually post MTF readings from a real lens, because there are too many variables involved when working with real lens samples. Lenses do slightly vary in performance due to various manufacturing processes (some lenses such as 17-35mm vary substantially) and while one lens sample might show great performance in the corners, others might show otherwise, depending on how well the lens was made and how close the performance is to the acceptable performance values set by the manufacturer during the QA process before the lens is shipped out. So, lets say 5 lenses from different batches show different MTF readings from center to corner, which one would the manufacturer post? The one that shows the best performance, a median value calculated from all 5 lenses, or a calculated number based on the lens design? Canon does the latter, Nikon most likely does the same, while Zeiss and Leica are known to use real samples…

          So, that’s why I said that MTF charts are subjective, since they are typically used as “references” for lens performance :)

  5. 5
    ) pasquier
    August 24, 2010 at 4:41 am
    • September 1, 2010 at 11:49 pm

      Bokeh looks sweet! Can’t get my hands on one. Pasquier, when are you receiving yours? Any updates from B&H/Adorama?

  6. August 24, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Looks very promising! Looking forward to see full review of the lens!

    • September 1, 2010 at 11:49 pm

      I am sure this lens will perform great! Just wondering how well it does against the legendary 24-70mm…

      • September 2, 2010 at 1:57 am

        I will shoot my-self in head if it proves to be better them 24-70.. It shouldn’t be better.. But let’s see! Can’t wait to see al the reviews and comparisons..

        • 21
          ) Duncan Kim
          September 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm

          Hi, Nasim. My current Nikon 24-70mm is the fourth copy I ever bought. For some reasons, the previous three were just not sharp enough so I had to return them to the shops. I was surprised how much front/back focussing they exhibited. It is a great lens but somehow I always wished if there was VR on my Nikon 24-70mm. If new 24-120mm proves to be better than 24-120mm, I will have to consider upgrading it for my (future) wedding photography business though I will feel sad let this one go. I look forward to your usual high standard in-depth review. Thank you.

  7. 7
    ) pasquier
    August 26, 2010 at 3:28 am
    • September 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

      Great samples Pasquier! The lens looks very good!

  8. 19
    ) steven
    September 10, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I love your sight and can’t wait for your full review of this lens.

    I own a d5000 with the kit 18-55mm lens and was looking for a more versatile lens (and this one really caught my eye) or possibly pairing my kit lens with the 55-200mm vr for even more reach (and cost savings lol). What would you recommend as I am mostly interested in shooting landscape photos and would only occasionally need that full reach of the 200mm. The new 16-35mm also intrigued me. So many options…….

    You also mentioned that this lens is designed for FX but it is compatible with DX correct? Will performance suffer on a DX camera or improve due to the 1.5 crop?

    Thanks a lot,
    Steven

    • September 17, 2010 at 1:05 am

      Steven, wait on your purchase till I receive the 24-120mm! :)

      The performance should increase due to the 1.5x crop, since the edges are ignored.

  9. 24
    ) JK
    October 12, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Looking fwd to the review… Meanwhile, off the top of your head, you think it’s a good quality lens to keep on a D7000(dx)? Basically replacing a 18-105mm. But then this comes from the guy who gets easily bugged by the chromatic abberation and distortion.

    • October 22, 2010 at 1:29 am

      JK, the 24-120mm might be a little too long on a DX body (on the wide side), especially when compared against your 18-105mm.

      • 27
        ) JK
        October 22, 2010 at 1:58 am

        Thanks. Any alternative suggestions? Cz the vignettes and chromatic aberrations were really getting to me…

        • October 22, 2010 at 2:30 am

          JK, what focal lengths do you use the most? If you find yourself shooting wide-angles the most, then the Nikon 14-24mm or Nikon 12-24mm are both excellent choices. On the telephoto side, there are plenty of good choices…

          • 28
            ) JK
            October 22, 2010 at 2:59 am

            I travel on a bike and I travel light… so looking for the best lens that covers wide-to-tele… even half tele like 105/120…

  10. 29
    ) Hessam
    October 27, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Hello Nasim,

    First of all thank you so much for your wonderful reviews. Second, I am switching to FX body very soon (right now I have a D300 and sold all my DX lenses, but I will be using me new FX lenses on my D300 for few more months) and I was planing to buy the wonderful 24-70mm f/2.8 that this lens came out. Would you buy the 24-120mm plus a 50mm f/1.4 or 24-70mm? I mean is 50mm f1.4 as good as 24-70mm in terms of sharpness and contrast? If that’s the case I can enjoy the high quality of 50mm and cover the range of 24-70mm by going few steps back and forth. At the same time I can enjoy the amazing range of 24-120mm. I’ve read some other disappointing reviews about this new lens, but I am waiting until you write another wonderful review on it :)
    Thanks,

    • November 17, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Hessam, I apologize for a late reply, but just wanted to let you know that the review of the 24-120mm has been posted in my Nikon 24-120mm Review article that I posted about a week ago.

      I would say the 24-120mm is a more useful lens in terms of range and VR, but if you shoot in tough conditions or corner performance is critical for you, then the 24-70mm is still better.

      Hope this helps.

  11. 31
    ) john mbaria
    February 20, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    i can not afford the 24-70 should i just get the 24-120 some one help if you thanks i have a d300 !!

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