1) Lens Overview
Let me start by saying that the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G is a work of art. Marketed as Nikon’s flagship ultra wide-angle lens, the Nikon 14-24mm is a beautiful craftsmanship that one can only appreciate after holding it in hands and trying it out. When Nikon introduced it to the world of photography back in 2007 as a full-frame lens to be used with the back-then newly released, Nikon’s first-ever full-frame DSLR D3, the lens set a new standard in zoom lens performance in terms of sharpness and contrast. It was the world’s first 14mm ultra wide-angle zoom lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture and Nikon was proud to state that it rivals prime lenses when it comes to optical design and performance. As you will see from image samples that I posted in this review, the lens is truly very sharp, easily outperforming any other Nikon ultra wide-angle zoom lenses at all focal lengths, coming very close to the exceptional performance of the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G lens.
The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G lens was designed for a variety of wide-angle photography needs – from landscape and architectural photography to fashion and press photography. It incorporates Nikon’s latest optical technology and works well both on full-frame (FX) and cropped (DX) sensors, although it was specifically engineered to work best on full-frame cameras. On a cropped sensor, the 14-24mm is equivalent to 21-36mm, which is still wide enough for most situations, but not quite what it was designed to be…the 7mm field of view loss is quite significant on a cropped sensor. For ultra wide-angle photography needs on DX sensors, a better choice would be Nikon 12-24mm f/4.0G DX or Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G DX.
The two letters “ED” in the lens name stand for “extra-low dispersion”, as explained in my Nikon lens naming convention article, which means that the lens delivers superior sharpness and reduced “chromatic aberration” or color fringing in photographs. In addition to the Silent Wave Motor (SWM/AF-S) that provides fast and quiet auto focus, the Nikon 14-24mm also features the Nano Crystal Coating technology, which reduces ghosting and flare. When it comes to weather sealing, the Nikon 14-24mm is well-protected against dust, moisture and tough weather conditions.
Being such a great lens, I would almost call it “perfect in every way”, except it also has two major weaknesses – heavy weight and inability to use filters. While weight is not a problem for most photographers, inability to use lens filters is its Achilles’ heel. Just like many other landscape photographers, I use various filters (such as polarizing and neutral density) quite a bit and not being able to mount filters on the 14-24mm is a big problem in challenging light conditions.
2) Lens Specifications
- Fast, ultra wide-angle AF-S zoom lens optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness on both the Nikon FX- (23.9 x 36mm) and DX-format image sensors.
- Enhanced optical formulas engineered to produce exceptional sharpness, contrast and color, rendering outstanding image integrity.
- Two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements and PGM aspherical lenses control chromatic aberrations while enhancing sharpness and contrast even at the widest aperture settings.
- Exclusive Nano Crystal Coat further reduces ghosting and flare for even greater image clarity.
- Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) enables ultra-high-speed autofocusing with exceptional accuracy and powerful, super-quiet operation.
- Internal Focus (IF) provides fast and quiet autofocusing without changing the length of the lens, retaining subject-working distance through the focus range.
- Focus as close as 10.8 inches at the 24mm setting.
- Rugged construction with professional-grade dust and moisture resistance.
- M/A focus mode switch enables quick response to changing situations between auto and manual focus operation.
- Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
- Focal Length Range: 14-24mm
- Zoom Ratio: 1.7x
- Maximum Aperture: 2.8
- Minimum Aperture: 22
- Maximum Angle of View (DX-format): 90°
- Minimum Angle of View (DX-format): 61°
- Maximum Angle of View (FX-format): 114°
- Minimum Angle of View (FX-format): 84°
- Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.15x
- Lens (Elements): 14
- Lens (Groups): 11
- Compatible Format(s): FX, DX, FX in DX Crop Mode, 35mm Film
- Diaphragm Blades: 9
- Distance Information: Yes
- Nano Crystal Coat: Yes
- ED Glass (Elements): 2
- Aspherical (Elements): 3
- Super Integrated Coating: Yes
- Autofocus: Yes
- AF-S (Silent Wave Motor): Yes
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.9ft.(0.28m)
- Focus Mode: Auto, Manual, Manual/Auto
- Dimensions: (Approx.) 3.8×5.2 in. (Diameter x Length), 98×131.5mm (Diameter x Length)
- Weight: (Approx.) 34.2 oz. (969g)
- Lens Case: CL-M3
- Lens Hood: Built-in
- Supplied Accessories: CL-M3 semi-soft case, Lens cover, Rear lens cap
3) Lens handling
The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G lens is built like a tank. Except for the non-removable front plastic hood, the lens is made of metal, making it one of the heaviest Nikon wide-angle lenses at 34.2 oz (close to 1 kilogram). Although I have not had a chance to test it under extremely cold temperatures, I did test it under very humid conditions in Puerto Rico and even let some rain pour on the lens for a while – the weather sealing stopped all water and moisture from entering the lens. The lens balances well on both entry level and semi-pro/pro bodies, because the center of balance is close to the zoom ring, where one would normally hold the lens with the left hand. The lens is larger and heavier than all other ultra wide-angle zooms that I know of and it is a little shorter than the 24-70mm f/2.8G without the front hood. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G feels very solid in hands and the focus ring is conveniently located in the front of the barrel, making it easy to manually focus with a thumb and index fingers while shooting images or video. When you move the focus ring and reach the focus limit, the ring continues rotation with a little more resistance, instead of an abrupt stop. The zoom ring was a little stiff in the beginning and got much smoother as I used the lens. Although the physical length of the lens does not change (due to the fixed plastic hood), the front element moves in and out when the focal length is changed. The only thing that was a little annoying for me, was the lens cap – I am just not used to this kind of lens cap design. Carrying it around while traveling was inconvenient and my pockets were not big enough for it. Storing the lens vertically inside my Kata bag also presented a problem, because I had to be careful while taking the lens out – the lens almost slipped out when I took it out by holding the cap once.
4) Focus acquisition speed and accuracy
The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G is equipped with Internal Focus (IF), which drives the AF performance to its limits. The lens snaps into focus instantly and silently, thanks to the Silent Wave Motor. It is often difficult to get correct focus at maximum aperture in low-light conditions, but not with this lens – it produced exceptional results at maximum aperture (and other apertures) on multiple FX cameras (D700 and D3s) and all images I have shot had correct focus.
Click here to see the full JPEG version of the shot (80% Quality @ 4,3 MB).
5) Lens sharpness and contrast
As I stated before, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G set a new standard in ultra wide-angle zoom performance. It is currently the sharpest ultra-wide angle zoom lens available and it easily beats even many of the prime lenses. Its legendary performance created demand even among the Canon community, where people attach special adapters on their Canon DSLRs in order to use the Nikon 14-24mm for their landscape photography needs. Center frame is razor sharp at all apertures, while corners are slightly softer at f/2.8, but almost as sharp as the center beyond f/4.0. I would definitely not hesitate to shoot at f/2.8 if I were shooting a portrait and needed to blur the background a little. Contrast is top of the class and colors are stunningly beautiful, definitely Nikon’s best, thanks to the clever optical design of the lens.
6) Bokeh and Vignetting
Ultra wide-angle lenses are not good candidates for beautiful bokeh and the 14-24mm is no exception. In order to produce reasonably soft background blur (although it still looks rather rough), you have to be at 24mm and shoot very close, since shorter focal lengths will put even more of the scene in focus. Vignetting is negligible, far better than any other lens I have tested so far. The Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR is much worse by comparison when shooting wide open. Here is an extreme example of vignetting at f/2.8 and an attempt to produce some bokeh:
The vignetting issues can be quickly corrected in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, so it is not a big problem. In Lightroom 3.0, there is an option to “Enable Profile Corrections” under “Lens Corrections”, which completely removes vignetting and distortion problems on images taken with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G. Here is how the above image looks like after the one-click correction in Lightroom 3:
7) Ghosting and Flare
Shooting against the sun will almost always result in some flares and ghosting, which is normal. I got a little surprised to see that the Nikon 14-24mm had some flaring issues in pictures even with no sun in the frame, which only happens at widest focal lengths close to 14mm, when the front element is extended out. You have to be a little careful when shooting at 14mm and watch for flares, because they might show up in your images when you least expect them. Here is an example with no sun in the frame:
There is a slight amount of barrel distortion on the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G on short focal lengths, which is completely gone by 20mm. At 24mm, there is an almost unnoticeable pincushion distortion. As I pointed out above, distortion is not a problem, because it can be easily fixed in Photoshop or Lightroom 3 using Lens Correction.
Example of distortion at 14mm (left) and after applying the fix in Lightroom (right):
Let’s now move on to the good stuff – Sharpness tests. Select the next page below.
Some technical junk:
- White Balance: Auto
- ISO: 200
- EXIF information is preserved in the images
- Lens was mounted on Nikon D3s FX Camera and Gitzo tripod
- Focusing was performed through Live-View Contrast Detect. After each successful focus acquisition, focus was switched to manual to prevent camera refocusing
- Mirror Lock-Up mode with Exposure Delay set to “On” and remote cable release to completely eliminate camera shake
- Long exposure NR: Off
- Image Format: RAW & JPEG
- Lightroom settings: Default settings, but exposure had to be slightly adjusted for some images
- Lightroom export: sRGB JPEG Quality 80
- Testing was performed at f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6 and f/8.0 apertures
- Nothing was moved during testing
10) Sharpness Test – Nikon 14-24mm @ 14mm Center Frame
Either hover your mouse or click on each image to see the aperture settings. Top left: f/2.8, Top right: f/4.0, Bottom left: f/5.6, Bottom right: f/8.0.
Do you see a difference between any of the above images? Because I don’t – the center sharpness at 14mm is incredible at all apertures. The corners @ 14mm look identical to 16mm (see below).
11) Sharpness Test – Nikon 14-24mm @ 16mm Center Frame
At 16mm focal length, the situation does not change and center remains incredibly sharp.
12) Sharpness Test – Nikon 14-24mm @ 16mm Corner Frame
This is the most important part of the sharpness test, because you get to witness the incredible corner performance of the 14-24mm f/2.8G lens. I skipped the 14mm corner shots, because they looked identical in terms of sharpness as the 16mm shots. At f/2.8, there is a slight sharpness problem in the extreme corners, getting stellar by f/4.0 and beyond. There is also a visible amount of vignetting in the f/2.8 shot.
13) Sharpness Test – Nikon 14-24mm @ 24mm Center Frame
Once again, the center crop looks extremely good at 24mm for all apertures and the sharpness is simply outstanding.
14) Sharpness Test – Nikon 14-24mm @ 24mm Corner Frame
At 24mm, f/2.8 corners look a little softer than the 16mm corners. The situation gets much better at f/4.0 and superb at f/5.6 and f/8.0 – that’s if I am really picky!
As you can see from the above examples, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G produces incredibly sharp images at all apertures in the center and almost as good in the corners.
Compared to Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR
15) Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR
How does the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G compare to the new Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR? Let’s take a look at the image samples taken at 16mm. The image on the left is Nikon 14-24mm and the image on the right is Nikon 16-35mm (corner):
Compared to the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR suffers from vignetting, distortion and sharpness issues in the extreme corners. I won’t be comparing center sharpness, because both lenses produce equally sharp images in the center. Images were taken at f/4.0, same settings and distance.
Let’s compare the performance at f/8.0:
The 16-35mm looks impressive at f/8.0, but still worse than 14-24mm. The Nikon 14-24mm clearly wins @ 16mm.
What about 24mm? Let’s take a look at the corners at f/4.0 and f/8.0:
The Nikon 16-35mm performs really well at 24mm, but the 14-24mm is still sharper.
Compared to Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D
16) Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G vs Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D
As I have shown in my Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR review, the corner performance of the 17-35mm f/2.8D is worse than on 16-35mm. The below crops confirm this (left image is 14-24mm and right image is 17-35mm. Both shot @ 17mm, f/2.8):
At f/2.8, the difference in sharpness is colossal with 17-35mm suffering heavily in the extreme corners. The situation improves by f/8.0 for the 17-35mm, but the image suffers from heavy color fringing.
Just like the Nikon 16-35mm, the 17-35mm f/2.8D lens gets much sharper at 24mm, but still does not match the sharpness of the 14-24mm @ f/2.8.
At 24mm f/8.0, both lenses are equally sharp.
Overall, the Nikon 14-24mm crushes the 17-35mm in the corners, especially on the wide end. Sure 24mm f/8.0 looks comparable, but most lenses perform very well at f/8.0 as well.
Compared to Nikon 24mm f/1.4G
17) Sharpness Test – Nikon 14-24mm vs Nikon 24mm f/1.4G
What about the current prime sharpness king, the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G? Let’s take a look at f/2.8 (left is 14-24mm f/2.8G and right is 24mm f/1.4G):
Nikon 14-24mm performs well against the 24mm f/1.4G @ f/2.8, but the 24mm f/1.4G is still much sharper.
At f/8.0, both lenses are extremely sharp in the corners.
The Nikon 24mm f/1.4G wins in this comparison.
Compared to Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
18) Sharpness Test – Nikon 14-24mm vs Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
Here is a comparison between 14-24mm and 24-70mm @ 24mm in the extreme corners (14-24mm on the left and 24-70mm on the right):
The Nikon 24-70mm is much softer in the corners @ f/2.8 and suffers from heavy distortion and vignetting.
Even at f/8.0, the Nikon 24-70mm is softer than the 14-24mm at 24mm, so the 14-24mm wins big time here.
Summary and Image Samples
There is a reason why so many people fall in love with this lens – as you saw from the tests, it is the finest ultra-wide angle zoom lens available today with razor-sharp performance and contrast. Its corner performance is unbelieveable at all focal lengths wide open at f/2.8 and even better above f/4.0, while center sharpness always stays stellar at all focal lengths and apertures. The Nikon 14-24mm shines on the FX sensor and is even better on DX, although I personally think that it is too much of a lens for DX – I would hate to see its corners cut off.
While without a doubt it is a great pick for landscape photographers due to its sharpness, contrast and resolution, the Nikon 14-24mm has a big problem – due to its fisheye-like front element, it has no filter thread and therefore cannot take any filters. Filters such as neutral density are extremely important for landscape photography, especially for sunrise/sunset shots where the sky can be several stops brighter than the rest of the scene. Because of this problem, many photographers either carry the Nikon 14-24mm with another lens such as Nikon 24-70mm that can take filters, or purchase expensive filter solutions from companies like Lee Filters. For all other types of photography where use of filters is not important, the Nikon 14-24mm is an ideal ultra-wide angle lens. There is one more problem that you have to watch out for – flares might show up in your images even when the light source is not in the frame, when shooting at wide 14mm-16mm focal lengths.
Overall, despite the fact that I cannot use filters with the Nikon 14-24mm for my nature shots, I am still extremely pleased with the performance of this lens. I tested it primarily for landscape and architecture photography and all images came out colorful and beautiful. On the wide-end at 14mm, the angles are just wicked and pictures have an original “feel” to them that other zoom lenses cannot replicate – it is a fun lens to photograph with. Being able to zoom in to 24mm is also very nice for landscape photography – instead of moving back and forth, change of focal length can eliminate unwanted objects from appearing in the frame.
20) Where to buy and availability
21) More image samples
Click here to download the full version of the file in JPEG format (5 MB).
Click here to download the full version of the file in JPEG format (5 MB).
Click here to download the full version of the file in JPEG format (4.3 MB).
All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov, All Rights Reserved. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission from the author.