Nikon 19mm f/4E PC vs Nikon 20mm f/1.8G
You might be curious how much a single millimeter impacts a lens’ angle of view. One millimeter is equivalent to roughly 3 degrees. So a 19mm lens compared to a 20mm lens has virtually no difference in how a subject will appear. This is where the similarities between these lenses end. The Nikon 20mm f/1.8G is a small, fast, relatively cheap, general-use wide-angle lens. It can be used for a huge variety of subjects, and really shines with architecture, panoramas and astrophotography. The Nikon 19mm f/4E PC is a highly specialized tool with a slow maximum aperture and a large price tag, so there is no comparison there.
For these reasons, most photographers would be better off with something like the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G. However, let’s not forget that the 19mm f/4E PC does not compete with such lenses and never will – it can do things standard lenses will never be able to. If you are an architecture photographer, you would have to capture a scene with a much wider lens in order to leave enough space for post-processing software to be able to deal with perspective distortion corrections.
And even after all the corrections, the software will most likely leave very little resolution to work with, especially if the subject is very close. If you shoot landscapes, you would have to plan on utilizing the focus stacking technique to be able to capture the foreground and the background with all the detail. And if you are dealing with wildflowers at a very close distance and you have slight wind, good luck trying to get all that detail.
A lens like the 19mm f/4E PC takes care of such issues – you have the flexibility to tilt and shift using the lens itself, with no extra post-processing steps. You have the ability to correct perspective distortion and change the focus plane when needing to capture all the detail in the foreground and the background, all in a single exposure. So keep all this in mind when comparing specialized tilt-shift lenses to standard ones, especially when it comes to sharpness. Depending on what you are trying to do, sharpness might not even be relevant.
Now that we have all that covered, let’s see how the Nikon 19mm f/4E PC compared to the 20mm f/1.8G in the lab in terms of sharpness:
It is pretty clear that the two lenses are very different optically. The 20mm f/1.8G is going to resolve more detail at f/4 in the center when compared to the 19mm f/4E PC. However, take a look at how both lenses do in the mid-frame and the corners – the 19mm f/4E PC is remarkably good there, especially at the edges of the frame. Although the 20mm f/1.8G catches up at f/5.6 and smaller apertures in the edges, the tilt-shift lens shows excellent edge performance at all apertures.
Nikon 19mm f/4E PC vs Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G
The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G is an extremely versatile wide-angle zoom lens. It covers ultra-wide to standard wide-angle scenes with incredible sharpness corner to corner even when shot at maximum aperture. This lens is a favorite of many serious Nikon shooters and it is used widely by many landscape photographers. However, just like the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G, the 14-24mm is designed for general use photography. Again, the Nikon 19mm f/4E PC is a much more specialized lens (thanks to its tilting and shifting abilities), built specifically for architecture and landscape photographers. There is also a $1,500 difference in favor of the 14-24mm f/2.8G, distancing the 19mm f/4E PC even further.
Just like with the 20mm f/1.8G, we should not be comparing these lenses purely based on optics, but rather on their intended use. The 14-24mm covers a lot more angles, both on its wider and longer ends, so it is a bit more versatile in that regard. At the same time, the 19mm f/4E PC is a prime lens that might not be as versatile in comparison, but it does have its unique uses, as explained above.
Here is how the two lenses compare in the lab at similar focal lengths:
While the 14-24mm f/2.8G shows comparable performance in the mid-frame and the corners, it certainly does better in sharpness in the center of the frame, especially when stopped down to f/4 and f/5.6. However, this difference is very minimal and not something you would notice in images. While this is a testament to how amazing the 14-24mm f/2.8G really is as a zoom lens, let’s again not forget that we are looking at two lenses for different uses.
Nikon 19mm f/4E PC vs Nikon 24mm f/3.5D PC-E
This comparison pretty much comes down to four things: how much of a difference does 5mm, no filters, sharpness and a large price tag make? 5mm may not sound like much, but it gives the Nikon 19mm f/4E PC a 13.5% larger angle of view than the Nikon 24mm f/3.5D PC-E; this is significant for wide-angle photography. One focal length is not better than the other, and your preference will depend on your subject and your vision as a photographer. Some photographers prefer getting closer to a subject with super wide-angle lenses, while others find 24mm to be a great compromise.
Landscape photographers might not like the fact that they cannot mount a standard circular filter on the 19mm f/4E PC, while they can on the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E (for cityscape and architecture filters are less crucial). This means that one would have to use a third-party solution that will be able to accommodate filters on the lens. And those filters are not going to be small. Based on the looks of the lens, a filter holder would need to mount to the front part of the lens like a hood – that’s the only mounting point that is available on the front of the lens barrel. That’s how the NiSi filter holder for the Nikon 19mm f/4E PC seems to be designed and I am sure others will follow. Sharpness-wise, there is a pretty big difference between the two lenses, as shown below. And lastly, the difference in price between these lenses is pretty significant – the 24mm f/3.5 PC-E costs $1,200 less than the new 19mm f/4E PC.
Let’s compare the sharpness of these two lenses and see what Nikon was able to achieve with the 19mm f/4E PC:
The sharpness difference between the two lenses is pretty shocking – the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E shows quite poor performance at its maximum aperture, which gets better as the lens is stopped down. Unfortunately, even when stopped down to f/5.6, the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E cannot reach the same sharpness as the 19mm f/4E PC. In fact, when testing the two lenses side by side, the 19mm f/4E PC looked as sharp wide open as the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E stopped down to f/5.6. And that’s just in the center! Take a look at the edges of the frame and you will see why the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E needs to be replaced sooner than later – it just cannot resolve much in the corners. Unfortunately, the lens does not get any better when stopped down – even at f/8, it struggles quite a bit, unable to yield sharp images. We went through two samples of the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E in our lab and both showed very similar results, so this is not just sample variance at play.
In short, the 19mm f/4E PC is a much superior lens in terms of resolving power when compared to the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E – there is simply no comparison. Is the difference worth the $1,200 price premium? For a working pro who uses tilt-shift lenses extensively, it would most likely be worth it, especially when shooting on high-resolution cameras like the Nikon D810.
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