This is an in-depth review of the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens that was released in August of 2010. The constant maximum aperture, mid-range Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR zoom lens was a major update to the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G VR, which had been known at the time for being a sub-par lens optically. Shortly after the 24-120mm f/4G VR was announced, Nikon discontinued its variable-aperture predecessor and made the 24-120mm f/4G VR into a premium kit lens to be bundled with higher-end full-frame cameras. I have been using the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR for a number of years now and I decided to update the existing review with more image samples, additional information and up-to-date lab measurements.
The Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR is a constant maximum aperture lens with a 5x zoom range that is designed for professional and advanced amateur photographers that need a mid-range lens with image stabilization to be used for many types of photography, including street, nature, travel and wedding photography. Unlike variable-aperture lenses that typically have an aperture of f/5.6 when zoomed all the way in, the Nikon 24-120mm stays at f/4 throughout the focal range, giving a one-stop advantage to the 24-120mm f/4 over variable-aperture lenses on the long end (for example, the older Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G lens had a maximum aperture of f/5.6 beyond 85mm and the current 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR superzoom is at f/5.6 beyond 105mm).
In addition, the lens comes with plenty of updated optical features from Nikon, including second generation VR II (vibration reduction) technology, which offers camera shake compensation equivalent to a shutter speed increase of approximately four stops. Thanks to the AF-S silent-wave focus motor, the lens focuses quietly and accurately in various lighting conditions, and the 77mm filter thread makes it easy to use specialized screw-on filters. The advanced optical formula consisting of 17 elements in 13 groups with two ED, three aspherical elements and Nano Crystal Coat all contribute to great performance throughout the zoom range.
1) Lens Specifications
- Compact and versatile 5X standard zoom lens with f/4 maximum aperture is perfect for landscapes, portraits, weddings and distant subjects offering a constant maximum aperture to maintain exposure settings throughout the entire zoom range and VR II Image Stabilization.
- Nikon VR II (Vibration Reduction), engineered specifically for each VR NIKKOR lens, enables handheld shooting at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than would otherwise be possible, assuring dramatically sharper still images and video capture.
- 2 Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements offers superior sharpness and color correction by effectively minimizing chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture setting.
- M/A Focus Mode Switch enables quick changes between manual and autofocus operation.
- Exclusive Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM) enables fast, accurate and quiet autofocus.
- Rounded 9-blade diaphragm renders more natural appearance of out-of-focus image areas.
- Nano Crystal Coat further reduces ghosting and interior flare across a wide range of wavelengths for even greater image clarity.
- 3 Aspherical Lens Elements virtually eliminate coma and other types of aberration, even when shooting at the widest available aperture.
- Internal Focus (IF) provides fast and quiet autofocus without changing the length of the lens, retaining working distance throughout the focus range.
- Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC) enhances light transmission efficiency and offers superior color consistency and reduced flare.
- Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
- Focal Length Range: 24-120mm
- Zoom Ratio: 5.0x
- Maximum Aperture: f/4
- Minimum Aperture: f/22
- Format: FX/35mm
- Maximum Angle of View (DX-format): 61°
- Minimum Angle of View (DX-format): 13°20′
- Maximum Angle of View (FX-format): 84°
- Minimum Angle of View (FX-format): 20°30′
- Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.24x
- Lens Elements: 17
- Lens Groups: 13
- Compatible Format(s): FX, DX, FX in DX Crop Mode, 35mm Film
- VR (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization: Yes
- Diaphragm Blades: 9
- Distance Information: Yes
- Nano Crystal Coat: Yes
- ED Glass Elements: 2
- Super Integrated Coating: Yes
- Autofocus: Yes
- AF-S (Silent Wave Motor): Yes
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Minimum Focus Distance: 1.5ft. (0.45m)
- Focus Mode: Auto, Manual
- Filter Size: 77mm
- Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
- Dimensions (Approx.): 3.3×4.1 in. (Diameter x Length), 84x103mm (Diameter x Length)
- Weight (Approx.): 23.6 oz. (670g)
- Supplied Accessories: HB-53 Bayonet Lens Hood, LC-77 Snap-on Front Lens Cap, LF-1 Rear Lens Cap, CL-1218 Soft Lens Case
2) Lens Construction and Handling
When compared to the older 24-120mm, the barrel of the 24-120mm f/4 is thicker, I would say about the same size as the barrel of the Nikon 28-300mm lens. Zoomed out to 24mm, it is certainly more compact than the 24-70mm or the 28-300mm lenses height-wise and also weighs much less than both. Here is how the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 compares against Nikon 24-70mm (left) and Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5-6G (right):
When extended to 120mm, the lens gets bigger and almost reaches the height of the fully extended 24-70mm (obviously not quite as tall as the Nikon 28-300mm):
The lens is built very similarly to the Nikon 28-300mm, with a plastic exterior and focus ring. The zoom ring is also made of plastic and is covered with rubber for resistance. Most of the recently-announced lenses by Nikon have a plastic exterior, which does not necessarily mean that the lenses are not solid – the interior of the Nikon 24-120mm contains plenty of metal (which obviously contributes to the weight) and the lens mount is also made of solid metal. When you zoom in, the first extension tube by the zoom ring is metal, while the second one that connects the front of the lens is plastic. The front part of the 24-120mm does not wobble when the lens is is fully extended either. In many ways, the construction of the lens is very similar to that of 28-300 – a very high quality build. The lens should be able to withstand cold and hot temperatures, but I would not leave it under rain, extreme moisture and dusty environments.
Weight-wise, it is not a heavy lens when compared to the Nikon 28-300mm or 24-70mm lenses. Weighing about 670 grams, it is 230 grams lighter than the latter, which is a big difference. The lens feels very solid in hands and the zoom action is smooth and easy to rotate from 24 to 120mm and vice versa – it takes a half turn to go from 24 to 120mm. The focus ring is made of plastic and is located on the back of the lens, which I find backwards. I am used to the zoom ring being close to the lens and the focus ring to be near the lens barrel. But if you have shot with other DX lenses before, you should have no problem with getting used to it.
The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR lens comes with a relatively compact “HB-53” bayonet lens hood that is specifically designed for the lens, which is about the same size as the “HB-25” hood that comes with the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. The lens is shipped with the newly-designed LF-4 rear lens cap, which I personally like better than the old LF-1. For some reason, only the new Nikon 55-300mm and the Nikon 24-120mm are shipped with this cap – Nikon 28-300mm and Nikon 85mm f/1.4G are both shipped with the old LF-1 rear cap. When changing lenses, try to do it with the lens fully zoomed out to 24mm. The rear lens element moves deeply into the lens when extended to 120mm and you could end up with a lot of dust/debris inside the lens if you are shooting in windy and dusty conditions. This is nothing to be scared of – even some of the professional fixed-width zoom lenses such as Nikon 16-35mm do this.
3) Autofocus Speed and Accuracy
Similar to other modern lenses, the autofocus motor of the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR is quiet and accurate even under challenging lighting conditions, thanks to the AF-S Silent Wave Motor. Autofocus speed is quick, certainly much quicker than on the 28-300mm lens. If you took 24-70mm, 24-120mm and 28-300mm lenses and tested AF speed on all three at the same time, the 24-70mm would be the first (blazing fast), with the 24-120mm second (fast) and the 28-300mm last (slow). If you measure the AF speed and compare to the 24-70mm, the 24-120mm is about 2x slower, while the 28-300mm is about 3x slower than the 24-70mm. Focus tracking works reasonably well for photographing large mammals and people, with the lens getting accurate focus almost every time in continuous mode. I took many shots of my fast-moving kids with this lens and I had no problems getting accurate focus.
However, the lens does have an issue tracking fast-moving subjects. When I was in Yellowstone, I tried to photograph a pretty fast bird on one of the hot springs. I shot quite a few images of the bird while it was moving and the AF speed of the 24-120mm could not catch up, often yielding out of focus images. After shooting with fast telephoto lenses like the 70-200mm, it was quite disappointing to shoot with the 24-120mm for tracking small, quick subjects like this bird:
I ended up getting a reasonably sharp shot (which is already challenging at 120mm, since the lens does not resolve very well there) only after the bird stopped moving erratically.
So keep this in mind when shooting with the 24-120mm. It is definitely not a lens you want to use to photograph fast-moving wildlife! For everything else though, it works really well.
4) Lens Sharpness, Contrast and Color Rendition
As I reveal in the sharpness tests below, the performance of the 24-120mm at shorter focal lengths is outstanding. Center sharpness is top notch, even wide open, while the corners start out a little weaker at f/4, but get much sharper by f/5.6, with the best overall sharpness at f/8. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for the longest focal length – that’s where the lens suffers the most. There is plenty of vignetting and distortion at all focal lengths as well, which is a nuisance, but certainly fixable in post-processing. Contrast and colors are superb and the lens does not suffer from any major chromatic aberration issues.
Here is the MTF chart for the lens, measured by Imatest:
The lens starts out strong in center sharpness, but its corners are somewhat weak wide open. Stopped down to f/8 though, the 24-120mm yields pretty even performance across the frame.
Corners get better when the lens is zoomed in to 35mm, with f/8 again being the sweet spot of the lens for the best overall sharpness.
Zooming in towards 50mm results in weaker wide open performance, which seems to also impact the performance of the lens towards the edges of the frame.
Quite a bit of sharpness is lost at longer focal lengths on this lens. As shown above, the 24-120mm f/4G VR certainly does get worse in its center performance, although stopping down again yields pretty solid overall sharpness.
And 120mm is definitely the weakest point of the 24-120mm f/4G VR. We see a pretty visible overall drop of sharpness across the frame, with wide open performance looking the worst. Sadly, even stopping down to f/8 does not do much to improve its extreme corners.
5) Vibration Reduction – VR II
I am a big fan of Vibration Reduction (VR) lenses – I wish every lens had VR in it, because it is one of the most useful lens features for low-light photography. VR certainly does work very well on zoom lenses and the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR comes with a second generation Vibration Reduction system (VR II), which is supposed to deliver sharp images up to four stops the shutter speed. What this means, is that you might be able to get sharp images at 1/8th of a second when shooting at 120mm (the reciprocal rule says to keep your shutter speed at your focal length and 4 stops from 1/120th is 1/8th) – VR II certainly does work as advertised.
VR is incredibly useful at any focal length. When Nikon released the 16-35mm lens (which was the first image-stabilized short-focal zoom lens in the world) so many photographers at first stated that VR for such short focal lengths would be useless. Those who tried out the 16-35mm quickly discovered that VR actually works great even for super wide-angle lenses.
When it comes to bokeh, the Nikon 24-120mm yields a somewhat busy bokeh, similar to how other zoom lenses render the background. Obviously, it is not a portrait lens and the lens’ maximum aperture of f/4 is very limiting in terms of subject isolation, but overall, the results are very comparable to those of other similar class lenses. Here is a quick comparison with the Nikon 24-70mm shot outdoors in daylight (50mm @ f/4 on both):
Looks about the same, doesn’t it? However, when shooting bright light sources in the background, the situation is a little different:
The Nikon 24-120mm here looks busier or “dirtier” than the 24-70mm. Although both lenses sport aspherical glass elements that negatively impact those out of focus highlights, the 24-120mm appears visibly worse in comparison.
Other than that, the overall bokeh of the lens is not too bad, as seen on some of the images in this review:
Another bad similarity to the Nikon 28-300mm is also in heavy vignetting that is visible throughout the zoom range. Here are some vignetting tests shot at 24mm, 35mm, 70mm and 120mm:
Vignetting seems to be worst at 24mm when shot wide open, but as you can see, it is quite evident at all focal lengths. At 35mm, it gets a little better, but the problem returns at longer focal lengths. Another thing you have to be careful with, is using filters when shooting at 24mm, just like on the Nikon 24-70mm. Take a look at what happens when I used a polarizing filter on the 24-120mm:
As you can see, the corners are even darker with a polarizing filter attached, so just be a little careful when shooting at the shortest focal lengths with thick filters attached (using a regular clear filter did not seem to make a difference). Please note that the Nikon 24-70mm also has a similar problem when using thick filters – if you want to shoot at the widest focal length with a polarizing filter, my advice is to use slim versions of polarizing filters. This problem is gone once you zoom in a little. At 28mm and beyond, I could not see much additional vignetting when using a rather thick filter.
Here is how Imatest measured vignetting on the Nikon 24-120mm:
As you can see, the most problematic focal length is 24mm, which had pretty dark corners reaching over 3 EV at f/4. Once stopped down, vignetting at all focal lengths goes down significantly.
8) Ghosting, Flare and Distortion
Ghosting and flare are controlled very well, thanks to the Nano Crystal Coat. I shot images with the sun in the center and different corners of the frame and could not get any images with nasty flare/ghosting. Take a look at this example with the sun on the right top:
Besides seeing two small ghosts on the top right and bottom left corners of the frame, I do not see anything else. No color changes due to flare either! Obviously, Nano Crystal Coat does not completely eliminate ghosting and flare, so you just have to be careful how you position the sun in your frame. Using filters might also potentially introduce more flare and ghosting.
As you can see form the last image above, barrel distortion is very noticeable at the widest focal lengths. Once you zoom in, like most other lenses, barrel distortion changes over to pincushion. Take a look at the following example at 58mm, where strong pincushion distortion is visible on the top:
These kinds of distortion issues are present across the focal range with the strongest effect at 24mm (barrel) and beyond 28mm (pincushion) and weakest at 28mm. Distortion is something that is relative easy to fix in post-processing. Lightroom already includes the Nikon 24-120mm lens profile in its Lens Correction sub-module, which means that you can quickly fix the issue with a single click of a button.
Here is how Imatest measured distortion on this lens:
9) Chromatic Aberration
Lateral Chromatic Aberration (CA) is controlled relatively well, with a little bit of purple fringing present in the corners. Here is an extreme example with some purple CA in the corner frame:
And here is how Imatest measured chromatic aberration across all focal lengths:
As you can see, the most problematic focal lengths are from 24mm to 50mm, after which CA goes down significantly. Stopping down definitely improves CA at 35mm and above, but not much at the widest end. Gladly, chromatic aberration can be quickly fixed in Lightroom or Photoshop.
10) Focus Breathing
This lens does NOT suffer from the focus breathing problem the Nikon 28-300mm does, which means that you get the “true” 120mm focal length on the long end. What this also means, is that if you were to shoot a very close subject with this lens at 120mm and with the 28-300mm at 300mm, you would only get a very marginally enlarged image with the 28-300mm…talking about usefulness of the long focal length of the 28-300mm! Obviously this is not true for subjects shot at infinity, so the comparison depends on how close you get to your subjects.
Let’s now move on to lens comparison.
11) Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR vs Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
Let’s take a look at how both lenses perform at 28mm:
Although the 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR has a larger maximum aperture of f/3.5, its performance is not even comparable at its widest aperture. In fact, even stopped down to f/8.0, the 28-300mm VR cannot resolve as much detail in the center as the 24-120mm f/4G VR does wide open.
When zoomed in to 35mm, the 28-300mm VR gets a little better, but it is still nowhere close to what the 24-120mm VR can resolve throughout the frame.
When both lenses are zoomed in to 50mm, performance differences get smaller, but still not enough for the 28-300mm to match the 24-120mm.
The 24-120mm gets worse at 70mm, especially wide open, but not as bad as where the 28-300mm is when stopped down to f/5.6-f/8 range.
And lastly when looking at the performance of the lenses 120mm and 105mm, we can see that the 28-300mm VR outperforms the 24-120mm in the center. When stopped down to f/8, the 28-300mm VR again edges out the 24-120mm VR in the center and in the corners.
As you can see, aside from the longest focal length of 120mm, the difference in performance between the two lenses is quite clear. Not only is the Nikon 28-300mm worse in center, mid-frame and corner sharpness, but it is also about slower at the longer focal lengths in terms of maximum aperture. Wide open at f/4, the Nikon 24-120mm often beats the Nikon 28-300mm at f/5.6. And this is with a very good copy of the 28-300mm that one of our readers was kind enough to send me for testing!
The above test results are what I was expecting and there is nothing surprising about my findings. In fact, my test results are pretty much on par with the MTF charts provided by Nikon:
As my tests have confirmed, the overall sharpness on the 24-120mm is visibly superior when compared to the 28-300mm.
Although the 24-120mm lens build and quality seems to be on the same level as the Nikon 28-300mm, here are eight key differences that make the 24-120mm a better lens:
- Autofocus Speed – as I have pointed out earlier, the Nikon 24-120mm focuses much faster than the 28-300mm. Not only does it focus faster, but it also recovers from loss of focus much quicker, where the 28-300mm simply crawls.
- Autofocus Accuracy – not only is the Nikon 24-120mm faster, but it is also more accurate. My first sample of the 28-300mm had a hard time focusing at f/5.6 beyond 135mm and the 24-120mm always focuses dead-on, even in challenging light situations.
- 4mm difference is huge – those 4mm of difference (it is actually a little more than that, because the wider side of the 28-300mm is more like 30mm) are significant, especially for landscape and architectural photography. The Nikon 24-120mm has the maximum angle of view of 84°, while the 28-300mm is 74° – a whopping 10 degree difference.
- Nikon 24-120mm is coated with Nano Crystal Coat – after shooting with both the 28-300mm and the 24-120mm, I can tell you that there is certainly difference between lenses that feature Nano Crystal Coat when compared to those that don’t. Nano Crystal Coat not only reduces ghosting and flare, but it also has a positive effect on colors. I found the 24-120mm to be much more pleasing to work with for nature and landscape photography as a result.
- Sample variation – being a consumer lens, the quality of optics on the Nikon 28-300mm vary greatly from sample to sample. I have received many emails from photographers that complained about their 28-300mm sharpness and some of our readers even tried three different samples without much luck. The Nikon 24-120mm is made better than the 28-300mm – I tested a number of different samples and they performed somewhat similarly with a minimal difference in performance. Not as good as the pro-level 24-70mm, but still better than consumer-grade lenses.
- Constant maximum aperture vs variable aperture – as you have seen from the above tests, the Nikon 24-120mm has a clear advantage over the Nikon 28-300mm at longer focal lengths, which can make a difference when shooting in low-light conditions.
- Nikon 24-120mm is sharper – as I have demonstrated above.
- Nikon 24-120mm is a high-quality lens – there is a reason why Nikon put a gold ring around the front of the 24-120mm and did not on the 28-300mm. The Nikon 28-300mm is considered to be a consumer lens, while the Nikon 24-120mm is considered to be an enthusiast-level lens.
Lastly, do you really think Nikon would have announced the 24-120mm together with the 28-300mm if their performance was the same? :)
Let’s move on to a comparison with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G.
12) Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR vs Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
This comparison is very important for those who are looking at both Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G and Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR to purchase or want to replace their 24-70mm with a smaller/lighter/more useful lens. Let’s see how the lens compares against the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G in terms of sharpness at different focal lengths. Below is the comparison of the two lenses at 24mm:
Surprisingly, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR is a very sharp lens wide open. As you can see, it is practically as sharp as the 24-70mm at f/4 in the center and its mid-frame and corner performance are quite good in comparison. Both lenses do very similarly when stopped down.
Let’s see what happens as we zoom both lenses to 35mm:
The lenses start out with about the same performance at f/4, with the Nikon 24-70mm being a tad sharper in the corners. However, once stopped down to f/8, the 24-120mm f/4G VR shows better corner performance, as seen in the graph above.
What about 50mm?
The lenses certainly get worse at 50mm optically, but the 24-120mm f/4G VR still shows pretty impressive performance overall. It starts out better wide open and once stopped down, actually slightly surpasses its bigger brother in the extreme edges of the frame.
Zoomed in to 70mm, the 24-120mm takes a major hit at f/4 in the center. It certainly does get better when stopped down though – by f/5.6 it actually reaches solid resolution levels, surpassing the 24-70mm in the mid-frame. Stopped down to f/8, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G delivers better overall performance, thanks to slightly sharper corners.
Overall, despite its cheaper build and slower maximum aperture, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR delivers very impressive results when compared to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G. Being a newer lens, it was built to perform quite well with high-resolution cameras, which really shows here.
When it comes to other features, the Nikon 24-70mm has a full stop advantage, but if you add VR to the mix, I believe the Nikon 24-120mm actually has an advantage over the 24-70mm. One stop of light loss versus three to four stops of vibration reduction. Those 230 grams of difference between the 24-120mm and 24-70mm also make a difference for long and painful hikes, where every gram counts. The Nikon 24-70mm obviously focuses much faster, but then the focus speed is not that critical for most of the photography I would use this lens for. If you shoot concerts, the Nikon 24-70mm might serve you better, but for everything else, the AF speed on the 24-120mm is good enough. The Nikon 24-120mm has more distortion and vignetting than the 24-70mm though, which can be a bit painful to deal with, especially at 24mm. The biggest difference between the two lenses, where the Nikon 24-70mm has a big advantage, is construction – the Nikon 24-120mm is built well, but if you shoot in challenging conditions or travel a lot, you would be better off with the 24-70mm that will survive pretty much any weather – the Nikon 24-70mm is built like a tank for all kinds of abuse. The Nikon 24-120mm simply won’t live that long if you don’t take a good care of it.
13) Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR vs Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR compares to the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art at different focal lengths. Here are both lenses at 24mm:
The Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art is an incredibly sharp lens in the center of the frame. As you can see, its performance wide open is very impressive and exceeds that of the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR. However, when it comes to corner performance, its quite poor in comparison to the 24-120mm at the shortest end, even when stopped down to f/8.
At 35mm, the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art takes a slight hit in the center frame wide open, but quickly recovers by f/5.6. Its mid-frame performance is very impressive, exceeding the 24-120mm f/4 quite a bit. However, we again see the same pattern of poor corner performance – the lens just does not resolve enough detail in the extreme corners when compared to the 24-120mm f/4G VR, even when stopped down all the way to f/8.
As we zoom in towards 50mm, we can see that the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art improves considerably – now it starts out on par with the 24-120mm f/4G VR and once stopped down to f/8, it even surpasses the 24-120mm in the extreme edges.
However, its dominance does not last very long. We can see that it starts out in the center sharper at 70mm, but once stopped down to f/8, its corner performance again lacks compared to the 24-120mm f/4G VR.
Lastly, with both lenses zoomed to their longest focal lengths, we can see that the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR takes a major performance hit, unable to provide enough center and corner resolution. The Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art, in comparison, looks much better here. It clearly has better overall performance when compared to the Nikon 24-120mm.
Overall, the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art looks like an impressive lens in terms of resolving power, however, its corner performance at shorter focal lengths is quite disappointing. When testing out the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art, I noticed quite a bit of field curvature on the lens, which certainly played its part in not being able to perform evenly across the frame (if I slightly defocused in the center, I would get better corner figures). I observed the same behavior when shooting in the field – when the lens focused very well in the center, the corners would suffer as a result. I tested two copies of the 24-105mm f/4 Art and both had exactly the same problem. I also received feedback from other users of the 24-105mm f/4 Art, who also experienced frustrating corner performance at wider focal lengths, so the issue does not seem to be isolated to my lens samples.
Lastly, the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art has one very annoying problem that I could not find a way to resolve – it seems that it is impossible to completely turn off image stabilization on the lens. Even with the OS switch set to “Off”, as soon as I would turn my camera on, the framing would slightly change on my Nikon D810. Turning the camera off would put the frame where it should be again. This was very annoying to deal with in the field, especially when I tried to compare the 24-105mm f/4 Art with the 24-120mm f/4G VR – I could never get both to have identical framing. I am not sure if this is a firmware bug or some other problem, but I saw exactly the same issue on two separate samples of this lens.
Without a doubt, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR is a very sharp and versatile lens that is optically comparable to some of Nikon’s professional lenses such as the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G, yielding great results at comparable focal lengths. During my lab and field tests, my goal was to see how well it would perform against its bigger brother, along with third party lenses like the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art. The 24-120mm f/4G VR surely did not disappoint; as you can see in the previous section of this review, the lens performed amazingly well at shorter focal lengths, challenging the 24-70mm f/2.8G and surpassing the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art in the corners. However, it does have a few weaknesses. First, its performance at the longest end of the zoom range (120mm) is quite weak, especially at the edges of the frame. Second, it has quite a bit of distortion and vignetting at the wide and telephoto ends, making it necessary to deal with such issues in post. And lastly, its build quality is obviously not as good as on the 24-70mm f/2.8G. So it certainly is far from being a perfect lens.
However, after shooting with this lens for a few years now and capturing thousands of images, I can say that the lens still exceeds my expectations. For my personal use, I found it to be a bit more practical than my favorite Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G not only due to its lighter weight, but also because it features image stabilization, which can be extremely useful when hand-holding the lens in low-light situations. Also, given how cheap one can obtain the 24-120mm f/4G VR nowadays (I bought it for less than $700 as a kit lens to my D750), it certainly is one of Nikon’s best value offerings out there.
When compared to the older 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G VR, the new 24-120mm f/4G VR is much sharper at all focal lengths and apertures (in fact, Nikon discontinued the older variable-aperture version soon after the 24-120mm f/4G VR was released). Compared to the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR, as I have stated in the comparison section, the Nikon 24-120mm VR is a much better lens. Not only does it produce sharper images, but it also offers the extra 4mm of wider coverage, which is huge for me, since I use those 4mm a lot. The AF speed is much faster and AF accuracy is also very good, while the 28-300mm crawls and does not always focus accurately at long focal lengths.
When it comes to standard zoom lenses, I have always been a big fan of the big and heavy Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G. However, after going through issues with both of my wrists (carpal tunnel), I decided to sell my pro-lenses like the 24-70mm f/2.8G and downgrade to lighter ones like the 24-120mm f/4G VR. To be honest, after shooting with the 24-120mm f/4G VR for over a year now, I realized that the 24-120mm works just fine for what I do, so I am planning to continue using this lens for my personal and professional work. It is lighter, it has image stabilization and it is significantly cheaper compared to the pro-level 24-70mm f/2.8G, let alone the new 24-70mm f/2.8E VR.
15) Where to Buy
You can get your copy of the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR at our trusted partner B&H Photo Video for $1,096.95 (as of 11/25/2016).
16) More Image Samples
All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov, All Rights Reserved. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission from the author.
Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR
- Optical Performance
- Bokeh Quality
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Stabilization
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating