When the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR was announced, a lot of photographers including myself got pretty excited about it. With a low price of $599, this full-frame lens sounded like a great potential choice for those that do not want to shell out over a thousand USD for the higher-end Nikon 24-120mm f/4G or the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lenses. And with low-cost entry-level full-frame cameras like the Nikon D600 / D610, the Nikon 24-85mm could have become a popular lens.
I spent over a month testing this lens on multiple Nikon cameras and found it to be an OK performer overall. While it is a little weak at short focal lengths and in the extreme corners, it has pretty good center sharpness and its overall resolution is quite good when stopped down to f/8 and smaller. At longer focal lengths above 35mm, it can resolve a lot of fine detail and it outperforms the older 24-85mm lenses. The Nikon 24-85mm VR almost has no focus shift and it has less field curvature issues compared to the older Nikon 24-85mm f/2.8-4D lens. Vibration Reduction (VR II) is very useful and works extremely well, allowing to use up to 3-4 times slower shutter speeds. It produces images with great contrast and beautiful colors, although I would not put it in the same category with some of Nikon’s pro-level lenses.
At the same time, the Nikon 24-85mm VR has a number of optical problems. The lens shows high levels of vignetting at maximum aperture, especially at 24mm. Stopping down the lens to f/8 minimizes vignetting quite a bit, but it still stays above or close to 1 EV at short focal lengths. Its distortion levels are also very high – at 24mm, it starts out with -3.70% barrel distortion, which is pretty high. Starting from around the 40mm mark, the lens gets over 3% pincushion distortion, which is very noticeable in images. On top of that, the extreme corners also suffer from a high amount of lateral chromatic aberration. But the worst problem of them all is field curvature. Although the lens demonstrates solid center performance, it always comes at the expense of corner performance. While focusing on the corners does improve them significantly, it does so by diminishing the center.
Where to Buy
You can order your copy of the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR lens from B&H.
Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR
- Optical Performance
- Bokeh Quality
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Stabilization
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
Table of Contents