The PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED can be a very powerful and valuable tool in a photographer’s bag. It has many different uses – the lens can act as a normal 24mm lens for wide-angle photography, can swing left and right or tilt up and down and can be shifted in different directions at the same time (with some limitations, as described earlier). The shifting capability gives photographers the ability to control converging lines, while tilting and swinging allow changing the lens plane to either bring everything in focus, or to selectively apply focus to certain parts of an image. These unique features make the 24mm f/3.5D PC-E a very specialized lens. They also add to the complexity of using such a lens. It took me several weeks to fully understand how to work with PC-E lenses and even after using them for a while, I still had occasional issues with focus and depth of field.
Once I figured out how to use tilt/shift lenses, when and how to deploy them, I started realizing that the benefits of using such lenses far outweigh their complexity. Having used regular lenses for many years now, I have been frustrated by certain limitations when photographing landscapes. For example, if I had objects at a very close distance to my DSLR camera (flowers, stones, etc), I knew that I either had to step back and increase the space between my lens and my subjects, or I had to shoot multiple images at different focus points and then focus stack them in post-processing.
And as you may already know, any time more than one photograph is used to create a single image, there is always a potential for error. Changes in weather, wind, lighting conditions and other factors could have an adverse effect on the final image. You could spend many hours trying to get everything aligned and fixed. Like the old view film cameras, PC-E lenses can deliver outstanding results directly on camera, without using any post-processing software. This means saving time and getting better results without having to mess with image editing software.
Out of the three PC-E lenses, I found the Nikon 24mm f/3.5D PC-E to be the most useful for my needs, primarily because of the 24mm focal length that is ideal on FX sensors for landscape and architectural photography. As you can see from this review, the lens is sharp across the frame and is very comparable to the legendary Nikon 24mm f/1.4G lens. It does have a couple of problems like excessive chromatic aberration when the lens is shifted all the way up or down, some distortion and vignetting at the largest aperture, but those all can be easily addressed in post-processing software like Lightroom.
If Adobe releases camera profiles for this lens, you will be able to fix some of the issues with a single click, using the Lightroom Lens Correction. However, since the tilt/shift information is not stored in EXIF data, Lightroom will not correct issues that occur when the lens is tilted, swung or shifted. You would have to address those manually.
One major annoyance with most tilt/shift lenses, including the Nikon 24mm f/3.5D PC-E, is the factory default setting for tilt and shift movements. All Nikkor PC-E lenses are shipped in such configuration, where you can swing the lens left and right, but you cannot simultaneously shift the lens in the same parallel direction. If you tilt the lens, you can only shift to the left and right sides and if you swing the lens, you can only shift it upwards or downwards. To fix this issue, you have to send your lens to a Nikon service center for reconfiguration. Nikon does not sell these in parallel configuration, but if you buy a used unit, it might be already configured for parallel movements. If you are a landscape photographer, definitely get yours adjusted.
Overall, I am very pleased with this lens and I will be adding it to my gear list soon, primarily for my landscape photography needs. If you are an architecture or landscape photographer, I recommend adding the Nikon 24mm f/3.5D PC-E to your gear list as well, especially if photography is your bread and butter.
Where to Buy
You can order your copy of the PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED lens at B&H. At the time of this article’s publication, the lens was selling for approximately $1,999 (check current price).
Nikon 24mm PC-E
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