Nikkor 24-120mm f4 (vs Nikkor 18-200mm VR in quick lens sharpness comparison test)

I’ve been a happy user of Nikon’s 1st generation Nikkor 18-200mm VR f3.5-5.6 DX lens since I got it for my Nikon D5000 shortly after I purchased the D5000. However, I quickly learned that a fast prime was a must so I also purchased the Nikkor 35mm f1.8 AF-S, which is an amazing (and cheap) lens, I highly recommend it.

As for the 18-200mm VR lens, it ended up spending more and more time collecting dust on the shelf after I upgraded my D5000 to the new Nikon D7000. An upgrade which was well worth-it in my case, I might add (also read: 5 reasons to replace your Nikon D5000 with D7000 and 5 reasons not to replace your Nikon D5000 with D7000). The only downside is, the D7000 demands quality glass. You’re not going to get worse pictures with D7000 and the same lenses as used on D5000 or similar, but D7000 more easily shows minor faults in your not-so-expensive lenses. For me, this meant my trusty old 18-200mm lens really started to show those compromises that everybody is talking about in terms of super zooms.

Then some mentions of a new 24-120mm f4 lens from Nikon started to appear on the Internet. It’s a full frame lens with the gold “I’m an expensive lens!”-ring around the front element. Their previous 24-120mm was f3.5-5.6 which didn’t get the best reviews. This new one is a constant f4 and in general it receives very good reviews for use on a full frame camera. Some of the downsides are slight vignetting and barrel distortion – downsides which are not as clear on a DX camera due to the cropped sensor (I don’t see any vignetting), so on a DX camera you basically get the sweet spot of the lens, compared to FX cameras (full frame).

Cool. I needed this lens. I could live without the 18-23mm area, since I use my Tokina 12-24mm f4 for wide-angle work anyway. And the difference between 120 and 200mm ain’t that big of deal, especially since 200mm on Nikon’s 18-200mm VR lens is not really 200mm unless it’s focused at infinity (go look up “lens breathing” to learn more about that subject).

I have now used the Nikon 24-120mm f4 VRII on my Nikon D7000 for a few months and I must say, it’s an amazing lens. It better be, cause it’s damn expensive too!! It’s so sharp that you need to keep bandages nearby when looking at the photos at 100%, because you’re going to cut yourself. Well, almost that sharp, anyway.

Now, I have to admit, I suck at making lens reviews, so I’m probably doing this totally wrong. But I mostly wanted to show you some of the difference between a super zoom (which comes with compromises, though it wins on versatility) and an expensive full frame lens like the 24-120mm. Take a look at the screenshots below – and don’t miss the warning at the bottom. Click on the screenshots to view them in larger size.

(Left: 24-120mm / Right: 18-200mm) Center sharpness test - not much difference here, to be honest.
(Left: 24-120mm / Right: 18-200mm) Lower right corner sharpness test. What a difference!!!

Do NOT use these screenshots to judge the final quality/sharpness of either lens. These are screenshots from a 100% view within Aperture 3 and then converted to JPG and uploaded to this WordPress blog, so it has been compressed a few times already. Use them only to compare between the two lenses. Also keep in mind that there are variations of each lens and it’s entirely possible that my 18-200mm is simply a bad copy…

I might upload some more test shots later, without that much compression. Until then, I suggest you take a look at Jonathan Fleming’s awesome photography blog where he also posted about his Nikkor 24-120mm f4 VRII first impressions. His review was one of the reviews that “pushed me over the edge” and convinced me to get this awesome lens.

5 thoughts on “Nikkor 24-120mm f4 (vs Nikkor 18-200mm VR in quick lens sharpness comparison test)”

  1. I’ve been looking in to cameras as of late, and am after something of a higher profile than my current compact. DSLR is almost certainly on the cards for me!

  2. The Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR AF-S is very expensive. It is nearly the same price as that of the D7000 body itself. I am currently satisfied with my D90 and my Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G. However, I do plan on purchasing a prime 35mm.

    • Indeed it’s very expensive, but I don’t think you’ll find many serious/pro photographers who says it’s better to spend a lot of money on a camera body than on the camera lens 🙂 Camera body drops in value – fast. Good lenses hold their value much better and can be used on your next camera body also, and the next and the next…

      Nikon 35mm f1.8 is a really good prime, especially for the price.

  3. I don’t know how the 24-120mm f4 lens from Nikon passed me by, but it sounds interesting – and a terrific general range lens.

  4. Pingback: Tamron 18-270mm PZD review – well, kinda, it’s just my impressions! — TechPatio

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