AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D lens review
Released in 1993, the AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D is a full–frame, fixed–focal–length lens that can be used on both FX and DX format cameras. On an FX format camera it has an angle of view that many photographers consider ideal for landscape photography; on a DX format camera its angle of view is only moderately wide. The lens has nine elements in nine groups and dimensions of 64.5mm by 46mm; it focuses down to 30cm, weighs only 270g and takes 52mm filters. The lens features Close–Range Correction (CRC) system that improves performance at near focusing distances. If necessary, you can find simple explanations of the terms below here.
The lens was tested on a 12MP Nikon D700 camera. FX format cameras of higher resolution will put a further emphasis on some of the performance deficiencies reported in the review. At the same time, light fall–off, distortion and corner sharpness will be less problematic when the lens is used on a DX format camera.
Handling and autofocus
The lens is very light and compact and balances beautifully on all Nikon camera bodies I have tried it on. When mounted on bigger cameras such as the Nikon D700, the lens is completely unobtrusive and does not make your camera nose dive when you carry it on your shoulder, which makes it a great walk–around companion if 24mm is your preferred focal length.
Lens mount is metal; lens barrel, on the other hand, is made of high–quality plastics that, thankfully, do not give the lens a "plasticy" feel. Indeed, the lens has a certain heft to it and, due to this, leaves the impression of a solidly built optic. Filter thread is made of plastic, too; it does not rotate during focusing, which makes using a polarizing filter easy.
Autofocus speed will largely depend on the camera body used. On the Nikon D700, autofocus is very fast, accurate and nearly silent. The lens uses camera body's AF motor for focusing and thus on Nikon's lesser DX format cameras that do not have a lens drive (D40, D40x, D60, D3000 and D5000) can be used in manual focus only.
Centre: the lens is already plentifully sharp at f/2.8 and centre sharpness slightly further improves at f/4; for all intent and purposes the lens is equally sharp from f/4 through to f/11. Diffraction becomes visible at f/16 and further takes its toll at f/22; I would avoid using the smallest aperture if sharpness is of crucial importance.
Corners are noticeably soft at f/2.8 and f/4 and become sharp at f/5.6; corner sharpness slightly further improves at f/8. As expected, diffraction becomes evident at f/16 and further worsens sharpness at f/22.
Farthest corners: are very soft from f/2.8 through to f/5.6, become sharp at f/8 and slightly further improve at f/11; here, however, they are still not as sharp as the centre. Starting from f/16 sharpness slides downhill again due to diffraction.
As the test shot below shows, the lens has very visible vignetting at f/2.8. In fact, it is so strong at this aperture that it is more akin to overall underexposure than to vignetting. It is very difficult to completely remove in post–processing but can be reduced to a level where it is not objectionable.
Vignetting is greatly reduced when the lens is stopped down to f/4; its amount at this aperture might actually come in handy if one wants to emphasise the main subject. The aberration is virtually gone by f/5.6.
The lens produces insignificant barrel distortion that might be acceptable even for some architectural applications. Distortion is more pronounced at closer distances; furthermore, it generally has a complex ("mustache") signature and thus is very difficult to completely remove in post–processing.
Chromatic aberration can be seen around contrasty edges; it is, however, far from massive and can be completely eliminated in post–processing.
The lens has a relatively simple design as well as a fairly small front element and, partially due to this, flare is very well controlled; even shooting directly into the sun does not noticeably degrade contrast. It is possible to induce ghosting by having very bright sources of light in an image but it is normally minimal in both amount and size.
AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D is a wide–angle lens and bokeh usually should not be of a major concern. Nevertheless, if you are interested, bokeh is somewhat harsh at f/2.8, fairly neutral at f/4 and becomes silkier at smaller apertures.
The AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D is a great landscape lens—it is small, light, inexpensive and performs very well at f/11. However, if you need a more general–purpose lens of this focal length that you envision using at wider apertures, then it might be a good idea to look at other alternatives.