by Jim McGee
This is just what the world needs. Another variable aperture normal lens. Big deal, snore, let's see what's on the next page.
Well before you turn the page let me ask you one question. Would you be interested in one of the sharpest, fastest, and widest normal lenses you've ever shot with? Would you be even more interested if it costs less than $400?
Now that I have your attention lets take a closer look at this lens. The first thing you notice is that Nikon has made a nod towards photographer's desires to have wider lenses. There was a time when "normal" zooms started at 35mm. Today 28mm is the standard, which makes this lens 24mm wide angle particularly attractive.
Next you'll notice that it is well finished and attractive and surprisingly light for an AF-S pro lens. If it appears that something is missing you're right. This is one of Nikon's new G lenses. The aperture ring is a thing of the past on new Nikon lenses folks. If that bothers you (from your emails it seems to) you need to let Nikon know.
The good news is that when you mount the lens up you'll find that it possess wide grippy focus and zoom rings that move with a pleasant, well-damped feeling that you expect from a pro lens - no matter who the manufacturer is. The lens balanced well on both the D100 and F100 we used it with.
Images were sharp and contrasty with good color rendition as you would expect from a lens in this class. The optical formula of this compact lens includes 15 Elements in 12 groups and both an aspherical lens and an ED glass element. Additionally the lens features Nikon's Super Integrated Coating to improve color reproduction and minimize ghost and flare.
Both initial focus and focus tracking were super fast thanks to Silent Wave Motor. It's so quick and quiet you don't realize just how well it's doing it's job until you switch back to another lens and suddenly realize how slow it feels by comparison. The 24-85mm features an internal focusing design so your polarizer and ND grad settings will be safe. One other optical feature worth noting is the rounded 7 blade diaphragm that renders background objects as a soft natural looking blur when shooting wide open. A flower shaped lens hood is included to prevent vignetting at 24mm.
We found street prices on this lens ranging from $360 to $380. But there is stiff competition tempting you for a normal zoom right within the Nikon lineup. There is another 24-85mm which doesn't have AF-S but has a wider maximum aperture of f2.8-4.0. There's also the 24-120mm which performed very well when we tested it and the new 24-120mm AF-S VR lens and you can't forget the reliable old 28-105mm.
As always the right lens will depend on your shooting style and your wallet. It's nice to have choices.