|AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor
24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 IF-ED
By Gary W. Stanley
With my old Nikon F100, the 24-120 easily covered my most used focal lengths. After switching to digital, this lens (now 36-180mm with the 1.5x factor) is not wide enough. It has now taken over the mid-range of my three lens arsenal, and is part of a very lightweight travel package. Last month I tested and reviewed my latest lens purchase: the Nikkor 12-24mm. When I switched to digital with its smaller format, it became a must-have lens. While the 12-24 has been designed strictly for digital, the 24-120VR, works on Nikon's newer film and digital bodies.
Keep in mind that the VR feature won't work on older Nikon bodies such as the 8008s, F4, N-90 etc. This G-type Nikkor lens is designed with no aperture ring for easier, more mistake-free operation (aperture does not need to be set to minimum). This is fine unless you want to use this lens on an older Nikon Body. If you do you're out of luck.
I fell in love with the original 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6D IF (2212.htm) back when it was first introduced. I found myself using it all the time, and I believe it's why these types of wide to moderate focal length lenses are so popular for anyone looking for a do-it-all travel lens. Smaller than its predecessor, the new AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 IF-ED incorporates advanced features such as SWM (Silent Wave Motor) and VR (Vibration Reduction).
The Silent Wave Motor is ultra-fast, ultra-quiet, and the VR system minimizes the negative effects caused by camera shake. The VR system allows the use of a much lower shutter speed (about 3 stops) for shooting in low light situations. This very sturdy, well-constructed lens, has worked well for me not only as a great wide-to-mid-range landscape lens but also for grab shots of the folks on our photo tours and for family events.
The lens offers 5x high-power zoom capability and wide-angle coverage from 24mm (36mm on a digital body) and features two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass and two aspherical lens elements. The lens adopts the Internal Focusing (IF) design, and employs M/A mode for rapid switching between autofocus and manual focus operation.
I did find a couple of things about this lens a bit unusual, as was the case with the 12-24mm. Because I manually focus everything, I found the M/A mode a little hard to get used to. The focusing ring never hits a stopping point, it just keeps turning, so I had to pay special attention when focusing manually which can be a bit distracting.
Because everything seems so far away when looking through a wide-angle lens, I was a little uncomfortable at first until I recalibrated myself to it. Because I do manually focus almost everything I really appreciated the well-damped precise feel of the focusing ring and zoom ring on this lens. It's what we've all come to expect from pro-level lenses but it's still worth mentioning. If you've only used consumer lenses, which tend to feel a bit loose and touchy, you'll be amazed by the feel of the controls on pro lenses.
Again as with the 12-24, I found it somewhat annoying that the focus and zoom rings on the 24-120 are opposite those on my 80-400mm VR, so I kept grabbing the wrong ring to focus and zoom. It's not a big thing when shooting landscapes, because, I'm usually not in a hurry. However, I use the 80-400mm quite a bit for wildlife, so it left me feeling a bit uneasy. Thankfully the other two big VR lenses, the 70-200mm and 200-400mm are set up like my 80-400mm. I'm still waiting for an answer from Nikon on this matter. The design just seems counter-intuitive.
I used this lens frequently on my recent trip to Zion National Park in a variety of shooting situations. Its images were tack sharp and the lens worked flawlessly.