The older 24-120mm is shown on the left while the brand-new
VR-G lens is on the right. Difference between the two
is less than an inch when fully extended. (Above): Mounted
on a Nikon F5, F100, or D1X, the lens functioned perfectly
under all conditions. Scalloped hood is now a standard
item on most lenses and comes as part of this package.
Photos © 2004, Stan Trzoniec, All Rights Reserved
For Nikon, 1996 was an exciting
year. That was the introduction date of the F5 camera that revolutionized
the way handheld cameras would be used. It was also the year that true
Silent Wave Technology was brought on-line in the form of the 300, 500,
and 600mm lenses. Incorporating "traveling waves" to focus
the lens, this ground-breaking design allowed faster focus for those
willing to pay the price and upgrade into this brand-new series of optical
Somewhat hidden away by all this fanfare was still another lens, which
blossomed out to be one of the most popular lenses in the Nikon line.
With a zoom range of 24-120mm, this new addition would soon become a
fixture for both travel photographers and photojournalists. I purchased
mine in '99 and would never be without one in my camera bag again.
The Upgraded Version
Nikon has introduced a new version of this well-liked lens. Called the
AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF. Checking in at 20.3 oz
and considering its internal improvements, this lens is only an ounce
heavier than the original.
quaint New England town supplied this country store and
one can often judge sharpness of a new lens by counting
the grain patterns in the old wood siding.
So what did Nikon do to enhance
this "new" lens? First of all, they redesigned and improved
the handling qualities of the lens itself. Gone is the mushroom look of
the older model; this new product is very svelte in appearance while maintaining
the same outer dimension from front to rear. Up front is the zoom ring,
which has also been redesigned so it now turns from the lower end (24mm)
to the higher end (120mm) in a clockwise direction, standard on all of
the newer Nikon lenses in the line. The lens is a little longer than its
predecessor (only about a 1/2").
To streamline the lens even more, the first thing was to move it into
present-day technology with the addition of Nikon's "G"
configuration. What that simply means is there is no aperture ring around
the rear periphery of the lens barrel itself. With the invention of pro
cameras like the F5, F100, and D-series of digital cameras the only people
who will miss this f/stop ring would be users of prior (older) Nikon models.
Electronic cameras now control the f/stop by command dials on the body
itself. Additionally, I'm told product costs drop significantly
with this feature, which is then passed on to the end user.
35mm on a Nikon F5, you can see the rain drops on each petal.
Close-ups are no problem even if you zoom to 120mm for a
follow-up shot. The close-up distance stays the same throughout
the entire range of focal lengths.
The lens barrel and related
parts are done in the usual high standards we are used to from Nikon including
a beautiful, smooth as silk outside finish. Both the focusing and zoom
rings are ribbed for non-slip operation regardless of the weather with
all markings from the focal length to distance scales impressed with easy
to read numbers. Being a zoom there are no markings on the lens barrel
for depth of field, but when it gets that critical, a push inward on the
preview button on the camera body itself should give you all of the information
For those trading in the older version, this new lens takes the same 72mm
filters and, since it has the IF (Internal Focus) feature, the front lens
element does not turn while the camera is focusing--a great advantage
especially when using a circular polarizer. Finally, a brand-new center
squeeze lens cover is included, which allows one to add or remove the
lens cap without removing or reversing the included (HB-25) scalloped
In Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, 1/8 sec proved I could use
some help. Note the soft detail in the railing near the
of the tower. (Below):
With the VR feature turned on, the railing as well as the
rest of the building is perfectly sharp.
Glass content has been increased to 15 elements in 13 groups and with
the addition of two elements of Nikon's famous ED (Extra-low Dispersion)
and two aspherical elements, sharpness and color fidelity has been improved
while secondary chromatic aberrations have been virtually eliminated.
Nikon warns new owners that certain tele-extenders are not compatible
with this lens simply because of its construction.
If you want some extra magnification, place it on a digital camera. To
finish off on the internal features, the aperture range is from f/3.5
to f/5.6 (24mm = f/3.5, 120mm = f/5.6), a rounded diaphragm helps to keep
out-of-focus images more natural, and the familiar "D" chip
adds to the correct exposure with or without a flash unit.
A major upgrade with this lens is the addition of AF-S that allows both
quiet and rapid focusing on any subject. Internally, a Silent Wave motor
takes you from minimum focusing to infinity at the drop of a hat and can
be set for two modes of operation, depending upon the photographic situation.
On the left side of the lens barrel is a M/A (Manual/Automatic) or M (Manual)
selector switch. The former allows instant touch up of the focus if you
overshoot with the wrong focusing sensor. The Manual mode is handy if
you like to work from a tripod and the subject (landscapes, still life)
my train layout, panning this diesel at 1/15 sec was no
problem for this very different action photo of a model.
Applications of this lens seem to never end.
Finally, in our triple play, Nikon has wisely added the Vibration Reduction
(VR) system to this lens. This is a great feature which allows you to
get sharper images under difficult low-light situations or when you are
down to bare minimums when using a polarizer, slow film, and less than
adequate lighting. Things simply can't get any worse than that!
Controlled by an off/on switch on the lens barrel, VR technology will
add yet another dimension to your photographic skills. In effect, the
lens will help you take sharper photographs in a range of eight times
faster or three stops on the aperture scale.
For panning, the lens will sense this and work in one attitude (horizontal
or vertical) strongly while reducing the effect in the lesser direction.
This really adds to a sharper effect overall and I was thrilled when I
could also turn the zoom ring while the shutter went off rendering light
streaks in straight lines without a tripod. Applications of the VR system
are never ending, adding to the creativity of the photographer.
to show slow motion in your waterfalls without the tripod?
Here the exposure on a very cloudy day was 1/4 sec at f/16.
Note the sharpness of the wall next to the waterfall.
Some Differences In
There are some differences in the VR system if one compares it to the
first 80-400mm VR entry. According to Lindsay Silverman at Nikon, "The
new AF-S VR Zoom 24-120mm lens doesn't have the VR setting for Image
Plane only, which on the 80-400mm lens reduced the possibility of viewer
discomfort at high magnifications." In simple terms, you will see
the effects of the VR system working in the finder with this lens and
hear an audible click as it turns on and off. While hardly noticeable
at shorter focal lengths, you may pick up a trace of shake in the viewfinder
that might be troublesome to a few at higher focal lengths. Otherwise
the system performed flawlessly if I did my part to understand the theory
behind it and use it in the right application.
Film And Digital Camera
When it comes to actual use of this lens, I have a strong bias toward
film cameras. The focal lengths on this 24-120mm lens are just perfect
for either the F5 or F100, but when you place it on the D1 series of digital
cameras it seems to lose some of the magic. In effect it then becomes
a 36-180mm lens. On the other side of the coin, since Nikon holds back
on employing extenders, you can negate this by installing the lens on
a D1 camera and closing the distance without damaging the equipment or
voiding the warranty.
In the short time that I've used this lens I've placed it
in a number of situations with more than acceptable results. In general
use on a number of trips the lens performed with aplomb. Even when the
light was low and the weather was really pitiful, images shot at under
1/30 sec were needle sharp. I also used it at night to see if I could
still walk around without a tripod with 100-speed film. I was never disappointed.
Should I throw away my tripods? Hardly, but one of the great features
of any of these VR lenses is that they may become a standard tool for
traveling photographers. Nikon has taken one of its most popular lenses
and loaded it up with highly innovative, high tech features. This is now
a very impressive tool in the hands of knowledgeable photographers, the
price is very reasonable, and if bringing back crisp images is an important
part of your photographic lifestyle, go for it.
For more information, contact
Nikon Inc. (631) 547-8588 or www.nikonusa.com.
Lens Type: G-type AF-S Zoom-Nikkor with built-in CPU
and Nikon F-type lens mount
Focal Length: 24-120mm
Maximum Aperture: f/3.5 (24mm) - f/5.6 (120mm)
Aperture Range: f/3.5-f/22 (24mm), f/5.6-f/38 (120mm)
Lens Construction: 15 elements in 13 groups
Vibration Reduction: Lens-shift method employing voice
Closest Focusing Distance: 1.6 ft at all focal length
Diaphragm: Fully automatic, seven blades for a more natural
effect for out-of-focus backgrounds
Filter Or Attachment Size: 72mm
Lens Hood: HB-25 (supplied) b20.3 oz
Product Number: 2145 NCP
Street Price: $569.99