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Nikon 24-120 f4G VR Review

by Jim on December 24th, 2010


My initial impression is that the lens is sharp, and focuses faster than the 35-70, not quite as fast as the 24-70 f2.8, but close enough that the lens could be used for sports assuming f4 isn’t an issue, such as outdoors. 

The lens is a bit bigger in diameter than I had expected, certainly bigger than the 24-70 f2.8 almost everywhere but the very front. If you compare the 24-70 at f2.8 to the 24-120 at f4 (both wide open) they are very close optically, including distortion at 24mm and pin cushion at 70mm. However, comparing these lenses at aperture f4, the 24-70 is sharper stopped down and has a little nicer brokeh. If you didn’t have either lens, it would really depend on what the main use was. 

If you need a fast rugged lens the 24-70 f2.8 wins. It not only has a faster aperture, but it’s AF is faster as well. Fast is relative, given that the 24-70mm is one of the fastest focusing lenses that I have used. The 24-120 f4 is no slow poke, and is certainly faster than the Nikon 35-70 f2.8D lens. The 24-120 shines as a people, candid, wedding, and  photo journalist lens. It’s lighter than the 24-70 f2.8, and has VR. In low light,when subjects aren’t moving much this is your tool of choice. 

The photos below are comparing the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 to the 24-120 f4 at two focal lengths. It does very well almost everywhere, and can certainly be shot wide open when needed. You will get more contrast if you stop down to f5.6.  I have read other reviews that indicated that the 24-120 was soft at the longer end. I am happy to say my copy is not at all soft between 70- to 120 mm. 

The tough part is comparing one lens stopped down to one that is not. A fairer test might be with the 24-70 at f2.8 to the 24-120 f4, that way both lenses are wide open. In that scenario it is very difficult indeed to tell them apart, and differences are more in the position of the photographer and changes in light, than any real differences between the two lenses.  

24-120 @70mm

The shots on the left are the 24-120mm, and the ones on the right are the 24-70mm, both that within about 20 minutes of each other, and both shot at f4, ISO 400 in all the cases. 

24-70 @ 70mm

The center of the flower was the focal point. Again either lens pops a little more when stopped down a little. 

24-120 @ 24mm

I think the deciding factor can be summed up quickly. If you truly don’t need f2.8 for sports, and want a lens that weights 230 grams less, with a wider range, look no further. This lens has a lot of flexibility, and is very sharp for a 5x zoom. 

24-70 @ 24mm

I have read comments on line that indicate the lens is overpriced.

I think that is deceiving, because, the speed, build quality are not obvious at first glance.   Just be careful to keep your plam / hand away from the focus ring when you zoom. It is a bit narrow and close to the rear mount (just opposite of the 24-70mm).

24-120 @ 24mm f4

The distortion at 24mm wide open is more apparent in the 24-120mm at the short end , although if you stop it down it does seem to help. Also, it is more noticeable in the 24-70 when the same wall is shot at f2.8.  

24-70 @ 24mm f4

I will update this blog again with more photos, this is just a quick first impression. I also want to thank B&H Photo for their help in obtaining the equipment. They are a truly good place to deal with, and have excellent customer service, that will go the extra mile when needed.


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