Right after I purchased the D800 I needed the other part of the package: a lens. After much deliberation, research, reading, and hemming and hawing, I finally decided on the 24-120 f4 as a lens. Selecting a lens is about the only thing more complex than picking a camera body. There are tomes of articles and posts, professional, informed, and otherwise on the internet- from forums/discussion boards to the scientific DxOMark type reviews- to sift through. Having been through the process- let me share some thoughts.
To start, let’s be clear, the 24-120 f4 is a great lens. It has Nikon’s new Vibration Reduction and Nano Coat technology. Nikon lists this as a recommended D800 lens that “offers excellent resolution,” and also bestowed the fancy gold (“pro”) lens ring. It is also only $1300! Still, this lens’ biggest problem is its older brother: the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 (the true “pro” lens – at $1900).
From the reviews I’ve read (pretty much everything out there), stopped down a few notches the 24-120 is (pretty much) as clear as the 24-70 2.8. Yes, it’s not as bright, but it does have VR, which also helps for it’s use as a walk around lens when I travel (the 24-120 is a little lighter too- and this new D800 set up is heavy!). Thom Hogan’s post (repost here) about D800 lenses was a great help. While he initially says the 24-70 is the choice, he comes back to that thought and says maybe the better way to go is a 24-120 and a few primes. Luckily, I have a decent 24 f2.8 lying around, so that helped push me in that direction. Further, I came across an awesome series of reviews by Tim Ashley (link), where he puts this lens through its paces at all ranges. In over a year of intense use (20k + photos), I came to similar conclusions as Tim: in everyday shooting circumstances, the 24-120 more than capable on the D800.
The VR on this lens, and the versatile range make it great for walking around and traveling light (one lens only!). As I usually shoot on a tripod at night, the f4 doesn’t matter so much either. Yes there is distortion and vignetting, but that is easily corrected in post.
Both photos above were taken from a moving balloon at about 250ft (not the most stable of platforms). Also, the shot directly above was at 120mm and f4 (not the clearest settings by far). Below is a 100% crop of the field- with no sharpening. For a 100% crop, at an unclear setting, while moving, this pretty darn good! For a travel and all around lens, the 14-120 offers great flexibility and value. What do you think?
The balloon above, “Incognito,” belongs to Vantage Point Ballooning– check out their page!