Lens Test: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S

This pro-level, superfast, full-frame Nikon zoom for the D3 is practically in a class by itself.

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S
The fastest and widest of Nikon's full-frame zooms, this pro lens ($1,800, street) scales up to 21-36mm on the Nikon D300. Introduced with the full-frame D3 and unofficially matched to Nikon's 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, this superfast, constant-aperture, full-framer is almost in a class by itself.

HANDS ON

A large chunk of glass, with a fixed lenshood, this internal-focusing Nikon weighs a hefty 2.19 pounds. It incorporates expensive, high-tech aspheric and low-dispersion glass elements. Distinguished by a large black-on-gold "N" (for Nikon's flare-resistant Nano Crystal Coating), its matte-black finish, large ribbed and rubberized focus and zoom collars, and bright gold markings make for a very attractive package. Both collars turn well, although the zoom action is a little uneven and rough, and manual focusing a bit loose.

Autofocus is absolutely silent, fast, and accurate on our test camera, the D3. As you would expect from such a big lens, when mounted on the smaller D40x, it throws a shadow at all zoom settings when used with the camera's built-in flash. Due to its ultrawide angle of view and fisheye-like convex front element, this lens is that rarity that makes no provision for front- or rear-mounting filters.

IN THE LAB

Sharpness and contrast, as measured by the SQF system, were in the Excellent range at the three tested focal lengths. DxO Analyzer 2.0 distortion tests revealed its true forte: Visible barrel distortion at 14mm (0.51%); Slight barrel at 18mm (0.12%); and Imperceptible pincushioning at 24mm (0.02%) -- incredible distortion control by ultrawide, full-frame standards.

Light falloff was also well controlled, leaving the corners by f/4.8 at 14mm, f/5.6 at 18mm, and f/3.3 at 24mm. The lens focuses to about the same close-focus distance (10.5 inches) at all focal lengths, with maximum magnification ratios ranging from 1:9.5 at 14mm to 1:5.7 at 24mm, a very good showing.

CONCLUSIONS

Though expensive, this lens will prove well worth its price to any Nikonian who needs maximum wide-angle views with a minimum of optical distortion.

Specifications

14-24mm (14.45-23.96mm tested), f/2.8 (f/2.83-3.02 tested), 14 elements in 11 groups. Focusing turns 80 degrees clockwise. Zoom ring turns 90 degrees counterclockwise. Focal lengths marked at 14-, 15-, 16-, 18-, 20-, and 24mm.

• Diagonal view angle: 114-84 degrees.

• Weight: 2.19 lb. n Filter size: N/A.

• Mount: Nikon AF-S.

• Included: Lenshood, soft case.

• Street price: $1,800.

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