24mm lenses for Nikon
24mm is the focal length I use the most. For a long time I have used the Nikkor 24mm f2.8 AF-D on my F3. I also have an F4 (I bought it used super cheap just so I could use an 85mm PC-E lens which obviously doesn't function on the F3).
Back to the 24mm. It is mostly for architectural/urban lansdscape stuff. I never shoot wide open, usually between f8 and f16, so a fast lens is of no real value to me. I don't need autofocus.
The AF-D is not the greatest lens in the world, so I've always had this nagging curiosity as to whether or not there is something better out there. So what I've been looking for is a lens that is sharp across the 35mm frame (as opposed to center-optimized) with as little barrel distortion as possible.
As you all know relatively recently some interesting things have come up in this focal length:
-Zeiss ZF 25mm
-PC-E 24mm f.2.8
-Nikkor 24mm f1.4G AFS (2010)
I actually bought the Zeiss, but was disappointed and will probably try to sell it. It seems to have more distortion than the AF-D Nikkor and I didn't find it better than the Nikkor in any other way.
The PC-E is expensive, and can't be used on the F3. Tilt-shift functionality is a definite plus, but I'm wondering if as a straight 24mm lens it is any better optically than the AF-D.
The new 24mm f1.4 AFS G is supposedly a great lens. But it is very expensive. Since I don't need wide aperture performance, I'm wondering if it is actually a better lens stopped down than the AF-D or if you're just paying all that money for the AFS so that it is well corrected wide open. What are its distortion characteristics? Also since it is one of those annoying G lenses I'd have to add the price of a used F5/F6/F100 to the price of the lens.
Regarding tests (for what they are worth), in what I read (photozone, ken rockwell etc) mostly I see conflicting results on the 24mm f2.8 AF-D. As for the new 1.4, everyone seems to be in agreement it is a great lens for shooting at large apertures but it is really unclear as to whether it outperforms the AF-D at smaller apertures. There isn't much information on the PC-E lens.
Should I just stick with the f2.8 AF-D and forget about all this other expensive stuff?
Well, 24mm f2.8 AI/AIS? It's a great lens.
Bjorn Rorslett said
"Nikon released its major achievement, CRC (Close Range Correction) with this lens in 1968 and it got a well-deserved popularity in the years afterwards. There have been a number of versions of this 24 mm lens, the first without multi-coating and f/16 as minimum aperture, the next multi-coated but still f/16, and the later versions (AI, AIS) going to f/22. Nikon has made several changes to the optical formula during the long life-span of this lens, which still is on Nikon's price list. Earlier versions flared less easily, but could produce quite visible ghosting when employed under strongly backlit situations. Newer versions flare more easily, but the resistance to ghosting has improved provided the lens is well stopped down. It gives very sharp images corner-to-corner even at the near limit thanks to CRC, but beware of field curvature if you are shooting perfectly flat subjects at close range. Some light fall-off towards the corners is evident at f/2.8 and gone by f/4-f/5.6. Set the lens to f/5.6-f/11 to get the best picture quality, but do not stop down to f/22 unless absolutely necessary. It provides excellent results when an ultra-thin K1 ring is added, and gives good results with a 4T close-up lens if some corner softness is accepted. The 24/2.8 MF Nikkor is a classic lens in the Nikon line and one that remains a dependable workhorse to this day.
However, on a D2X or D200 and depending on subject, the CA can be quite troublesome and it surely detracts from the overall sharpness of the 24 lens. So I was quite surprised to observe the excellent image quality my 24/2.8 delivered on the FX models, in particular on the D3X."
From what I understand, the AF-D and AF 24/2.8 have the same optical formula as the latest AI-S ... so "upgrading" to the prior lens will do you no good unless you have a bad sample.
Wide angle lenses will always have some light falloff; it's rather unavoidable. Using middle apertures where possible will reduce or eliminate it.
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
Ah! Nice, didn't know this actually. But for some reason I hear people are not happy with the AF-D version but quite happy with AI/AIS version. It also scored a little bit better on Photodo on the MTF tests but then again, I'm not much of an MTF boy but maybe something to take into consideration =)
Guess you can always use the 14-24mm G lens on your F4, the unbeatable wide-angel if you think money is no object. You will loose Aperture Priority though, but you can do it anyway by dancing with the Shutter Dial. If you get a F5 of course you are unbeatable. F5 + 14-24mm G lens = wow. Depends on your budget.
If you can imagine using a rangefinder camera for those pictures, there are some stellar 24 & 25mm lenses in m39 and Leica M mount...
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
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I had a chance to use the new 24mm f1.4 for about an hour (a few rolls). I don't shoot architecture, so I can't help you much there. I shot people and landscapes. I didn't notice a lot of distortion, but I'm sure you can find the MTF charts at the Nikon site. There was noticeable vignetting at the widest apertures, but stopped down that went away.
I was very impressed with the lens, but it doesn't sound like the lens for you. It was a really nice lens, with fast focusing and beautiful out-of-focus areas at wide apertures. It's also big and heavy and expensive, and the reason is because it's such a fast, autofocus lens. But you have no interest in either the speed or the autofocus. So I can't believe any increase in performance at small apertures -- if there is any -- would outweigh the price and size disadvantage. Especially if you have to buy a new camera to use it.
The 14-24 doesn't take filters and I already have an excellent 21mm lens, and have never had the need for anything wider than 21 anyway so I don't really see the value in the gigantic 14-24 for me.
The PC-E still seems like it might be an interesting option, but the more I read the less sure I am and therefore less inclined to switch from my AF-D unless I needed tilt or shift in a particular situation.
It's all very puzzling. It seems like Nikon and others are on this strange high speed prime bandwagon all because people want shallow depth of field. So for the rest of us who just want a sharp, well corrected lens it's never clear whether the new optical designs are any better, or just better wide open.
Regarding the AF-D and AIS, they are indeed the same optical design.
I am a frequent user of the 24/2.8 auto - N
I prefer it to the Ais and the AF-D. Its permanently mounted on my F3 and now will get use on my M6 with an adapter.
Come by my studio if you want to have a look at it sometime.
I suspect that the vast majority of people these days buy zooms. Nikon beancounters probably don't want to invest in designing, building, stocking and marketing new normal primes, because there isn't the expected return. Fast primes are prestige items that make the lineup look professional, and people will pay huge sums of money for them, so those are all we get.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
Really, too, if you shoot everything at f8 or f11, and manual focus, most lenses probably do a pretty good job.
I can recommend against the 24mm f2.0. Very fuzzy wide open. I think I far prefer my much older 28mm f2.0, but will have to compare the two again before ditching one or the other to, inevitable, finance more gear I won't use.
Any lens should be fine by f8 or f11, though--as has been mentioned. By then most decent lenses should be nearly diffraction-limited. You may get something better in terms of ergonomics, but probably not performance.