If I were headed out to take a photograph and I could only take one lens, it would likely be the 24-70mm/2.8G ED IF AF-S Nikkor. The lens simply covers the essentials and it is the type of workhorse zoom that any professional or serious enthusiast really needs to own. It covers from landscape and travel to group, torso and full body portraits. It’s not an ultra-wide wide prime, a telephoto for sports or the ultimate travel kit. Instead, it is quite simply the one lens to have in your bag if you can only afford to have one.
Prior to Nikon’s introduction of the FX sensor, the 17-55mm/2.8G ED-IF DX was the lens of choice when heading out into the unknown with a wide to mid-range focal length lens with an equivalent focal length range of about 24 to 82mm . The jump to full frame with the D3 necessitated a new tool and the updated 24-70mm, announced alongside the D3 -back in August of 2007- has fit the bill ever since.
As for performance, the Autofocus is fast and quiet and with a constant aperture of f/2.8 at all focal lengths, the glass is sharp and resolves color and light with great precision, regardless of the camera body. Nikon even claims that this lens, despite being a telephoto zoom, has sharpness on parallel with any recent prime in their current lineup. While this lens will naturally work well on both the FX and DX formats, it is far better suited for the full 35mm shooting experience.
Ergonomically, the lens is long, streamlined and heavy (two pounds) with the caveat that it can take a beating. The rubber treads for focusing and zooming have plenty of surface area for your fingers and make for comfortable shooting. Focus in the front and zoom between focal lengths in the rear (24, 28, 35, 50 and 70 are all clearly marked). The lens is physically longest at 24mm and shortest at 50mm with the inner barrel fully retracted but the lens hood conceals this movement of the front element when zooming. A small M/A to M switch on the left of the outer barrel allows you to toggle between auto and manual focus, provided you haven’t made that decision on the camera body.
The one downside, and a common one with lens hoods of all designs, is Nikon’s plastic HB-40 hood that comes with the 24-70mm. It is big, clunky and prone to coming unscrewed at the most inopportune moments, especially if your camera hangs off a shoulder. Two strips of inch-wide gaffers tape will secure it to the barrel and remedy this issue but consider yourself properly warned. Dropping a lens hood during a wedding ceremony or podium presentation will be loud and noticeable.
I’ve owned the lens now for four years and I’ve also experienced an issue with the rubber of the zoom coming undone and ‘walking’ out of its metal track. Admittedly, this is a minor inconvenience and it has yet to evolve into a problem that affects performance when out in the field.
Stacking 77mm filters like a protective Clear with a circular polarizer will cause a noticeable vignette at 24mm so be sure to use only one filter at a time (see an example in the Sample Images section at the end of this article). A circular polarizer can also be difficult to rotate and mitigate glare if you have the lens hood locked into place and you are shooting at a quick pace.
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