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Lens Reviews

The 24-70mm/2.8G ED IF AF-S Nikkor Review

Joseph Gamble (JCGamble)


Keywords: nikkor, zoom, 24mm, 70mm, autofocus

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.

Nikon 24-70mm/2.8G ED lens with HB-40 lens hood

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23 comments

Michael Sass (Michael Sass) on August 18, 2015

I love my 24-70mm.

Garth Klatt (JHzlwd) on April 3, 2015

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An accurate and well written review. I have had this lens for a couple of years. It has that intangible "Wow!" quality where every image sparkles with clarity and detail. With the D800 I have made spectacular prints to 30 inches in the long side.

Dayn Cederstrom (DaynLarz) on April 3, 2015

You're right, Joseph, great lens! Use mine on my D800 which makes for a great combo. Regarding the hood, bought mine late August 2013. Nikon improved it by adding a 'locking button'. Hood will not come off unless the button is pressed. Keeps the hood in place. Wish all my lenses had this!

Preston Moochnek RPh. (massulo) on March 31, 2015

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Just received the lens tonight, oh my God, is it fast and good, Wish I could post it here, Its of my cat, no adjustments other than color balance.. Wow.........

Preston Moochnek RPh. (massulo) on March 28, 2015

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I ordered it today, wow great discount...

David Fattahian (Thrillington) on March 25, 2015

Nice write up, and you nailed the problem with that hood. It tends to come loose at the most inopportune times. I just got back from a two week vacation in Australia. Although I had a full complement of lenses at my disposal, the 24-70 was the lens that was on my camera of the day (either my D800 or Df) the vast majority of the time as I did my walkabout. I also own the 24-120 f/4 but find that the 24-70 renders images more to my liking. So much so that the extra reach is worth the trade-off.

Ken Hanson (kmh) on March 25, 2015

When I bought my D800 a few years ago, the 24-70, with all the hoopla, was naturally the first lens I considering buying. However, I balked when I realized it did not have image stabilization. A sizable portion of my photos are taken handheld in dim light, either early in the morning, as in before sunrise, or indoors, where I refrain from using flash. In these situations, VR is critically important. After surveying Nikon's offerings and considering their specs on [link:www.slrgear.com|slrgear.com], I decided to purchase the 24-120 mm, f/4 G AF-S VR lens and it has served me very well. I find it very sharp. Yes, you give up one f-stop compared to the 24-70 f/2.8, but you gain three or four stops with VR. Plus, it reaches almost twice as far in focal length. Seemed like a good deal to me.

Preston Moochnek RPh. (massulo) on March 25, 2015

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I will probably order the 24-70 to day at $1699 the best price Ive seen. I have the 16-35 F4 and the 70-200F4 I will taking a River Cruise from Amsterdam to Basil to Lucerene will I need all 3

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on March 25, 2015

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(Edited by bgs Wednesday, 25 March 2015 ) rcron, Ineluki| thanks for catching that typo. References to VRII under the image have been removed.

Raymond L. Payne (raymondlpayne) on March 25, 2015

I have the 24-70 on my D810, the 70-200 on my D800, and the 14-24 on my D700. Strange as that may seem, when on the road in my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, this combination in the open case custom fitted for all three with separate tripod adapters, I find that very few photo opportunities are lost by this arrangement. I have the 24-70 on the D810 because it is the best lens on the best body for jumping out of the Jeep and taking photos on the fly. If I need a really wide angle photo right then and there I just take two shots and stitch them together as a panorama and edit it later. The precision, high resolution of the sensor and huge RAW and jpg files of the D810 complements the exceptional accuracy and smooth flow of the focus and zoom features of the 14-24. I also use the 50mm f1.4 and the 101mm macro when needed. Now if I had to pick one camera and one lens and then have them welded together, it would be the D810 and the 14-24. They can pretty well do anything anytime anywhere, especially if time and space is at a premium. The plastic lens hood is just fine. If you happen to fall down a hill or run into a wall, the hood absorbs the shock while disintegrating. A metal lens hood transmits the shock right into the lens and down into the camera guts, making them both inoperable. You know well what that costs to repair. It is why construction workers think long and hard about whether to have steel or fiberglass toed boots. They would rather have a crushed toe than a severed toe. Raymond

Egbert M. Reinhold (Ineluki) on March 24, 2015

Very good review of a pretty good lens but the photo of the “Holy Trinity” shows 14-24mm and 24-70 with VRII. Do you know more than we do?

John Giglio (jkg0806) on March 23, 2015

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Thank you for an informative article I have the 24-70 in my sights to go with my D810 and hopefully will have one soon.

Dirk Hoffmann (DirkMHoffmann) on March 22, 2015

Yes, this is the lens I use most too. It has a very good quality and I never had any problems with it. I love my 24-70 and alos the two other that you calles the trinity. Regards Dirk

John Hernlund (Tokyo_John) on March 22, 2015

It is an optically great lens, with very impressive performance. Like you said, it isn't the best for any particular job, but it is good enough and versatile enough to cover a lot of territory, which is why we bought one for our office. It really is amazing to see what Nikon has done with the zoom lenses. Still, I have to confess, my heart sinks a little when I notice how cheap and plasticky it looks and feels...the optics are incredible, but I would be willing to pay a few hundred dollars more for a more solidly constructed lens. When they are this pricey, I think many who are able to buy them would probably agree.

Stephen Blakesley (lajolla) on March 21, 2015

As I still shoot color neg film, I continue to use the 17mm-35mm f/2.8D AFS, the 28-70mm f/2.8D AFS, and the 80-200 f/2.8D AFS with F5 and F6 bodies. Aside from having to replace the AFS mechanisms in ALL these lenses over the last 15 years, they remain my handheld workhorses.

Richard Cron (rcron) on March 21, 2015

Neither the 14-24 2.8 or 24-70 2.8 have VR as shown in your pic of the Holy Trinity. Nikon Rumors reported an update of the 24-70 possibly in the works.

Dr. Muniini K. Mulera (Ruyooka) on March 21, 2015

I agree 100%. It is THE lens I use most. I have had this lens since 2008. It is my main lens. Never had any problem with it. Not too heavy for a long day of walking about the city.

User on March 20, 2015

Ken Rockwell claims that no professional uses a medium range zoom, unless they do weddings, but I beg to differ. This is probably the cornerstone of most pro's outfit. I recently reconfigured my outfit around the D750 and have this as my main lens with the 60 and 105 macros, the 70-200 and the 20 f/1.8. That should cover most situations for me. The 24-70 is a very solid optic and I've had mine for six years and not a bit of trouble. Even at 2.8 it amazes me with the clarity and sharpness. Expensive, but worth the money for convenience and quality of IQ.

Jon Nadelberg (jnadelberg) on March 19, 2015

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The conclusion is interesting because I was thinking while reading this that I would prefer a 50mm lens, and walk a few feet to compose my shot. I suppose this lens gives you more flexibility, but my 50mm gives me f/1.4 and that's sometimes handy. I have lenses similar to this, but I just never seem to feel a need to use them. I seem to mostly use a wide angle zoom, a telephoto zoom, or some other specialty lens. Compared to these large lenses, the 50mm f/1.4D that I have seems tiny. Cool review. Maybe I'll look into one of these. It could replace my 28-105mm zoom I've had sitting around for 15 years....

Lanny Brown (lannybrown) on March 19, 2015

I got to borrow this lens when I went to Santa Fe Workshops. Loved it. I can't afford it yet, but soon.

Alan Dooley (ajdooley) on March 19, 2015

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Joe - I concur 110%. It is the lens that is ON one body in the bag -- my "go to." I wish it was a VRII lens -- but in the meantime, it is just superb -- flexible, sharp and an ideal fit to an FX camera with a range that includes the "normal" lens as well.

Joseph Gamble (JCGamble) on March 19, 2015

Your are indeed correct Mick Klass, that is my VRI and not the newer VRII. Nice catch and thanks for reading.

Mick Klass (mklass) on March 19, 2015

As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Ribbon awarded for his most generous donation in 2017 Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign

Thanks for the article, Joseph. Just one minor quibble, in your picture of the so called Holy Trinity, the 70-200 is the first version of the lens, not the second.

G