The Sharpness & Darkness Queen – the Nikkor AFS 14-24 mm f2.8G
Nikon AFS 14-24 mm f2.8G:
This lens is the end of the (endless) search for the perfect wide angle lens. Its as simple as that. Get this one and stop (and forget) all the testing : ). Since photography went digital a sharp wide angle has been like the mythical unicorn – it just wasnt there anywhere. The 14-24 is the magical solution for all that wanted this full frame edge-sharp wide angle lens. The wide open performance without any degradation in sharpness etc.
+ Sharp wide open in the center and in the far corners,
+ sharp at 14 mm,
+ sharp at 20 mm and
+ nearly as sharp at 24 mm though it wee bit softer in the edge than at 20 mm,
+ creates nice sun stars closed down,
+ has (on the D800) only minimal CAs at 14 mm (that can be easily corrected in post),
+ focus is fast and silent,
+ build is absolute top notch (the lens virtually melts with a D3 – there are no mount tolerances),
+ manual focus is super smooth without any glide coupling offsets.
Front element is protuding and exposed to some degree at 14 mm setting.
With the heavy duty Single Digit Nikons the 14-24 just pairs perfectly and weight balance is nice.
The lens is heavy but sits in your hand like a tool that asks to be used with precision and knowledge – somehow just stimulating.
The lens has low coma at f2.8 – so, for night time photography this is just the dream of “shooting a wideangle without need to close the aperture” coming true because the f2.8 shots at iso1600 wide open are in no way a compromise. So far my experiences with all wide angles were always a mixed bag. The fixed focal lenses with 20 mm and less did not deliver (Nikon 20 mm f2.8 AIS, 18 mm, 14 mm and the Voigtländer 20 mm f3.5 or the Sigma alternatives were not much better). Some praised the new Zeiss ZF 15 mm and the legend – the older Zeiss ZF 21 mm f2.8 but they sell for the same or higher price, no AF and only one focal length, other alternative at least for the night time photogs: Rokinon (also known as Samyang). Rokinons are very affordable priced and are nicely coma corrected. A great start would be the 14 mm Rokinon.
On the plus side for the 14-24: it also works nicely with an IR converted camera. There is no hotspot with this lens.
If you have to use a wide angel lens wide open, than the 14-24 is the tool that will deliver. The edges will even improve sligthly if you close the lens down to f4 and f5.6 though hardly in a range that is very much relevant.
Only “problem” with the lens is its big front glass – you pay for the uncompromised engineering of this construction unaffected by accountancy or management restrictions. This is a product of a 100% performance oriented and engineering dominated design decisions.
– the lens cap is a problem – I just dont like that solution – it just shouldnt be slip on, they could have easily created a locking mechanism that
snuck fits on the sun shade.
– And for some a problem: no easy filter solution – you have to get the big special 1424 designs – expensive and huge glas plates.
– The lens can also show some strange flare when you directly shoot into the sun. It creates rainbow like reflections that are hard to remove.
So overall the best around for the available light freakes, indoor interior, astro photographers, star trail and polar light /aurora photography or for night time shots of urban scenes, light house shots at night and so on – you get the message. If you only need a coma free lens for astro shots I would suggest the 14 mm Rokinon, but if the lens is to be used also for other applications than the 1424 will deliver. I sold my old Tokina 124 DX lens and will also leave the Nikkor 28 mm f2.0. That feeling of wide open top performance makes me even rethink if I shouldnt sell my Nikkor 20 mm. … mmh the 20 is sooo small its just a very different horse ähem pony maybe.
Some shots from this year:
Pretty much the perfect lens for fireworks at 24 mm but occasional you will likely grab the 24-70 for these events.
Full frame 14 mm shot at f22 – sun in the corner with strong flare.
Subset from the full frame shot above – the color halos are nasty, but you can avoid them easily when you change the direction of the lens a wee bit. Therefore here I really just wanted to show how it could look like if you do not take care but it is avoidable.