First day with Nikon 24-120 f4 VR

Started Oct 19, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Jeff Bakke
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First day with Nikon 24-120 f4 VR
Oct 19, 2010

Saturday I stopped into my favorite photo shop in Brick, NJ and tested out the new 24-120 f4 and dropped $1300 down and took it home.

Sunday I drove up to the Poconos in PA and the Delaware water gap to shoot the fall colors and test my new lens. I'm happy to report I'm thrilled about the lens and the results.

My setup is a Nikon D300, the 24-120 and a Hoya Pro 1 circular polarizer.

my test photos are at: http://jpbakke.smugmug.com/Travel/Poconos-Fall-2010

I shot RAW, with -1, 0, +1 EV bracketing, ISO 200 (when possible), WB set to Sunny day. I imported into lightroom and applied my default values (clarity +15, vibrance +15, saturation +10, sharpening 25, radius 1.0, detail 25, masking 0, no noise reduction, no distortion adjustment, and 2010 process with Nikon Camera Standard as profile) and all other settings standard. No exposure adjustment, no curve adjustment, no other touchups. I then exported to JPEG and uploaded using the smugmug plugin for lightroom 3. I view my photos on a Dell Ultrasharp 2405 24" display that is calibrated with an Eye-one display 2 from x-rite (worthy investment).

When I compare the photos to a set of photos I shot 3 weeks ago in Yellowstone with the autumn colors in full turn using mostly my 18-200 VR and my sigma 10-20, the new 24-120 blows these photos away. Sharpness is much improved, the ability to get a reasonable 3Dish DOF (see my leaf photos on the smugmug site) and most definitely the color rendition and "pop" is significantly better. I was blow away by the default color saturation and contrast. This lens might not meet the 17-40 f2.8 but its a world of improvement over my 18-200. The new nano coating might have something to do with this, as all my other lenses do not have that feature.

Build quality feels good. It feels solid and although it has plastic, it seems very sturdy and heavy. Auto focus is dead on and very fast and quiet. A friend of mine tried it without adjusting the diopter for his eyesight and was complaining that it wasn't auto-focusing.. it was, he just couldn't hear it!

VR seems better than my 18-200, but I'm just guessing here. I did shoot a few nice shots of water flow/falls and successfully (my opinion) handheld the shots at 1/6 and 1/10 of a second. I don't remember ever getting sharp enough shots with my 18-200 on wide angle with that slow of a shutter speed.

Now I just need Adobe to publish a calibration profile to fix the distortion (where I really only care when shooting industrial/architectural). Right now I guess I can use CS5 and custom values that Ken Rockwell published.

This is definitely my new walk around lens. I'll carry this and my Sigma 10-20 when I need wide. My plan is to upgrade to FX frame (D700 probably) in the next year and now I have a lens to take with me when I upgrade. I suspect I'll invest in the new 16-35 f4 VR as a wide angle on the FX camera and be very happy with that combination.

Feel free to ask any questions. I can only compare the lens to my collection of, admittedly, prosumer level lens at best. I have a Sigma 10-20, Nikon 35mm 1.8G, Nikon 18-200 VR, Nikon 105 f2.8 macro (non-VR).

Now back to saving up for the 16-35 f4 VR and the motherlode: 70-200 f2.8 VR.

-Jeff

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