Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 ED VR real-world sample gallery
Winter can be a stark wonderland in the Pacific Northwest, especially east of the Cascade mountain range. Editor Barney Britton spent some time with the new Nikon 24-70 F2.8 ED VR lens amongst the snow-covered rolling hills, waterfalls, forests, and even sunny beaches our beautiful state provides. VR brings a level of hand hold-ability to a popular range of focal lengths that should make it easier to make sharp images with the 36MP Nikon D810.
Before you follow the link below to see how the lens performed in the set of real-world samples we provide here, it's worth keeping some things in mind. A high-resolution camera demands critical focus: even the slightest misfocus will be easily visible, and small focus errors aren't uncommon when using DSLRs in the field. Furthermore, on full-frame, even an aperture of F8 has limited depth-of-field, so infinity-focused shots may show a slight decrease in sharpness for objects closer in the foreground. With these caveats in mind, we still found the sharpness of the lens to be somewhat lacking relative to our high hopes.
We've only tested one copy of this lens, and it's always hard to determine if the sample we received is truly a representative sample. We'll be requesting a second copy to verify that our sample isn't an outlier, but based upon findings from both DxOMark and Roger Cicala over at LensRentals, the less-than-stellar sharpness results aren't too surprising.
While sharpness is generally good, particularly across the field, absolute sharpness in the center doesn't appear to be better, or even as good as, the original non-VR 24-70mm F2.8 Nikkor. Roger's results, as well as DxO's findings, confirm somewhat decreased central sharpness but increased consistency across the frame. Roger suggests this may in part be due to a prioritization of minimal field curvature and astigmatism with absolute sharpness perhaps being the cost. Our samples do appear to confirm a relatively flat field of focus - which will be useful for many applications. Close-up sharpness sometimes suffers, as does sharpness at the long end, while chromatic aberration continues to be an issue much like the original.
That said, overall build appears to be - at least subjectively - improved, and Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) promises to be a boon for photojournalists. Paired with the D810, our experience and preliminary testing indicates VR to be incredibly effective, and we expect it'll prove indispensable at times, while overall raising the convenience factor of the body and lens combo. For some, this may even make up for the less-than-ideal sharpness which, by the way, we only call out because of the high bar set by recent primes and venerable zooms like the Canon 24-70 F2.8 II (which lacks VR, mind you). In isolation, this new lens is plenty sharp.
But without further ado, have a look at the sample gallery yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments!