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Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
Old DX Sharpness Comparison

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Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED. enlarge.

I got mine from Ritz. You also can order it from Adorama or Amazon. (I'd use Ritz or Adorama again; Amazon still seems clueless about delivery dates). It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from those links.

November 2007

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DX Sharpness Comparison

Just for fun, I shot off the 24-70mm AF-S against everything but a 28-70mm AFS, which I didn't have handy at the time.

I used my D200, which was Nikon's newest actually available camera when I got this lens in November, 2007. The D300 and D3 weren't real yet.

When I say 28-70mm AF-D, I mean the 1990's compact zoom, not the f/2.8 AFS. I can add more lenses as I stop down, since fewer lenses open up to f/2.8.

Lenses Compared (only some at each focal length):

17-35mm AF-S

18-35mm AF-D

18-55mm AF-S II

Ugly 24mm f/2.8 pre-AI

24mm f/2.8 AF-D

24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-D "Streetsweeper"

24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

28mm f/2.0 AI-s

28mm f/2.8 AI-s

28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D (not the f/2.8 AF-s)

28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 G (nasty silver-painted version)

35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D

35mm f/2.8 Nikkor-S (AI-converted)

50mm f/1.8 AF-D (China)

50mm f/1.4 AF-D (China)

Of course there always are shot-to shot variations, but here's a rough idea of what I saw on my D200. The sharpness differences I see are at a 44" (1.1m) print size seen from a foot or two away on my monitor. These differences would be hard to see in 13 x 19" (30 x 50cm) prints, and you'd need to get out a magnifier to see anything in 8 x 12" (25 x 30cm) prints.

At 24mm

At 24mm and f/2.8, I discovered that the focus is consistently in front of the subject on my D200, so it's not sharp enough for testing at 24mm. (It's perfect on my D300 and D40; I just didn't use them at first.)

24mm is the 24-70mm lens' weakest setting. Every other lens was sharper due to the focus issue.

When I figured out a work-around, which is to AF at 70mm and zoom back out (which is cheating), here's what I see:

f/2.8: The 24-70mm is the clear winner. The 17-35mm is second, the 24mm f/2.8 AF-D third, and the ancient, ugly 24mm AI-conversion last.

f/4: The newest 24-70mm AFS wins again. Second place is tied among the 24-120mm AF-D "Streetsweeper," 18-35mm AF-D, 17-35mm AF-S, 24mm f/2.8 AF-D and 24-120mm VR. The hocky-puck 24mm AI Conversion is worst, but not my much. The 24-70mm stands alone.

f/5.6 - f/8: At f/5.6 to f/8 the lenses are more or less as sharp as one another. The issue at moderate apertures is lateral color fringing. The 24-120mm VR, 17-35mm AFS, 18-35mm AF-D have none. The 24-120mm AF-D has some. The 24-70mm AF-S, 24mm AF-D and the beater 24mm AI conversion have visible lateral color, at least at the crazy magnifications I'm using. The 24-70mm tends to be a little sharper than some other lenses, but has a little more lateral color, so it's a toss up among them.

At 28mm

At 28mm the 24-70mm is OK, but not a clear winner from some residual AF error on my D200. Here's what I see, shooting them fairly against one another:

f/2.8: The 28mm f/2.8 AI-s is sharpest all over. The 24-70mm is the same as the 28mm f/2.0 AI-s, when all are shot at f/2.8.

f/4: The 24-70mm is as sharp as the 28mm f/2.0 AI-s. The 28mm f/2.8 AI-s is better, and lo and behold, the best is the small 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D I bought used from Adorama for $100.

f/5.6: At f/5.6 and smaller they are all equally sharp. They all also have the same amount of lateral color fringing, except for the small 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D which has none.

If I cheat and focus the 24-70 AFS at 70mm and zoom back out, which improves it slightly, and also throw three more lenses into the mix that weren't included above:

f/2.8: Now the 24-70 beats all. The 28mm f/2.8 AI-s and 28mm f/1.4 AF-D are close seconds. The 17-35mm AF-S and 28mm f/2.0 AI-s are worse.

f/4: The 24-70mm wins again. The 28-70mm AF-D is second. The 28mm f/2.8 AI-s, 28mm f/2.0 AI-s, 18-35mm AF-D and 28mm f/1.4 AF-D are tied for third. The 17-35mm AFS and 28-80mm G are last.

f/5.6: There isn't much difference at f/5.6. The 24-70mm wins. The 28-70mm AF-d and 28mm f/1.4 A-D is second. The two AI-s 28mm lenses, the 18-55mm AF-s kit lens, and the 18-35mm are all third, but not by far. The 17-35mm AF-S is last. None of these lenses have any significant lateral color fringing.

At 35mm

At 35mm, the 24-70mm has finally hooked up and is easily the best of the lenses I tested at 35mm.

f/2.8: The 24-70mm is clearly the best, sharp and devoid of lateral color even wide open. The 17-35mm AF-S is a close second. The 35-70mm f/2.8 AF is third and has some lateral color. The 1972 35mm Nikkor-S (AI converted) was clearly the worst.

f/4: The 24-70mm is clearly much better than the 28-80mm G, 18-35mm AF-D, 28-70mm AF-D and the 35mm Nikkor-S. The 17-35mm AF-S and 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D are a close seconds.

f/5.6 - f/8: The sharpness differences lessen, although the 24-70mm still wins. The 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D, 18-55mm AF-S kit lens, 17-35mm AF-S, 18-35mm AF-D and 28-70mm AF-D and 35mm Nikkor-S are similar. The 28-80G is the loser.

As the softer lenses have sharpened up, lateral color is obvious in the 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D and somewhat in the 35mm Nikkor-S, 18-35mm and 17-35mm. . There is no lateral color in the 24-70mm, 28-80mm G, 28-70 AF-D or 18-55mm AF-S.

At 50mm

Golly, at 50mm the 24-70mm also is the clear winner, even better than the fixed 50mm f/1.4 AF-D and 50mm f/1.8 AF-D!

f/2.8: The 24-70mm is clearly the sharpest. The 50mm f/1.8 AF-D is a far second, and the 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D and 50mm f/1.4 AF-D are the worst.

f/4: The 24-70mm wins again. The 28-70mm AF-D is tied with the 50mm f/1.8 and 28-80mm G for second. The 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D loses.

f/5.6: Similar to before with the differences less obvious. The 50mm f/1.8 and 28-70mm AF-D are close seconds. All the others, as well as the 24-120mm VR, are all tied for last.

At 70mm

The 24-70mm wins again, although I only compared it to mid range zooms, no pro tele zooms and no fixed lenses.

f/2.8: The 24-70mm is sharper, contrastier and has much less lateral color fringes than the 35-70mm f/2.8.

f/4: The 24-70mm wins, with the 35-780m a closer second. The 28-70mm AF-D is a far last.

f/5.6: 24-70mm wins. 35-70mm is second. 28-70mm AF-D and 24-120mm VR tied for third. The cheap est 28-80mm G loses.

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