Review Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

Mar 20, 2017
Central Ohio
Real Name

Image © NikonUSA

As many of the loyal readers know, we here at Best Light Photo work in 2 worlds - that of Olympus and Nikon.

Today we are going to start looking at some older Nikon lenses. Why, you may ask? Our Nikon kit has recently been running one prime and 2 pro grade zoom lenses. Those pro lenses do not lend themselves to the casual stroll and smaller lenses are desirable. I'm not so much concerned about the weight as I am being able to fit everything into a Lowepro Transit 250 AW sling pack.

Went to the local camera store and was looking about for a nice, small-ish do it all street zoom. After looking at the various options available, I decided to give the Nikon 24-120mm f3.5-5.6 VR lens a try. The f/4 version would have been bigger than we wanted to go at this point and is quite the budget jump.

Majority of the testing was done on a Nikon Df.

32mm | 1/30 | f/8 | ISO 400

First and foremost, a lens must perform. It needs to be sharp and provide a good base image.
Sadly, the majority of the internet reviews are very accurate. This is not a good lens, and dare I say, that this might be the worst lens I've every used on any system.

It is not sharp at any focal length or any aperture.

I tried auto focus fine tuning on the Nikon Df and go. I even tried shooting in live view with contrast detect AF to see if that improved joy there either.
On that point alone, the lens fails. Which is a shame because it is a decent focal range and the contrast seemed very nice.

It's hard to tell where the IQ breaks down on web size images, and I'm not a pixel peeper.

120mm | 1/320 | f/5.6 | ISO 200

I'm not a fan of the "reversed" focus/zoom rings that Nikon went to with the AF-S lenses. I always tend to accidentally bump the darn thing. To be honest, I thought that might have been an issue with the AF being so bad. I made sure that I took that out of the equation during the tests and verified that I was not moving that focus ring inadvertently.

On the positives, the zoom throw from 24 to 120 is relatively short so going from one end of the focal range to the other can be a quick trip. It can also be a little less accurate because it is so close together.

120mm | 1/640 | f/8 | ISO 200
This is a G lens, so no aperture ring.

For our desires, this lens was a good size and weight for the purpose it was going to be used for. No real complaints there. It balanced well on the Nikon Df.

120mm | 1/125 | f/5.6 | ISO 320 VR active

Auto Focus
Auto focus was decent for this lens. Not slow, but not pro grade lens fast. It would be fine for the majority of user situations. This is an AF-S lens with the full time manual focus override.

120mm | 1/125 | f/8 | ISO 1250 | VR active

I REALLY wanted this lens to work out, I did. It was a good size, had a useful focal range and was a quick, quiet focuser. Too bad that the shoddy IQ in the sharpness range was a total deal breaker. After many tests and trying to work with the lens over a 3 day weekend...there was just no salvaging the lens. It was returned and the money was used to purchase other lenses that might fit the everyday walk around lens.

To get the provided sample images to look even half way decent I processed these images more than I normally have to. B&W with a lot of grain helped tighten things up a bit.

38mm | 1/40 | f/8 | ISO 250 | VR active

32mm | 1/40 | f/8 | ISO 200 | VR active

110mm | 1/125 | f/5.6 | ISO 1800 | VR active

120mm | 1/125 | f/8 | ISO 3600 : VR active
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