Pixel peeping: 17-35 vs. 12-24 @20mm

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Pa, Jul 24, 2007.

  1. I was curious to see how my Nikkor 12-24 stacked up against my newly acquired 17-35 where the zoom ranges overlap. I chose to do the comparison at 20mm.

    Subject: newspaper classified ads page taped to the fridge. The full image:


    Now 100% crops.

    #1 12-24 @ f/4


    #2 17-35 @ f/4


    #3 12-24 @ f/8


    #4 17-35 @ f/8


    You're welcome to draw your own conclusions, of course. My conclusion is that these two lenses are very, very close in resolution at 20mm, with a slight edge to the 17-35, as expected. Since the 17-35 is a legendary lens (see Bjørn Rørslett), I was pleasantly surprised at how well the 12-24 compares.

    There are plenty of ways to throw stones at this comparison, so fire away. It is not in any way scientific, but I did do my best to make the comparison as objective as possible. :112:
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2007
  2. lamk

    lamk Guest

    Just wondering why did you buy the 17-35 when you already have the 12-24
  3. rvink


    Mar 21, 2006
    New Zealand
    Great tennis player ... didn't know he was into photography :smile:
  4. That's a legitimate question, and in the end I may not keep both of them. For one thing, of course, there is not complete overlap in their ranges, and 12mm is quite a bit wider than 17. Also, the 17-35 is rather too big for a travel lens, while I do expect to carry along the 12-24 on airplane trips.

    :biggrin: I was typing that while talking to my daughter on the phone. Interesting what came out. Now corrected.
  5. To my eyes, the 17-35 looks a bit sharper, but seems to exhibit more distortion than the 12-24.
  6. Yes, I noticed that too. Of course, 20mm is near the middle of the range of the 12-24, but nearer the wide end of the 17-35. Maybe I'll do a comparison at 24mm while I've got things set up.
  7. bozola


    Feb 28, 2006
    Seattle WA
    Can't tell too much of difference.. but maybe I should apply @ Kmart!

  8. lamk

    lamk Guest

    If Nikon come out with a full frame I'll definitely get the 17-35 but right now it is a 24-50 equivalent which is more a photojournalistic range in my book. I don't do a lot of photojournalistic type of shooting and therefore the sigma 18-50 will do for now when I need that range. I use the sigma 10-20 for landscape becasue I want the extra 2mm and it's also way cheaper than the 12-24. I have no doubt the 12-24 is a better lens, just can't justify it. Once stopped down which one wants to do with landscape anyway the sigma 10-20 performs quite well.
  9. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    the 17-35 is sharper but neither seems very sharp to me. you need a 20mm prime lens as reference.
  10. I just note that Bjørn Rørslett, who does a pretty careful job of lens testing (certainly much more so than your humble servant), gives the 17-35 higher ratings than any Nikkor prime lens in this focal length range. In fact, my comparative results above add nothing to his ratings, which also show the 12-24 to be a close competitor to the 17-35 in their common ranges.
  11. lamk

    lamk Guest

    The Nikon 20mm/f2.8 Af is not sharp with a digital body and cannot be use as a comparison. Maybe somebody with a MF 20mmAIS lens can compare and comment.
  12. I've used the 20 3.5 Ai-s with the large 72mm filter size, and it's the best I've ever gotten out of a digital, but they go for a lot of money, are still usually beat up, and weigh a lot for what it is. What really kills me is, that my friend got the copy below, from the official photographer for The Vatican when he retired for $25.

    In the end, after owning the 12-24, 17-35, and 17-55DX, and a bunch of primes, I've really settled on the keeping the 17-35. It's really the only one that I consider to be the best classic wide angle zoom. It's been around for a long time, and there is a reason. Even Canon shooters adapt it to work on their cameras. I even know 1 die hard Canon shooter, and he has bought a D2Xs and 17-35 just for landscape work.

    I would have to say, the best thing about the 20 Ai-s, is that you really can stop it way down with no diffraction. Second came the 17-35.


    Nikon D2h ,Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Ai-S
    1/250s f/11.0 at 20.0mm iso200

    Nikon D2h ,Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Ai-S
    1/350s f/11.0 at 20.0mm iso200
    View attachment 107734

    Nikon D2h ,Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S
    1/640s f/5.6 at 35.0mm
    View attachment 107735
  13. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    Wow, so this lens is sharper than both the 28/1.4 and 35/2? Maybe we can do a comparison with the 1 dollar bill.

    Here is my Nikkor 35mm f/2 at f/5.6, unsharpened 100% crop:


    I also have the full-sized image if that helps.
  14. There's more to lens quality than just sharpness.
    I think it would be a mistake to read Pa's or Bjorn's statements about the 17-35 as being addressed solely to sharpness.
  15. lamk

    lamk Guest

    Wow I need to scour for a 20mmAIS than. My 20mm/f2.8 Af is the lens I put on my D50 to turn it to a light weight point and shoot. I don't use it for landscape cause I use my 10-20 instead. When is Nikon goiing to develop some nice prime that is in the same calibre as the 17-35?
  16. The difference is in the contrast. Impression of sharpness.
  17. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    i know that, but this thread is about image quality: mainly sharpness and contrast.
  18. Sharpness seems the same. Actually, the 17-35 looks to be sharper wide open by a small margin and softer closed down, by s amall margin.

    Now the 1000000$ question: What is better, a lens with greater or lesser contrast? Tough one...

  19. Perhaps you did know that, but it didn't seem so when you jumped in with your dollar bill sharpness challenge after Pa merely said that Bjorn had given the 17-35 higher ratings than Nikon primes in the same focal range. Sorry if you took any offense.
  20. cotdt


    Jul 14, 2007
    Bay Area, USA
    i did not mean for it to be a sharpness confrontation, but you may take it as you may. as a lens enthusiast i am just geniunely curious how the 17-35 performs against the well established prime lenses like the 28/1.4 and 35/2. i know Bjorn is well respected photographer but another person can easily bring in other opinions from other photographers (ie. Ken Rockwell) who have different opinions about these same lenses. if we only trust the opinions of professionals then eventually we'd all be divided into camps who use either "Bjorn's favored lenses" versus another camp "Rockwell's favored lenses" etc.