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Compared: Nikon 24mm f/1.8G vs 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR : Snowy White Mountain Road (Nikon D810)

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G and
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

Get Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR at B&H Photo.

Prime versus zoom is a question that many outdoor photographers love to ask. My personal preference is for primes (fixed focal length), but there is no denying the appeal and convenience of a 24-70mm zoom, or of vibration reduction for walk-around shooting*.

Beyond size and weight, the question becomes the tradeoffs in optical behavior. It seems fitting to compare these two just-released Nikon lenses at 24mm.

Too often, lens comparisons use methodology that for field use is questionable (e.g., flat test targets): if one looks at just a few areas of the frame, it is all too easy to come to erroneous conclusions on sharpness, and without the insights as to why. It is a reason to use very large crops for context, as is done in this comparison, because in optics, results are the sum of everything and things vary across the frame.

A suitable scene affords detail from very close range to far distance, with high contrast fine details over much of the frame. Since a dominant issue with wide angle lenses is field curvature (whether prime lens or zoom), a scene ought to include near-to-far subject matter to flush out the behavior. This scene is a good choice for that and more.

Nikon 24-70/2.8E ED VR vs 24/1.8G: Snowy White Mountain Road

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as very large crops, from f/2.8 through f/11.

* The 24/1.8G is a joy to carry; the 24-70/2.8E ED VR gives me pause for weight and size and balance.

White Mountain Road after November Snowstorm
f8 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 64; 2015-11-28 13:24:05
NIKON D810 + Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR @ 24mm

[low-res image for bot]
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