Today I review perhaps my all time favorite lens. In fact, if I had to narrow down my camera gear and choose but one single lens to use for the rest of my life, it would be my Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D. (Canon also has a 24mm f/2.8 lens.)
I’ve had my 24mm for well over fifteen years. It was the first lens that I bought when I lost the day job that sent me on my path as a professional photographer, and I’ve taken it on every single adventure, trip, vacation, expedition, afternoon outing, day trip, assignment and stock shoot since the very first day I’ve owned it.
Size and Weight
The main thing I love about this lens is that it’s small and light. At 9.5 oz and about 2/3 the size of your fist, it fits perfectly in my light and fast style of photography. I generally prefer shooting with prime lenses instead of zoom lenses for this reason, my 80-200mm f/2.8 being the exception. Fixed wide angle lenses are much more compact than wide angle zooms, and they’re sharper and faster.
Size and weight matter when you’re out slaying peaks with friends who hike REALLY fast, when you’re out for an entire day on the bike, or when you’re traveling around Europe or Asia with minimal gear. Sure, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is a great pro quality lens that offers a wide choice of compositional options, but which lens would you rather run or hike ten miles with?
The Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D is indeed sharp; sharp enough for any kind of work that you’ll ever do. It creates imagery that is crisp from front to back and edge to edge, unless you’re trying go shallow.
When shooting with limited depth of field, it gives razor sharp subjects that stand boldly in front of dreamy soft backgrounds. It allows you to accentuate your foreground subject matter with prominence create depth that carries the viewer’s eye all the way through your frame and then back again.
Distortion is very limited with this lens. It’s wide enough so that you can get in very close, but it won’t bend or warp the subjects too much. In fact, it’s this cleanliness that makes it such a great environmental portrait lens (see below). You can move in and really accentuate your subject within the frame, but still show enough location to help create a story around your subject instead of just shooting a photo of your subject. You get wide without effect. Portraits shot with the 24mm are genuine, because they don’t call attention to themselves with unnecessary style. However, if that’s what you’re going for, just move in even closer and you’ll get it.
The same applies for shooting adventure, action and sports, which has always been my favorite style of photography. I’ve used my 24mm for shooting climbing, kayaking, hiking, skiing, mountaineering, biking. You name it; if I’ve shot it, I’ve shot it with this lens, and with great results. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of published photos that I’ve shot with my 24mm. It lets you get right in the middle of the action, and since it’s so compact, you won’t obtrude upon your subject matter when you do.
It’s also very fast. A maximum aperture of f/2.8, gives you lots of options for freezing action, shooting inside, shooting at night, (think star trails and aurora borealis photos) and shooting in dim ambient lighting conditions. Focus is also quick, mainly because the rotating distance on the lens barrel between close focus and infinity is only about a quarter turn.
Of course, I also love this lens for shooting landscapes. It’s got a wonderful angle of view, and as I said above, it’s wide enough that you can accentuate some aspect of the foreground and still get edge to edge sharpness if you need. Stop down with a tripod and you’ll get all the sharpness you could ever want.
That said, since I tend to move quickly, I often end up hand holding this lens with no tripod, and I still get great results. If I can brace my arms and/or hands a little bit, I can go down to around half a second an still get sharp photos. If I’m not bracing, and my subject is not moving, I’m comfortable down to around 1/10 sec.
Also, when compared to other lenses like that 24-70mm that I mentioned above, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8D costs WAY less. At around $359, it damn near falls into the budget category. You simply can’t get very many versatile pro quality lenses for under four bills. For what you get, this one is a steal. I’ve paid for it countless times over with all the photos that I’ve sold from using this lens. I also cannot count the times when I’ve banged it around, knocked it against rocks, dropped it and abused it in other ways during a decade and a half of outdoor photography. (I always use the dedicated metal lens hood.) Put simply, it’s built to last.
One thing that I’ve noticed with this lens is that you get very slight vignetting when using it on full frame cameras like the D700 and D750. We’re talking very slight, and it’s nothing that you can’t fix with a minor adjustment in the Lens Correction slider in Lightroom. You could probably even make a preset for that or do batch vignetting adjustments if you wanted. On a DX body, you don’t have this issue. It effectively renders as a 32mm, which is still a great focal length for a variety of subject matter and styles. I’ve used it for years on my D300 body.
Overall, you simply cannot go wrong with a 24mm lens. It offers great value and gives, what I feel, is the best combination of wide angle creative options, size and price for a lens of this type. In my photography, I find this to be an absolutely essential piece of gear that I NEVER leave behind. Whether you shoot landscapes, portraits, locations, interiors, street scenes, action, sports, adventure or travel, this lens will give you great imagery, it won’t break the bank and it certainly won’t slow you down.
Support This Site: When shopping for gear, please consider clicking through these links. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps compensate me for the time and effort that it takes to run this site and write these reviews. Thanks! -Dan