My best worst most unpopular lenses ever and why I love them (Nikon & Canon)

My best worst most unpopular lenses ever and why I love them (Nikon & Canon)

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shot with the Nikkor 24-120mm f3.5-5.6 G ED VR at 55mm, f5.6, 1sec exposure, ISO 160

Something I wanted to share with you for quite some time, every camera system has their “duds” and I will tell you about the two I have been using on my latest Nikon and Canon bodies. Let’s start with Nikon:
The undisputed, worst lens ever in the Nikon line up: the Nikkor 24-120mm G f3.5-5.6 ED VR , you can find it on eBay for around $200 bucks or less. Why do I still keep and love this lens, even on the D800E?
find out after the break

Update: great savings on Nikon gear here BH
and Canon gear here at BH.

first of all, the lens is only truly terrible if you shoot wide open at 24mm. Ok, it is still terrible when you shoot at 5.6 at 24mm, however, as soon as you stop down to f5.6 1/2 (f6.3) MAGIC happens, the lens sharpens up nicely across the frame (provided you have a copy which doesn’t suffer from decentering issues) except for the most extreme corners and suddenly produces perfectly usable results at any focal length, even on the D800E. Remember, this is a $200 lens, covering a very desirable focal range with effective image stabilization. The built quality is plastic and not up to pro standards but it has a metal mount, and if you get a decent copy (plenty out there) it can hold its own against much more expenses lenses.

Would I use it for critical landscape or architecture work? Of course not. But as a general, light weight – do it all – absolutely. It isn’t the sharpest lens – not as critical in real life as it seems when looking at DXO charts. For general photography, the difference in sharpness (10P-Mpix vs 12P-Mpix when compared to the latest version, the 24-120mm f4) is negligible (even when viewed at 100%). Googling for reviews of the 24-120mm f4 will produce mostly positive reviews (overblown positive, imho, and overblown negative for the older version). Since I have used both lenses extensively I can tell you I was disappointed with the new 24-120mm f4 on the D800E. The center was sharp but I didn’t dare to shoot with it wide open. Quite a disappointment for a fairly expensive, pro oriented piece of glass. (Unlike Canon’s 24-105mm, which is already fantastic at f4)
The new 24-120mm f4 is very good once stopped down to 5.6. You can save yourself about a grand, and only give up 1/2 stop and a little bit of sharpness in the most extreme corners. The other, highly attractive attribute of the old 24-120mm is its weight, or lack of it. 575 grams versus 710 grams. This – unlike the measurements for sharpness, will make a big difference when out on walks. Another desirable attribute of this oldie: fantastic for close ups, one of those things when you really can’t justify forking over big bucks for a dedicated macro lens, the 24 120mm lets you focus down to about 0.5m at 120mm, throw on an electronic coupled extension tube and you start to enter true macro territory AND maintain image stabilization. I am positive you would not be able to see a significant difference compared to a true macro lens on most common subjects.
And if that’s not enough, I like to use it as a general video lens, at full HD, this lens has plenty of resolution left even wide open. No need to worry about stopping it down, image stabilization really kicks in when zooming towards the long end. Of course it can’t compete with Sony’s active image stabilization, which was optimized for video, but for $200, looking at the sum of things, suddenly this lens looks very attractive.

I would rank the Canon 28 135mm a notch above the Nikon 24 120mm in terms of performance, mainly because it shows less distortion at the wide end due to the less extreme fov and the fact that it isn’t terrible wide open. It also shows less CA. You can also find it on ebay for around $200. Other then that, everything said about the Nikkor 24 120mm also applies to the Canon. The Nikon still looks contemporary and nicely integrates with current G lenses, whereas the Canon looks quite outdated (just in case that matters to you ;) Two of the most underrated Lenses with zero sex appeal still deliver the goods when mounted on the latest DLSR’s.

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3 thoughts on “My best worst most unpopular lenses ever and why I love them (Nikon & Canon)

  1. Trinity Wescott

    This is some great information. It really helps to appreciate what these products can actually do. They may be a bargain at the prices they’ve gone down to.
    Of course, where should you get your cameras and lenses?  One option, if you’re using Canon, is a dedicated Canon store, or shopping directly on their website.  Or there’s Ebay.  Or, you can visit an online store with tons of deals on all sorts of cameras and equipment at BestCameraSolutions.  It’s a great place to look around and see what you may want, or to look for good prices on what you already want!

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