The Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX is a ruggedly built lens aimed at the semipro market, refined optics and aimed at the DX platform, ranging from the likes of the D50, D80 and D2X. At the time of its release the lens was the first ultrawide angle lens for digital DX cameras. This meaning on an an old school film camera or full frame sensor, you won’t fill the entire frame.
There’s plenty of quality glass here to make any DX user happy at the wide end of the spectrum. The lens is still quite a pricey affair, but the results are worth it.
I have to admit that with the likes of Nikon, Sigma and Tamron, the meaning of the multitude of acronyms for each lens can soon get confusing, so here’s a quick refresher for the Nikon lenses. ‘IF’ – internal focusing, ‘ED’ – extra low dispersion glass, ‘AF-S’ – Silent autofocusing with manual override on the focus ring and ‘DX’ – it will only work on the DX cameras.
The aperture range on the lens is f/4-f/22 through 11 elements in seven groups. Two of these are ED glass and three being moulded aspherical. There are seven curved diaphragm blades, a 1 foot minimum focusing distance, a 77mm filter thread, Silent wave motor(SWM), a Nikon F-Bayonet all weighing in at 16.25oz/461g. There’s also a HB-23 hood included with the lens. The lens barrel is solidly built, with reasonable weatherproofing.
The layout on the lens is very straightforward. A smooth working focus ring, a ring for changing the focal length, a switch for changing autofocus to manual and a distance scale. Everything is straightforward and simply laid out as it should be on a wide-angle lens.
The image quality on a wide-angle lens is usually very good due to its short focal length range and it’s no different with this lens. The autofocus is fast, quiet and accurate. Center sharpness is excellent moving out to the edge of the frame, with only a tiny amount of softness. Stopping down to f/8 produces the best overall sharp images at all focal lengths with some diffraction being introduced after f/11.
The resolution looks best at 12mm, with a slight drop-off at 24mm when the aperture is fully wide open. Again, stopping down to f/8 cures this problems.
The use of ED glass cuts down on chromatic aberration which is only at a small level, easily corrected in postproduction as in Lightroom or Photoshop lens correction filter. It’s just a shame there’s no Nano-Crystal Coat on this lens. At 12mm there is clearly some barrel distortion with a small amount of light falloff. At 18mm and above there is some slight pin cushioning. For those who require laser sharp straight lines in their images, you will definitely have to do some post-editing. Luckily, these days pincushion and distortion is an easily fixed and automated process, but it’s always the ideal to have the lens produce everything is needed out of the tin.
Ghosting and flares are surprisingly not a problem. Using the hood helps a lot and even in direct sunlight the effects are minimal. However, wide-angle lenses can be susceptible to flaring, so always bear this in mind.
Overall, apart from easily correctable distortion, the lens is extremely sharp across the range and will serve as a fantastic wide-angle zoom.
How Does It Compare?
When you’re one of the first on the block, everybody wants you, but now there are more contenders and options at this end of the focal lengths. Potential contenders include the Nikon 10-24mm, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and 12-24mm f/4, Tamron 11-18mm f/4.5-f/5.6 and Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-f/5.6, the majority being cheaper than this lens. If you just want the best quality possible then the Nikon will fit the bill, but depending on your budget there are plenty of other third-party wide-angle lenses available. In some cases cheaper, in some cases wider focal lengths and/or apertures.
This means that the deciding factor really depends on if you need wider than the 12mm on the Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX, if f/4 is a wide enough aperture for you, and if you’re happy with the higher price tag.
|Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX||NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED|
|Glass||11 elements, 7 groups||14 elements, 9 groups|
The Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX was the top wide angle lens for DX cameras, but it now has lots of competition from other lenses from both Nikon and third-party manufacturers. Despite this, the Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX is still a top performer. Lens sharpness and quality is still top notch today.
You would expect the image quality to be kept the highest, especially with the high pricetag that comes with the lens. With any wide-angle lens image sharpness and quality is paramount across the focal range and the lens definitely delivers here. It’s always advisable to save those pennies and buy into the best quality glass available, this is why the Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX is still highly recommended. This lens will suit those interested in wide-angle landscapes, real estate or architectural images, just with the caveat of getting rid of distortion in postproduction.
There is also the caveat of not being able to use a camera’s built-in flash as it does produce those haunting dark shadows. However, it’s not so much a concern when this type of lens is going to be used mostly for outdoor work like with architecture. The short focal length also means most of the time you can get reasonably low shutter speeds, covering low light scenarios. On that note, image stabilisation is coming in for wide-angle zoom lenses, which will allow even slower shutter speeds when handheld, but in the majority of cases wide-angle zooms are renowned for being good in low light conditions.
The f/4 instead of the likes of f/2.8 may be a dealbreaker for some, but you have to think of the majority of its general use. Most the time you will want a deep depth of field with this lens, f/4 and above, so this may not be a big problem in real world use.
Competitor lenses may be cheaper, but considering overall features and image quality the Nikon 12-24mm f/4G DX still rules the roost.