Review: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G – The Best Wide-Angle Lens

The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S. Introduced along with the Nikon D3 in late 2007, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G set a new standard for ultra-wide angle lenses – primes and zooms alike – across the board.

After all, it's not every day that a lens inspires a grass-roots movement to make a Nikon F-Mount to Canon EOS adapter (which culminated in the now widely-available Novoflex Canon EOS to Nikon F-mount adapter.

I've been using the Nikon 14-24mm ever since it's introduction – here's my extensive review of this big-eyed beast.

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An Update to the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8

When Nikon released the Nikon D3, they also introduced the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and 14-24mm f/2.8 lenses as well. While the midrange zoom was a nice update to the old Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8, what caught people's attention was the unusual 14-24mm f/2.8, which replaced the venerable 17-35mm f/2.8.

While some decried the diminished zoom range and loss of the useful 35mm reach, Nikon's new ultra-wide lens quickly became regarded as the “killer app” for the Nikon D3, thanks to its superlative image quality.

Lens Specifications

Focal length
14-24 mm
Maximum aperture
f/2.8
Minimum aperture
f/22
Lens construction
14 elements in 11 groups (with 2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and one Nano Crystal Coat)
Picture angle
114° – 84° (90° – 61° with DX-format camera)
Closest focus distance
0.28 m/0.9 ft. (with focal length 18-24 mm)
Maximum reproduction ratio
1/6.7
No. of diaphragm blades
9 (rounded)
Focusing
Internal Focusing (IF) system; autofocus with a built-in SWM and manual focus
Diameter x length
(extension from lens mount)
Approx. 98 x 131.5 mm/3.9 x 5.2 in.
Weight
Approx. 1,000 g/35.3 oz.
Supplied accessories
Semi-soft Case CL-M3


Optical Design

Here we get to see a cross section of the 14-24mm's huge front element in all its glory – and a look at how relatively packed this lens is with ED (extra-low dispersion) glass and aspherical elements.

MTF Chart

In the MTF chart, we can see that at f/2.8, the 14-24mm should deliver almost perfect contrast right to the edges. Sharpness at 14mm is extremely good in the center of the lens and most of the frame, while at 24mm the lens features softer corners. Considering that this is wide-open performance, these graphs promise some excellent real-world usage.

What's In The Box

The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 comes with all the standard goodies, including a nice hard-case. But you might as well throw that away, because this lens should be super-glued to your camera – or at least in your camera bag, ready to jump into action.

Key Features

  • Ultra-Wide Field of View
  • f/2.8 Aperture
  • Nikon's Nano Crystal Coating

The 14-24mm f/2.8 was one of the first lenses where I got a taste of Nikon's Nano coating. In short, this lens made me a believer. Overall, flare and ghosting is very well controlled in this lens, despite having an absurdly large front element.

Of course, the real appeal of this lens for photojournalists is the extremely wide field of view and coupled with the fast f/2.8 aperture. Even if it weren't for the excellent optical performance, 14mm and f/2.8 is almost reason enough for this lens to exist. With AF-S, ED glass, Nano coating, and just about every other feature Nikon can pack into a lens, the 14-24mm has no shortage of recommendations.

But the real test of rigorous use on assignent? We'll get to that soon enough.


Design

If you recall the original press images for the Nikon D3, many of them featured the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 when a lens was mounted. And there's good reason for that: the Nikon 14-24mm looks badass.

This is a fat lens. Between the built-in lens hood, the absurd girth, and the huge, bulbous front element, the 14-24mm is one of those pretty-ugly lenses that demands professional respect and implies fantastic performance. Because if it didn't perform, there's no way a lens should be this weird looking.


Ergonomics & Controls

Just like most all professional Nikon zooms, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 features the zoom ring close to the lens mount for easy control, with the focusing ring closer to the front of the lens.

Overall, the lens is a little front-heavy, so when used on a smaller camera like the Nikon D700 or D7000, you'll notice the unevenness. On a larger camera like the D3 or a D700 with vertical grip, the lens balances quite well.

The one switch on the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is the standard M/A -M switch to toggle between Autofocus with Manual override or Manual focus-only.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Nikon 14-24mm is excellent. It's barely worth mentioning, so here are some more photos of the lens, including how beat-up looking the lens mount of my copy is.

Filters & The Big Front Element

While most f/2.8 lenses take a 77mm filter, the front element of the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is so large that this feature is impossible. In fact, due to the 114º field of view at 14mm, a front filter would have to be so much larger than the pro-standard 77mm that a suitably large clear or UV filter large enough would be a several hundred dollars itself.

Instead of a normal, pinch-style lens cap, the 14-24mm features a press-on cap that is held on by friction.

On the good side, the cap is simple to remove. On the bad side, the size of the cap means that it's harder to stow in a small camera bag, and there's a chance that it might naturally come off the lens and get stuck in a tightly-packed bag when you pull out the lens.

Built-In Lens Hood

One unique element of this lens is the integral lens hood, which while common in fisheye lenses, are a bit more of a novelty on a zoom like the 14-24mm. However, this integrated lens hood is a welcome feature, as it means the lens is always ready to go with optimal protection from stray light and that the front element has some built-in protection as well.

Lens Performance: AF Precision & Accuracy

AF performance on the Nikon 14-24mm is excellent. Overall, speed is in the same ballpark as the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR. Precision is very clean as well.

In my use for live music photography, the only AF issues I've experienced have been when shooting backlit performers at a very steep angle at 14mm. There can be a tendency for the camera's AF to lock onto a higher contrast area behind your target if the subject is relatively small in the frame.

Photos of Christian metalcore band Underoath performing at the Pageant in St. Louis on July 25, 2010 on "The Cool Tour." (© Todd Owyoung)

The combination of a very wide field of view (114º!) and the fact that your AF sensors are larger than indicated in your camera's viewfinder mean that careful focus lock is really key. Of course, these considerations all rest with the operator – don't blame the lens.

Lens Performance: Color & Contrast

As I mentioned earlier, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 was one of the first of Nikon's new generation of zooms that I used which featured Nano coating, AF-S focusing motors, and updated (or new, as the case is with the 14-24mm) optical designs.

Overall, the image quality rendered by this lens is almost flawless. The the areas of color and contrast, the 14-24mm is a stellar performer, even wide open.

In addition, flare is very, very well controlled in this lens, especially for how large the front element is. When the lens does flare and exhibit ghosting, the artifacts are small and tight.

NYC-based rock band Semi Precious Weapons performing at the Gramercy Theater in New York City on March 27, 2009. (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

Lens Performance: Sharpness

As with all of Nikon's pro lenses, the sharpness of the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is not really something that's going to require too much discussion.

In fact, the Nikon 14-24mm presented such a meaningful increase in sharpness over the entire field that Canon users were clamoring for an adapter to mount this Nikon ultra-wide on their 1D Mark-III and 1D Mark-IVs.  You can check out 16-9.net's infamous test where the Nikon 14-24mm spanks the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II and Contax 17-35mm f/2.8. 16-9.net also tested the Nikkor against Canon's 14mm and 24mm primes, and the zoom still came out on top.

Whether it's landscape or architecture work stopped down, or shooting live music wide open at f/2.8, this lens always delivers. It's equally at home as wide open as it is at f/11.

In short, this fat little zoom from Nikon is as good or flat-out better than just about anything else in the overlapping range.

We could look at some 100% crops, but then again we could shoot some boring test charts, too, or start looking at Henri Cartier Bresson prints under a loupe for signs of motion blur and blocked up shadows. For now, let's just look at some real-world samples shot with this lens instead. I promise the Nikon 14-24mm is plenty sharp.

 (Todd Owyoung)

Sample Images – Architectural Photography

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (TODD OWYOUNG)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (TODD OWYOUNG)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (TODD OWYOUNG)

 (Todd Owyoung)

Sample Images – Live Music Photography

KISS performs on the Alive/35 World Tour 2009. (Todd Owyoung)

Green Day Performing at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on December 13, 2009. (Todd Owyoung)

 (TODD OWYOUNG)

Metal band As I Lay Dying performing at the Pageant in St. Louis on July 25, 2010 on "The Cool Tour." (Todd Owyoung)

The Bravery performing on the Projekt Revolution Tour. St. Louis, August 21, 2008. © Todd Owyoung/Retna Ltd. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

Green Day Performing at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on December 13, 2009. (Todd Owyoung)

Metallica performing at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. November 17, 2008. © Todd Owyoung/Retna Ltd. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

Photos of Papa Roach performing at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on December 13, 2009. (Todd Owyoung)

Street Drum Corps performing on the Projekt Revolution Tour. St. Louis, August 21, 2008. © Todd Owyoung/Retna Ltd. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

Photos of Papa Roach performing at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on December 13, 2009. (Todd Owyoung)

The Dillinger Escape Plan performing at the Blue Note in Columbia, MO on March 16, 2010 in support of their fourth studio release, Option Paralysis. (TODD OWYOUNG)

Photos of Alice Coooper performing on The Halloween Hootenanny Tour at the Family Arena in St. Louis on October 7, 2010 (Todd Owyoung)

Photos of Brooks and Dunn on their farewell tour, "The Last Rodeo," photographed in St. Louis on August 7, 2010. (© Todd Owyoung)

Photos of the band Drive-By Truckers performing at the Pageant in St. Louis on October 2, 2010 (© Todd Owyoung)

Metalcore band Underoath performing at Pop's in Sauget, IL on November 2, 2008. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

Photos of American rock band The Flaming Lips performing at the Pageant in St. Louis on September 17, 2010. (Todd Owyoung)

Photos of Adam Young - AKA Owl City - performing at the Pageant in St. Louis on the closing concert of their five-month tour. May 5, 2010. (Todd Owyoung)

Photos of mash up artist Gregg Gillis, AKA Girl Talk, performing at the Bamboozle Music Festival on May 2, 2010. (Todd Owyoung)

Photos of Aerosmith performing at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on their tour opener. June 11, 2009. © Todd Owyoung. (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

KISS performs on the Alive/35 World Tour 2009. (TODD OWYOUNG)

Summary

The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is unwieldy, ugly, and expensive. And you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

What you get in the 14-24mm is a lens that surpasses the ordinary capabilities of a midrange zoom like the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 for extraordinary results. The extreme field of view alone allows the 14-24mm to effortlessly deliver dramatic perspectives, while the optical quality is as good as anything – prime or zoom – in its range.

For my specialty of live music photography, the Nikon 14-24mm if/2.8 is a lens that's wrong about 90% of the time*. This fact doesn't prevent me from trying to use this zoom at every opportunity. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is just that good – it has you chasing the dragon for the drama only possible at extreme wide-angles.

While lenses like my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 or 70-200mm f/2.8 may act as my utility lenses for the bulk of my work, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 has undoubtedly delivered some of my very favorite images.

* I'm going to say this with the caveat that by the same rubric, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is arguably boring 90% of the time.

Where To Buy – Recommended Retailers

I bought my 14-24mm f/2.8 from B&H in NYC, where I buy all my photo gear. If this review and other content on www.ishootshows.com was helpful to you, please consider supporting this site and purchasing your photo equipment any of the links in this review, my support page, or elsewhere on my site.

If you do buy through B&H or any of my affiliate links, drop me a line! I’d love to hear about what you picked up. B&H is where I personally buy the vast majority of my gear, and I’m looking forward to bringing you more reviews thanks to their equipment loans.

Questions? Comments?

Let 'em rip.

My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography

Nikon D750:
I use two Nikon D750 for my live music photography. Amazing high ISO performance in a compact body with tons of pro features.
nikon-24-70mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 24-70mm f/2.8:
For most gigs, the 24-70mm is my go-to lens. Exceptional image quality at wide apertures and super-functional range.
Nikon-70-200-squareNikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR:
A perfect pair to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, I can basically shoot any job with the midrange and this lens. Superb image quality.
nikon-14-24mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 14-24mm f/2.8:
Ultra-wide perspective, ridiculously sharp even wide open at f/2.8. I love using this lens up-close and personal, where it excels.
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