Review: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 update in 2007 replaced the venerable Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 – itself a beast of a lens and longtime staple in the bag of many pros.

With the latest incarnation of Nikon's midrange zoom, the 24-70mm f/2.8 features a broader range, Nano Crystal Coating, and a built-in AF motor. What's more, we see an entirely new optical design that promises all the quality you'd expect from a 21st-century pro f/2.8 zoom.

Let's be honest – this isn't so much of a review as it is a love song to my most-used lens.

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Lens Specifications

Focal length
Maximum aperture
f/2.8
Minimum aperture
f/22
Lens construction
15 elements in 11 groups (with 3 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and one Nano Crystal Coat)
Picture angle
84° – 34°20’ (61° – 22°50’ with DX-format camera)
Closest focusing distance
0.38 m/1.2 ft. (with focal length 35-50 mm
Maximum reproduction ratio
1/3.7
No. of diaphragm blades
9 (rounded)
Filter/attachment size
77 mm
Focusing
Internal Focusing (IF) system; autofocus with a built-in SWM and manual focus
Diameter x length
(extension from lens mount)
Approx. 83 x 133 mm/3.3 x 5.2 in.
Weight
Approx. 900 g/31.7 oz.
Supplied accessories
Bayonet Hood HB-40, Semi-soft Case CL-M3

Optical Design

What's In The Box

No surprises here – the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 includes all the usual suspects – though the lens case is a nice, tough nylon that most people will most likely never properly abuse.

Design, Ergonomics & Controls

Ergonomically, the 24-70mm f/2.8 is a beautiful lens to use, and a nice improvement over the fatter Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 that it replaced. Overall, the lens barrel is relatively slim, tapering from the front element down to the lens element in such a way that this midrange zoom is very easy to balance and use.


The zoom ring is a very generous width, making operation quick and easy. The manual focusing ring is far enough away from the lens mount not to get in the way, but close enough that your fingers just have a short trip to engage MF.

The one switch on the Nikon 24-70mm 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 24-70mm f/2.8 is excellent. A lesser lens be a rattling pile of plastic and glass for how much I put this lens to use.

Overall, I do have to say that the 24-70mm I use shows more wear than the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 VR that I use. In particular, the zoom ring shows some dimples due to the rubber warping/separating. Of course, this may be attributed to how much I use the lens over my other zooms.

Lens Hood

The lens hood of the 24-70mm f/2.8 is one of my favorite parts about this lens, strangely enough. It's simply so solid once it's locked in place for active use that I know that it's never coming off.

Also: It's huge. I like to call it the Intimidator. I make sure to put the lens hood on the 24-70mm when I'm shooting with people using kit lenses.

The hood for the 24-70mm is actually larger than the lens hood for the new 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. For anyone doing stealth shooting, you're probably not going to want to use the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 in the first place, but you're definitely not going to want to use the lens hood if you do.

Lens Performance: AF Precision & Speed

The speed and accuracy of the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is one thing that secures its place in my bag for assignment after assignment. Simply put, this zoom focuses as quickly and accurately as any zoom or prime I've used.

When I test the focusing speed of other lenses, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is the standard to which I compare. Strangely enough, the only equal in terms of speed is the massive Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR (both VR I and II models are excellent).

In terms of accuracy, when properly dialed in to the AF Fine Tune needs of your DSLR, this lens always delivers. And for me, that means I can reply on it to help me capture the fleeting action of live music photography.

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)

Lens Performance: Color & Contrast

One thing about this lens that I've found is that it has a very naturalistic and flattering contrast response. Unlike some third-party lenses I've tested, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 still keeps a subtlety in its rendition, so it's just as comfortable shooting a wedding as it is at the rockshow. You get all the pop of bright colors without losing detail in black and shadow areas.

Somehow, this lens can render with both finesse and impact, and it does so beautifully.

The Devil Wears Prada performing at Pop's in Sauget, IL on November 2, 2008 in support of Underoath. (© Todd Owyoung)

Lens Performance: Sharpness

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is a lens that I can shoot with all day at f/2.8. For event and reportage work (everything from live music photography to weddings), this lens delivers so well wide open that depth of field is often the only concern for stopping down.

Aside from my main use for photojournalism, I'd be remiss if I didn't say that the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 performs just as well at a distance as it does for close and midrange work.

Stopped down for landscape work, the 24-70mm f/2.8 renders killer detail – the kind of sharpness that lets you use a very low sharpening radius because of the fine granularity captured by the lens.

 (Todd Owyoung)

Sample Images – Portrait Photography

For band portraits, I love the 24-70mm f/2.8. While lenses like the 14-24mm or 70-200mm f/2.8 will give more dramatic perspectives, the midrange zoom offers utilitarian range that works for everything from larger groups to individuals with ease. You really can't beat the wide-to-telephoto flexibility of the 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom.

Andrew W.K. photographed backstage on Warped Tour, July 5, 2010 (Todd Owyoung)

Portraits of pioneering thrash metal band Slayer photographed in 2009. Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, Dave Lombardo. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

Grant Harris of Breathe Electric photographed backstage on Warped Tour, July 5, 2010 (TODD OWYOUNG)

 (TODD OWYOUNG)

Justin Tranter of NYC-based band Semi Precious Weapons, photographed on March 27, 2010 by music photographer Todd Owyoung. (Todd Owyoung)

Portraits of the UK band Deluka, photographed in Brooklyn on June 20, 2010 by photographer Todd Owyoung. (Todd Owyoung)

Sample Images – Travel Photography

For almost the same reasons I love the 24-70mm f/2.8 as a portrait lens with my music photography, the midrange Nikon zoom is extremely well-suited for travel snaps. It just gives you a classic range that's ready to tackle everything from landscapes to details with a twist of the zoom ring. For this kind of shooting and the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 – the mantra of “f/8 and be there” applies – the lens will take care of the image quality.

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

Sample Images – Live Music Photography

Bread, meet butter. The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is without a doubt the lens that I use the most for my live music photography.

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

 (TODD OWYOUNG)

Stone Temple Pilots performing at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis. June 8, 2008. © Todd Owyoung/Retna Ltd. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

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

The Deftones performing in support of Alice in Chains on the Black Diamond Skye Tour on October 1, 2010 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. (Todd Owyoung)

Mastodon performing at the Rockstar Mayhem Festival in St. Louis. July 23, 2008. © Todd Owyoung/Retna Ltd. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

Photos hip hop group Black Eyed Peas performing at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on August 14, 2010. (Todd Owyoung)

 (Todd Owyoung)

Stone Temple Pilots performing at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis. June 8, 2008. © Todd Owyoung/Retna Ltd. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

Photos of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club performing live at the Pageant in St. Louis on March 23, 2010. (TODD OWYOUNG)

Photos of heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch performing on Mayhem Fest 2010 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis on July 20, 2010. (TODD OWYOUNG)

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

Photos of American Idol Season 8 winner Kris Allen performing at the Pageant in St. Louis in support of Lifehouse. (Todd Owyoung)

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

 (Todd Owyoung)

Slayer performing at Mayhem Fest on July 22, 2009 in St. Louis, MO. (TODD OWYOUNG)

Photos of Michael Franti And Spearhead performing in support of John Mayer on the Battle Studies Tour. St. Louis, March 20, 2010. (TODD OWYOUNG)

Photos of The Raconteurs performing at the Pageant in St. Louis. June 12, 2008. (Todd Owyoung/© Todd Owyoung)

Photos of Welsh metal band Bullet For My Valentine performing at the Pageant in St. Louis on May 21, 2010. (© Todd Owyoung)

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

Photos of metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada performing live at the Pageant in St. Louis in support of Killswitch Engage. (TODD OWYOUNG)

 (TODD OWYOUNG)

 (Todd Owyoung)

Summary

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is my bread and butter lens. Hands down, I've shot with this midrange zoom more than with any other lens on my Nikon D3 and D700. Simply put, it's just insanely useful.

More than that, the optical quality of this zoom is excellent. Color, contrast, and sharpness – these are issues I never worry about with this lens. The AF speed is blisteringly fast, so much so that it makes most professional lenses seem sluggish by comparison.

While the 24-70mm doesn't have the dramatic allure of the 14-24mm f/2.8 or the grace of the 70-200mm f/2.8, it's a workhorse tool that never fails to deliver.

Where To Buy – Recommended Retailers

I bought my Nikon 24-70mm 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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