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New Nikon FX Lenses: 85/1.4, 24-120/4, 28-300

by Shun Cheung, August 2010 (updated March 2011)

In preparation for the 2010 Photokina in Cologne, Germany next month, Nikon is announcing three new lenses for their FX and DX-format DSLRs. All three are fairly large lenses that use 77mm filters, which is now standard for higher-end Nikon lenses.

There is also a new 55-300mm AF-S DX lens that we are previewing along with the new D3100 camera.

The 85mm/f1.4 AF-S

The first two lenses are very much expected as they follow two recent themes in Nikon lens introduction. The 85mm/f1.4 is the short telephoto addition in a series of fast f1.4 AF-S primes after the recent 50mm/f1.4 and 24mm/f1.4. It replaces the popular 85mm/f1.4 AF-D lens that is designed for low-light and portrait photography with shallow depth of field. AF-S makes it much easier to manually override auto focus. We expect this lens to be outstanding just like its predecessor.

The 24-120mm/f4 AF-S VRII

The 24-120mm/f4 is the second installment of a series of constant f4 AF-S zooms with VR, following the super-wide 16-35mm/f4 AF-S VR earlier this year. It replaces the earlier 24-120mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR that was introduced at the tail end of the film era and has a mediocre reputation. Having constant f4 means the new lens will be easier to focus under dimmer light and is more versatile indoors, but it weights about 75% as much as the excellent but heavy 24-70mm/f2.8 AF-S (31.70z/900g), which does not have VR. The new lens is similar to Canon’s 24-105mm/f4 IS lens but has an extra 15mm on the long end. That is a small addition but also makes it a somewhat extreme 5x zoom. We need to test this lens thoroughly to determine how well this 5x zoom performs optically.

The 28-300mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VRII

The 28-300mm/f3.5-5.6 is a 11x super zoom, effectively the FX equivalent of the highly popular 18-200mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR DX. Similar to version 2 of the DX lens, the new 28-300mm lens has a built-in lock to secure the lens at the minimum 28mm length to prevent the so called “zoom creep” problem that plagues version 1 of the 18-200mm DX. (Zoom creep is, when pointing downward, a zoom lens automatically extends to its maximum focal length due to the pull of gravity.)

I am surprised that Nikon is introducing a 11x super zoom for the FX format. Any zoom with such an extreme range is going to involve some optical compromises. These lenses are great for traveling light and are ideal for more casual photographers who emphasis convenience, but being light is relative, as this FX 28-300 weights close to twice as much as the 18-200 DX. Potentially, a 11x zoom is also handy for video capture, but we need to test the entire set up and see how this lens works for video. Incidentally, Canon also has a 28-300mm/f3.5-5.6L IS lens. While this new Nikon lens has identical zoom range and aperture range, the Canon version costs over twice as much and has a more solid metal barrel with a tripod collar. The Canon 28-300 seems to be more geared towards professional news and paparazzi photography.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the new FX lenses available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Official Nikon Press Release

MELVILLE, N.Y. (August 19, 2010) — Today, Nikon Inc. announced four new lenses to the legendary NIKKOR line to meet the needs of all types of photographers, from those looking for the ideal lens for capturing memories of the school play to pro glass that captures client work in the studio.

The new AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S 85mm f/1.4G deliver the optical excellence and stunning image quality that consumers have become accustomed to with AF-S NIKKOR lenses. Nikon’s optical engineering experience and devotion to extraordinary standards of excellence have contributed to the strength and legend of the NIKKOR brand. With the addition of these four lenses, 2010 has seen the introduction of a total of seven new NIKKOR lenses, reinforcing Nikon’s role as the world leader in optics.

Ideal for producing stunningly sharp images with excellent clarity and color reproduction or capturing HD video that exhibits critical focus with a dramatic depth of field, these new lenses will empower photographers with a variety of core Nikon technologies. The three zoom lenses utilize Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) II Image Stabilization system that provides up to four stops of correction* to help create blur-free images while shooting handheld or in challenging lighting conditions. Found in the 85mm f/1.4 and 24-120mm f/4, Nikon’s exclusive Nano-Crystal Coat reduces instances of ghosting and flare – even in challenging backlit scenes. Additionally, all four lenses feature Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology
to deliver fast, accurate and quiet AF performance and Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC) for color consistency and reduced flaring. The construction of each of these lenses also includes a nine rounded blade diaphragm, to help achieve a dramatic separation between subject and background with a natural out of focus area coveted by today’s image-makers.

“The AF-S NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, 24-120mm f/4 VR and 85mm f/1.4 builds upon Nikon’s reputation as a preeminent manufacturer of high quality lenses delivering tack sharp, high contrast images whether shooting stills or video. " said Lisa Osorio, general manager of Marketing at Nikon Inc. “As camera capabilities expand and the role of photographers evolves, NIKKOR enhancements continue to meet the demands of beginner and professional photographers alike, and we continue to exceed expectations of optical excellence.”

AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR: Making Super Telephoto Shooting Easy and Affordable

The new AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR fills a variety of roles as the perfect lens for family picture takers and photo enthusiasts alike. This
lens is the ideal compliment to the 18-55mm VR DX-format camera kit lens, such as the one coupled with the just-released D3100 D-SLR camera, and
provides users with an affordable way to achieve super zoom focal lengths from 82.5mm to 450mm (35mm equivalent). The 55-300mm VR lens brings the
benefits of longer focal lengths into range for users when capturing distant subjects, such as at athletic events, family gatherings and summer vacations. Additional features include a Tripod Detection Mode, which allows users to keep VR image stabilization activated and automatically compensates for minute vibrations when mounted on a tripod. Additionally, a High Refractive Index (HRI) lens element is implemented to keep the lens compact while offering high contrast even at maximum aperture. The optical construction consists of two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) Elements that effectively minimize chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings.

AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR: High Performance, High Quality and Telephoto Zoom

Building on the popularity and versatility of broad focal range lenses, the new AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is Nikon’s first FX-format lens with a 10.7X zoom range for enthusiasts and professionals. The new 28-300mm is the all-in-one optical solution that is ideal for travel, landscapes,
portraits and capturing distant subjects. The 28-300mm VR lens is optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness on both FX and DX-format D-SLR cameras, and
has an equivalent focal length of 42-450mm when attached to a DX-format D-SLR. It’s optical formula includes two ED glass elements that effectively minimize chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings, and three Aspherical Lens Elements that virtually eliminates coma and other aberrations at wide aperture settings as well. This high performance lens also incorporates an M/A Focus Mode Switch that enables quick changes
between manual and autofocus operation, and Internal Focus (IF) providing fast and quiet autofocus without changing the length of the lens while retaining working distance through the focus range.

AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR: Defines Versatility

The new AF-S 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR zoom lens redefines the wide-to-portrait lens category, and provides users with a medium focal range lens with a
constant aperture that is ideally suited for a wide variety of photographic disciplines. This high performance lens offers a constant maximum aperture of f/4 to maintain exposure settings throughout the entire zoom range and is perfect for photographing landscapes, portraits, interiors and
weddings. The 24-120mm f/4 also features two ED elements, three aspherical lens elements, a useful M/A Focus Mode Switch, Internal Focus and Nano
Crystal Coat to reduce ghosting and flare for greater image clarity, throughout the entire frame.

AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G ED: Fast Medium Telephoto Lens Destined to Become a Classic

A highly anticipated lens for professional photographers with no room for compromise, the new AF-S 85mm f/1.4G ED is an ultra-fast classic portrait lens boasting amazing picture quality, high performance and the ability to create dramatic background effects (bokeh). This lens is engineered for professional portrait, studio and wedding photographers wanting to shoot at fast maximum apertures while retaining the highest performance. The
85mm lens is also well suited for portraits and low-light shooting situations because of its ability to create a shallow depth of field with exacting sharpness and detail. The AF-S 85mm f/1.4 is optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness on both FX and DX-format D-SLR
cameras, and features two focus modes, M/A (manual-priority autofocus) and M (manual) to further enhance versatility and adapt to a shooters needs. Additional features include Internal Focus (IF) that allows the lens to focus without changing the barrel length, Nano Crystal Coat to reduce instances of ghosting and flare, and a rugged construction build to endure aggressive field use.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the new FX lenses available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Text and photos © 2011 Shun Cheung.

Article revised March 2011.

Readers' Comments

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Erwin Hartanto , August 24, 2010; 09:59 P.M.

From the sample image taken by Nikon it self (http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/lens/zoom/normalzoom/af-s_nikkor24-120mmf_4d_ed_vr/sample.htm), the sample image no.3 shows a barrel distortion at 24mm f/8.

Not sure if my eyes correct :)


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