PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G, An Early Analysis

Dpreview just did a tremendous service to Nikon users and put up the first sample images of the new 24mm lens.  All of the images in this post are based on those samples, which can be found here as of this writing.

Wish this was my hand in there.

This said, true to DPR’s tradition of top-class analyses paired with poor photography, the images are rather crud quality. Given that I'm starving for test images I’ll take what we got and be happy about it, but I will skip some images.

For example, we will ignore this image. I'm not sure if it's even in focus.

Let’s dive in now, let’s look at a pair of similar images.

First up is a shot wide-open, focused somewhere towards infinity:

Whole image, Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G at f/1.4.

We’ll look at crops from the center, border and corner, wherever appropriate detail may be found.  Here reproduced slightly below 100%.

The center (left) looks good, there is just a bit of softness there that would probably not be visible after a RAW conversion in Lightroom. The far border at 18mm (center) looks fairly good as well, though it is quite a bit softer. You can see that fine detail (center, leaves below) is reproduced with very low contrast and is at the limit of what simple sharpening can fix. Finally at the corner (right) we get the very soft details you would expect to see from this lens, but I am pleased to note that fine structures are still quite visible. The contrast is extremely low, and clearly there is light fall-off in spades here, but there is none of the smearing I dreaded to see.

I am very pleased with the results so far.

Next is a shot stepped-down to f/8, some five stops down, again focused somewhere towards infinity:

Whole image, Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G at f/8.

Again, we’ll look at 100% crops from the center, border and corner, wherever appropriate detail may be found.

The center (left) looks great, I have nothing to say here because this is perfect. The far border at 18mm (center) looks great as well, with the faintest touch of softness. Finally at the corner (right) we get very good detail with a bit less contrast than elsewhere in the frame. This image would sharpen up easily to just fantastic results.

What else do I note in these images?

  • Chromatic aberrations are either negligible/absent or the D3S corrected for them very well if this was shot in JPEG. Possibly the latter applies and is responsible for some contrast losses.
  • The color transmission is different from what I am used to from the Zeiss ZF family, the contrast and saturation of this image (which was shot in daylight!) is moderate. Quite possibly this is also due to the D3S if this was shot in JPEG.

I would rather get a RAW file and process it myself but for now I think this has been very interesting, and I’m encouraged by the data.



Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I saw dpreview’s page for the samples, but then ran the other way when I saw that Flash was required. 🙂
    Agree that the lens is looking good, but would like to see images in challenging light conditions – especially the kind that elicit ghosting and flare.

  2. It’s harsh to complain about the crud quality, considering the circumstances. That bald guy probably had to offer a glowing review of the D900 to get five minutes on the roof with the lens!

    I think DPReview’s sample images are often pretty good. Even in this case they had the wit to shoot a landscape instead of a Nikon spokesman at ISO 3200, though they may have been forced to anyway for reasons of discretion at the booth. The problem is they don’t provide raw files despite bleating on about the importance of raw in their reviews.

    It’s fun to note the shutter counts of 25, 29, 30 and 46, which means they shot 22 images in the 4 minutes and 9 seconds that elapsed between the first and last shot. I wonder what else they shot?

    I came to roughly the same conclusions you did about this new 24 mm lens. It’s surprisingly crisp and clear at f/1.4 across much of the frame. Even if the camera JPEG is corrected for lateral chromatic aberration, I’m not sure the D3S can deal with longitudinal CA, which would surely reveal itself in these scenes at f/1.4.

    The lens also has minimal distortion, though of the complex type. That’s probably one reason for the bulkiness of the lens.

    It all looks very promising if you’re in the market for such a lens. I’m not!

    • It may be harsh, but I haven’t been pleased with DPR’s samples for a while now – even those they have time to shoot. There are ten thousand photographers online that would drop your jaw if given half an hour with this lens, or other gear. Anyhow, the samples still meet their basic goals and I still look at them every time.

      I don’t think longitudinal CA is an issue that will show itself in a wide-angle lens at such a long distance. You’ll see it pop up in the close-up range where depth of field doesn’t cover everything in sight. The portrait maybe could have revealed it but it’s such a mess that I’m treating it as an outlier data point – I hope that is not what critical focus looks like at close range.

      I am in the market for this lens, quite seriously considering it. I have a rental reserved in May and after that encounter I’ll make up my mind about purchasing it.


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