Categories: Tech Talk Reviews Reviews - Lenses

The Nikon 24mm f/1.4G AF-S is Nikon’s latest addition to an already excellent lineup of wide angle lenses. The 14-24 f/2.816-35 f/4 VR are exceptional zoom lenses that are unmatched by any competitor in their class. Additionally, the 24mm 2.8 PC-E lens is a terrific specialty lens. However, one very important lens has been missing from the lineup since 2006.  The discontinued AF Nikkor 28mm f/1.4D is a legendary lens that sells for about $3,000-$4,000 on eBay. It hasn’t been made since 2006 and there hasn’t been a replacement for it either... Until recently. The 24mm f/1.4G AF-S is Nikon’s newest and fastest wide angle lens that is a bargain ($2,200) compared to it’s predecessor. It’s a bit wider too. But is it in the same class?
One of my first shots with the 24mm 1.4 Muscician Mark Dollar (Photo by Mike Zawadzki
AF Nikkor 28 mm f/1.4D Courtesy of Nikon Imaging
This lens is the best 24mm lens Nikon has made. It’s sharp all over the place and it’s fast aperture of 1.4 allows for shooting in very very low light conditions. It works best on FX cameras like the D700 and D3. I imagine this lens will make cinematographers happy, but the only movie ready bodies Nikon offers are DX. I am sure this lens works fine on a DX sensor, but the cropped angle of view spoils the excitement of this being a wide-angle 24mm lens! "HEY WAIT A SECOND!!! What about the D3s for FX video? I don’t believe it actually exists, prove me wrong! :)"
For a wide angle lens, the 24mm shows a high level of sharpness, very little distortion, and low coma from shooting wide open. Shooting hand held with a wide-angle lens is much easier than trying to hand hold anything longer or heavier because those lenses are more likely to suffer from the vibrations of your hands and body. Additionally the wider the lens is, the greater the depth of field is. So even at f/1.4 you can keep a healthy amount in focus depending where you focus and how far away you are from your subject. Try this with a 50 or 85mm f/1.4 lens and you will see the difference.

The official name for this lens is: “Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED N RF Aspherical

Alphabet Soup
AF-S/SWM: Silent Wave Motor allows the lens to focus fast and accurately, making minimal noise while functioning.
Courtesy of Nikon USA

G: Indicates there is no aperture ring on the lens.  Aperture is controlled by turning a dial on the camera body.

ED: Extra-Low dispersion glass works to reduce chromatic aberrations
Courtesy of Nikon USA
N: Nano Crystal Coat helps reduce ghosting and flare by reducing internal reflections inside of the lens as light travels through it.
Courtesy of Nikon USA


Aspherical: Aspherical lens elements help correct distortion in wide angle lenses. Additionally reduced coma at wide apertures and elimination of other lens aberrations are benefits of Aspherical lenses.
RF: “Rear Focusing” Elements in the lens are divided into groups. When focusing with a “RF” lens, only the rear group moves which allows for faster autofocus.
Construction: 12 Elements in 10 Groups. Two elements are ED glass and two are Aspherical. Nano Crystal Coat is used, but Nikon does not indicate which elements are coated.
Courtesy of Nikon USA
Effective Focal Length: 24mm (36mm equivalent on DX sensors)
Angle of View: 84° (61° with DX)
Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
Minimum Aperture: f/16
Minimum Focusing Distance: 9.84 inches from the sensor. The actual front element will be much closer to the subject.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.18x
Aperture Diaphragm: 9 Blades (Rounded)
Courtesy of Nikon USA
Filter Thread Size: 77mm Unlike some ultra-wide lenses, special thin ring filters (more expensive) are not needed for this lens.
Lens Hood: HB-51 (Included)
Supplied Lens Pouch: CL-1118 Pouch. Fine for storage, but for travel and actual use "on the go" consider a 3rd party replacement. (For $2,200 Nikon should provide a better pouch/case)
Weight: 620g Production: Started shipping in March 2010. This lens is made in Japan, just like all other Professional level Nikkor lenses.

Overall: Just like it’s bigger zoom siblings, this lens is the leader of its wide-angle class. Looks great even wide open at f/1.4. What else can you ask for?

Focusing Speed: The Autofocus is not nearly as snappy as my 24-70 f/2.8G or 14-24 f/2.8G, but it is fast for a f/1.4 lens. Because of ultra-narrow depth of field at f/1.4 accuracy is more important than speed here. I would say it's slightly faster than a 50mm f/1.4G.  A quiet high pitched squeak can be heard when focusing if you listen closely in a room with no ambient noise. Please do not return your lens, this is normal!Focusing Accuracy: Out of all the shots I took, not one was out of focus because of the lens. A few were focused in the wrong spot and became noticeable because of the ultra-thin depth of field at 1.4, but that was my fault.  This is how it should be with professional equipment. It works flawlessly unless you screw up. Manual Focusing: The manual focus ring is both substantial and smooth, but not quite as nice as the ring on a Carl Zeiss lens. However I didn’t manual focus much unless I am shooting macro. Manual focusing at f/1.4 is nearly impossible because focusing screens in DSLRs are optimized for 2.8 lenses. If you don’t believe me try setting a lens to 1.4, 1.8, etc... on any fast lens and press the depth of field button. There is quite a difference in depth of field from 1.4 to 2.8, but you can’t see it until after you’ve taken a picture!

Distortion: Very low for a wide of a lens, especially when not using the lens at close focus. It can easily be fixed in Photoshop or other software that has lens distortion correction tools. It beats both the 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, and 16-35 f/4 VR in this regard.

Musician Mark Dollar | Photo by Brian Roy As you can see even at a close focus distance the amount of distortion is fairly low on the 24mm f/1.4G until about 3' distortion control is excellent.  Again even at close focus it is easy to fix in Photoshop.
Falloff/Vignetting: At f/1.4 there is a typical amount of light loss. The corners of your pictures will be darker than the center. This is not uncommon for fast wide lenses. There are ways to correct this in post. In many cases it isn’t that noticeable because typical use of f/1.4 is in very low light having a low lit subject in the middle surrounded by dark edges. As you can see from the examples bellow it is almost completely gone by f/2.8. Either way this can be adjusted for in post. Many situations which require shooting at f/1.4 will be in dimly lit areas with most luminance of your subject being in the middle of the frame, so your corners will be black or very dark anyway.
f/1.4 1/50s ISO 50 (D3X) Corner fall off on the edges at f/1.4
f/2.8 1/13s ISO 50 (D3X) Corner fall off on the edges at f/2.8

Sharpness: Unreal, but it should be for $2,200. No complaints here. If you are having problems taking sharp photographs with this lens, you aren’t using it right. Here is an MTF chart that shows theoretical lens performance when shot wide open. These charts mean very little in practical use especially when they are representations of theoretical performance, but it just further backs up the evidence that this is one special lens.

Courtesy of Nikon USA
f/1.4 At f/1.4 it is VERY easy to miss focus manually, so if you see heavy magenta fringing (spectrachromatism) on your subject in the foreground it means you missed! However some light fringing is normal at f/1.4. At f/1.8 it is reduced. It’s basically gone by f/2 and at 2.8 you cant see it even at 100%. This is something only nerds will notice. Pros shoot at f/1.4 because they need to get the shot, not worry about trivial lens chart data. As you can see from the shot bellow, center sharpness at f/1.4 is stellar. If you don't believe in real photographic examples, I also included a 100% crop from the resolution chart that I photographed above at f/1.4. You will notice the fringing on the resolution chart example. However you don't see it at all in the REAL WORLD example, so that is why you have to take test chart results with a grain of salt!
f/1.4 1/100s ISO 2000 (Nikon D700)
100% Crop from above photo
f/1.4 1/50s ISO 50 (D3X) Great sharpness wide open, but notice the fringing I mentioned earlier.  Because I was shooting this chart with the ultra high resolution D3X, the effect is more apparent when viewed at 100%.
f/1.8-f/8 Corner sharpness and contrast improve from f/1.8 up to f/8. This lens’s “sweet spot” is around f/5.6 or f/8. Although I must stress, it is excellent when shot at wider apertures.
f/11-f/16 Diffraction sets in and contrary to popular myth, you lose sharpness when stopping down this far, especially stopped all the way down to f/16. Shooting at f/8 with a 24mm lens should be enough to get everything to appear in focus (greater depth of field) unless you are using the lens at a close distance to your subject.

Bokeh is a Japanese term that refers to how a lens renders out of focus areas of an image, particular background highlights. Unlike sharpness, contrast, color, etc... there is no scientific or data based method for measuring or judging the Bokeh of a lens. Some people refer to "good" Bokeh being "creamy" or "smooth". Is it just me or is it weird describing a lens with those choice words? The same goes for people who pick up a lens and say "that's a beautiful piece of glass". I don't get it. To each his own. Here are some samples of how the 24mm f/1.4 renders out of focus areas at wider apertures. As always, you can click the image to view a larger size.

Please remember distance to subject also impacts depth of field, so this is not a laboratory test, just some examples of practical application of this lens.

Some Ugly Guy (Photo by Brian Roy) f/1.4 1/640s ISO 100 (D700)
Steve and Maddy (Photo by Mike Zawadzki) f/1.8 1/60s ISO 2000 (D700)
Mark Dollar (Photo by Mike Zawadzki) f/2 1/60s ISO 3200 (D700)


Steve (Photo by Mike Zawadzki) f/2.8 1/40s ISO 3200 (D700)
Steve (Photo by Mike Zawadzki)
f/4 1/250s ISO 100 (D700)
The Nikon 24mm f/1.4G certainly lives up to it's price tag of $2,200. It's a very special lens in a very special category. Personally I don't shoot handheld as much as other people, and when I do I am usually lighting my photographs with SB-900 flashes sometimes on, sometimes off camera. So for someone like me, the 14-24 f/2.8G lens is still my go to lens. For others shooting architecture or intense landscapes that require maximum depth of field, the 24mm f/2.8 PC-E is the best choice. All lenses are in the same price range and if I could afford all three I would have them. When spending this kind of money, please do yourself a favor and consider how you like to photograph.
If you shoot hand-held in low light, this lens is an easy choice. In fact, the price tag may seem high, but if this is your style... You can't afford to NOT have this lens. Along with the 14-24 f/2.8G this lens will retain it's value or increase over time if it is ever discontinued and not replaced, just like the 28mm f/1.4D of years past.
If you happen to own a 24mm f/1.4 I would love to see some of your photos and hear feedback from you. Were your experiences with the lens similar to mine? Feel free to comment here or e-mail me [email protected]
Special Thanks to Unique Photo's own Brian Roy for helping me test this lens. He is a great photographer and assistant!
Thanks to Mark Dollar for being a great model for this review. Check out his website!