The lens at a glance
|Focal length range:||14-24mm|
|Construction:||14 elemts in 11 groups (with 2 elements in ED glass)|
|View angle:||114° - 84° (90° - 61° for DX format)|
|Minimum focus distance:||0.28m (for f = 18-24mm)|
|Number of diaphragm blades:||9 (rounded)|
|Filters:||Multiple solutions on the market, not provided by Nikon|
|Dimensions:||Ø 98mm x 131.5mm|
This zoom lens is just perfect! This zoom is extra-ordinary! It's a concentrate of advanced technologies and reveals the high master of Nikon in the manufacture of these complex objectives.
It was the first ultra-wide angle lens with a f/2.8 constant aperture produced in 2007 and currently remains the reference in terms of sharpness at any aperture and focal length. If you have the opportunity to try it, it will haunt you years:-)
Upon its release, Nikon was proud to announce that this lens rivals fixed focal lengths lenses in terms of performance and optical design. Indeed, as you can see from the test-pictures below, Nikon has kept his word!
Summary of advantages:
- Ultra-wide angle developped for FX full frame format (24x36mm) and compatible with small DX sensors (24x16mm).
- Bright lens with a f/2.8 constant apperture through the focal range.
- The sharpness and contrast are absolutely remarquable until the corner of the photo. Ideal in low light conditions.
- Excellent colour saturation and very low vignetting.
- Limited chromatic aberrations thanks to its partial ED glass construction. (Extra-low Dispersion glass)
- Reduced ghosts and sens flare due to its new generation of antireflective coating (nano crystal coating technology).
- Fast and slient autofocus (silent wave motor).
- M/A function, allows to switch between manual or autofocus mode for fast control.
- Internal focus (IF). The lens keeps the same dimensions when the focus changes or the focal length.
- It's a zoom lens, thus very versatile in the field unlike a fixed focale length because it is sometimes not possible to move arround the subject. Having a zoom lens is an real asset.
Excellent rudgged construction in magnesium with a good weather sealing against dust and moisture.
Summary of weaknesses:
- Relatively heavy and cumbersome.
- Filter-holders available on the market are expensive.
Let's begin with the weaknesses:
So, of course, it takes up space in the bag, because the front lens is giant. But this geometry makes possible to collect a lot of light, which is ideal for night photogrpahy or in low light condition. Its hallucinating performance, made me forget quickly these few inconveniences.
On the other hand, for the filter holder, Nikon did not look for a solution. Some time after the release of this lens, filter holders apppear on the market and currently there are several manufacturers.
- Lee Filters SW150 MarkII
- Haida 150 serie Filter Holder
Now the advantages in detail
Ultra-wide angle with full frame format (FX)
This zoom has been specially designed for full-frame sensors (24x36mm) but it is also compatible with DX sensors.
It covers an angle of 114 ° - 84 ° with an FX sensor. At ultra-wide angle, means at f = 14mm, the lines remain straight and distortion is not a problem. It becomes ideal also for architectural photography because the perspectives are conserved unlike a fisheye. On my point of view, I find this lens exceptional for low light photography. It becomes the essential companion for photos at the blue hours, when the stars begin to disappear.
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Fast lens and sharpness of the diagonal
Its construction is such that it can photograph at full aperture (f/2.8) regardless of the focal length which makes it a fast lens. I love hunting northern lights with this lens because its ultra wide angle allows to frame this grandiose phenomenon, and its large aperture captures these beautiful lights without exploding the ISO.
Which seem to me the most important, is its ability to produce razor sharp image all across the diagonal at full aperture (f/2.8) and wide angle (f = 14mm). The MTF graphs below show the values calculated at the two ends of the zoom.
The contrast is maintained at very high values, whatever the focal length. On the other hand, there is a slight loss of sharpness in the corners but quite acceptable (see below test images). Furthermore this lens does not suffer from a field curvature. There are other lenses on the market that are brighter but none of them produce an image of such sharpness to the corners of the photo. Of course, it is important to manage correctly the distance of objects in the foreground because at full aperture, the depth of field is very low especially with a full frame sensor.
The image below was not modified. The sharpness and noise are raw as well as the 100% crop. One can enjoy the sharpness delivered by this lens despite the digital noise caused by the high sensitivity used.
The 100% crop below correspond respectively to the extremity of the upper left corner, to the center and to the lower left corner. These parts of the original photo were not processed, they are raw from the sensor.
These 100% crops (Nikon D4 - 16Mpx) show how it is possible to have a sharp background at infinity, up to the corner of the image (1st crop) while having a foreground also sharp (3rd crop). The 2nd crop is necessarily perfect because it is in the center of the frame.
The image above is the result of the post processing using Lightroom 5. The white balance has been adjusted to reduce the green cast on the snow and brighten the dark areas. The noise has been removed by Define 2.0 (Nik software, plugin now owned by Google). In this case, these software tools are essential for a balanced image.
Color saturation, vignetting and distortion
The raw image is incredibly natural. The colors come out saturated and the contrast is balanced. The optical design of this lens faithfully reproduce the photographed scene without systematically the need to boost saturation and contrast in post-production.
Limitation of chromatic aberration
The use of two ED glass elements (Extra-low Dispersion) enables to significantly limit the chromatic aberrations. One can clearly see this effect on images which results in a halo of colors around the edges when the contrast varies substantially. This phenomenon is accentuated away from the center of the image until the corners of the photo. The use of these two special ED glass components can limit these halos. Their complete elimination is done in post-processing very easly.
Anti-reflective coating (nano crystal coating technology)
This is an anit-reflective coating (Nano Crystal Coating technology) of new generation using nano-particle layers that significantly reduce parasitic reflections unlike conventional anti-reflective coatings.
These colorful spots are not a problem in itself. When shooting, it is wise to take a photo with the sun in the frame, then without moving the camera, another photo by masking the sun with the hand to eliminate these colored halos in post-processing. The advantage with this lens is that these unwanted spots are very small, so very easily eliminable.
Fast and silent autofocus
The autofocus is effectively fast and quiet but I never use it with this lens. To get the sharpest image possible, it is best go through the live view mode. This mode provides crisp detail even in the worst shooting conditions. Live view mode is particularly effective for night photography when a star is enlarged on the LCD screen and the sharpness is adjusted manually by the focus ring. Indeed, the autofocus does not detect the stars but works perfectly in low light.
The side of the barrel is equipped with a switch that allows to choose between autofocus mode or manual focus. This switch is useful when we want to quickly switch from one mode to the other.
Certain lenses have their physical length that varies when changing the focus or focal length. To me, I like to have a lens that the distance to the subject does not change and I prefer a fixed system for reasons of storage, transportation and handling. This lens is constructed of a sturdy block.
Variable focal length
In the field, we are dependent on the topography. Sometimes it is not possible to move where it's needed, and therefore to have a zoom lens is an asset. Of course, always "working the scene" and do not systematically go through the zoom ring. The other advantage of having a zoom is that we have at hand the choice of the size of the background elements. Indeed, at f = 24mm, the background elements will be more imposing than the bachground element with ultra-wide angle f = 14mm. One can then choose their size which is a function of the focal length to obtain the best visual balance, all with a single lens!
Sturdy construction and sealing
This lens is massive, built like a tank. The structure is composed of magnesium alloy and the petal-shaped lens hood limit parasitic light. Its design is solid and built to last. Dust and moisture proctection is guaranteed by seals that have been proven. Indeed, I made it suffer very high humidity ratio in the jungle in Asia and temperatures of -20°C in the northern hemisphere without detecting any weakness. The focus ring turns with a remarkable fluidity and the zoom ring has a more pronounced friction due to the weight of the optical group.
This is the heavyweight of the ultra-wide angle lenses in terms of optical performance, solid construction and its weight...