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Review by Markus Stamm, published November 2012
Full-frame cameras are becoming more and more affordable and thus popular, either because of new models that help to reduce the used prices of first generations cameras, or through new entry-level cameras like the Nikon D600 or Canon's EOS 6D with comparatively low prices (for full-frame cameras).
Unfortunately the same can not be said about corresponding lenses, especially zoom lenses. There are lots of very good, but quite expensive higher grade lenses, but modern and affordable consumer zooms, that we see from almost any manufacturer for their APS-C cameras, largely don't exist for the bigger sensor.
With the D600 now being the first new FX camera aiming at consumers, Nikon obviously felt the need to offer a modern, but still affordable kit lens. The new Nikkor AF-S 24-85/3.5-4.5 VR features current features like a silent-wave AF drive and optical stabilization at a moderate price, even though it's still far from the low prices of 18-55mm crop lenses that we have become used to. At the time of this review, the lens retails for slightly below 500 EUR.
In this review we'll have a look at how the lens performs on our current FX test camera, the Nikon D3x.
The lens shows solid build quality. The body tubes are made of high quality polycarbonate, based on a metal mount. When zooming, the lens extends towards the long end of the focal range. Even though the inner tube features a duocam design, there are no signs of wobbling.
The zoom ring works smoothly and is well damped. The focus ring is quite thin and the travel path rather short. In addition, it show's a little play, as we have noticed it on many recent Nikon AF-S lenses. When changing the focus direction, it takes a few millimeters of movement until the focus unit actually follows the focus ring.
The lens features a 72mm filter thread. Thanks to an internal focusing system (IF) the front element and filter thread do not rotate, so using a polarizer is no problem.
A petal shaped hood is supplied with the lens.
The Nikkor AF-S 24-85 VR is a G-type lens, so it does not offer an aperture ring
anymore. Thanks to an AF-S drive (Silent Wave Motor) AF operations are basically silent and quite fast.
The lens features optical stabilization (VR II) which Nikon claims allows for up to 4 stops slower shutter speeds. Actual results will vary depending on the photographer, of course. In our field tests up to three stops longer shutter times were easily possible (given a reasonably steady subject). Unlike higher grade VR lenses, which allow to select between two VR modes, the 24-85 VR features an On/Off-switch for VR operation only.
|Optical construction||16 elements in 11 groups inc. 1 ED and 3 aspherical elements|
|Number of aperture blades||7 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.38 m (max. magnification ratio 1:4.5)|
|Dimensions||78 x 82 mm|
|Filter size||72 mm, non-rotating|
|Hood||HB-63, petal-shaped, bayonet mount, included|
|Other features||silent-wave AF motor, VR II optical stabilization|