Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 - The Startrail Lens

Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 with hood
Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D, Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 compared Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D, Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 compared

Lens data for the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D:
Lens construction: 9 elements in 9 groups
Closest focusing: 0.3 m / 1 ft
For DX sensors: full frame equivalent: 36 mm
Filter: 52 mm
Hood: HN-1
Dimensions: 2.5 x 1.8 in
Weight: 9.5 oz.
Appearance: 1994

Performance on cameras with DX-sized sensors:
This wide angle lens is very light and compact, you probably won't even notice its presence in the camera bag. I bought this lens for my film SLR cameras a while ago and use it on digital SLR for astrophotography and extended mountain trips or when there is just no room in my bag for the Nikon AF-S 17-35mm lens. On a digital camera with a 1.5x crop factor, 24mm is not that wide - it actually becomes a 36mm lens. But it is enough for capturing nice landscapes, street scenes or for impressive action shots like snowboard jumps. While 24mm is a bit wider than the 28mm setting of standard zoom lenses, on a digital SLR I would go for the Nikon AF 20mm f/2.8D lens. It has about the same weight and offers more wide angle (at the cost of a little less sharpness). The Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 lens produces images with excellent sharpness and contrast.

The 24mm lens is slightly sharper at f/2.8-4 when compared to the much more expensive zoom lens Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D - especially at the edge of the image. The difference, however, shouldn't be overestimated. When taking photographs without a tripod, the difference might not be visible at all. At f/5.6 and on a tripod, the two lenses perform equally well. See here for more details.

Performance on a full frame camera (Nikon D3):
In the "film days", the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 was a valuable lens for landscape photography. With the Nikon D3 full frame camera, this lens shows surprisingly strong vignetting at f/2.8 which isn't easily removed in shots with lots of sky. Light fall-off is much weaker at f/4 and becomes a non-issue at f/5.6 (vignetting correction is not needed anymore in most landscape shots at f/5.6). If you plan to use this lens for landscape photography make sure to shoot in RAW mode to have all options available to remove vignetting in post-processing (or use the in-camera vignetting correction included in the latest firmware of the Nikon D3 - it's not perfect but improves things). The new Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G N clearly shows less vignetting than the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 at corresponding apertures (from f/2.8 to f/4).
Center sharpness is good at f/2.8 already and improves slightly when the lens is closed down - with maximum sharpness at f/8. Sharpness in the outer parts of the image is rather poor at f/2.8, quite a bit better at f/4, but the left / right side of the image don't get sharp until f/5.6 is reached. The outermost edges are sharp at f/8. At f/8 and beyond, images are crisp and sharp. The new Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G N offers better edge sharpness from f/2.8 to f/8 (not on the left / right side of the image but in the outermost corners). It already produces sharp outermost corners at f/5.6 (at f/2.8-4, corners are soft too with the zoom lens, but much less so). In addition, contrast is slightly better with the new zoom lens at all apertures.

Overall, the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 shows some weaknesses - strong vignetting from f/2.8 to f/4 and edge softness from f/2.8 to f/5.6. For many applications, the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 is a fine lens on the D3. For landscape shots, there are better alternatives. Whether the weaknesses are a problem depends on the needs. For daytime landscape work, I usually work at f/8-11 (but in the nighttime I often work at f/4). It surely wouldn't be bad if Nikon introduced a new compact and light wide angle prime optimized for full frame (with a bit less vignetting and better edge sharpness). I've sold the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 lens in 2008 and replaced it with a Nikon MF 24mm f/3.5 PC-E lens. For further details about the performance of the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 on a Nikon D3, click here .

Rating for the Nikon AF 24 mm f/2.8 lens
(Maximum: 5, Minimum: 1):
Image quality wide open: 4 (DX); 3.5 (FX)
Overall image quality: 4.5 (DX); 3.5-4 (FX)
"Bokeh": unimportant (3.5)
Build quality: 4.5

Lens construction for the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D:

Image © 2008 Nikon Corporation (source)

Nikon AF 24 mm f/2.8D external reviews*)
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*) The cache numbers in parenthesis next to the links lead to cached pdf files (just in case the original links don't work anymore). The files usually only represent parts of the original contents from January 2010.

Images taken with the Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8
(Sensor: DX format):