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Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G Review | Another Nearly Perfect F/1.8 G Prime?

By Matthew Saville on May 12th 2016

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, Nikon has been steadily churning out relatively affordable, compact and super-sharp f/1.8 G primes since April 2011. And I’ll be honest, being the 6th lens in the lineup, this review practically wrote itself.

So before we get to the impressive (spoiler!) new Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G that costs only $746, let’s have a brief history lesson of what Nikon has been doing in the world of f/1.8 primes, a scene previously relegated to “cheap junk” stereotypes.

The first lens to appear was the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G, which was a noticeable departure from the previous stereotypes surrounding the nifty fifty. Yes, it was still a plastic lens, but beyond that it was rather impressive in its overall build, and even included a rear mount gasket to weather-seal that most common point of ingress. It also offered impressive image quality for a $199 lens, with good performance all around. Some folks complained about soft image quality or poor autofocus performance, however in my experience the 50mm f/1.8 G, while it’s no Zeiss Otus, is impressively sharp and rather snappy to focus. The bottom line is that by f/2.8 and f/4 it is very hard to complain about.

Since then, Nikon has added to the f/1.8 G lineup with 85mm, a 35mm, 28mm, and 20mm primes. All of them have been rather impressive, although admittedly, in a work-a-day, “can you ever just be ‘whelmed’?” type of way. That is to say, they’re not jaw-dropping enough to impress either the pixel-peepers or the bokeh-hipsters.

[RELATED:Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G review – Astro-Landscape dream lens?]

Nikon 24 18 G Review Landscape-02

 

04-performance-5-stars

Performance

The Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G is the all-around champion of Nikon’s 1.8-series wide-angle primes, in my opinion. I did not have all four of those primes with me to scrutinize under a microscope, however I’ve shot thousands of images with each of them in all manner of conditions and I’m definitely most impressed by this 24mm f/1.8 G.

Its sharpness from dead-center to well past the rule-of-thirds area is fantastic. Wide open at f/1.8, I would definitely call it “professionally usable” for both portraits and nightscapes. Its corners are also impressive wide open, and sharpen up to what I’d consider near-perfection (on a 24 megapixel sensor at least) by f/4 or f/5.6, depending on what you’re photographing. Finally, at f/8, corners appear 100% as sharp as the dead-center, which is more than can be said for many other lenses these days (including all of this lenses’ 24mm competitors, by the way).

Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G Sample Images

Nikon 24mm 18 Lens Review Crop Center-01

Nikon 24mm 18 Lens Review Crop Thirds-01

Nikon 24mm 18 Lens Review Crop Corner-01

 

Nikon 24mm 18 G Review Landscape 01Nikon D750, Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G, 1/400 sec @ f/11 & ISO 100, Circular Polarizer

Nikon 24mm 18 G Review Landscape Crop f11f/11 24 megapixel 100% crop, extreme lower-right corner

 

As for distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration, and overall color & contrast, I have more good news: You’re in for a real treat! – Nothing to complain about, especially if you process in Adobe and turn on the automatic CA, distortion and vignetting corrections (Without these, there’s still noticeable vignetting and faint amounts of distortion and CA, but not much).

Oh, and sunstars are also pretty awesome, almost as epic as the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G. They’re way better than the dull, fuzzy sunstars of the Nikon 35 1.8 G, for example.

[Rewind: Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G Review – Nikon grows their awesome f/1.8 lineup]

Nikon 24mm 18 Review Wedding Lens-03Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G at f/11

Coma

Since this is a fast, wide prime I feel I have to emphasize its coma. Astro-landscape photographers all want to know, how does the Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G compare against all its f/1.4 competition? Quite well, actually.

Like the best 24mm f/1.4 primes you might choose for astro work, coma is present but not obnoxious. This isn’t your grandfather’s old AI-S manual focus Nikon 24mm f/2, or a Canon 24mm f/1.4 L, with albatross-wing coma. So I’m rather impressed, considering the price, size, and weight of the lens. At f/2 coma is about as bad as 24mm f/1.4 lenses stopped down to f/2, and at f/2.8, coma is basically a non-issue for a 1080p timelapse frame, or barely noticeable in a 4K timelapse frame or still photograph. (It’s not as impressively low as the Rokinon 24 1.4, but maybe lower than the Sigma 24mm f/1.4. On the other hand, it’s sharper overall at f/2 than the Rokinon, and maybe sharper in the corners than the Sigma.)

Bokeh

Last but not least, I am obligated to describe this lens’ bokeh for you. Thankfully, it is rather nice, unlike the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G which in my opinion actually had worse looking bokeh at f/1.8 than the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (non-VR) had at 35mm f/2.8.

Now mind you, I am not a bokeh addict. As long as my background blur doesn’t look nasty, I’m happy. Also, at 24mm you’re not going to be getting more than a bare minimum of background separation at medium shooting distances. Then again, the 24mm f/1.8 G focuses extremely close, and you can indeed kill a background quite softly. (Fugees reference intended?)

 

Nikon 24 18 G Review Landscape-03

Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, minimum focus distance (Subject is less than 1″ wide!)

Nikon 24mm 18 Review Wedding Lens-06

Autofocus

Image quality may be the biggest measurement of a lens’ performance, however autofocus also falls into this category and is extremely important. My initial fear with the 24mm f/1.8 G was that there’d be “focus jitter” in journalistic and portraiture conditions. In such back-and-forth type situations with slow action, (compared to tracking an NFL wide receiver or Formula One racecar) Nikon’s f/1.8 G primes have indeed had ample precision for shooting wide open, but problems with consistency from shot to shot.

Thankfully, this fear was mostly quelled when I took the 24mm f/1.8 G onto a dance floor at an Armenian wedding this weekend. In all manner of active situations, I feel like there isn’t much focus jitter at all. It’s still there, but no more than you’d expect from such a shallow lens in such a demanding condition. My testing was performed on a Nikon D750, by the way, using mainly the center AF point which is rated down to -3 EV.

Nikon 24mm 18 Review Wedding Lens-05

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Features

For such a simple, general purpose prime lens, I’m going to lump ‘Features’ and ‘Design’ together quite a bit. This is a no-frills lens. But, it’s light and portable and solid, includes a nice hood and leather carrying case, and well, it works as advertised.

If I had to complain about one feature, it would be the focus throw, or lack thereof. The Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G goes from infinity to literally a couple inches in front of the lens with less than a quarter turn of the focus ring! Hyperfocal markings are nearly pointless, and I personally can only focus on stars (not always at the infinity mark) at night because I’ve been doing it for many years now. For a beginner it will be extremely difficult.

Nikon 24mm 18 G Stock Photo SLR Lounge

 

Cinematographers, I’m sorry, I find it hard to recommend this lens when the Cine Rokinon 24mm T1.5 is such a good alternative that costs less. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Next let’s classify the filter threads as a feature rather than an aspect of design, so I can rant about that. Frustratingly, Nikon went with 72mm. Not 77mm like the 20mm f/1.8 G and so many other high-end lenses these days, nor 67mm like the 28mm and 85mm f/1.8 G’s. So, that’s yet another filter set (or step-up ring) to buy.

Thankfully you won’t get more than a faint hint of vignetting if you mount a nice thick polarizer on the 24mm f/1.8 G, so no need to buy the uber-expensive ultra-slim filters. However, even after I adapted up to 77mm I found that I couldn’t stack more than one ND and a polarizer before vignetting became a show-stopper. Luckily, I pre-visualize a 4:5 crop on many of my landscape photos. ;-)

Nikon 24mm 18 G Review SLR Lounge 01Nikon D750, Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G, 3x filters, 30 sec @ f/10 & ISO 100, daylight
(See Vignetting from un-cropped image below)

Nikon 24mm 18 G Review SLR Lounge Filter Vignetting Stack

 

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Design

Design-wise, I’ve already covered many things. The “interface” you might say is a bit annoying, with one of the most odd-sized filter threads possible, and a very poor focus throw. I’ll also remind any cinematographers a this time that Nikon’s focus rings go the opposite of pretty much every other lens maker out there, which will make it highly frustrating to use unless you’ve switched to Nikon glass entirely.

However, I do really like how these lenses look and feel. I appreciate that they’re a no-frills design, with only the right optics and housing to get the job done impressively well, at a price many can afford.

nikon-prime-lens-20mm-1.8-photography-slrlounge-2

 

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Quality

I gave the Nikon 20mm 1.8 G four stars for quality, and it’s practically the same lens as this, physically speaking. I’m very torn now, however, because as much as folks on the internet love to hate on plastic lenses these days, I’ve found that what some manufacturers call “high-grade plastic” proves to be nearly indestructible in the long run, even after such heavy abuse that even a metal barreled lens might show worse wear, or even de-centering or filter thread damage.

I’ve abused my Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G very heavily for many years now, and it is literally the only lens in my entire history of lens possession that has not needed any repair, other than calibration.

On the other hand, I only had a few days with the Nikon 24 1.8 G, and was not able to heavily abuse it. So I will simply leave you with these findings, and argue that I think this lens will probably deserve five stars for quality, in the long run.

Nikon 24mm 18 Review Wedding Lens-08

 

24-value-5-stars

Value

Although features and design left a bit to be desired, the impressive performance and solid quality of the Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G earns it a five-star value rating.

Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G Competition & Alternatives

Value is definitely tricky to gauge, however, considering that the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art is only $100 more, if you’re a wedding photojournalist, or considering that the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 is about $150 less, if you’re an astro-landscape photographer, there’s stuff to think about.

The Rokinon, however, is going to be far less durable for the type of adventure photographer who is often concerned about weight and/or price, and the Sigma, well, hey if you can afford it and you don’t mind the nearly double weight, (it’s still only 1.4 lbs) then I gotta admit the Sigma is a solid alternative.

Sigma’s Art-series primes have been chasing Nikon’s f/1.8 G series primes for a while now actually; the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art is a real winner, and now there’s even a Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art too, which I reviewed here. Since this is becoming a common occurrence, I’ll say this: I can personally see the desirability of both lineups. I like the thought of lightweight, portable f/1.8 plastic barrel lenses for things like travel, hiking, and casual shooting. Yet I also like the thought of affordable, high-performance, metal-barrel lenses too, for things like serious portraiture or wedding or fashion or even landscape work.

To best answer this question for yourself, I recommend reading two related articles, The Ultimate Guide To Wedding Photography Prime Lenses, and The Ultimate Guide To Wide-Angle Landscape Photography Lenses. I hope these articles help you decide what your style is, and which lenses you should invest the most in, or which focal lengths you might consider a more versatile or practical alternative.

Nikon 24mm 18 Review Wedding Lens-01

 

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In conclusion, Nikon has done it again. Another fine lens that will probably top charts for sharpness, probably prove indestructible despite being plastic, and serve many, many photographers very well.  It may not be a sexy Zeiss or Leica optic, or a hot new Art prime, but it is a great choice if you’re interested in what it has to offer. If you’re into small, lightweight primes like I am, for anything from landscapes to journalism or portraiture, then you’ve got a whole slew of options from Nikon right now. But 24mm is a classic focal length, and for good reason.

The Nikon 24mm f/1.8 G currently costs $746 and is available at B&H.com.

As always, please comment below if you have any additional questions about this lens; or if you have any input of your own. Thanks for reading, and happy adventures,
=Matt=

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

Follow his personal wilderness adventures: Astro-Landscapes.com

See some of his latest wedding photography featured on: LinandJirsa.com

19 Comments

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  1. Andrés Fluxa

    Hi Matthew. I was reading almost evething about 24 and 28 1.8 for my nikon d750. I am feeling crazy for so many thought about this subject. And I want to ask you: if I buy the 24 for landscape, but I want to use the same lens for street photography, what do you think about to use the option “image area” to crop by 1.2? If I am not wrong it will give me a 28 view at 17mp, which is not a poor image I think. Do you think is correct? I am loosing something beyond the megapixels?

    Thank you for all your work.

    This is my website after 5 years cycling around the world 

    andresfluxa.com

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  2. Eddie Clark

    People, for crying out loud, please quit calling the Nikon 1.8G line of lenses cheap plastic! It’s a lightweight poly-carbonate build that doesn’t render the same bokeh or include the same smooth focus ring of their more expensive 1.4G series, but they’re all roughly $1000 dollars less in price! They are less expensive yes, cheap no. My 85 1.8G once fell out of a pocket onto pavement, bounced three times and rolled across the street. In the back of my head I grimaced and wrote that lens off and continued shooting. To my surprise, when I picked it up I could find no damage at all(!) and it still worked perfectly (focus was dead on and images were still sharp as balls!)- that is not a cheap build!
    I’ve owned the 28, 35, and have also have had 50 and 85 1.8G models for several years now, and have never had a problem with any of these very robust lenses, even while shooting them in all of the worst conditions imaginable (rain, cold, snow, heat, dust, mud, beer and champagne spray-you name it) and these things keep plugging along. In contrast, my much more expensive 24-70 2.8G and 70-200 2.8G could never stand up to the same abuses. Examples, one 2 feet drop of my 70-200 2.8G resulted in a $600+ one month repair from Nikon and that was with my NPS discount, and after a couple years of use my 24-70 2.8G focus ring would barely turn and had to be sent in for an overhaul!
    Like the author says, these lenses serve a specific purpose with their light weight and very very good IQ. If you’re wanting velvet bokeh, or f/1.4 for low light, or a focus ring that is smooth as butter then be ready to drop some more cash. Judging a lens by its weight and non-metal feel is just stupid considering the polycarbonate technology available today.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Thanks for piping in with this note, Eddie!

      I’ve been especially satisfied with the Nikon f/1.8 G lenses’ longevity, and like you my 85 1.8 G has taken a beating and is still working perfectly. I absolutely cannot complain about Nikon’s use of plastic in their latest primes.

      In fact, I like it more than metal, not just for the weight savings but also because I honestly believe it is more impervious to general bumps and dings, as you alluded to as well. A metal lens can jam the zoom / focus ring with the slightest ding on the wrong part of the barrel. This has been a serious, very common issue with the 24-70, and also an issue for some on the 14-24, as both have the same rear barrel (aluminum) design. (BTW, I’ve paid for that same $600 repair as you, THREE TIMES. OUCH.)

      Also, filter threads are oh-so-easily warped when made out of aluminum or magnesium-alloy, and I hate that.

      All in all, the f/1.8 G lineup is actually one of the main reasons I think Nikon is in the lead for certain things and certain categories of photographers.

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  3. Harinandan Rajeev

    It is having great sharpness and nice bokeh.
    The champagne bottle shot is nice and the chandelier shot is also nice

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  4. adam sanford

    That interior church shot is from Our Lady of the Angels, if my eyes do not deceive me. Fascinating interior views and perspectives there.

    #DTLAwhatwhat

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  5. Mark Romine

    As a wedding photographer I absolutely love the entire line of f1.8 primes from Nikon. Price, weight, AF speed make these outstanding for weddings. I have the 28, 35 and 85 and I would love to add the 24. AF speed on these are better than any of the bulky f1.2 or 1.4 lenses that I have owned. I wish they would expand this line to the 105 and 135mm focal length. They so badly need to update those two lenses.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I agree; I hope they don’t go over-the-top with their next 135mm and create some behemoth like the Sony (and there was one other) that we’ve seen lately. I’d love to see a 135mm f/2 and a 105mm f/1.8 G that are in keeping with the price point and portability of this lineup.

      Then maybe the crazy bokeh-lovers can get a 105mm f/1.4 G or something as well, who knows…

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      Boy I’d love/hate to make a decision between a 105 f1.8 or a 135 f2 when the time came!

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  6. robert s

    good thorough review. id take the sigma 24mm art at $100. a no brainer for me. I actually prefer the heft and build of the art. and it has better warranty as well. I do not like the cheap plastic of my 85 1.8g. its a nice lens though. but crap build and slow AF vs my older D. but its staying till sigma will release their 85 art. then im tossing mine. I think id even get the 24-35 f/2 ARt before id get this prime. I think those art lenses are really outstanding lenses.

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    • adam sanford

      I’d take the Sigma Art 24mm at $100, too. :-)

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yup, it really comes down to what you’re looking for in the lens. As a landscape or nightscape photographer, or a traveler, the Nikon 1.8 G’s make a ton of sense, and despite being plastic they’re extremely durable and maybe even better sealed than the Sigma Arts. (They all have a mount gasket, at least.)

      I’ve been abusing my Nikon 85 1.8 G for many years, have shot hundreds of jobs with it, and it’s still going strong, working perfectly.

      But, the Nikon’s are admittedly a tad bit plebeian if you crave the bokeh that 1.4 has to offer, and the central sharpness that Sigma’s Art primes offer. I went for the Sigma 35 1.4 Art and have not regretted it once. I’m hesitant to jump on board an 85 1.4 Art, though, considering what the 50 Art and 20 Art weigh. But as long as it’s more snappy and lighter than Canon’s 85 1.2 L II, DOF-lovers will have a field day when such a lens is announced.

      Meanwhile Canon has completely ignored their “affordable prime” lineup for many years now, (unless you count the re-badged 50 1.8 that allegedly has the same optical formula as ever) and Nikon’s own 1.4 primes are extremely expensive flagship models that don’t offer much more than the Sigmas.

      Then there’s Tamron… :-P

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  7. Justin Haugen

    If Nikon put these in the $500 range, we wouldn’t have to have a conversation about whether you should pay the extra $100 for the 24 1.4 art from Sigma.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I would tend to agree, if it weren’t for the fact that the Nikon is just so dang sharp, even more impressive towards the edges than any of the Sigmas in its range.

      But, if you’re not as focused on the corners as you are on overall speed and bokeh, the Sigma makes so much sense. That’s why I tried the Nikon 35 1.8G and wound up buying the Sigma 35 1.4 Art. Huge difference in the bokeh, and the heft feels nice when I’m not hiking 10 miles. ;-)

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  8. Lauchlan Toal

    Great review Matt, excellent sample images.

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  9. Paul Wynn

    Thanks Matt for the review. I own several Nikon f1.8G primes and they represent incredible value for money. The 50mm and 85mm are two of my most used lenses these days. Looks like the 24mm fits well into this product line.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yup, if you’ve held off on the 28 1.8 G and the 20 1.8 G, now is the time. The 24 1.8 G is the best of the bunch, and a classic focal length that gets all kinds of work done. If you forced me, I could go the entire rest of my career in portraiture with just those three lenses on a D750.

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    • Mark Romine

      For me I really like a longer lens for portraiture than 85mm (when shooting one or two people together), that’s why I hope they update the 105, 135 soon.

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