The AF-S Nikkor 24mm f1.8G ED is Nikon’s latest addition to its series of f1.8 primes. You give up 2/3 of a stop of maximum aperture compared to Nikon’s 24/1.4G but for that it’s smaller, lighter, and comes at half the price. So for those of us with limited capacity in their wallets or their luggage it should be a good proposal. And as a fixed focal it should also beat most zooms that cover 24mm in image quality delivering better sharpness, less distortions, and a better Bokeh.
In my test the lens delivers as expected and that includes also some not so good points: The Bokeh is better than from a f2.8 zoom, but naturally not as good as from a f1.4 fixed focal. The lens shows some coma in the FX-corners wide open and longitudinal CAs, but not more than the competition. On the other hand the Nikon 24/1.8G has a very good center performance and the FX-corner is also quite good. The lens shows only little distortion. Plus flare and ghosting is seldom an issue so you don’t need to worry about strong light-sources in the frame. Add to that a fast and reliable AF and weather sealing at the lens mount and you get a competent wide-angle lens. I only wish the performance at the borders of the DX image-circle would be better. It irks me that many modern lens designs show a visible drop in performance already at 10-15mm from the optical axis, an area of the image which is very likely to contain important elements of the composition. The effect is not extensive and can be reduced by stopping down. But even at f5.6 the FX-corner is sharper than the DX-corner in the (close-range) Siemens star test-shot. Is that a design goal aiming at photographers or just for the test-benches?
Now let’s see how the new lens compares to the competition.
Compared to Nikon AF-S 24mm f1.4G ED
A big step-up in price, size, and weight over the Nikon 24/1.8G is its bigger sibling the Nikon AF-S 24mm f1.4G ED. At more than double the price of the 24/1.8G it offers a 2/3 larger maximum aperture which is good for two things: You can shoot at shorter shutter speeds and it produces the better Bokeh. The Nikon produces quite some longitudinal CA and has some field-curvature at close range that evens out in landscape shots. But if you’re in for the best Bokeh at 24mm focal length, the Nikon 24/1.4G ED certainly is your premier choice. See my Nikon 24/1.4G review.
Compared to Sigma 24mm f1.4 “Art”
The Sigma 24/1.4 Art is probably the most direct competitor for the new Nikon. It almost costs the same and offers a 2/3 of a stop larger maximum aperture plus a build quality that puts the Nikon to shame: Whether the Sigma is more robust on the inside than the Nikon needs to be seen but on the outside the Sigma is metal vs. Nikon plastic. Optically the Sigma is sharper at the center, similarly soft at the DX-corner at close range but better at longer distances, and just a tad softer than the Nikon 24/1.8G at the FX-corner. Overall I’d prefer the Sigma over the Nikon. See my Sigma 24/1.4 Art review.
Compared to Tamron SP AF 15-30mm f2.8 Di VC USD
An f2.8 zoom as an alternative to a f1.8 fixed focal? Well, you lose 1.3 stops of maximum aperture but you gain much in flexibility regarding the right framing of an image where you cannot or don’t want to “zoom with your feet”. And the image quality of the Tamron is very convincing: In my Tamron 15-30/2.8 VC review the lens earned a Highly Recommended and replaced the venerable Nikon AF-S 14-24/2.8G as the reference ultra wide-angle zoom. Its image stabilization is good for three stops which lets you shoot in lower light than the non-stabilized f1.8 fixed focal. In comparison to the Nikon 24/1.8G the Tamron zoom is comparably sharp in the center, better in the DX-corner, and only slightly behind in the FX-corner. And can you imagine what angle of view this full-frame zoom can give you at 15mm focal length?
Compared to Nikon AF-S VR 24-70mm f2.8E ED
Nikon finally integrated an image stabilization (VR) into their professional workhorse zoom and a very good one at that: the VR in the 24-70/2.8E VR Nikkor is good for 3-4 stops of hand-holding power, which easily compensates for the 1.3 stops between f/2.8 and f/1.8 maximum aperture. Image quality is top notch for a 24-70/2.8 zoom but its FX-corner performance does not entirely match the image quality of the Nikon 24/1.8G (see my Nikon 24-70/2.8 VR review). But you get better DX-corner performance for that and I personally find it more pleasing this way around. But it is three times as expensive as the Nikon 24/1.8G and it is also a very big and heavy lens. So there’s a price to be paid for the flexibility to zoom up 2.9x to 70mm focal length: literally and in the form of size and weight. But if I had to pick one lens only for my holiday trip it would be this 24-70/2.8 zoom over the 24/1.8 fixed focal.
Nikon AF-S 24mm f1.8G final verdict
The new Nikon 24/1.8G is a good lens: It offers a fast f/1.8 aperture and performs quite well. Only the borders of the DX image circle are somewhat disappointing. On top of that it’s relatively small and light. But the competition is tough: The Sigma 24/1.4 Art clearly gives you better value for money with a larger f1.4 aperture, better image quality, and a tough outer build at the same price or only a little extra depending on region. And even some of the top zooms are encroaching on the image quality of Nikon’s 24/1.8G. But still the Nikon 24/1.8G earns a Recommended.
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- Sharp center, good FX-corners.
- Weather sealing.
- Quiet, fast, and reliable AF operation.
- Weakness at the border of the DX image-circle.
- Coma reduces contrast in the FX-corner.
- Longitudinal CAs wide open.
- Not the best Bokeh.