I’ve been taking almost 5000 shots with these three FX zooms on a Nikon D800 and I’ve learned a lot about them in the past half year. But still it is interesting even for me to see how the verdict turns out after all has been measured, tested and scrutinized. Let’s sum-up the characteristics of each lens before the final show-down. I’ve also linked to the various individual reviews for your convenient reference – and should you want to look up some further details.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Oldie but goody: The Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED is the oldest and most expensive of the trio. It has no image-stabilization which is a real let-down. But it performs! That is perhaps not so apparent in the Siemens-star test-shots but in the landscape shots it is the clear and undisputed winner. Only the extreme FX corners are not optimal but other than that there is little to criticize. It focuses precisely and is robust enough to survive a serious drop. A real everyday workhorse if the range of focal lengths is fitting. Don’t expect bokeh to be of the creamy kind, there are better fixed focal if that is your main concern. See my Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 review for more details.
Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
Finally someone produced a 24-70/2.8 zoom with image stabilization: One has to give Tamron kudos for that! This extends the useful range of the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD by 2-3 stops further into low-light shooting or simply help you avoid shake that could ruin an otherwise perfectly sharp shot – especially on sensors above 20MP. At closer shooting range its performance switches places with the Nikon 24-70 when zooming though the range but in general it seems to be the weaker lens at the longer focal lengths. Unfortunately my experience with this lens was overshadowed by two defective copies: one had a clear decentering issue and the other would not stop down correctly according to the aperture-values set by the camera. So watch out for these issues should you get your own copy. See my Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 review for more details.
Nikon AF-S 24-85/3.5-4.5G VR
The odd contender in this comparison: The Nikon AF-S 24-85/3.5-4.5G VR is certainly a surprise guest in this shootout. I chose it because it has a similar zoom-range and performed astonishingly well in my review on a D800. It is lightweight and cheap but yet it came up pretty close to the premium competitors time and again. What it lacks in maximum aperture it compensates by quick and reliable image-stabilization. So I’d say: this is the perfect kit-zoom to go with a Nikon D600 or D800. It certainly earns an honorable mention for best price-performance ratio in this category! See my Nikon 24-85mm review for more details.
Nikon vs Tamron final verdict
So we end up with one high-performer (the Nikon AF-S 24-70/2.8G) and a zoom with excellent price-performance ratio (the Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5G VR) and you may ask which one should you buy? Well, that’s easy depending on what you really want: If you want the best performance in this zoom-category go for the Nikon 24-70mm and if you want the best value for money get the Nikon 24-85mm.
That may sound harsh with respect to the Tamron 24-70mm which rightly earned a Recommended in my review but it is a little stuck between the chairs: in optical performance it is not clearly better than the lowly Nikon 24-85 but it costs about two times as much. Its only proposition that both contenders cannot claim is to have the brightest aperture with image-stabilization. So if you are after the best low-light performance, go for it.
That gives us two winners of this shootout: The Nikon 24-70/2.8G as the king of performance and the Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5G VR as the winner in the price-performance ratio contest!
Best performance: the Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G
Best price-performance ratio: the Nikon AF-S 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G VR
If you like to discuss the findings or post questions and add comments regarding this comparison, please head over to the discussion-thread at the Camera Labs forum.
Und wenn es irgendwelche Fragen, Kommentare und Anregungen zu meinem Review gibt, hier gibt’s die Möglichkeit auch für deutschsprachige Besucher des DSLR-Forums.