14 Days with the New Nikon 24-70 f/2.8E VR

32d820d181314e01a102aed67d0a0fa7I just spent a couple of weeks playing with the new Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 VR lens and, while this isn’t a full review, I thought I’d give a quick first impression.  The first thing you’ll notice is the size.  This thing is a beast.  It’s 20% longer and heavier than the older model.  This is due to the extra glass and the VR mechanism.  While it’s not really an issue when on my D4s (it balances this big camera body quite nicely), it’s a bit of an issue on my smaller D810 when not attached to the grip.  While everyone else is going smaller with the mirrorless cameras, it seems a bit crazy to go bigger when I’m already carrying around a 6 pound camera.

While the VR may help to get slower shutter speeds in lower light (up to 4 stops), I never really missed the VR in my older model.  At 2.8, the lens is already quite fast and typically, I don’t need slower shutter speeds when hand held.  At least for my photography.  However, when needed, it is definitely nice to have.  My biggest concern with this lens is the sharpness.  While I think sharpness is a bit overrated, I do want my images crisp.  I have to say that when stopped down to 2.8 or even 4.0, this lens, to my eye, seems less sharp than the older model.  This is especially visible at a wider angle or at the 70mm end.  At 35-50, it’s quite sharp, especially at the edges.  The edge to edge sharpness does trump the older model, but I typically shoot this lens at 2.8 and I want sharpness at the center which the older model has.  At $2400, this lens needs to be at least as sharp as my older workhorse.  It isn’t.  I thought it just might be my copy, but I’ve read this elsewhere.

I will say that this lens has lightening fast focus.  The older model is quite fast and I’ve had no issues in this department.  I’d say the newer lens is just a tad faster, but we’re talking milliseconds.  Again, not enough to warrant a $2400 upgrade.   My other concern is the 83mm filter size.  For me, this would add another $250-$500 to the cost as I’d have to purchase new CP and ND filters.

I’m not going to go quite as far as to say I was disappointed with this lens.  The build quality seems the best on the market, the focus is fast and the distortion is minimal.  But when I compare it to my older 70-200 f/2.8G, I just can’t justify spending $2400 on this lens.  Even if I can sell my old one for, say, $1400 (which may be difficult to the flooding of the market by upgraders), that’s still $1000 investment in a slight and minimal upgrade.  I’d say if you’re a wedding photographer and need to shoot hand held in low light, the VR might help (but even then, you’re not typically going to shoot longer exposures because people are usually moving around),  then it might be worth the price.  For me, I’m not convinced.  I returned my lens without too much reservation.