Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-D a.k.a. “The Streetsweeper”

Every so often I find myself reading endless posts in photography forums about DxO scores and how a certain lens is terrible because of some random test that shows distortion, etc.  The point is, some people miss out on the passion of photography because they’re too caught up in some review that says their lens sucks.  Ok, I admit, there is definite validity to these tests, but, does it really matter when you’re capturing a beautiful moment?  Does it really matter if your lens is a tad soft wide-open if you’re photographing a once in a lifetime moment between 2 people?  I don’t think so.  I think what matters is that you actually have a lens (any lens) mounted and ready to go.  Anyway…

I found this little gem for $104.  This lens was introduced in 1996 for over $500 at the time and has been nicknamed the “Streetsweeper” by news photojournalists.  It was introduced in the days of film and could go from 24mm wide to 120mm with a twist of the wrist.  I recently picked up a D600 and wanted a decent lens to use both as a backup to my expensive 24-70mm f/2.8 as well as something lighter with similar focal length to bring to family events.  The 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-D was my first choice.  It was made in Japan and is built tough.  Moreover, it is not very large, but big enough to balance well on the D600 frame.

Let me get this out of the way first – This is not going to give you the exact same results as the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.  It’s slower with max aperture of f/3.5 at the wide end and it is screw-driven (AF-D).  But…

Here is a shot directly taken out of the camera with no post-processing:

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Not that bad.  70mm at 5.6 in poor light.  ISO 1600.

Now, here is the same image with 30 seconds of post-processing in Aperture:

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A little nicer, and after 30 seconds, not much different than my 24-70mm f/2.8 (which costs nearly $2,000).

I guess the point is you don’t always have to go out and spend a small fortune in order to achieve your goal.  This is certainly not a scientific review and I don’t pretend to be Ken Rockwell.  I really don’t care about DxO scores and pixel peeping.  All I care about is the final product.  For $104, I am very pleased so far.  There is no way I could ask for more out of a lens at 104 bucks!  That is less than some protective UV glass filters.  I write this because if you have a Nikon FX body, and are looking for a decent lens, this is a fine option at a fraction of the cost you would spend for a 24-70 f/2.8, or even the 24-120 VR version.

Sure, it has barrel distortion, but that can also be fixed.  Here is a shot wide-open at 24mm:

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You can see the barrel effect if you are a pixel-peeper looking past the main subject.  This is just a test shot.  If this was perhaps a retouched shot of a bride and groom’s first kiss, would you REALLY notice it?  I wouldn’t.  This is straight from camera in poor light at ISO 1600 by the way.  That said, I would probably not use this lens to shoot family formals at a wedding.  I would certainly use it during the reception though.  It has a very useful focal length.

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I got mine at Adorama in “E” condition.  You can get an even better sample for $129.  A little banged up and you can own it for around $90.  A great buy for Nikon shooters.

-Chris

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