Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D Lens

Lenses, like cameras, are purchased for a variety of reasons:

1. There are lenses out there that are impeccable, that deliver maximum image quality (loads of sharpness, great contrast, minimum distortion and excellent color reproduction) and are lighting fast (generally f/2.8 is considered fast, though with primes sometimes f/1.8 is considered sluggish), but those lenses tend to come with a few caveats also: they are heavy and expensive.  These lenses are specialists’ tools; their purpose is to be the best in the game for the pros that need them.

2. There are lenses that are the optical equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, they cut, they saw, they open cans, but they’re often clunky and inefficient when compared to tools dedicated to those tasks.  They are your 18-400’s of the world.  These zoom lenses are generalists’ tools; their purpose is utility and convenience for the enthusiast.

3. There are lenses that you form an emotional attachment to.  These lenses can be zooms or primes, slow or fast, cheap or expensive, but they are always at your side.  These lenses are the ones you pick up when you are going out to take pictures for the day when there is no pressure on you for what you’ll bring back.  They make photography fun. They get out of your way, and let you think about composition and subject.  These lenses are seldom the first ones photographers buy. In fact, they almost always come into the bag after years of shooting, when you realize finally that what is truly missing from your kit isn’t its ability to cover fisheye to super telephoto or to be able to pixel peep every shot at 100%.

The Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D is this third category of lenses for me.

Full Name: Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor
Max/Min. Aperture: 2.8/22
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Lens Configuration: 9 Elements in 9 Groups
Filter Size: 52mm
Magnification Ratio: 1:9
Focuses Beyond: 12″

Durability: The lens is a combination of metal and plastic, though very robust, and with an all metal mount.  I must confess that I’ve actually dropped this lens twice (once out of my bag at home and once it bounced out of a baby stroller and fell five feet onto asphalt with a camera attached), yet it still functions perfectly.

Two years ago, I recognized that I no longer wanted strictly category one type of lenses.  I owned a set of the fixed 2.8 zooms that are in most professional photographers camera bags, but I was tired of carrying around all of the weight.  I also discovered that I had nearly stopped visualizing shots.  When I went to take an image, I zoomed to “find” the composition.  This action takes additional time, and even if I had attempted to pre-visualize my images before every shot, I would have had to make a decision about which focal length every single time I went to photograph something. I wanted a solution that would lighten the load, lessen my buy-in expense, create a smaller footprint in my bag (strangers are intimidated by bigger lenses), and make me enjoy photography again.

The first thing I did was to apply a focal length search to my archive of images.  I discovered that 24mm was my most often used focal length.  I sold my expensive zooms and bought the prime.  Now, my walk-around kit contains two cameras and two lenses (the 24mm and a 50mm), and it is still far smaller and lighter than one camera and two 2.8 zooms.  By doubling the focal length, no matter which focal lengths I bring, I have noticed that I see a pretty dramatic shift in perspective (between the two), and this means that when I want to take a picture, I only have to decide “near or far?” before pulling out the camera with the appropriate lens already attached.  This makes photography fun, and my everyday equipment extremely portable.

Bottom line, this lens is a very important part of my current kit, as I’m sure it is for many others. Its exact charm is difficult to quantify, but being only about as big as the “Nifty Fifty” is certainly a part.  In fact, if I were handed over the keys to Nikon today, my very first move would be to revamp the entire 2.8 prime line, but with special care paid to those in the 20mm-35mm range. I’d make them smaller and better performers using some of the new technology that’s developed over the last 20-30 years since they were originally introduced. Perhaps I’d even issue a set of DX only 2.8 pancakes; can you imagine how much more competitive Nikon’s smallest bodies would have been against mirrorless with those?

So how does the Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D lens perform?  It is surprisingly solid.  Check out the images galleries below to see for yourself.

ACTION:

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CLOSE-UPS (not really macro):

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LANDSCAPE:

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PORTRAITS: 

Gear used for product shots:

Nikon D300

Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G

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