Nikon 24-70mm Lens Review

The Nikon 24-70mm lens is my most used lens for general photography. It’s outstanding for travel due to its range from wide-angle to mid-telephoto focal length. It’s fantastic for environmental portraits and low-light photography.

My Favorite Walk-about Lens
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E

No matter what your photography style, the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E is a versatile and powerful lens that will help you capture stunning images. With a 24-70mm zoom range, this lens is perfect for anything from landscapes to studio work, and with a fast f/2.8 aperture, you'll be able to freeze fast action or create a beautiful bokeh blur. Plus, the Nikon fluorine coat on both the front and rear glass protects your images from any unwanted glare or reflections.

  • Weather-sealed
  • Constant aperture
  • Fast auto-focus
  • 77mm thread for filters
  • Not inexpensive
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We’ll go over the features of the lens below with some sample images. All of that detail will support what I can tell you right now. This is a professional-grade lens that delivers spectacular results. Like the Nikon 70-200mm lens, it’s a workhorse and a staple of professional and advanced amateur photographers that is reliable and consistently delivers excellent quality results.

What Do You Get From The Nikon 24-70mm Lens?

  • It has excellent optics to deliver sharp results
  • It’s fast glass – f/2.8 from 24mm to 70mm
  • Auto-focus is fast, silent and accurate
  • Accepts 77mm threaded filters
  • Wide angle to mid-telephoto focal range
  • Consistent image quality

The Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 lens, along with the Nikon 14-24mm and the Nikon 70-200mm, makes up part of the Nikon Triumvirate, or the Holy Trinity According to Nikon – as some people like to call this collection. There’s a good reason for such hyperbole, though.  Each of these lenses is awesome in its own right, but they make up a collection of optical super heroes for any Nikon photographer.

This is my most used lens, particularly for any kind of photowalk, street photography or general use. the Nikon 24-70mm lens is a solid and reliable choice, ranging from wide angle photography to mid-telephoto portrait length with ease.

The continuous f/2.8 aperture for the entire zoom range means that you can shoot in low light or with a shallow depth of field at every focal length in its range.

The auto-focus is fast, accurate and silent. Unlike some third party lenses, you won’t hear a motor that sounds like it’s grinding coffee. The auto-focus doesn’t search and hunt. Instead, it locks on quickly and lets you get the shot instead of missing the action.

It has rugged construction to seal out dust and moisture, keeping your lens interior clean of debris that would ruin your photos.

1: Sharp Results

Nikon 24-70mm Lens

Would you expect anything less from a professional grade lens? Of course not, which is why the Nikon 24-70mm lens delivers consistently sharp images. This is a busy image, but I chose it because there is a ton of detail in the focus area. You can even make out the Canon logo clearly on the biker’s camera. (We won’t hold that against him).

His passenger’s stockings also have an intricate design and the detail holds clear and sharp in this image.

Does sharpness matter these days? After all, isn’t photography about capturing the moment? Yes, but that doesn’t downplay the importance of using a sharp lens. The reason is pretty simple. Your mind draws your eye primarily to the brightest part of an image. That’s why photographers have used post processing to vignette photos for years, trying to trick your eye to go where they want.

After brightness, the next most important factor to draw your viewer’s eye is sharpness. You can’t help but concentrate on the sharp areas of an image. It’s natural. One of the reasons why like beautiful bokeh is because it helps the eye move to the sharp subject.

Sharpening in post-processing is a bit different than adding a vignette, though. When you sharpen, you’re enhancing the blacks to add a bit more contract. However, that technique can’t make up detail that wasn’t captured in the first place. In other words, the best way to get a sharp image is to capture it in camera, and that means using a lens that delivers sharp results.

This lens is a bit weak in sharpness when shooting at wide-angle focal lengths (24mm – 35mm) below an aperture of f/8. It can be a bit fuzzy in the corners in this situation. That’s the only weakness I’ve found using the Nikon 24-70mm lens.

2: Fast Glass

Nikon 24-70mm Lens

This scene presents a bit of a challenge. It doesn’t have much light and things are moving around. It’s up to you to capture the scene to share with people who can’t be there. That’s when you need fast glass.

It looks like there’s plenty of light in the image above, right? That’s the idea. Your eye adapts very well to low light. Cameras, not so much. They’re rather particular about having enough light to hit the sensor in order to create a clean image with color and detail.

You can ramp up your ISO, but that has limits and potential drawbacks. The higher you go, the more potential exists for noise (though that’s getting better with each generation of new camera). You can lower your shutter speed, but that means moving images are going to blur. Is that what you want?

You’re left with one choice: a wide aperture – f/2.8 or wider. The Nikon 24-70mm lens isn’t just f/2.8 at 24mm; that f-stop is consistent throughout the entire focal range. Other lenses with variable f-stops making it increasingly more difficult to operate in low light as you zoom tighter on your subject.

That consistency is really important. It’s what makes this lens reliable. You know you can expect predictable results when using it, which is important to you.

3: Fast and Reliable Auto-Focus

Nikon 24-70mm Lens

It’s not enough that you can shoot in low light. You need to focus quickly to react when the magic moment arrives. Take the shot above for an example. The bass player gave me that look for perhaps a second, no more. Why? Because he’s singing. Because he has an entire audience to entertain. He’s not going to wait while my auto-focus system hunts back and forth in the changing lights and darkness. He doesn’t have the time to waste, and neither do you.

Shooting in action is tough enough. Toss in a challenging lighting environment and you have a bunch of decisions to make. Is your composition right? Do you need to change your exposure? Zoom in our widen the shot for an environmental scene?

With so many thoughts racing through your mind, the last thing you need is to worry whether or not your auto-focus system can lock on to the subject or not. You don’t have time. That’s why you need something that just works. That’s why I used my Nikon 24-70mm lens for this shot. It just works.

4: A Story Telling Lens

Nikon 24-70mm Lens

Technical features are nice, but you buy a lens to solve a problem or provide you with some benefits. That’s why I love using the Nikon 24-70mm lens as my story-telling lens.

Environmental portraits allow you to put a person and a place together. I love travel photos and I love portraits, but nothing seems more powerful to me than combining the two in environmental portraits. The Nikon 24-70mm lens is the perfect companion for these images.

You need enough of a wide angle to gather the environment, yet you don’t want the distortion of most wide-angle lenses to affect your subject.

Nikon 24-70mm Lens

When you look at an environmental portrait, you immediately know something about the person. The surroundings provide information. So which focal length is best for these kinds of story telling portraits?

The one that gives enough of an angle to include what you want and exclude the stuff you don’t need. That’s the beauty of the Nikon 24-70mm zoom lens. Unlike a prime lens, you aren’t forced to zoom with your feet to get the composition you want. Sometimes that just isn’t possible. In the shot above, I’m inside a resort room. There may not be a wall behind the model, but there’s a limit as to how far I can back up to get this shot.

Even if I could back up more, that doesn’t change the angle of view of a prime lens. To get everything I want, I may also have to include some part of the scene I’d rather not see. With a zoom lens, you can determine the angle of view without having to carry a sack full of fixed prime lenses.

Nikon 24-70mm Lens

5: A Walk-Around Lens

Do you go on photo walks or do street photography? You don’t want to be burdened down carrying a bag of gear when you’re on the go, so you want a versatile lens. The Nikon 24-70mm lens is my choice if I don’t have any expectations of what I will shoot. It has enough range to cover my needs.

I often visit Walt Disney World and there are plenty of traditional and unexpected photo opportunities. For instance, I can use the Nikon 24-70mm to shoot a wide-angle scene like this one:

Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Using the same lens, I could pop around the corner and find an unexpected portrait opportunity.  I was standing in the back row of a crowd when I spotted Captain Jack Sparrow, but I still had a long enough focal length to get a nice candid shot.

Captain Jack Sparrow at Walt Disney World

I tend to shoot a lot of HDR photos. Once again, this is the lens that covers most of my scenes, like these shots below.

Nikon 24-70mm Lens
Nikon 24-70mm Lens
Nikon 24-70mm Lens

Sample Nikon 24-70 Lens Images

The Apotheosis in the Capitol Rotunda
Pink Taco in the Hard Rock Hotel
Frankies Tiki Room in Las Vegas
Fire Station on Main Street at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Cinderella's Castle in the morning fog
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World
Motorcycle riding on the Zion - Mount Carmel Highway
Dramatic Angels

What If I Don’t Have A Full Frame Camera?

The Nikon 24-70mm lens works great on my Nikon D800 – a full frame (FX) camera. That’s an important consideration.  A lens that works on a full frame camera will also work just fine on a crop-sensor (DX) camera.  

However, lenses designed for crop-sensor cameras aren’t suitable for using the full sensor of a camera like my D700.  This lens is an investment that will work on a wide range of Nikon cameras, including the new Mirrorless models.

It also has a 77mm front element, which means it’s compatible with a wide range of filters.

This is the most used lens in my kit. I wouldn’t be without it, and neither should you.