Hands-on with the new Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens

There was widespread excitement among photographers last week when announced a follow-up to the most widely-used zoom in its professional lineup – the 24-70mm.

 

Adding a new Vibration Reduction system to reduce image blur from -shake, the new Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR also incorporates a Silent Wave Motor that should give it AF speeds up to 1.5-times faster than those of its predecessor, the 24-70mm f/2.8G.

 

Nikon Ambassador Kate Hopewell-Smith was invited to try out the lens for a month before release, and we managed to secure some time with her for a chat about her first impressions. Scroll down for out interview and to see some more of Kate’s images taken with the new lens.

 

Kate Hopewell-Smith: My two main bodies are a Nikon D4S and a D3S, and I have quite a bunch of lenses. Before this, in terms of portraiture, my favourite would probably be 70-200mm. I love the 85mm and I’d have probably said, to be honest, something like a 35mm prime would be the wider angle or focal length lens that I’d take out to portrait shoot.

 

KH-S: I got contacted directly from Tokyo, as they were looking for two photographers to work with the prototypes – there are only two prototypes and they chose a landscape photographer in New Zealand and me, which is pretty scary! The prototype they sent me was the D810 and the 24-70mm VR.

 

KH-S: When they first contacted me about it, I told them it’s not my favourite lens at all. But when it arrived and I got it out of the box I was like, ‘Wow!’ I wasn’t prepared for the weight and the size; it’s heavier and bigger than the original and so, in that sense alone, it’s a significantly different lens. I had it for about a month and the most important things they wanted me to test was shooting with it wide open, at f/2.8, at both the 24mm and the 70mm end and then to test the VR functionality with slow shutter speeds.

 

KH-S: It was pretty remarkable; I’ve had a complete renaissance – and I’m not just saying this because I’m a Nikon Ambassador! I got asked in an interview on Wednesday what lens I’d take with me on a desert island, and before I’d never have said the 24-70mm. But now having spent a month with it, and having photographed everything from headshots to environmental portraiture, I think it’s an incredible lens. I’d still miss the compression that you get from longer focal lengths, but in terms of having one lens that can deliver massive versatility, I was amazed! It’s an incredibly smooth lens to work with and very sharp, with a very noticeable difference in edge-to-edge sharpness.

 

KH-S: It was fantastic, but generally Nikon lenses are. It was honestly a pleasure to work with. It was heavy, although not as heavy as the 70-200mm, but it’s quite a comfortable weight. I didn’t have a problem with it.

 

KH-S: It’s not something I actively noticed. It didn’t make me shoot or feel any differently. I was able to shoot the way I shoot. At f/2.8 it was incredibly sharp. I also did some work on slow shutter speeds, shooting some horses at f/10 and it produced some incredible quality images. I was actually gutted to send it back to Japan! I shot two weddings within a week of sending the lens back and I’m now shooting wider focal lengths more frequently than I did before. I got in the habit of doing that because I had to shoot at the 24mm end a lot more, and I really enjoyed the results.

 

KH-S: Definitely! It’ll be an upgrade for me. Globally it’s Nikon’s best-selling lens – most pros have one and I can imagine people who’ve had their lenses and have worked them very hard for a while will definitely consider the upgrade. Also, the VR is obviously very helpful for wedding photography – if you’re a low-light photographer then it has a lot of benefits!

 

I part disagree with Simon. Nikon’s VR detects panning so it works when following action at 90 degrees to the pan direction. I understand no other system does this. Extra smooth backgrounds are possible combining panning and Nikon VR. Nikon’s VR can also stabilise the main subject at perhaps 1/10 while allowing blur in say hand movement. Some photographers might want to use this for creative effect. The 24-70 range is not as commonly used for moving subjects as 70-200. Nikon’s VR, like any lens aid, has limitations some of the time but makes possible more creative effects than any other f2.8 24-70 lens.

 

One thing everyone seems to forget about VR (or its equivalent) is that although it’s very good at dealing with camera movement, it does nothing at all for subject movement…. So great if you’re photographing an inanimate object at 1/10th sec, not so great if you’re photographing a subject who is talking, walking or moving their hands,

 

In this issue, Jeremy Walker explains how to shoot dramatic contre-jour landscapes – plus we test the Canon PowerShot G3 X and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

 

We chat to Nikon Ambassador Kate Hopewell-Smith, who has had a chance to try out the new version of Nikon’s most popular zoom lens. Find out how she got on