Nikon AF NIKKOR 24-120mm 1:3.5-5.6 D IF Lens (f/3.5-5.6)

Review of the Nikon AF NIKKOR 24-120mm 1:3.5-5.6 D IF Lens (f/3.5-5.6).

Overall Rating:

Nikon AF NIKKOR 24-120mm 1:3.5-5.6 D IF

This lens is made in Japan and is 27 years old. Its debut price was more than $600 USD which was the cost of the AF 24-50mm f/3.3-4.5 D lens of this era. Around the introduction of this lens, the Nikon F5 was Nikon's pro-body 35mm Single-Lens-Reflex (SLR) film camera. It is a "D" lens meaning that it transmits distance information to the camera.

This is the grandfather of the popular Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR lens which makes it the father of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR IF. Nikon now produce a Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S and it all started with the lens of this review.

Nikon began the "normal zoom" lens line with the 43-86mm of the 1960's and then much later on increased the zoom ratio with the 35-105mm, 35-135mm and 35-200mm. Other manufacturers were designing 28-200mm lenses around this time, and Nikon were planning a lens with this range, but the department in charge decided to release a Nikkor with the wider 24mm on the short end and the shorter 120mm on the long end, a 24-120mm lens. While this offered a lower zoom ratio than the 28-200mm (5× versus 7.1×), their thinking was that a wider lens at the sacrifice of some reach would have more appeal so the green light was given to develop the 24-120mm. A retrofocus design this wide and long is certainly more difficult to design than a 28-200mm lens.

This design adopted two aspherical elements with the goal to reduce the total number of elements (shortening the length of the lens) and correcting aberrations. Aspherical elements are very common in modern wide-angle lenses because they help clean up aberrations in the edges of the frame.

This is an internal focus design so it does not change size as it is focused.

FROM A NIKON BROCHURE: Incredible 5× zoom is ideal for travel, landscape and portrait photography. This lens produces higher resolution photographs with excellent contrast thanks to Nikon's aspheric element design. Internal focus maintains compact size. Accepts 72mm filters; HB-11 lens hood.

For the most part, this review uses a Nikon D800E DSLR, so the limits of the resolving power of this lens are really tested.

yellow bells — 0.2× magnification — f=120mm/16 (detail)
yellow bells — focused at the minimum, 0.5m — f=24mm/16 (detail)

Compactness Compared

Compared here with a DX lens; it's very compact for a full-frame 24-120mm lens.

AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR II compared (captured with the 35-200mm Ai-S)


The autofocus is fast on a modern Nikon DSLR, but it can be a little indecisive at times.

Distortion is heavy with barrel distortion at f=24mm and pincushion disortion at f=120mm. Pincushion distortion is most prominent at f=50mm!

Diffraction has begun by f/8. Use greater stops than this (smaller number) for maximum center sharpness, but shoot at f/11 for maximum sharpness over the entire frame including the corners.

Color fringing is prominent thanks to the lack of ED glass, but could have been much worse if not for the aspherical elements. This can be corrected in post.

Color fringing detail at 3-to-1:

center at f=24mm/5.6
corner at f=24mm/5.6
center at f=24mm/11
corner at f=24mm/11
center at f=50mm/5.6
corner at f=50mm/5.6
center at f=50mm/11
corner at f=50mm/11
center at f=120mm/5.6
corner at f=120mm/5.6
center at f=120mm/11
corner at f=120mm/11

Even stopped down to f/11 the lens is not the greatest in the corners. Imagine if it did not have aspherical elements!


The infrared performance is wonderful — no hotspot whatsoever.

infrared at f=24mm/22
infrared at f=120mm/36

Ghosting & Flaring

There is some ghosting and flaring. This lens doesn't have as advanced a coatings as newer lenses, but it could be much worse.

ghosting, f=24mm/3.5
flaring, f=24mm/22
ghosting, f=120mm/5.6
flaring, f=120mm/36


The bokeh is not the greatest particularly on the long end because there are rings around the highlights as well as they take on the shape of the diaphragm which is not round. This is only really a problem when pixel-peeping because, stepping back, these flaws are not so evident.

bokeh at f=24mm/3.5
bokeh at f=35mm/4
bokeh at f=35mm/5.6
bokeh at f=70mm/5
bokeh at f=70mm/7.1
bokeh at f=120mm/5.6
bokeh at f=120mm/8




The 72mm filter threads rotate as the lens is zoomed, so first choose a focal length then adjust the polarizer because focus does not rotate the filter threads. This is a varifocal design as it changes focus as it is zoomed.

While being an AF D lens, it is still very solid feeling, not feeling flimsy at all. For example, the tolerances all seem tight.


Because this is a "D" lens without AF-S, it is compatible with many Nikon DSLR cameras, such as the D70, D70s, D80, D90, D100, D200, D300, D300s, D500, D7000, D7100, D7200, D7500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D800, D800E, D810, D850, D1 series, D2 series, D3 series, D4 series, D5, D6, etc.

The autofocus is not compatible with Nikon cameras that lack the little autofocus drive pin in the lens mount, such as the D40, D40X, D50, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D3400, D3500, D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600, etc. The lens will mount and meter with these camera bodies but with manual focus only. Also, it will not autofocus on any mirrorless camera.

The best way to use this lens on a DSLR is with the aperture ring locked to the smallest aperture then use the camera's command dial to change it.



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