Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24 mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
The size does matter, at least when it comes to a camera sensor size. That size entails a lot of necessary moves, and it can be seen on the example of plenty of different companies. Olympus decided to use small Four Thirds system sensors, it sticks to them consequently and can skillfully make the most of their advantages. Canon, for a change, is the only company which offers its customers three sizes of sensors: in the amateur and half-professional segment the APS-C sensor rules with absolute power, in professional 1D/1Ds cameras we deal with full frame and APS-H sensors.
Against such a background the history of the Nikon company is even more interesting. At the beginning of the digital era that company, like Olympus, decided to use sensors of one size only – a DX format, in which the detector has sides 1.5 shorter than those of full frame. The company proved to all and sundry that it was an excellent choice, stressing during every training that a one size detector, in addition a bit smaller than full frame, was a big asset. I remember myself lectures delivered by Nikon Poland specialists, who spoke with indulgence about the Canon’s indecision and its three sensor sizes, describing most emphatically the disadvantages of a full frame usage (at times they were very right otherwise).
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Nikon decided to use the DX format and it was very consequent at the beginning. The format could be met everywhere - in amateur reflex cameras, like a D70 or D50, the middle ground devices, like D100 or D200 and fully professional D2 class models as well. A serious treatment of the format meant also a serious treatment of the lenses. A professional photographer, who used to work on full frame analogue camera, after turning to the smaller DX format needed new lenses – and this need was the strongest in wide-angle and standard zoom lenses class. Nikon couldn’t and didn’t let the professionals wait for good new lenses. As the first company on the market, in March 2003, Nikon announced the launch of a Nikkor 12-24 mm f/4.0G ED-IF DX with the field of view from 99 to 61 degrees. Canon owners had to wait over one year longer because not until August 2004 a Canon EF-S 10-22 mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens with the field of vision from 107.5 to 63.5 degrees appeared on the market. Only for the Canon aficionados (especially professionals) the launch of such a lens was not a must. After all, they possessed digital full frame and analogue wide-angle lenses of 17-40 mm or 16-35 mm class.
The Nikkor 12-24 mm f/4.0G ED-IF DX has always been an expensive lens. All the ultra wide angle instruments, working on APS-C/DX detectors, which have been launched afterwords (and there were plenty of them) cost a lot less. It is obvious that Nikon, when launching the lens, couldn’t have know about the price level its competitors were going to present. It proved to be a serious problem, though. As it was shown in our test, the lens couldn’t surprise us by an outstanding picture quality, although its price was steep; a cheaper Canon with wider focal length range was even optically better. Even Sigma or Tokina lenses, although two times less expensive, lenses didn’t become inhibited facing the pricey Nikkor.
After the first stage of ultra wide angle lenses launches from years 2003-2005, now we have the next one. Tokina, having already a 12-24 mm f/4.0 model on offer, introduced the lens with 11-16 mm f/2.8 parameters. Tamron substituted its not very good 11-18 mm lens with a new one, with 10-24 mm focal length range. Sigma, although it had on offer a quite praised 10-20 mm lens, has launched not so long ago a new model with the same focal length range but with f/3.5 constant aperture. Olympus, having already a very expensive ZD 7-14 mm f/4.0 model on offer, presented its users a lot cheaper but very well done ZD 9-18 mm lens.
The three companies with the biggest market share were the most unyielding in that question. Sony can afford the lack of action as it owns shares in Tamron. Canon perhaps doesn’t have to do anything because its EF-S 10-22 mm is a very well done lens; by the way the company seems to focus its productive capacities on full frame, leaving the small APS-C sensor and designed for it EF-S lenses mainly to amateurs. That’s why I was very interested in Nikon’s move because its situation in this question wasn’t easy at all.
Firstly, it would be appropriate if Nikon showed something new, something of the Canon 10-22 mm class, with a similar range and similar or even better optical properties. The problem is that such a lens would beat the Nikkor 12-24 mm hands down so it has to be a bit more expensive too. Here the second problem arises. If the competitors sell lenses for about 450-700 $ nobody will buy a wide angle lens from Nikon for more than 1000 $. On the other hand, if Nikon decides to offer its customers an optically new and cheap model, nobody will buy an older 12-24 mm anymore.
The digressions partially ended in the moment of launching the Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24 mm f/3.5-4.5G ED, which took place in June 2009, together with the launch of the D5000 reflex camera. We already know that the new lens has the focal length range wider that its predecessor and it is indeed a bit cheaper. Will it also be optically better? How will it stand comparison with such rivals as a Canon 10-22 mm or a Tamron 10-24 mm? Let’s find out!
The lens was lent for the tests courtesy of the Cyfrowe.pl shop.
Information about our review method can be read in our article “How do we test lenses?"