Lens review

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-120 mm f/4G ED VR

31 January 2011
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality and image stabilization

This chapter starts with a comparison between the tested lens, its predecessor and rivals, presented in the following chart. Compared to its predecessor the new instrument is faster so the dimensions of its front element and the diameter of its filter thread increased. The aperture got as many as nine diaphragm blades and the minimum focus distance decreased to 0.45 of a meter. The new Nikkor is hardly the most complex instrument when it comes to optics but still it is significantly heavier than all the other lenses presented in the chart.

In the photo below the Nikkor AF-S 24–120 mm f/4G ED VR is positioned between the Nikkor AF-S 24–70 mm f/2.8G and the Sigma 1.4/30.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-120 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

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The mere fact that the lens was produced in Thailand indicates that its producer placed it in a segment lower than that of Nikon’s best optics which is still manufactured in Japan. It surprises us a bit because the price reaching 1140 $ definitely doesn’t belong to the lowest. The place of production doesn’t have to mean a lens is badly made, after all. It starts with a metal mount which surrounds the rear element, 27 mm in diameter. At 24 mm that element is placed on the same level as the mount’s contacts. When we pass to 120 mm the element hides about three centimeters inside the barrel.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-120 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

On the barrel we see the VR mark which means the image stabilization system has been used here. On the left there are three switches: M/A-M – which allows us to choose the focusing mechanism working mode, VR ON/OFF, responsible for switching the stabilization on and off and NORMAL/ACTIVE – used to choose the mode of the VR mechanism.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-120 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Then there is a manual focus ring. Unfortunately we can’t write a lot of good about it. It is ribbed but narrow - only 9 mm wide. Typically for Nikkors of lower level there are some slacks – it means that moving the ring by 2 mm you can’t notice any shift of distance scale and elements. Momentarily precise settings are very difficult to get. A small movement range doesn’t help here either – running through the whole distance scale takes only a 90-degree turn.

Behind the manual focus ring we see a distance scale, expressed in meters and feet, behind a window. The scale is surrounded by a plate with the name of the lens and two symbols: ED and N. They mean low-dispersion glass and Nano Crystal Coat layers were used. Even further on there is a zoom ring; it is comfortable for a change - ribbed and 3 cm wide. In the 24-50 mm range it moves a bit heavier than in the 50-120 mm range.

The increase of the focal length of the lens makes the set of front elements extend on a telescopic inner tube. What’s interesting the first element of that tube is made of metal and the second one –of plastic. Passing from 24 mm to 120 mm we noticed the lens increases its dimensions to almost 15 cm. The front element remains immobile during focusing and zooming so it guarantees a seamless cooperation with filters of different kinds which should be 77 mm in diameter. The front element itself is as big as 62 mm in diameter and is set very near the rim of the casing.

When it comes to the inner construction of the lens the producer didn’t stint on anything. We deal here with 17 elements positioned in 13 groups, two low-dispersion ED glass elements, three aspherical elements among them and a nano crystal coat. Inside we can also find an aperture with nine diaphragm blades which can be closed maximally to the value of f/22.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-120 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The buyer gets both caps, a petal-type hood and a soft case included in box.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-120 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization


The producer boasts of using the newest optical stabilization module, VR II, which efficiency is supposed to reach 4 EV. Of course we decided to check these claims. At 120 mm focal length we took several dozens of photos for all exposure times ranging from 1/125 to 1/3 of a second with the stabilization on and off. Then for every exposure time we determined the percentage of blurred photos and we presented it as an exposure time function graph, expressed in EV ( 0 EV is here the equivalent of 1/80 of a second).

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-120 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The maximum distance between two curves is the measure of stabilization efficiency. In this case it amounts to 3 EV. It is a bit short of these declared 4 EV but still 3 EV is a good result so we shouldn’t complain a lot here.