..and half the price. Diglloyd (paid site, but well worth its modest price) evaluated the 24-120/F4 and commented on its mediocre performance and concluded that he did not consider the lens to be of professional grade, although it is priced as one.
As we know, the sharpness of zoom lenses can vary a lot at different focal lengths, with a tendency for the lenses to get softer towards the long end of the zoom, especially with the cheaper zooms.
Being aware of this fact, and whether or not it applies to one's own copy of a particular zoom lens, can help one choose the best aperture when lens sharpness is a priority.
Whilst I've been aware that my Nikkor 24-120 is a bit soft at 120mm, and particularly 120mm and F4, I didn't realise it was quite as bad as the Photozone test charts show. The possibility that this lens is actually sharper at 120mm and F11
, than it is at 120mm and F4 was a bit of a surprise. It looks as though the lens could be as sharp at F13 as it is at F4.
Nevertheless, it's good to know that this lens is still reasonably sharp at F5.6 and F8, above 50mm, having a slight edge at F5.6. In fact, it seems there is no focal length where this lens is not sharpest at either F4 or F5.6, according to Photozone's tests using the D3X.
In circumstances where edge performance and a greater DoF count for more than a barely-noticeably increase in sharpness in the centre, F8 would be my preferred aperture at 120mm.
But here other trade-offs come into play. If the lens is sharp, whether zoom or prime, but doesn't have IS or VR, that extra sharpness may not be realised much of the time.
The sharpest lenses are usually prime lenses, but again, if the composition doesn't require that exact focal length, and one needs to crop the image in post processing, then the potential advantage of image sharpness, that the prime lens usually has, may not only be lost, but a cheaper zoom may produce sharper results.
The Nikkor 24-85 VR appears to be at least as good, and probably slightly better than the 24-120 within the same range of focal lengths, but I ask myself whether I want to carry that extra weight of at least 1/2 a kilogram for the 24-85 plus the 70-200/F4 (about 1.3kg compared with the 740gms of the 24-120) when the extra reach I get is only 200mm as opposed to 120mm.
I'm beginning to think that the Tamron 70-300 VC, with D3200 body attached, will provide a more useful increase in performance. The combined weight will be no more than the combined weight of the 24-85 and 70-200/F4, and the cost will be significantly less.
A 70-300 on the cropped-format D3200 becomes effectively a 105-450mm zoom, which merges quite well with the 24-120 on the FF D800E, with a small overlap. I can carry two cameras and avoid the need to change lenses, except when I need the ultra-wide-angle 14-24.
Now one might speculate that the 36mp full frame D800E will be sharper and more detailed around 105-120mm, using the 24-120/F4 on the D800E, than a 24mp D3200 image from the Tamron used between 70mm and 80mm.
I doubt that this would be the case, considering that the Tamron lens has its best performance around 70mm, and the 24-120 its worst performance around 100mm. Also, the cropped format, when used with a full-frame lens, produces significantly better edge performance.
Right at the moment, this is the option that appeals to me the most.