Nikon 24-120mm f/4 vs. Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8: The Ultimate Lens Showdown for Every Photography Enthusiast

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Are you a passionate photographer searching for the perfect lens to elevate your work and capture stunning images across a variety of genres?

You’re in the right place, as we dive deep into a detailed comparison of two remarkable lenses: the versatile Nikon 24-120mm f/4 and the sharp Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8.

These lenses cater to a wide range of photography styles, from breathtaking landscapes and captivating portraits to dynamic events and low-light masterpieces.

By exploring the unique strengths and weaknesses of each lens, we’ll help you make an informed decision and ultimately enhance your photographic prowess.

So, buckle up and get ready to immerse yourself in the fascinating world of camera lenses, as we reveal the secrets to unlocking your full creative potential!


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
Max ApertureF4.0F2.8
Aperture TypeFixedFixed
Focal Range (mm)24-12024-70
Mount TypeNikon F (FX)Nikon F (FX)
Max Format35mm FF35mm FF
Zoom Ratio (X)52.9

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 has a maximum aperture of f/4.0, a fixed aperture type, and a 5.0x zoom ratio, covering a focal range of 24-120mm. It is compatible with the Nikon F (FX) mount and works with 35mm full-frame format. The larger focal range of this lens makes it versatile, suitable for various photography genres and situations, such as travel, events, or sports photography.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a larger maximum aperture of f/2.8, also featuring a fixed aperture type. This lens has a 2.9x zoom ratio and covers a focal range of 24-70mm. It is also compatible with the Nikon F (FX) mount and works with 35mm full-frame format. The larger aperture of this lens allows for better low light performance, a shallower depth of field for better subject isolation, and improved overall image quality.

In summary, the 24-120mm lens offers more versatility with its broader focal range, making it suitable for a wider variety of photographic situations. However, the 24-70mm lens provides better low light performance and image quality due to its larger maximum aperture.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀84×103.5mm⌀88×154.5mm
Weight (gr)7101070
Filter Thread (mm)7782
Weather SealingNoYes
Zoom MethodRotary (extending)Rotary (internal)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes
Hood CodeHB-53HB-74

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 has a diameter of 84mm and a length of 103.5mm, weighing 710 grams. This lens utilizes a rotary (extending) zoom method, which means it physically extends when you zoom in or out. The smaller size and lighter weight of this lens make it more portable and easier to carry around, especially when traveling or walking around for extended periods. However, the extending design might make it more difficult to achieve effective weather sealing, and the camera’s balance can change while zooming.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a larger diameter of 88mm and a length of 154.5mm, weighing 1070 grams. This lens features a rotary (internal) zoom method, meaning the lens does not change its physical size when you zoom in or out, as the lens elements move internally. The internal zoom method provides consistent balance while zooming, and it’s typically easier to weather-seal. However, the 24-70mm lens is heavier and larger than the 24-120mm lens, making it less portable and potentially more challenging to handle during longer shoots.

In conclusion, if portability, size, and weight are your primary concerns, the 24-120mm lens may be the superior choice. On the other hand, if you value consistent balance and weather sealing, the 24-70mm lens might be more suitable.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 has a lens mount made of chromed brass, featuring a rubber dust and moisture gasket surrounding the metal mount. However, the lens itself is not weather-sealed. The lens barrel is made mainly of black polycarbonate, resulting in a solid construction and well-finished design. When you zoom from 24mm to 120mm, the front of the lens extends from 10.4 cm to 15 cm. The barrel feels well-built and doesn’t wobble, making it suitable for regular use.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a metal lens mount that is weather-sealed with an O-ring to limit dust and water entering the camera. The lens barrel is made of a mix of high-quality plastic and metal, with a rubberized texture finish, which provides a balance between weight, durability, and cost.

When comparing lens barrels, the 24-120mm lens is primarily made of polycarbonate, which is lighter and more affordable but may be less durable than the mixed materials found in the 24-70mm lens.

In conclusion, if durability is important to you, the 24-70mm lens is the better option. However, if you value a lighter and more budget-friendly option, the 24-120mm lens might be more suitable.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features a rubber gasket at the lens mount, providing basic dust protection. However, it lacks internal seals at the rings, switches, and front of the barrel, making it less suitable for challenging weather conditions.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is designed to resist water, dust, and smudges. It has a rubber grommet seal at the lens mount to limit dust and water entering the camera, as well as internal seals at the rings, switches, and front of the barrel. These features help ensure that the lens is well-protected from harsh weather conditions. However, it’s important to remember that extreme weather conditions can still cause issues, so the lens should not be exposed to drastic changes in temperature.

In conclusion, the 24-70mm lens offers superior weather sealing compared to the 24-120mm lens. If you frequently shoot in challenging environments or unpredictable conditions, the 24-70mm lens would be a better choice, providing additional protection for your equipment and peace of mind. However, if weather sealing is not a top priority for you, the 24-120mm lens could still be a suitable option, depending on your specific needs and shooting preferences.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features two rings: a zoom ring and a focus ring. The 30mm wide zoom ring is situated directly behind the front element and has a deeply ridged rubber grip, offering smooth rotation through roughly one quarter of a turn to span the focal length range of 24mm to 120mm.

The focus ring, however, is made of plastic and located at the back of the lens. Its ribbed texture is not as smooth to rotate, and there is noticeable play between external movement and internal focusing, which may result in imprecise manual focusing. The lens has a windowed distance scale but lacks a depth-of-field indicator.

Conversely, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 also has two rings: a rubberized zoom ring at the rear and a manual focus ring towards the front. The zoom ring provides a great tactile feel and smooth rotation with slight resistance, allowing for precise control when zooming.

The focus ring is narrower with thinner rubber ribs but is equally grippy and smooth in operation. The lens features a windowed distance scale with marks in both feet and meters but lacks an IR or DOF markings on the focus indicator.

In conclusion, the 24-70mm lens offers superior ring design compared to the 24-120mm lens. Its rings provide better ergonomics, precision, control, and overall handling, making it a more attractive option for photographers who require a lens with smooth and precise adjustments. The 24-120mm lens may still be suitable for some users, but its focus ring design could be a disadvantage for those who rely on manual focusing.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features three slider switches situated between the focusing ring and the camera body. The top switch enables users to control focusing by toggling between M/A and M positions, with M/A allowing autofocus and manual focus override by simply grabbing the focus ring.

The middle switch manages the Vibration Reduction (VR) system to compensate for unintentional movement, while the bottom switch alternates between Normal and Active VR modes. These switches are conveniently placed for easy access with the user’s thumb, allowing for seamless adjustments while keeping hands on the camera.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has two switches located on the side of the barrel, including the AF/MF switch for toggling between autofocus and manual operation with minimal time lag, and the VR switch for adjusting between Off, Normal, or Active VR modes. Although these switches are clearly labeled, their identical touch might make it challenging to quickly identify the desired switch when relying solely on tactile feedback.

In conclusion, the 24-120mm lens offers a superior switch/button configuration due to its distinct and easily accessible switches, providing users with a more intuitive and efficient experience when making adjustments. While the 24-70mm lens has similar features, the identical feel of its switches could cause confusion and slower adjustments in fast-paced situations.

Filter Thread

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 boasts a 77mm filter thread, which is a standard size for most professional lenses. This metal filter thread does not rotate during focusing due to its internal focusing system, making it compatible with polarizers and other filters. However, vignetting may occur in the corners when using thick filters at shorter focal lengths. To prevent this issue, it’s advisable to use slim versions of polarizing filters.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 features an 82mm filter thread size, which is larger than its predecessor and necessitates bigger filters. Similar to the 24-120mm lens, it has an internal focusing mechanism that keeps the filter position fixed during focusing, making it more convenient to use with specific filters like circular polarizers or graduated neutral density filters.

In conclusion, both lenses have their advantages when it comes to filter threads. The 24-120mm lens with its standard 77mm size provides greater compatibility with commonly available filters, while the 24-70mm lens offers a larger 82mm filter thread size that may provide better image quality and less vignetting when using larger filters.

Lens Hood

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 comes with a petal-shaped HB-53 lens hood that features a ribbed inner surface, which helps prevent light reflections and maintain image contrast. This lens hood attaches to the filter thread and is optimized for wide-angle distances. It can be reversed for storage and is made of a plastic bayonet material, adding an additional 4 cm to the lens’s length.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 includes a plastic petal-style HB-74 lens hood. This lens hood has a lock mechanism that ensures a secure fit, unlike some hoods that rely on rotation. The hood can also be reversed for storage and has a deep design to combat lens flare and protect the front element. The hood attachment bayonet is located just forward of the gold stripe on the barrel, and although its coverage at 24mm is minimal, it doesn’t need to be readjusted while zooming due to the inner barrel design.

In conclusion, both lens hoods are well-designed and serve their purpose effectively. The 24-120mm lens hood’s ribbed inner surface provides an edge in reducing light reflections and maintaining image contrast. However, the 24-70mm lens hood offers a more secure fit with its lock mechanism and better overall protection due to its deeper design. Your choice depends on the importance of light reflection prevention and secure attachment for your photography needs.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorSilent Wave Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.45m0.41m(24,28,70mm);0.38m(35-50mm)
Max Magnification (X)0.240.27
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features a Silent Wave Motor, providing quiet autofocus operation. Its focusing speed is relatively fast, taking 0.8 seconds to go from infinity to 0.45m and 0.5 seconds from infinity to 0.85m. It can focus accurately in most situations, but may struggle with tracking fast-moving subjects. Manual focus override is available at all times, and the lens has an internally focusing design that keeps the length constant regardless of focus and zoom settings.

However, manual focus action is not as smooth due to some play in the coupling with the actual focus unit, which may cause challenges when achieving critical focus. Performance in low-light situations may exhibit some hunting, particularly with low-contrast subjects or close-ups, and focusing may be slightly slower in these conditions.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 boasts snappy and quick autofocus performance, easily acquiring subjects and shifting focus. Its AF-S drive is virtually silent and barely audible, making it suitable for video recording. The autofocus accuracy is excellent in both daylight and low-light conditions, and the lens features a focus ring with no slack, allowing for easy manual focus override. Its internally focusing design ensures that the front element doesn’t rotate during focusing and eliminates focus breathing.

In conclusion, the 24-70mm lens offers superior focusing performance compared to the 24-120mm lens. With its faster and more accurate autofocus, virtually silent operation, and smoother manual focus override, the 24-70mm lens is better suited for various shooting scenarios, particularly those involving fast-moving subjects or challenging lighting conditions.

Optical Stabilization

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 is equipped with Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, offering up to 4 stops of camera shake compensation. This VR II image stabilizer has two modes, Normal and Active, with Normal compensating for quick, small vibrations and Active handling both fast and slow movements. The stabilization effect is visible through the viewfinder in both modes, and the lens operates quietly during autofocus. The VR II system delivers sharp images at slow shutter speeds, making it particularly useful for low-light photography.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 also features optical stabilization (VR) with up to 4 stops of longer exposure times, resulting in solid image stabilization performance even at slower shutter speeds. This lens has both Normal and Active modes of stabilization, driven by a fast and virtually silent AF-S drive. The VR system operates silently and effectively, enabling crisp handheld shots at shutter speeds as long as 1/5-second when shooting at 70mm.

In conclusion, both the 24-120mm and 24-70mm lenses offer comparable optical stabilization performance with up to 4 stops of shake compensation, as well as Normal and Active stabilization modes.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
Special Elements2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses, Nano Crystal coat3 aspherical and 2 ED elements + nano crystal and fluorine coatings
Diaphragm Blades99
Circular ApertureyesYes


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 exhibits noticeable lateral chromatic aberration, especially within the 24-50mm range, appearing as purple or blue fringes along high-contrast edges, particularly in the corners. Despite this, chromatic aberration is relatively easy to correct in post-processing using software like Lightroom or Photoshop.

This lens does not display significant axial chromatic aberration, as it doesn’t have an extreme aperture. With good sharpness, contrast, and color reproduction, these aberrations don’t pose significant issues. Stopping down the aperture can help minimize chromatic aberration and enhance overall image quality.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 shows varying levels of chromatic aberration. Lateral chromatic aberration is particularly high at 35mm, with peak values above 3 pixels at image borders. Longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCA) is also present, displaying weak magenta coloration in the foreground and greenish hues in the background.

However, chromatic aberration can be easily corrected in post-production. The lens exhibits some coma in the FX corner at different apertures and focal lengths during night shots, but it’s not significant. There is no significant spherochromatism, and out-of-focus highlights remain reasonably neutral.

In conclusion, both lenses display chromatic aberration, with the 24-70mm lens having more pronounced LoCA, while the 24-120mm lens experiences noticeable lateral chromatic aberration. However, since chromatic aberration can be easily corrected in post-processing for both lenses, this shouldn’t be a major concern.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 demonstrates excellent center sharpness, particularly at shorter focal lengths when stopped down to at least f/5.6. Corner sharpness improves as the aperture is stopped down, with the best performance typically seen between f/5.6 and f/8. However, at the longest focal length of 120mm, there’s a significant drop in resolution, with corners lacking sharpness even when stopped down.

The overall sharpness across the frame is best achieved by stopping down the aperture to f/8 or f/11, while diffraction might cause a slight decrease in sharpness at f/16 and f/22. The sharpness at wide open apertures varies depending on the focal length, being generally good at shorter focal lengths and weaker at longer ones.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 displays varying degrees of sharpness based on focal length and aperture. Center sharpness is typically very good across the range, with slightly softer results at the widest aperture. The most significant drop in sharpness occurs at 50mm and above, mostly affecting corners.

Stopping down to f/5.6 yields the sharpest results overall. The lens performs well with a teleconverter, although there might be a slight loss in sharpness. The sharpest aperture generally falls between f/5.6 and f/8, depending on the focal length.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit good sharpness, but the 24-70mm lens maintains more consistent center sharpness across the range, while the 24-120mm lens experiences a more significant drop in sharpness at longer focal lengths. When considering overall sharpness, the 24-70mm lens appears to be superior, offering more consistent performance across various focal lengths and apertures.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 creates a bokeh that is generally smooth and pleasant, especially at longer focal lengths. However, there can be some outlining in the foreground and background, resulting in a somewhat nervous effect.

Background highlights maintain their circular shape throughout the aperture range but may exhibit some outlining when the aperture is wide open. Although the bokeh quality might not be exceptional, it is still adequate for many situations, particularly for close-up work with the f/4 aperture setting.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 delivers decent bokeh, but it is not outstanding. The transition zone and background blur can exhibit some nervousness, and there may be outlining and cat’s eye shapes due to mechanical vignetting at large apertures.

Additionally, bokeh fringing might be present at the edges. Nevertheless, the lens can produce three-dimensional images where the sharp subject seems to pop out of the softer backgrounds. For better bokeh quality, it is recommended to use a dedicated portrait lens.

In conclusion, neither of the lenses excel in bokeh quality, but the 24-120mm lens appears to provide a smoother and more pleasant bokeh, particularly at longer focal lengths. The 24-70mm lens has the potential to create a more three-dimensional effect but can also display more nervousness and mechanical vignetting. Therefore, if bokeh quality is a priority, the 24-120mm lens might be the superior option.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 demonstrates mixed results in terms of flare and ghosting, despite the Nano Crystal Coat. Flare and ghosting are not entirely eliminated, and careful positioning of the sun within the frame is necessary to minimize these effects. Using filters might introduce additional flare and ghosting. However, when the lens is stopped down, ghosting and flare are controlled effectively, and in some cases, they might not be present at all.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 offers good resistance to flare and ghosting, particularly when the light source is outside the image frame. Nevertheless, when the light is near the image corner but still outside the frame, it can provoke some flare. Although the lens features a Nano Crystal Coat to reduce flares and ghosting, shooting against the sun might still result in some artifacts. The amount of ghosting and flare depends on the bright light source’s position within the frame, and careful placement can help eliminate these issues. The lens is relatively resistant to flare, but some modest spots with veiling flare might appear with very bright lights inside the image area.

To conclude, the 24-70mm lens has superior flare and ghosting resistance compared to the 24-120mm lens. While neither lens completely eliminates these issues, the 24-70mm lens manages them more effectively, particularly when the light source is outside the image frame. However, both lenses may require careful positioning of the light source to minimize flare and ghosting.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 exhibits noticeable vignetting at 24mm when shot wide open, with dark corners reaching over 3 EV at f/4. However, stopping down the aperture significantly reduces vignetting at all focal lengths. Vignetting is less visible at 35mm, marginally more pronounced at 50mm, and slightly reappears at 85mm. As you zoom, the effect decreases, and the camera can correct dimmed corners when shooting JPGs, making uniform illumination less problematic. Overall, while the lens does have some vignetting, it can be easily corrected with post-processing or camera settings.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 experiences vignetting, which is more pronounced at wider apertures and shorter focal lengths. The amount of vignetting is stronger than its predecessor, but stopping down the aperture significantly reduces it. At f/5.6, vignetting is still visible but becomes mostly ignorable from that point onwards. Correcting vignetting in post-processing software is also an option, allowing for easy adjustments with a single click.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit vignetting, but the 24-70mm lens appears to have slightly superior control over this issue when compared to the 24-120mm lens, especially when stopping down the aperture. However, both lenses can have their vignetting easily corrected through post-processing software or camera settings, depending on the photographer’s preferences.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 displays noticeable distortion, with barrel distortion at the shortest 24mm zoom setting and pincushion distortion in the 35-120mm sector. However, the distortion is fairly uniform in nature and easy to correct in post-processing.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 exhibits varying degrees of distortion at different focal lengths, with the most noticeable barrel distortion at 24mm and pincushion distortion at 35-70mm. The distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing software like Lightroom, and Nikon may have allowed for more distortion in order to achieve better sharpness in the corners. While distortion may be a concern for some photographers, it is not a major issue and can be easily corrected.

In conclusion, both lenses experience distortion at different focal lengths; however, the 24-120mm lens seems to have a more uniform distortion profile. Both lenses can easily have their distortion corrected using post-processing software. Given the uniformity of distortion in the 24-120mm lens, it has a slight edge over the 24-70mm lens in terms of distortion control.

Final Verdict

After carefully comparing the two lenses, it is evident that each one has its strengths and weaknesses, making them suitable for different photography genres and priorities.

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 offers more versatility with its broader focal range, which is ideal for travel, portait, and event photography. It has a smoother bokeh, better distortion control, and a lighter, budget-friendly design. However, it is less suitable for low-light situations and has mixed results in flare/ghosting resistance, vignetting control, and overall sharpness.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 provides better low-light performance and image quality, making it suitable for landscape, event, weddings, and studio work. It offers superior weather sealing, durability, focusing performance, ring design, and more consistent sharpness. Its drawbacks include less versatility in focal length, inferior bokeh quality, and a heavier, more expensive design.

In summary, if you require a versatile, lightweight lens for various photography genres and prioritize bokeh and distortion control, the 24-120mm lens would be a better choice. However, if you need a lens with better low-light performance, weather sealing, durability, focusing performance, and consistent sharpness, the 24-70mm lens would be the more suitable option. Consider your specific needs, shooting preferences, and budget when making your final decision.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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