Nikon 24-120mm f/4 vs. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2: The Definitive Showdown for Aspiring Photography Legends

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Are you a passionate photographer exploring the world of high-performance lenses to elevate your creative expression? If so, join us as we delve into an in-depth comparison of two remarkable lenses: the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 and the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2. These lenses cater to photographers with diverse needs and styles, from landscape and travel enthusiasts to wedding and portrait professionals.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll scrutinize every aspect of these lenses, uncovering their strengths and weaknesses to guide you in making an informed decision. Learn how their unique features, such as the Nikon’s broader zoom range and the Tamron’s larger aperture, cater to different photography genres and preferences. We’ll also examine crucial elements like sharpness, bokeh quality, autofocus, weather sealing, and more, providing valuable insights that will help you make the most of your photography journey.

So, buckle up, and let’s embark on this fascinating comparison adventure that will enrich your knowledge and empower you to capture those breathtaking moments with confidence and finesse.


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRTamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 Nikon F (FX)
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, while the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 boasts a larger f/2.8 aperture. This means that the Tamron lens can allow more light into the camera, potentially offering better low light performance and a shallower depth of field for better subject isolation.

However, the Nikon lens has a more extensive focal range of 24-120mm compared to the Tamron’s 24-70mm, providing more versatility in framing and composition. Both lenses have a fixed aperture and are designed for the Nikon F (FX) mount, compatible with 35mm full-frame cameras.

In terms of zoom ratio, the Nikon lens has a 5.0x zoom compared to the Tamron’s 2.9x, giving it a more significant range of focal lengths. So, the Nikon lens might be better suited for photographers who require greater versatility in focal lengths, while the Tamron lens could be the preferred choice for those who prioritize low light performance and subject isolation due to its larger aperture.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRTamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 Nikon F (FX)
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀84×103.5mm⌀88×111mm
Weight (gr)710900
Filter Thread (mm)7782
Weather SealingNoYes
Zoom MethodRotary (extending)Rotary (extending)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 measures ⌀84×103.5mm in diameter and length and weighs 710 grams, while the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 is slightly larger and heavier at ⌀88×111mm and 900 grams. Both lenses use a rotary (extending) zoom method.

A more compact and lightweight lens, such as the Nikon lens, offers better portability, making it easier to carry around for extended periods. This can be especially beneficial when traveling or shooting for long durations. The lighter weight also contributes to a better balance in the camera setup, leading to improved handling and comfort during shooting.

On the other hand, the Tamron lens, being slightly larger and heavier, might make the camera feel more front-heavy and unbalanced. However, the difference in size and weight might not be significant enough to cause considerable discomfort or difficulties in handling.

In terms of the zoom method, both lenses employ an extending rotary zoom mechanism. This design tends to be simpler and potentially more affordable, but it can also make the lens more challenging to weather-seal and cause the camera’s balance to change while zooming.

In conclusion, if portability, balance, and discreetness are more important, the Nikon lens might be the better choice due to its smaller size and lighter weight. However, if the difference in size and weight is not a critical factor, other aspects such as image quality, focal length, and aperture should be considered when choosing between the Nikon and Tamron lenses.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features a chromed brass lens mount, which is sturdy but not weather-sealed, while the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 has a metal lens mount with a rubber gasket for added weather resistance. In terms of lens barrel, the Nikon lens is constructed mainly from black polycarbonate, which is lightweight and affordable, but possibly less durable than metal. The Tamron lens combines metal and thick plastic materials for a more robust construction.

Comparing the lens mounts, the Tamron lens has an edge with its weather sealing, offering more protection against moisture and dust. Regarding the lens barrels, the Nikon lens, being lighter, may be more suitable for those prioritizing portability. However, the Tamron lens, with its combination of metal and thick plastic materials, offers a more durable and professional feel.

In conclusion, the Nikon lens may be more appealing for those seeking portability, while the Tamron lens is better suited for photographers valuing durability and weather resistance.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 offers basic dust protection with a rubber gasket at the lens mount, but lacks internal seals at rings, switches, and the front of the barrel. On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 provides comprehensive weather sealing, with a gasket at the lens mount, internal seals at crucial parts, and a fluorine coating on the front element to repel grease, moisture, and dirt.

Weather sealing is essential for photographers who shoot in harsh environments or unpredictable conditions, as it provides protection against dust, moisture, and light water splashes. Fully weather-sealed lenses offer better durability, performance, and protection in challenging environments, while non-sealed lenses may require additional precautions.

In conclusion, the Tamron lens has superior weather sealing compared to the Nikon lens, making it more suitable for photographers who frequently shoot outdoors or in adverse conditions. The enhanced protection offered by the Tamron lens can safeguard your investment and ensure optimal performance, providing peace of mind when capturing images in various environments.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 has two rings, a focus ring and a zoom ring. The zoom ring is located near the front element, featuring a deeply ridged rubber grip for easy handling. It rotates through approximately one quarter of a turn to span the 24-120mm focal length range.

The focus ring, made of plastic with a ribbed texture, is at the back of the lens. The rotation is somewhat rough, and there is a noticeable gap between the external movement and the internal focus, resulting in less accuracy when manually focusing.

In contrast, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 also has two rings: a focus ring and a zoom ring. The zoom ring is closer to the front of the lens, occupying a good portion of the barrel, and turns smoothly with marked focal lengths. It has a lock at 24mm to prevent barrel creep.

The focus ring, closer to the camera, is narrower and covered in rubber. It turns smoothly with some resistance, allowing for fine adjustments. The Tamron lens features an Internal Focusing (IF) design, so its length does not change during focusing, but it does extend when zooming.

The Tamron lens provides smoother operation, better precision and control, and a lock feature on the zoom ring. This makes it superior in terms of ring design compared to the Nikon lens, offering photographers a better experience when making adjustments during shooting sessions.


Between the camera body and the focusing ring, there are three slider switches installed on the Nikon 24-120mm f/4. The top switch controls focusing, offering M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual focus) positions.

One of the three switches on the lens is dedicated to controlling the Vibration Reduction (VR) system that helps to counteract unintended camera shake. Meanwhile, the lowermost switch provides an option to switch between Normal and Active VR modes. These switches are conveniently positioned for easy access with the user’s thumb, enabling smooth adjustments without removing hands from the camera.

On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 features two thoughtfully designed switches on the barrel, which control the AF/MF (Autofocus/Manual Focus) and VC (Vibration Compensation) functions. The AF/MF switch facilitates switching between autofocus and manual focus modes, with a full-time manual override always available.

The VC switch enables or disables the Vibration Compensation system, useful for stabilizing images, particularly when shooting handheld. These switches are easy to locate and operate, designed with a low profile to prevent accidental activation. They move with a precise, definite click, ensuring a reliable and comfortable user experience.

Considering the switch design and functionality, both lenses provide a convenient and user-friendly experience. However, the Tamron lens has an edge with its low-profile design, reducing the chances of accidental activation, and offering a precise clicking mechanism, enhancing user confidence during operation.

Filter Thread

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features a 77mm filter thread, a standard size for many professional lenses. The filter thread on the lens is made of metal and doesn’t rotate during focusing, thanks to the internal focusing system. This feature enables the lens to be used with polarizers and other filters without any compatibility issues. However, using thick filters at shorter focal lengths may cause vignetting in the corners, so using slim polarizing filters is recommended to avoid this issue.

On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 has an 82mm filter thread, which is larger than the standard 77mm size, potentially necessitating the purchase of new filters. The filter thread is also made of metal and does not rotate while focusing, thanks to the rear focus design, allowing for easy use with filters. When employing a filter holder system, it’s important to ensure compatibility with the 82mm size using an appropriate adapter.

Taking into account compatibility, availability, and cost, the Nikon lens’s 77mm filter thread offers a more versatile and cost-effective option for photographers who may already own filters in that size. The Tamron lens’s 82mm filter thread may require additional investment in new filters, but it could be advantageous for those seeking minimal vignetting and a wider range of filter options.

Lens Hood

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 comes with a petal-shaped HB-53 lens hood, featuring a ribbed inner surface that effectively prevents light reflections. Designed for wide-angle distances, the hood can be reversed onto the lens for storage. The lens hood and cap are both made of plastic bayonet, extending the lens by an additional 4 cm.

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 includes a lens hood made of strong molded plastic with a slight flex, which is advantageous for impact absorption. The interior is mold-ribbed to minimize reflections, and the hood uses a push-button design for easy installation and secure locking. Its ergonomic bevel and design promote natural movement when attaching or detaching.

While both lens hoods offer protection against flare and potential damage, the Tamron lens hood’s push-button design and impact-absorbing construction provide a more secure and user-friendly experience.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRTamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 Nikon F (FX)
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorRing-type ultrasonic
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.45m0.38m
Max Magnification (X)0.240.2
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features a Silent Wave Motor for quiet autofocus operation, with a reasonably fast focusing speed, taking around 0.8 seconds to go from infinity to 0.45m, and 0.5 seconds from infinity to 0.85m. It is accurate in most situations but may struggle with tracking fast-moving subjects. At any time, manual focus override is possible with the lens, but the action may not be entirely smooth due to some play in the coupling mechanism. Low-light performance may exhibit hunting with low-contrast subjects or close-ups.

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 has a quick and quiet autofocus system, taking about 0.4 seconds to focus from infinity to 0.7m at 70mm focal length. It maintains reliable performance in low-light situations, with fast initial autofocus acquisition. The manual focus override is smooth with a 95-degree throw and a rubberized surface for easy handling. However, the lens exhibits some focus breathing, which may affect image magnification at different focusing distances.

While both lenses offer good focusing performance, the Tamron lens has the edge with faster autofocus speed, smoother manual focus action, and better low-light performance. Therefore, the Tamron lens has superior focusing performance in this comparison.

Optical Stabilization

With its Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 provides compensation for camera shake of up to 4 stops. With 2 modes, Normal and Active, it adjusts for small or large vibrations, and the stabilizing effect is visible through the viewfinder. This VR II system is useful for low-light photography, delivering sharp images at slow shutter speeds.

On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 comes with VC (Vibration Compensation) technology, providing around 2.5-3 stops of stabilization, which is slightly less effective than advertised. The stabilization modes can only be changed via the USB-dock and not in the field. The VC system can be optimized with the Tap In Console’s Capture Priority mode, and it demonstrates a clear advantage at shutter speeds of 1/80 sec, 1/40 sec, and 1/20 sec. However, its effectiveness decreases at slower shutter speeds.

In summary, the Nikon lens has a superior optical stabilization system due to its more effective stabilization performance and the ability to switch between modes on the go.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VRTamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 Nikon F (FX)
Special Elements2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses, Nano Crystal coat2 XR, 3 LD, 3 GM aspherical, 1 aspherical elements + eBAND and fluorine coatings
Diaphragm Blades99
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 displays noticeable lateral chromatic aberration, particularly in the 24-50mm range, appearing as purple or blue fringes along contrasting edges. However, this aberration is easy to correct in post-processing, and the lens doesn’t suffer from significant axial chromatic aberration. It demonstrates good sharpness, contrast, and color reproduction, indicating that aberrations aren’t major concerns. Reducing the aperture can further improve image quality.

Conversely, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 exhibits varying levels of chromatic aberration, coma, and spherical aberration depending on focal length and aperture settings. Chromatic aberration is minimal in the center, but may be present in the corners. Coma is more noticeable at wide apertures, while spherical aberration and spherochromatism can cause hazier image quality at wider apertures. Stopping down the lens can help reduce these aberrations, and post-processing can effectively correct them for satisfactory image quality.

In conclusion, the Nikon lens has a slight edge in terms of aberration performance, as it mainly suffers from easily correctable lateral chromatic aberration, while the Tamron lens exhibits a more complex combination of aberrations that may require additional adjustments in both shooting and post-processing.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 exhibits impressive sharpness in the center, particularly at shorter focal lengths and when the aperture is stopped down to f/5.6 or smaller. As the aperture is stopped down further, the corner sharpness also improves, and the optimal performance is achieved at around f/5.6 to f/8.

However, at the longest focal length of 120mm, resolution drops significantly, and corner sharpness remains weak even when stopped down. Stopping down to f/8 or f/11 typically provides the best overall sharpness, while diffraction may cause a slight decrease at f/16 and f/22.

On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 demonstrates varying sharpness levels based on focal length, aperture, and camera resolution. Center sharpness is generally excellent, especially at wider apertures like f/2.8.

Corner sharpness is softer at wider apertures but improves significantly when stopped down. The lens performs best around f/5.6 to f/8, with both center and corner sharpness excelling. However, performance at 70mm is generally weaker, particularly at f/2.8, but improves when stopped down to f/4 or f/5.6.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit strong center sharpness, with the Nikon lens showing slightly better corner sharpness at optimal apertures. However, the Tamron lens demonstrates more consistent performance across various focal lengths and apertures, making it a versatile choice for different shooting scenarios. Based on these factors, the Tamron lens has a slight edge in overall sharpness performance.

Bokeh Quality

At longer focal lengths, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 produces bokeh that is generally pleasant and smooth in appearance. However, some outlining can be seen in the foreground and background, leading to a somewhat nervous effect.

Background highlights maintain their circular shape across the aperture range but may show some outlining at wide-open apertures. While the bokeh quality may not be exceptional, it is suitable for various situations, especially close-up work at the f/4 aperture setting.

In contrast, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 produces mixed bokeh quality, with smoother background bokeh and more nervous foreground bokeh and highlights. The Tamron 24-70mm G2 exhibits improved bokeh compared to its predecessor, with softer, smoother circles and less visible rings.

Some photos may display concentric circles, and the lens may produce a thicker, non-uniform outline and an onion-shaped bokeh due to the aspherical lens elements used. Bokeh quality varies depending on the focal length, with more noticeable outlining at wider angles. Despite these imperfections, the lens provides pleasing bokeh in many situations.

In conclusion, both lenses offer decent bokeh quality with some imperfections. The Nikon lens delivers smoother, more consistent bokeh, particularly at longer focal lengths, while the Tamron lens shows some improvements over its previous version but still has noticeable inconsistencies. Overall, the Nikon lens has a slight edge in bokeh quality, making it a better choice for photographers seeking pleasing background blur in their images.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 produces mixed results regarding flare and ghosting, even though it features Nano Crystal Coat. Although the lens is not entirely free of flare and ghosting, careful attention to the position of the sun within the frame can help reduce these effects. The use of filters may increase the occurrence of flare and ghosting. However, when the aperture is stopped down, both ghosting and flare are typically well-controlled, and may not appear at all.

On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 exhibits flare and ghosting, particularly when a strong light source is within or near the frame. These effects are more pronounced at longer focal lengths, while shorter focal lengths yield less severe flare and ghosting, as well as more defined sun-stars when stopped down.

The Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC G2 is less prone to flare and ghosting in backlit photography due to specialized, high-quality glass materials and Tamron’s exclusive nanotechnology-based eBAND Coating. However, some circular ghosting may still occur at smaller apertures. In night shots, the lens faces additional challenges but produces only very minor flare effects when the sun is in the corner of the frame and the aperture is narrow.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit flare and ghosting to some extent, with the Nikon lens demonstrating better control when stopped down. The Tamron lens benefits from high-quality glass materials and coatings that reduce flare and ghosting in backlit photography, but it still struggles with circular ghosting at smaller apertures. Considering these factors, the Nikon lens has a slight advantage in controlling flare and ghosting, making it the superior choice for photographers concerned about these issues.


When shot wide open at 24mm, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 shows noticeable vignetting, with dark corners reaching over 3 EV at f/4. However, as the lens is stopped down, vignetting significantly decreases at all focal lengths. The effect lessens as you zoom, and the camera can correct dimmed corners when shooting JPGs, making uniformity of illumination less of an issue. Although the lens does exhibit some vignetting, it can be conveniently corrected through post-processing or camera settings.

In contrast, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 displays noticeable peripheral shading at its widest apertures on full-frame cameras, with the strongest shading occurring at 24mm. At 24mm f/2.8, corners can darken by just over 2.5 stops, while at other focal lengths, the darkening is about 2 stops. Stopping down to f/4 reduces shading by about 1 stop, and at f/5.6 and narrower apertures, the remaining vignetting ranges from 1.5 stops at 24mm down to 0.5 stops at 70mm.

On APS-C sensor format cameras, peripheral shading is unlikely to be noticeable, regardless of the aperture and focal length used. This performance is fairly typical for a lens of its type, and vignetting can be easily corrected during post-processing.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit vignetting to varying degrees, with the Nikon lens showing more vignetting at 24mm but less at other focal lengths. The Tamron lens has more consistent vignetting performance across its focal range. However, since vignetting in both lenses can be easily corrected with post-processing or camera settings, the difference in vignetting performance is relatively minor.


The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 experiences noticeable distortion, with barrel distortion evident at the shortest 24mm zoom setting and pincushion distortion from 35-120mm. Despite this, the distortion is fairly uniform and can be easily corrected in post-processing.

On the other hand, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 displays varying levels of distortion depending on the focal length. At 24mm, moderate barrel distortion of 3.4% is present, though it remains relatively manageable. Distortion becomes less noticeable at 35mm and 50mm, transitioning into slight pincushion distortion. By 70mm, pincushion distortion increases to a more pronounced 1.2%. Like the Nikon lens, distortion in the Tamron lens can be corrected using post-processing software such as Adobe Lightroom.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit distortion, with the Nikon lens displaying a more uniform distortion pattern and the Tamron lens having varying levels of distortion depending on focal length. While the Nikon lens may have a more predictable distortion pattern, both lenses can have their distortion easily corrected in post-processing.

Final Verdict

Upon analyzing the performance of both the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 and Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 across various factors, it becomes clear that each lens has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, rendering them appropriate for diverse photography genres and individual preferences.

The Nikon lens is better suited for photographers who require versatility in focal lengths, discreetness, and portability due to its higher zoom ratio, smaller size, and lighter weight. It also has a slight edge in bokeh quality, aberration performance, and flare/ghosting control. This lens could be an excellent choice for travel, landscape, and everyday photography, where a broad range of focal lengths and consistent performance are essential.

On the other hand, the Tamron lens boasts a larger f/2.8 aperture, which offers better low-light performance and shallower depth of field for improved subject isolation. It also has superior weather sealing, faster autofocus, and more consistent sharpness performance across various focal lengths and apertures. These features make the Tamron lens ideal for portrait, event, and wedding photographers who prioritize subject isolation, low-light capabilities, and reliable performance in various conditions.

In conclusion, choosing between the Nikon and Tamron lenses ultimately depends on your photography preferences and the specific genres you plan to focus on. Both lenses have their unique strengths, and understanding how these factors align with your photography needs will help you make the best decision for your creative pursuits.

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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