Real Life Review – The Legendary Nikon 14-24 f2.8 Lens (used on a Canon Body)

Posted by on Jan 11, 2014 in Real Life Reviews | 12 Comments

Thanks to GTA Lens Rentals for providing this lens for review.

The Legendary Nikon 14- 24 f2.8 lens

The Legendary Nikon 14- 24mm f2.8 lens

©Darwin Wiggett - Nikon and Canon as best friends

©Darwin Wiggett – Nikon and Canon as best friends

The Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, released in late 2007,  is the stuff of legend; it’s considered by almost everyone who has tried it to be sharpest wide angle zoom lens on the planet! Just do a search on the web and all reviews say the same thing, the lens is a freaking anomaly! Once you try it your definition of sharp is forever changed. The lens was such a game changer that many Canon shooters salivated in envy because, frankly, all of Canon’s wide angle zoom lenses  suck. Suddenly the market exploded with lens adapters so that Nikon lenses could be mounted on Canon cameras. I personally knew a half a dozen Canon landscape photographers who bought the lens and adapter. The introduction of the Nikon D800 in 2012 also caused shockwaves because of its 36 MP sensor. The file quality on the D800 is also legendary. Combine the D800 with the 14-24mm and you have a combo that makes many other camera and lens combos look like a Holga. At this point all my Canon landscape buddies with the 14-24mm lenses just switched to Nikon.

©Darwin Wiggett - Nikon 14 - 24mm lens on a Canon EOS-1ds Mark III

©Darwin Wiggett – Nikon 14-24mm lens on a Canon EOS-1ds Mark III

Why didn’t I make the same move as my buddies? Easy, I’m addicted to my Canon tilt-shift lenses for landscape photography. The creative advantages of tilt-shift lenses over a wide angle zoom are many including the ability to tilt the plane of focus, to shift for perspective control and to shift to make panoramic photos and mega-pixel stitches. Nikon’s tilt-shift lenses are not as versatile as Canon’s because Nikon does not not make the tilt and shift rotate independently like Canon does. Independent rotation of tilt and shift are critical for full creative potential of these lenses. As well Canon’s live view is better than Nikon’s (works in lower light and, displays the view at the widest aperture no matter what aperture you choose). Plus I find that I’m not a big fan of super wide lens (wider than 20mm) because the distortion just looks too gimmicky. A focal length of 24mm for me is the perfect wide angle: wide but still ‘real’ looking. And finally, with my Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens I can use my filter system and all the advantages that  filters offer me. It’s hard to filter that bulging front element of the Nikon 14-24mm lens and I know many photographers who have spent a fortune buying giant filter systems and contraptions to put filters on the 14-24mm lens; in the end most give up.

©Darwin Wiggett - My favorite landscape lens combo; the Canon 24mm TS-E with a Cokin Z-Pro filter holder, a polarizer and a grad filter.

©Darwin Wiggett – My favorite landscape lens combo: the Canon 24mm TS-E with a Cokin Z-Pro filter holder, a polarizer and a grad filter. Tilt to match plane of focus to subject plane and shift to correct keystone effects in the trees in the background.

So I’m happy with my camera and lens choice and out of the blue GTA Lens Rentals gives me a call asking if I want to try the Nikon 14-24mm lens with a Novoflex lens adapter for my Canon. Well gee, let me think. I get to play with a legendary lens and have an excuse to go and take photos. Well… let me think about it ;-)

I’ll cut to the chase. The results were as good as all the hype suggests. This lens is freaky sharp. It’s as sharp as my beloved 24mm TS-E and as sharp as the 17mm TS-E. But with the Nikon you have focal lengths from 14 to 24mm with every single focal length on the lens razor sharp! After you use this lens you’ll see just how poor your regular zoom lenses really perform.

©Darwin Wiggett - the lens at14mm

©Darwin Wiggett – the lens at 14mm

©Darwin Wiggett - the lens at 24mm

©Darwin Wiggett – the lens at 24mm

Using the Nikon lens on a Canon body requires you focus manually with the Novaflex adapter set to move the aperture to wide open. I always used live view magnified to 5x for precise focus. After getting focus  I moved the adapter to stop down the lens (I usually set it in the middle of the range to give me something near f8, but you really never know what aperture you’re actually shooting at). I can see why my Canon buddies just went out and bought a D800 so that the workflow was much easier than using a lens adapter.

©Darwin Wiggett - The thumb control on the Novaflex adapter (blue) to control aperture. Works well but in cold weather is a literally a pain!

©Darwin Wiggett – The thumb control on the Novoflex adapter (blue) to control aperture. Works well but in cold weather is literally a pain!

So is a Nikon 14-24mm lens in my future? Not at all. The lens just does not fit my creative vision. I’m not a super wide angle dude. The creative advantages of tilt shift lenses are too alluring for me and I still love using filters. But for anyone curious about the 14-24mm and wants to see if it might be a tool for your creative vision I highly recommend a one week rental from GTA Lens Rentals . In fact, I think before buying any lens, rent it first; nothing worse than laying down big bucks for a lens that just doesn’t work for your style of photography.

©Darwin Wiggett - love it or hate it, keystoning is extreme at such a wide angle focal length!

©Darwin Wiggett – love it or hate it, keystoning is extreme at such a wide angle focal length!

©Darwin Wiggett - shot at 14mm to see what happens to the horizon

©Darwin Wiggett – shot at 14mm showing classic wide angle distortion 

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and pure wilderness.

12 Comments

  1. hiro
    January 11, 2014

    Darwin, how about buying a 12-14 for Sam, take the lens wherever you feel to?

    Reply
    • John Fujimagari
      January 12, 2014

      Hiro, always with the practical solution!

    • Darwin Wiggett
      January 13, 2014

      Sam is too smart for me to pull the wool over her eyes!

  2. Htroalic
    January 12, 2014

    Hi darwin,
    Thnaks for this post. I thought about buying this lens for my 1dsiii but for the same reason as you (the workflow) i gave up. What do youthink aboutthe samyang/rokinon 14mm 2.8 ?

    Bye

    Reply
  3. Daniel
    January 12, 2014

    Hey Dawin,

    For the distortions, did you try the lens correction feature in post-processing. Adobe Lightroom detects the lens profile and applies perspective corrections either automatically or under your control and I imagine there is something similar in Photoshop / camera raw.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      January 13, 2014

      Hi Dan,

      When testing lenses I don;t do software corrections. I want to see what the lens actually does not the software ;-)

      As well software moves pixels around affecting the sharpness… I like to give the lenses fair shake.

  4. Gawain Jones
    January 13, 2014

    Hey Darwin,

    I was same position as you where I felt the draw of tilt/shift, however I was able to overcome this necessity through the use of Photoshop instead of forking out big bucks for an expensive piece of glass or going the route of large format. It’s mainly the shift function that I wanted to be able to take advantage of. I’m the kind of person who loves vertical lines to remain vertical. I want my trees to be straight and my buildings to have a strong presence. Now whenever I have an image where I want to be able to achieve this look, I usually go for the transform -> warp function. The transform -> perspective is actually closer in effect to a lens shift, however, I prefer the variable adjust that I can achieve across my image. I can actually go so far as to adjust my framing and composition through the use of this tool or bring in the corners a bit to eliminate that wide angle distortion. It’s great when I’m working in -30°C since it’s more important to get the data and then I can worry about finer details when I get inside at my computer. Regarding the tilt function, this isn’t as easy to replicate using computer. If you’re looking to extend your depth of field, there’s the option of focus stacking. The miniature world look isn’t something that really appeals to me, although I do consider a tilt/shift lens essential for that.

    This is a relatively new technique for me and combined with exposure bracketing then converting to a 32-bit file, I’ve gained a lot of freedom in how I can work with my images to have them reflect my vision. If a more involved post process is your thing, it’s definitely something to consider. For me the downside to the 14-24mm is the inability to use ND filters so easily.

    Reply
  5. The Legendary Nikon 14-24 f2.8 Lens
    January 14, 2014

    […] The Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, released in late 2007, is the stuff of legend; it’s considered by almost everyone who has tried it to be sharpest wide angle zoom lens on the planet! Just do a search on the web and all reviews say the same thing, the lens is a freaking anomaly! Once you try it your definition of sharp is forever changed. The lens was such a game changer that many Canon shooters salivated in envy because, frankly, all of Canon’s wide angle zoom lenses suck. Suddenly the market exploded with lens adapters so that Nikon lenses could be mounted on Canon cameras. I personally knew a half a dozen Canon landscape photographers who bought the lens and adapter. The introduction of the Nikon D800 in 2012 also caused shockwaves because of its 36 MP sensor. The file quality on the D800 is also legendary. Combine the D800 with the 14-24mm and you have a combo that makes many other camera and lens combos look like a Holga. MORE… […]

    Reply
  6. Andrew Devlin@Carl Zeiss binoculars
    January 16, 2014

    I can actually go so far as to adjust my framing and composition through the use of this tool or bring in the corners a bit to eliminate that wide angle distortion. It’s great when I’m working in -30°C since it’s more important to get the data and then I can worry about finer details when I get inside at my computer. Regarding the tilt function, this isn’t as easy to replicate using computer. If you’re looking to extend your depth of field, there’s the option of focus stacking.

    Reply
  7. Jeff Cruz
    January 20, 2014

    When deciding on a new wide angle lens I was debating on the Nikon 14-24 f2.8 or the Nikon 16-35 f4.0 VR …. f2.8, legendary sharpness and a wide 14mm was great to have but for me the factors that made me select the 16-35mm over the 14-24mm were:

    1. Less expensive
    2. Smaller, lighter
    3. Still pretty darn sharp
    4. VR allowed me to shoot at 1/15sec handheld
    5. Same filter size as my other 2 lenses (24-70 & 70-200)
    6. Less expensive
    7. Less expensive

    :)

    Before making the decision I went out and tested both lenses on a D600 body (was prepping to buy a lens before the D800 went out). I have side to side shot comparisons too if you ever fancy me writing a guest post for you sometime :)

    Enjoyed reading your post BTW. Cheers!

    Reply
  8. Larry King@Photographic Stores
    February 1, 2014

    I can actually go so far as to adjust my framing and composition through the use of this tool or bring in the corners a bit to eliminate that wide angle distortion. It’s great when I’m working in -30°C since it’s more important to get the data and then I can worry about finer details when I get inside at my computer. Regarding the tilt function, this isn’t as easy to replicate using computer. If you’re looking to extend your depth of field, there’s the option of focus stacking. The miniature world look isn’t something that really appeals to me, although I do consider a tilt/shift lens essential for that.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      February 1, 2014

      Cropping the edges of the 14-24mm won’t correct keystoning, either gotta use shift on a TS-E or make the correction in software and lose some quality. Focus stacking is good but it can’t match the quality you get from proper tilting… and tilting for miniature effect is so 2010! Once you use a TS-E properly it is hard to live with the shortcomings of a regular wide angle lens ;-)

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