Looking at my Road King Classic through a new lens

As announced in one of my latest posts, my camera (a Nikon D1) and the main lens need urgent replacement, as they are both now over 10 years in intensive use and start to become unreliable.

Now I took the first step, and replaced my workhorse lens. This was the original Nikon 24-120mm AF-D, which has been a very popular lens if you wanted to travel light. It went from wide to close up in the twist of the wrist, and only on rare occasions did I replace it with either the wider angled AF-S 12-24 DX, or the long tele zoom 80-400 VR. For detailed pictures I use a 65mm Nikon Macro lens:

Build form 1996, I bought my old 24-120 lens in 2000, and it was discontinued in 2003, replaced by the 24-120 VR. I never bothered with the VR, as most reports came back quite negative. Ken Rockwell (I recommend his site if only to get a second opinion) put this new 24-120 VR in the category of the 10 worst lenses Nikon ever made. It was build form 2003 to 2010.

Now in 2010, Nikon launched the third instalment of this lens, the new and improved Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR. It is said to be worlds sharper than its predecessor, the fuzzy 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S VR better ergonomically than my old one, the clunky 24-120mm AF-D, and I can already confirm the ergonomical improvement .

Here a comparison, not exactly to scale, of the old and new 24-120mm Zooms.

The new one is visibly larger, feels more robust, and has a filter diameter of 77mm, compared to the 72mm of the old AF. One major optical difference is the fixed F4 maximum aperture and it features Nikon’s latest VR II stabilization system. All this makes it also quite more heavy: 710g vs 560g, a full 150g more to lift.

But it feels great in my hands.

Here the internal diagram, the optics consist of 17 elements in 13 groups, with 3 aspherical elements and 2 ED glass elements.

ED stands for “Extra-low Dispersion” glass, which Nikon started using in their super speed super teles in the late 1960s. The lenses including “ED” glass have a gold band around the barrel (see above picture), but can also easily be recognised by their substantially higher price.

New in this lens is also the “Nano Crystal Coating”, a new anti-reflection coating which surpasses the multi-layer coating that’s been popular in older lenses.

So, where are the pictures? I did some test shots in weak lightning, very good but boring to post here. But I hope to be able to do the first field test of the new lens on my Harley-Davidson during next weekend’s ride. Already now I know it was a worthwhile swap, as the zooming is much smoother and the auto focus considerably faster.

The old lens started to fall apart, the electronic connections to the camera were unstable, resulting in about 20% useless black underexposed frames. This was not acceptable anymore, and the danger of coming home with no picture at all increased day by day, specially in poor light conditions.

And where is the D700 I wrote about? The shop specialist recommended me to wait until December, as the new next model (D700s or D800) could be announced just before Xmas, or not. Either way, the prices for the D700 will continue to fall slightly, which is very much welcomed by my wallet.

Until then, a new life is given to my old D1 with this new lens. If the first real shootings prove to solve most problems I presently have, I may delay a replacement even further.


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