By: Gary Gray
January 6, 2017
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR ($496.94 – B&H)
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR ($1,096.95 – B&H)
A common refrain I hear from the internet forums is the lack of decent DX lenses in the Nikon lineup.
I’ve never been a big fan of the DX or EF-S (Canon) DSLR lenses myself. That doesn’t mean there aren’t decent lenses available at reasonable prices, but if you have a desire to migrate to full-frame or are already there, these reduced field of view lenses aren’t going to be of much use.
I shoot primarily with full-frame cameras, but I do try to keep a current crop body in the travel kit, as it can be handy from time to time to get that limited focal angle with a good number of pixels. My current crop body is the Nikon D7200 with a resolution of 24 megapixels. I think of it as a high resolution 1.5x teleconverter.
Either of these two lenses will work well on the crop body sensor. One might think that the lack of the little gold band around the Nikkor 18-140mm indicates a lower quality optic. I'm not sure what the gold band means, but I can tell you that the 18-140mm kit lens is not a bad lens.
MSRP aside, you can pick up a good copy of either of these lenses for much less than full retail price. Both lenses are considered kit lenses, the 24-120mm often being bundled with the full frame bodies and the 18-140mm being a kit lens offering on the crop sensor bodies. The 24-120mm can be found in excellent used condition or refurbished at around $550 in the US. That’s about half the full retail price.
Similarly, the 18-140mm DX lens can be found in excellent condition used or refurbs going ffor under $250, which also happens to be about half the full retail price.
With a similar focal length, I was curious which lens was best left on the D7200 for general use.
I’ve run both of these lenses through the ringer analyzing overall lens optical performance on a Nikon D7200.
The 24-120mm has a better build quality and is a bit more bulky and heavy. The VR and auto-focus perform quite fast and on the crop body gives an effective field of view of 36mm – 180mm with a constant f/4 aperture. This is my normal general purpose lens for my Nikon D800. It’s not Zeiss glass, but it does a pretty good job.
The 18-140mm is a consumer grade lens made mostly of plastic with a metal mounting ring and though it doesn’t feel cheap,it’s definitely not a heavy duty professional grade build. It gives you an effective focal length of 27mm – 210mm which is pretty good. It’s light and portable, taking up about 1/3 less space in my bag than the 24-120mm. It’s also a little more simple with the controls. It’s also a variable aperture lens, meaning that the aperture narrows as you zoom out. It also does not come with a lens hood or a pouch. You get the lens, a box and the caps.
The 24-120mm is a more robust “Gold Ring” Nikon lens, indicating a higher standard of materials and build quality. It comes with a lens pouch and lens hood. The constant aperture is a plus, as is functionality on any current Nikon body, so for that extra $500 you get extra stuff.
I tested both lenses at the same time so lighting was fairly consistent. I shot a series of images from widest, furthers and common focal lengths, since both have a similar focal length. The 18-140mm give you extra stuff too, in the form of a slightly wider field of view and slightly more reach, though at a stopped down aperture compared to it’s sibling.
Now, I could show you all the pixel peeping photos but what I found is quite simple to explain without all of that visual BS.
I would call the sharpness at all apertures and common focal lengths good on both lenses on the D7200. The 18-140mm has better corner sharpness in virtually every situation, but the 24-120mm seems to be sharper in the middle of the frame beyond 50mm. CA is well controlled but each lens has it’s problem points. The 18-140 seems to have more blue fringing at more open apertures, the 24-120mm having problems in the corners with coma and fringing. I think the edge to edge performance of the 18-140mm is more consistent across the board. As a matter of fact, it seemed to be fairly consistent optically no matter how it’s used.
The 24-120mm has a slightly faster auto-focus.
The 18-140mm is lighter at 490 g vs 575g for the 24-120mm
The 18-140mm has a wider aperture, f/3.5 on the wide end.
VR on the 18-140mm seems to be good for 2 stops, while the 24-120 is good for at least 3 stops.
The 18-140mm uses a smaller front filter size @ 67mm vs 77mm for the 24-120mm.
My verdict… It’s a draw for optical performance. You’ll get roughly the same quality of images from either lens on a APS-C body along with slightly different peculiarities from each lens that would only be noticeable in very large prints or by pixel peeping.
If you are on a budget, the 18-140mm is a fine lens to have in your kit. I’ll be keeping mine.
If you have a full frame camera, the 24-120mm will work on both bodies, so you have a one lens solution with this lens.
The choice is ultimately yours, but if all you have is a crop sensor body and need a good walk around lens don’t be afraid to put the 18-140mm on it. It’s light and optically as good as it’s bigger brother.
Nikkor 24-120mm VR vs Nikkor 18-140mm DX VR