Since my switch to Nikon from Pentax back in 2010, the 24-70 f2.8G has been a stalwart lens for me, especially for my travel photography. For a zoom, it was an excellent lens, sharp (in the centre area), good colour and decent bokeh - great pro spec mid-range zoom. On my travels, I also took my 16-35 f4 VR as a wider angle lens over the 14-24 f2.8 (which I also own) due to the fact that the 16-35 has VR and this is handy for inside churches, cathedrals, castles and dusk/early morning shots etc where light is low and tripods not an option. I always hankered for a 24-70 f2.8 with VR and as much as the Tamron is a good version, it was not up to the level of the Nikon 24-70 f2.8G, IMO.
Nikon has recently released the 24-70 f2.8E VR and after many months of deliberation, reading many reviews, looking at many sample images and watching the Nikon video on the design and manufacture of the lens, I decided to purchase this lens. Many of the reviews were a little critical of the new lens as they didn't feel it tested any better than the predecessor other than the edges and corners and wasn't quite as sharp in the centre as the old lens, but the big improvement was at the edges and corners where it shines - taken into context that this is a mid range zoom and notoriously difficult to design and the fact that the old design was a very good one. None of the offerings from any of the other manufacturers are what you would describe as stellar performers, yes they can be sharp in the centre but all are let down by softer edges and corners, a legacy of the difficulty of the design of a 24-70 f2.8 zoom. A good "review" was done by Roger Cicala at LensRentals here:
As Roger shows, the new 24-70 does have quite an advantage in the edges and corners not just over the old lens, but over all the other 24-70's as well.
With other reviews, the results were similar, but as they all use different testing techniques - read different test set ups, with probably different camera to test chart distances etc, then there were always going to be variables. Some gave excellent reviews others gave less glowing reviews but many were very glowing about the overall IQ of this lens. Some reviews to look at:
Ephotozine gave it an excellent review and the "Highly Recommended" score.
Camera Labs gave it a good review and a "Recommended" score - although one of the cons listed was needs AF fine tune at different focal lengths and mine needs no AF fine tune at any focal length! This was an early review and Nikon stopped production of the lens early on and I think they must have fixed this aspect:
Imaging Resources gives it a decent review and you can do a comparo with the old lens using the "Lab Test Results" and doing the same for the old lens:
Photography Life gives it a "Preview" not a review as yet and was very happy with the overall IQ as well:
Lenstip has also tested the lens:
An interesting video from the Nikon design team:
Now, I do not rely on one review for my decisions preferring to check many reviews as you cannot just test at one camera to subject distance or one type of technique to garner a true indication of a lens's worth. Things like field curvature of the lens comes into play, especially with wide angle and extreme wide angle lenses. In other words, the world is not flat and a lens that may test a little soft in the edges on a flat test chart will possibly render the grass at your feet perfectly sharp when you are shooting at a distant mountain range, or even a building in the middle distance. The fact is, lenses are fickle things and no lens can be all things to all people, they are specific to the task type instruments - you need to use/choose a lens that suits the purpose or for what you are going to mainly use it for. If you are selecting one lens to cover a multitude of tasks, like a mid-range zoom such as this lens, then it needs to be good at a multitude of things but maybe not a master of any, this is the zoom compromise.
The old 24-70 was notoriously softer off centre - at the edges and corners, especially at the 24mm end. However, you can forgive it for this minor foible as a 24mm lens is a difficult lens to design let alone one which is part of a zoom that goes from 24-70! This is borne out by the other manufacturers lenses in this range which also have issues and softer edges and corners - refer to LensRentals review above. All lenses are compromises and none are perfect, some are just more perfect than others for specific purposes.
With all this ground work to explain the pros and cons of lens design and why it is difficult to design a lens of this type, here are some results from the new 24-70 f2.8E VR. Is this a lens for everyone? It depends on what you require and what you are prepared to accept as a compromise. For me, it is definitely a better lens than the predecessor, especially as it has VR, it is extremely sharp, especially stopped down but also better edges and corners and the big eye opener for me was overall IQ and bokeh, the images really shine, IMO. Best viewed at full size to see the best IQ.
All shot on the D810.
1) 24mm, 1/1250s f/8.0 at 24.0mm iso90
2) 24mm, 1/1250s f/8.0 at 24.0mm iso720
3) 24mm, 1/1250s f/8.0 at 24.0mm iso720
4) 29mm, 1/2500s f/8.0 at 29.0mm iso360
5) 27mm, 1/320s f/8.0 at 27.0mm iso72
6) 24mm, 1/640s f/8.0 at 24.0mm iso72
7) 100% crop of corner of above photo
8) 28mm, 1/640s f/8.0 at 28.0mm iso64
9) 100% centre crop of above photo showing the great detail and sharpness: