Best zoom lens upgrade for Nikon DSLRs: 8 tested

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S ED - £1225/$1890

When it comes to size and weight, this lens feels more like a 70-300mm telephoto than a standard zoom. It's still well balanced on a big, heavy body such as a D4 or D700, though. As a grown-up, full-frame version of the Nikon 17-55mm, this lens also features a fast, constant f/2.8 aperture and lightning-quick, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus.

One advantage of the lens over the DX-format 17-55mm is that it features Nikon's Nano Crystal coating, which does a great job of reducing ghosting and flare. On the other hand, similarities include the lack of an optical stabiliser, which makes handheld shooting more of a challenge.

As you'd expect from a flagship standard zoom, contrast and sharpness are excellent throughout the zoom range. There's little colour fringing at either end of the range, but it can be noticeable at mid-zoom settings.

Distortions are well controlled at all focal lengths.The sheer length of the lens makes it impossible to use candidly, but for all-round build and image quality this is as good as it gets for full-frame shooters.

Sharpness test

Best zoom lens upgrade for Nikon DSLRs: 8 tested

It's top of the full-frame class for sharpness, beating Sigma and Tamron competitors, but is expensive.

Lab test at f/8
Sharpness at wide angle: 2468
Sharpness at mid range: 2381
Sharpness at telephoto: 2471

Fringing test

Best zoom lens upgrade for Nikon DSLRs: 8 tested

Colour fringing is a non-issue at either end of the zoom range, and only slightly noticeable at mid-range settings.

Lab test at f/8
Fringing at wide angle: 0.15
Fringing at mid range: 0.48
Fringing at telephoto: 0.16

Distortion test

Best zoom lens upgrade for Nikon DSLRs: 8 tested

Distortions are minimal throughout the zoom range, so the lens is especially suitable for architectural shots.

Lab test at f/8
Distortion at wide angle: -1.45
Distortion at mid range: 0.15
Distortion at telephoto: 0.23

Image quality verdict

Best zoom lens upgrade for Nikon DSLRs: 8 tested

Brilliant image quality in all respects, but it comes at a very high price and the lack of stabilisation can downgrade handheld results.