If you were one of the early adopters of Nikon’s Z-series mirrorless cameras such as the Z6 or Z7, lens choices were limiting. The first choices to arrive were to rightly show the full resolving power of the platform. Now, we have options such as the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S which still have great optics, just in a more affordable package.
A 24-70mm zoom is arguably one of the most versatile zooms available as it covers the most used focal lengths. This can apply to anything from landscapes to portraits and is a firm favorite for press photographers.
Obviously an f/2.8 version can provide a more shallow depth of field and low-light capabilities, but the f/4 version that we are reviewing today is equally as capable in the right hands at a more palatable price point and weight-bearing.
A new camera and lens platform mean a complete rethink from the traditional DSLR version of the 24-70mm. This includes an optical design of one aspherical extra-low dispersion element, with three aspherical versions wrapped around an optical arrangement of 14 elements in 11 groups. This is accompanied by a Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coating applied to all elements for the best possible image resolution.
A Stepping Motor (STM) has been included, which should provide quiet workings for stills and video use. It has a new-to-the-line programmable control ring that by default is used to set manual focus, or it can be programmed for other exposure variables.
This new feature is a handy addition for quickly dialing in exposure compensation or when in manual focusing mode, reverts to its default state. The focusing ring is nice and wide with a rubberized feel and needing only roughly a quarter turn to go through the whole focal range.
The lens also features a seven-blade rounded diaphragm, all contained within a fully dust and moisture resistant lens barrel. A fluorine coating on the front element protects against the likes of dust and moisture.
The overall design of the lens has been kept very simple. Apart from the usual auto and manual focusing switch, the len’s real estate has been taken up by the focusing and control ring. The lens comes in at a very respectable weight of 500g.
The Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S in Use
The one thing that is immediately apparent with the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S is that it’s very sharp in the center with the aperture wide open. At f/4 the center of the frame is well-defined, with f/5.6 displaying the sharpest results.
The edges of the frame at f/4 are a little behind, looking the best from f/5.6. In reality, this will only be bothersome for the likes of architectural work, but in the majority of cases, subject matter is very well focused.
The Nikon displays vignetting in the corners at f/4, but not in an overly distracting way. Stopping down to f/5.6-f/8 and above cleans things up nicely, while also displaying the least amount of artifacts in general. Chromatic aberration is well controlled throughout the focal and aperture range, along with only slight amounts of barrel distortion shown at 24mm.
The lens is reasonably adept at producing good quality bokeh. It’s not going to be as smooth and creamy as found on an f/2.8 lens, but very respectable for an f/4 aperture model.
In general, this lens displays its best results for environmental shots. In this regard, images are produced with great detail and a good lot of contrast and color. For areas such as portrait work, you may want to opt for the f/2.8 version or a prime lens, but this lens is still very capable in this area when it’s fed enough light.
How Does It Compare?
As alternatives to the Z 24-70mm f/4 S are still a little thin on the ground, it’s worth comparing it to the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. Even though in reality, these two lenses are as different as chalk and cheese.
The 24-70mm f/2.8 S from the title alone may only seem like it has a wider aperture, but at twice the price of the f/4, it has a lot more going on under the surface and on top. This includes lots more fancy lens coatings, additional lens elements, a lens display, L.Fn button, and a much larger mass.
Without throwing every superlative at the 24-70mm f/2.8 S, it’s really a solution for those who are the most discerning and need production-level quality and versatility. The Z 24-70mm f/4 S is for those who don’t need the low-light capabilities or such shallow depths of field and can’t really justify the price of the higher version for the Nikon mirrorless platform. But like all lens choices, if money was no object, the widest aperture versions always create the most excitement.
|Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S||Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S|
|Optics||14 Elements / 11 Groups||17 Elements / 15 Groups|
It’s usually the case that if you want the best quality 24-70mm zoom, then the f/2.8 version is the way to go, but that doesn’t mean this f/4 offering is the poor man’s choice. It’s much more cost-effective than its f/2.8 sibling and arguably balances better when attached to the Nikon Z6 or Z7.
The lens also produces a wonderful amount of detail where it counts, with very good center sharpness at its widest setting. For the sharpest edges, f/5.6 is the sweet spot. This means that the lens isn’t the greatest in low-light conditions, but it’s still a hot contender if you mainly shoot in the open and need a lighter travel companion.
In total, the Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is a good matchup to both the Z6 or Z7. Providing a great solution for those who don’t want to go all in on the full-blown f/2.8 variety of this lens.