Review: Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm F4 S (Nikon Z Mount)

Nikon’s first mirrorless zoom lens, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S, is compact and weather sealed.

It can be argued that a camera system is only as good as the lenses available. This is especially true when launching a brand new camera system, as is the case with the Nikon Z Mount series. One of three lenses that were announced at the launch of Nikon’s brand new Z Mount, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S was the only zoom lens of the trio, covering a range that is popular among photographers that specialize in landscape, street, and portrait photography. Nikon was kind enough to send us a copy of the lens along with the brand new Z6 and Z7 cameras, and we put it through an exhaustive battery of tests to see how well it performed.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent weather sealing
  • Compact form factor

Cons

  • f4 aperture will leave you thirsting for light
  • Pricier than 24-70 f4 lenses from competing brands

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S are taken from Nikon’s official product page.

Mount Type Nikon Z Mount
Focal Length 24 – 70mm
Zoom Ratio 2.9x
Maximum Aperture f4
Minimum Aperture f22
Format FX
Maximum Angle of View (DX-format) 22°50′
Minimum Angle of View (DX-format) 61°
Maximum Angle of View (FX-format) 34°20′
Minimum Angle of View (FX-format) 84°
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 0.3x
Lens Elements 14
Lens Groups 11
Compatible Format(s) FX
DX
Diaphragm Blades 7
Distance Information Visible in EVF with manual focusing
Nano Crystal Coat Yes
ED Glass Elements 1
Aspherical Elements 3
Aspherical Extra-low Dispersion Glass Elements Yes
Fluorine Coat Yes
Super Integrated Coating Yes
Autofocus Yes
AF Actuator STM
Internal Focusing Yes
Minimum Focus Distance 0.99 ft. (0.3 m.) from focal plane at all zoom positions
Focus Mode Autofocus
Manual
E-type Yes
Filter Size 72mm
Accepts Filter Type Screw in
Approx. Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 3.1 in. (77.5mm)  x  3.5 in. (88.5mm)
Distance from camera lens mount flange when lens is retracted
Based on CIPA guidelines
Approx. Weight 17.7 oz. (500 g)
Based on CIPA guidelines
Lens Type Zoom

Ergonomics

The Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S is a modestly sized zoom lens for Nikon’s brand new Z Mount, made out of a mixture of metal and plastics. A plastic lens hood is included with the lens. When mounted onto a Nikon Z6 or Nikon Z7, you will find the zoom range (24-70), maximum constant aperture (f4), along with the line with which to align the lens to the camera body etched onto the top of the lens barrel. The majority of the lens barrel is dominated by the large rubberized Zoom Ring that lets you adjust the lens’s focal length, along with a Customizable Control Ring that is set to manual focusing by default.

Looking at the front of the lens, you will find NIKKOR branding along the top of the front element, while markings for the focal length (24-70mm), maximum aperture (f4), and the filter thread (72mm) can be found along the bottom.

Here’s a look at the left side of the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S while the lens is fully retracted. You can see the Autofocus/Manual Focus toggle switch on this side along with the NIKKOR S badge.

Here’s the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S when you extend the lens to its widest focal length of 24mm. As you can tell, it doesn’t get all that large.

And here’s a look at the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S while it is extended further out to 70mm.

Build Quality

As you can see in the above image, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S is a weather sealed lens. We tested it in a variety of inclement weather conditions in the concrete jungles of New York City as well as the inland coast around Cape Cod during late fall/early winter, and the lens never skipped a beat. Even with medium-thickness gloves on, we never ran into issues operating both the rubberized Zoom Ring, Customizable Control Ring, or toggling the Autofocus/Manual Focus switch. Short of submerging the lens into a body of water, we are confident the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S can stand up to a considerable amount of abuse during everyday usage.

Here’s a look at the contacts as well as the weather sealing gasket on the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S.

Ease of Use

When you turn on your camera with the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S attached, you will be greeted with this notification. For whatever reason, Nikon made it so you will have to manually rotate the Zoom Ring to extend the lens barrel before you are able to start photographing, instead of automating this procedure when you power on your Z Mount camera. Perhaps it was a cost cutting measure, or maybe it was a size limitation when designing this lens. Whatever the reason, it’s an unnecessary annoyance.

Aside from having to manually extend the lens barrel before you’re able to begin shooting with the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S, it’s a pretty straight forward zoom to operate. Mount it onto your Z Mount camera body, extend the lens barrel, turn the camera on, and fire away. You can even overwrite the functionality of the Customizable Control Ring if you so choose, but most will just keep it set to Manual Focus control.

Autofocus

While the autofocus performance of the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S is directly tied to the Z Mount camera body upon which you have the lens mounted, it almost always acquired focus during our testing (albeit slower than we would have liked at times). While the autofocus speed leaves a little something to be desired, it will do just fine if your subject is relatively stationary. When we tested the lens with something like face detection/tracking, we found it to be pretty slow. As a general statement, the entire z6 and z7 series of cameras are slow compared to their competition from Canon, Sony, etc.

Image Quality

Being a brand new system, it will be a while before Nikon can fully build out the lens lineup for the Z Mount. While the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S covers a popular zoom range and will do a fine job as a walk around lens thanks to its compact size, the maximum aperture of f4 will leave many hungry for more. Unless you absolutely need a native Z Mount short-range zoom lens right now, we’d wait for the release of the f2.8 24-70mm zoom lens that’s already on Nikon’s Z Mount lens roadmap, or adapt an existing F Mount 24-70mm lens like the excellent Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 E ED VR II using the FTZ adapter.

Bokeh

With a maximum aperture of just f4, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S is a far cry from being a fast lens. To expect the quality of the bokeh this lens produces to be on par with the creamy bokeh one would traditionally find from by a f2.8 or faster lens is unrealistic. With that said, the bokeh quality really isn’t too bad.

Chromatic Aberration

During our tests with the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S, we didn’t notice any significant color fringing or any other types of chromatic aberration.

Color Rendition

The colors produced by the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S are reasonably accurate, albeit characteristically Nikon. That’s to say if you’re shooting on Auto White Balance, you may detect a slight green tint to the images, but this is easily remedied in post if you’re shooting RAW. What we also like to do is shoot when locked to film white balances like 5200K, 5600K, and 3200K.

Sharpness

As long as the autofocus on your Z6 or Z7 decides to play nice, you will find the images produced by the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S to be acceptably sharp, with a slight decrease in sharpness toward the edges of the frame. Photographers wanting sharper images will want to lean towards the 35mm and 50mm primes currently available for Z Mount.

Additional Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Weather sealing
  • Compact size

Dislikes

  • Relatively slow maximum aperture of f4
  • Pricey when compared to 24-70mm f4 lenses from competing manufacturers

As the first zoom lens available for Z Mount, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S features excellent weather sealing in a compact package. The MSRP of US$996.95 is arguably high for an f4 zoom, but despite its slow maximum aperture, the lens performed reliably in general although it was hampered at times by the lackluster autofocus performance found in the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras. If you are an existing Nikon shooter looking to finally go mirrorless, and you’ve got a F Mount 24-70mm f2.8 zoom in your kit already, you’re honestly better off adapting that lens using an FTZ adapter. If you’re making the switch from a different camera manufacturer, however, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S is the only Z Mount zoom lens currently available on the market. Unless you absolutely need a native 24-70mm zoom right this moment, we think you should wait until the Z Mount 24-70mm f2.8 drops later this year, provided that Nikon sticks to their Z Mount lens roadmap.

The Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f4 S earns Four out of Five Stars.