When it comes to zoom lenses, the 24-70mm focal range is considered by many working photographers to be one of the “holy trinity” focal ranges. Professional photographers considering Nikon’s Z mount mirrorless system will likely debate the purchase of the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S. They are often the first zoom lens many purchase due to their versatility in a variety of subject matters ranging from landscapes, real estate, street, to solo and group portraiture, and so much more. Nikon released a 24-70mm zoom to complement their Full Frame Z mount mirrorless cameras at launch, but that particular lens had a maximum aperture of just f4. Many photographers interested in the Z mount cameras wanted a faster alternative.
Fast forward six months from whenNikon introduced their Z mount cameras and the initial trio of lenses (35mm f1.8 Prime, 50mm f1.8 Prime, and the aforementioned 24-70mm f4 Zoom), Nikon officially unveiled the more premium Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S. We got to spend some hands-on time with the lens while in Las Vegas for WPPI earlier this year, and Nikon was kind enough to provide us with a final production sample of the lens to evaluate thoroughly on our own terms. So here’s the big question: is it a lens that really matters?
Pros and Cons
- Robust weather sealing
- Solid build quality
- Fast maximum aperture of f2.8
- Outstanding image quality
Tech specs for the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S taken from Nikon’s official product page.
|Mount Type||Nikon Z Mount|
|Focal Length Range||24 – 70mm|
|Maximum Angle of View (DX-format)||61˚|
|Minimum Angle of View (DX-format)||22°50′|
|Maximum Angle of View (FX-format)||84˚|
|Minimum Angle of View (FX-format)||34°20′|
|Maximum Reproduction Ratio||0.22x|
|Nano Crystal Coat||Yes|
|ED Glass Elements||2|
|Super Integrated Coating||Yes|
|AF Actuator||STM (stepping motor)|
|Minimum Focus Distance||1.25 ft. (0.38 m)|
|Accepts Filter Type||Screw in|
|Approx. Dimensions (Diameter x Length)||(89mm) (126mm)|
|Based on CIPA guidelines|
|Approx. Weight||24.8 oz. (805 g)|
|Based on CIPA guidelines|
Ergonomics section taken from our First Impressions article.
Here’s the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 S mounted onto a Nikon Z7. Towards the front of the lens, you will find the dedicated Manual Focus Ring, followed by the Zoom Ring, which allows you to adjust the lens’ focal length. A Lens Information Panel is located in the middle of the lens just behind the Zoom Ring and displays information such as the aperture, focus distance, depth of field, etc. A customizable L-Fn (Lens Function) button is located near where your thumb naturally rests when holding the lens, allowing photographers to map a frequently accessed function to it. The Customizable Control Ring is situated between the Lens Information Panel and the markings on the outer lens barrel. Just before the mount are the markings for the zoom range (24-70mm), maximum constant aperture (f2.8), along with the alignment dot with which to mount the lens onto a Nikon Z6 or Z7 camera body. You will also find the Autofocus/Manual Focus toggle towards the side.
Here’s a closer look at the DISP button, which changes what is displayed on the OLED Lens Information Panel, as well as the customizable L-Fn (Lens Function) button along with the Autofocus/Manual Focus toggle.
Moving towards the front of the lens, you will find the Nikkor branding along the top of the front element, with markings for the focal length (24-70mm), maximum aperture (f2.8), as well as the filter thread (82mm) located along the bottom.
Here’s a closer look at the Lens Information Panel. It’s sort of similar to the Zeiss Batis lenses.
You can adjust what is shown on the display by pressing the DISP button. That feature at least is different from what Zeiss offers.
The information shown on the display is very high contrast and easily visible. That’s going to be great in the dark, but we wonder how it will affect the battery life.
Here’s a look at the new Nikkor Z 24-70 f2.8 S when compared to the Nikkor Z 24-70 f4 S that’s already available on the market. As you can see, the new f2.8 lens is definitely larger in size.
While more substantial and weightier than the 24-70mm f4 introduced alongside the Z6 and Z7, Nikon managed to keep the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S both smaller and lighter than its DSLR counterpart. Like the rest of the first party Z mount lenses that have been released thus far, the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 features extensive weather sealing. It’s also the most robust feeling first-party Z mount lens that we’ve tested thus far. This is the workhorse zoom lens many Nikon Z shooters have been waiting for, and you can tell that Nikon put a lot of effort into designing this lens to handle the abuses from the elements.
Ease of Use
Most modern lenses being released are very straightforward and easy to operate, and the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S is no exception. Nikon was able to include an OLED Lens Information Panel, a Customizable Function Button, and a Customizable Control Ring onto the lens due to its larger size when compared to its smaller f4 brethren. The OLED Lens Information Panel is reminiscent of those found on select Zeiss lenses introduced within the past few years and can be toggled between displaying the aperture, focusing distance, and the focal length. The Customizable Function Button and Customizable Control Ring allow you to assign frequently used controls and minimize digging through the camera’s menus. For Z mount shooters who prefer zoom lenses, this is likely the lens that you’ll keep mounted to your camera most often.
We paired the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S with a Nikon Z7 running the latest version 2.0 firmware, and the lens acquired focus reasonably quickly. It is generally accurate throughout most of the scenarios that we tested the lens in, ranging from bright sunny days, foggy and dimly lit evenings, to very low light environments. We experienced rare instances where the lens struggled to acquire focus during low light and low contrast scenarios, but otherwise the performance was respectable and comparable to the latest Fujifilm offerings like the X-T3 and X-T30. Sony’s latest mirrorless cameras and lenses are still leading the industry in terms of autofocus performance, and perform noticeably faster and more consistently when compared to Nikon. In the full-frame world, Canon still delivers faster performance and Panasonic varies. For professional applications, photographers should be able to get the most out of the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S if they’re not shooting very fast-moving subjects.
The Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S features an optics design which consists of 17 elements arranged into 15 groups and includes two ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) elements alongside four aspherical elements. It also features Nano Crystal and ARNEO coatings to help mitigate the occurrence of chromatic aberrations.
The nine-bladed aperture design of the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 along with the extra stop of light it lets in when compared to its slower f4 cousin produces pleasing bokeh towards the longer end of the focal range. For the bokeh addicts out there, you’ll want to reach for an even brighter prime, particularly the wider focal lengths.
You’ll notice some slight vignetting, mostly towards either end of the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 S’s focal range, but this can be easily remedied during post-production. Images produced by this lens are kept largely flare-free thanks to the Nano Crystal and ARNEO coatings Nikon incorporated into this lens. Straight out of camera jpegs appear distortion-free, although we did notice some distortions and pincushioning in the raw files prior to the lens profile becoming available in Capture One. Once we updated Capture One to the latest release, however, the included manufacturer profile made short work of any distortions that we had previously detected.
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f2.8 renders colors accurately without being overly saturated, and you can dial things in to taste if you’re shooting raw. With that said, the characteristic green tint commonly associated with Nikon is still detectable under certain shooting conditions, most prevalent when using Auto White Balance. There is nothing too extreme though and very easy to correct during post-production if you’re shooting raw. We recommend locking your white balance to match your lighting condition to save some time and help streamline your post-production workflow.
During our testing, we found sharpness issues at different focal lengths. Some focal lengths showed sharpness while others didn’t. But once Capture One’s lens profile was added, that disappeared. Areas in focus within the images produced by this lens exhibit outstanding sharpness. Professional photographers working with this lens will be happy to know that they’ll be taking the most advantage of the sharpness with the latest version of the software. Of course, the sharpest images come with the addition of a flash and specular highlights. Couple this with the Nikon Z7’s high-resolution sensor and you’ll get a ton of detail. In fact, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 is the sharpest native Z mount lens we’ve tested to date. Well done, Nikon!
Additional Image Samples
Here are some additional images shot with the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S paired with the Nikon Z7. As a matter of ethics, although some of the sample images seen within this review have been color graded and processed within Capture One, no retouching was done to any of the images so that you can judge the quality of the images produced by this lens for yourself.
- Weather sealed
- Sharpest native Z mount lens yet
- Remarkable image quality
- Versatile focal length
- Honestly, not much
As a photographer who tends to gravitate toward prime lenses, I was genuinely surprised by the performance of the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70 f2.8 S. Nikon’s Z mount mirrorless cameras are still playing catch-up with more established mirrorless systems on the market, particularly in terms of autofocus performance, but the new 2.0 firmware certainly helped improve the overall experience. As a result, the Z mount 24-70 f2.8 was a much more reliable and enjoyable lens to use when stacked up against its f4 cousin. Despite costing more than twice the price of the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70 f4 S, the stellar optical performance of the newer and faster f2.8 variant will undoubtedly be its most significant selling point. The Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70 f2.8 S’s hefty price is further justified by the lens’ ability to produce vibrant yet color-accurate images, the consistent sharpness throughout its focal range, and its ability to minimize chromatic aberrations and distortions. For many photographers who have made the switch to Nikon’s mirrorless Z mount, their wait for a fast and reliable workhorse zoom lens is finally over. As far as innovation goes, the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 S adds a top OLED screen. This makes it stand out from a lot of the rest when it comes to usability. Whether or not this justifies the price tag is up to you. It’s still more expensive than Sony’s option.
The Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f2.8 S earns Five out of Five Stars. You can pick one up for yourself over at Adorama for just under $2,300.