Review: Nikon 24mm F1.8 Z (One of My Favorite Lenses for the System)

Nikon did a great job on the 24mm f1.8 Z lens.

Would you shell out almost $1,000 for the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z? If you were judging it by just the lens itself, it would probably make sense. This lens is fantastic in a variety of ways. It’s sharp, it focuses pretty fast, and it’s very well built. Most importantly, the small size embraces the ideals of Mirrorless camera systems. Landscape photographers would especially love this lens. This all sounds fantastic, but there are a few pretty big problems.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Compact
  • Sharp
  • One of our favorite lenses so far
  • Lightweight
  • Incredibly well built. It survived being out in the rain for a long time.
  • Autofocus speed isn’t all that bad

Cons

  • I wish it focused closer
  • Oooof, that distortion is strong!
  • Autofocus accuracy isn’t all that great in fully automatic AF point selection

Gear Used

We tested the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z with the Nikon Z6.

Tech Specs

Specs for the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z taken from the LensRentals listing

Angle of View84°
Aperture Blades9, Rounded
Aspherical Elements4
AutofocusAutofocus
BrandNikon
CompatibilityFull Frame
Diameter3.1″
Extra Low-Dispersion Elements1
Filter Size72.0mm
Focal Length24.0-24.0
Groups/Elements10/12
Hood IncludedYes
Image StabilizationNo
Item TypeLens
Length3.8
Lens TypeWide Angle
Max Aperture1.8
Maximum Magnification0.15x
Minimum Aperture16.0
Minimum Focusing Distance0.8feet
MountNikon Z
Weight1.0 lb.

Ergonomics

When you look at the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z, you’ll see a pretty big front. This is for a 72mm filter. It’s best for ND filters, polarizers, etc. This is because the lens is weather sealed.

Turn to the right on the lens, and you’ll spot the only control. Here is where you can tell the lens to manually or automatically focus. In front of that is the giant focusing ring. Said ring provides grooved grips for better handling.

Besides this, the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is a pretty simple and straightforward lens. Many of Nikon’s Z mount primes are just that.

Build Quality

The Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z was used extensively in the rain. In fact, we kept it out for a few hours and it kept working. I was very thoroughly impressed previously with how good the build quality of Nikon’s lenses are, but this blew me away. Photographers who need to shoot in less than ideal conditions will feel relieved that this lens will keep working. 

Further, this lens also feels great in the hands. Many of Nikon’s lenses feel very similar and the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is no exception. It’s dominated by the big, giant focusing ring. That’s all you’ll truly care about. 

Ease of Use

The Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is a pretty straightforward lens to use. The only real control is on its side. Said control does nothing else but switch focusing from manual to automatic. In that way, photographers know it will be essentially a point and shoot affair. Anyone has the potential to pick it up and create beautiful images.

Autofocus

The autofocus performance on the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is where things get a bit more depressing yet hopeful at the same time. Let’s tackle the good first: this is Nikon’s fastest focusing lens for the Z system. That’s about the end of it.

The bad: the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is a lens on a camera system with almost unforgivable performance in 2020. The Nikon Z6 and the Nikon Z7 are far behind Canon, Sony, and Fujifilm when it comes to focus performance. Where we really put this to the test was with candid street photography. It was incredibly difficult to get anything in focus with tracking, face detection, etc. I remember shooting and knowing that I was taking a risk when doing it during Chinese New Year. And all I came back with were depressingly out of focus photos. This wouldn’t have happened with other systems. Maybe it might have occurred with Fujifilm at times, but at least I can embrace it with their system’s film simulations. Here, I can’t. 

Image Quality

The best thing about the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is the image quality. Bokeh? Yeah, it’s nice for the enthusiast photographer who will most likely spring for this lens. Colors? They’re very good. Our only gripe is how much distortion this lens has. As of the writing of this (at the end of January 2020), Capture One doesn’t have distortion correction strong enough for the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z. And even then, it’s pretty difficult to correct. But it surely does have a character to it.

Bokeh

When focusing closely and shooting wide open, you’ll get the best bokeh. The Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z has very creamy, beautiful bokeh indeed. The hobbyist will love it. And if you’re shooting an environmental portrait, this is going to be a nice tool to use.

Chromatic Aberration

Well, the lens isn’t without fault. While there is no fringing to really speak of, there is a lot of distortion. Watch out for straight lines becoming curved. The profile isn’t in Capture One as of early February 2020.

 

Color Rendition

What I love the most about the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is the color rendition. At times, it’s very true to life. But at other times, it’s saturated and lovely. These make for vivid prints with colors that pop off the page.

Sharpness

The Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is a very sharp lens. This isn’t Nikon’s sharpest: I’d probably give that nod to their 24-70mm f2.8 Z lens. But it’s a very good prime. If anything, I’d call it their sharpest prime.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Build quality
  • Small size
  • Sharpness
  • Bokeh

Dislikes

  • I’m not quite sure this price makes sense.
  • Distortion is strong

The Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z is a great lens. Not only can it handle a lot of rain, but it’s got great image quality. We found it to be sharp with excellent colors and bokeh to boot. It’s also lightweight, so you’ll never want to take it off the camera. Where we found it lacking is with just how distorted the images are. This isn’t the end of the world. however, it’s fair to expect more from Nikon at this price point. At $1,000, I expect better performance. But the bigger problem is that the Z series cameras really need to improve. Only then will the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z be able to provide the performance that we’ve known for years from Nikon. Hopefully, they start with the autofocus.

We’re giving the Nikon 24mm f1.8 Z four out of five stars. Want one? They’re just under $1,000 on Amazon.