Nikon’s Affordable Gem! Nikon 40mm F2 Z Review!

Let it be known, we’re not fans of most of Nikon’s kit lenses. But the Nikon 40mm f2 Z should replace every single one of them. First off, it’s just under $300. It’s small, has beautiful image quality, impressive weather sealing, and packs the performance you’d want from a lens like this. And even if it isn’t a kit lens, there’s good reason to buy into the Nikon system just for this lens alone. Combine this with the promising firmware updates Nikon has made to improve their autofocus, and the Nikon Z system is really starting to spread its wings.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

If you’re still wondering whether or not you should get into the Nikon Z camera system, the Nikon 40mm f2 z should help change your mind. The company has offered multiple autofocus updates to its cameras. And with each one, the cameras and autofocus performance have genuinely improved. With that said, the Nikon 40mm f2 z can be swift, but Nikon’s autofocus algorithms are still a tad wonky. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Durable, incredibly so!
  • Beautiful image quality
  • I like the colors.
  • Autofocus is great, but the smarts on the cameras aren’t so much when it comes to subject detection. However, it’s solid in the studio
  • Nice bokeh
  • It’s a 40mm!
  • Bro, it’s $299.99. Like, this is THE IMPULSE BUY lens from Nikon.

Cons

  • Autofocus on the Nikon z6 II is much improved, but still falls behind other brands for stuff like street photography

Innovations

The Nikon 40mm f2 z isn’t doing anything genuinely innovative per se. However, they’re offering the smallest autofocusing 40mm f2 lens on the market. They’ve added incredible weather sealing despite them being slightly conservative with their own statements on this. Better yet, they’ve done this at a crazy low price point. 40mm lenses have finally been seeing a rise in popularity. But the Nikon 40mm f2 z is a study in how to do it right.

Gear Used

We tested the Nikon 40mm f2 z with the following:

Tech Specs

Taken from our original report

  • A compact, versatile prime lens that is ideal for everyday applications such as close-ups, casual portraits and food photography. 
  • Delivers fantastic bokeh and a dramatic separation of the subject from the background.  
  • The standard focal range hits the sweet spot of a natural angle of view, while still being wide enough for street photography. When mounted on a DX-format camera, the lens is equivalent to 60mm, which is a great focal length for flattering portraits. 
  • Ultra-compact, weighing in at merely 170g and only 1.8” long, making it easy to carry around for day-long outings. 
  • Built with 6 elements in 4 groups with a 9-blade diaphragm that creates a gorgeous, circular bokeh that draws attention to the subject. 
  • Utilizes an electromagnetic diaphragm for precise aperture control and stable exposure during continuous shooting. 
  • The NIKKOR Z 40mm f2 offers a short 0.96ft (0.29m) minimum focusing distance, which is excellent for capturing food and top-down photos of décor and tablescapes. 
  • Designed with consideration for dust and drip-resistant performance with a sealing that prevents dust and water droplets from entering the lens. 
  • Video shooters will benefit from the quiet operation, natural focus shift that allows for fluid changes when going from close focusing to infinity, reduced focus breathing and smooth aperture control. 
  • The lens features an integrated control ring, which can be customized and assigned to adjust focus, ISO, aperture and exposure compensation. 
  • $299.95 price point.

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

The Nikon 40mm f2 Z isn’t very complicated. Looking at the front, you see the 52mm filter thread, which means this is a small lens. As we’ve said before, Nikon truly embraces the idea that mirrorless should be small while also being functional and having great ergonomics. 

Look at the top of the lens. Besides the focusing ring, there aren’t any other controls on it. 

Build Quality

Nikon has been a tad weird about addressing weather sealing and the wording around it. Here’s what we said in our initial report:

“Nikon also did that weird thing where they say that they’re adding dust and drip-resistance with a sealing. They’ve done this before, and it sounds like weather sealing without saying it’s weather sealing.”

For the record, the Nikon 40mm f2 Z doesn’t have a rubber gasket ring at the mount. But the lens protection goes over the mount and covers it. With that said, you’d better believe I took this lens out into the rain. It and the Nikon z6 II performed admirably in the rain. The very first time I tested the Nikon z7 with their earliest lenses, I was amazed at how durable they were. And with a lens as affordable as the Nikon 40mm f2 Z, I’m equally as stunned. This lens isn’t even part of their S series, but it held its own against some of the hardest rain I’ve seen in NYC this season. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Nikon 40mm f2 Z will perform admirably no matter what.

Couple this with the fact that it’s lightweight, small, and built well overall. In fact, I’m inclined to call this lens a Nikon Summicron. I say this because it feels like what a Leica Summicron-M lens would be if it autofocused. 

Later on in this review, you’ll see that the Nikon 40mm f2 Z kept working even in heavy rain. Yes, it’s that durable.

Ease of Use

There isn’t much to the Nikon 40mm f2 Z. You slap it on a camera, point, autofocus, shoot and enjoy the photo. It doesn’t have any sort of controls on it except for the small focusing ring. But to be honest, you’re better off just using the autofocus at this point. Want to go into manual focus? You’ll have to do it from the camera body.

Autofocus

Let’s start with a few things. Nikon’s autofocus has dramatically improved. The lenses are very capable of focusing very quickly. The Nikon 40mm f2 Z is no exception to this rule. The autofocus is undoubtedly quick and able to keep up with things moving in pretty much all lighting situations in AF-S. But when it comes to continually tracking a subject, it gets more complicated, especially with things like moving cats! In a studio test with a human, the Nikon 40mm f2 Z kept up in low light. 

Still, in street photography situations, the Nikon 40mm f2 Z can’t always recognize people moving past you, lock onto them, and get the photo perfectly in focus and sharp. However, I’m blaming that more on the cameras like the ZFc and the z6 II. For future cameras, I genuinely hope that this lens will perform better.

Image Quality

Can you tell that the Nikon 40mm f2 Z isn’t an S series lens? Well, it’s kind of tough to do that. The S series lenses seem to have this extraordinary aesthetic beauty that I can’t really put my finger on. But so too does the Nikon 40mm f2 Z. With that said, the lens is still pretty clinically well developed.

Bokeh

Look at this bokeh! It’s charming. That’s what 9 aperture blades will do. The bokeh is gorgeous, smooth, and will satisfy nearly anyone. There are no complaints from us.

Color Rendition

Nikon’s colors are odd to us, but the colors from this lens are what I’ve come to expect from Nikon. Hillary feels like they’re very green. And I can totally see where she says that. My thing is that I’ll manually set the white balance. Again, I didn’t have a problem with the colors from this lens. But there are better options on the market.

Lens Character

The Nikon 40mm f2 Z doesn’t have any character, really. There are no significant issues with distortion, fringing, etc. But at the same time, this lens doesn’t do anything that makes you say, “Oh, that’s a Nikon!” In fact, I feel like that’s Nikon’s next big challenge.

Sharpness

Make no mistake, the Nikon 40mm f2 Z is very sharp on the Nikon z6 II. I’ve got no complaints on the sharpness once a subject is nailed perfectly in focus.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, the Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. You’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a whole section in our Extra Image Samples area to show off edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Edited

Unedited

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Image quality
  • Price
  • Autofocus speed
  • This lens gives me a lot of hope

Dislikes

  • I wish Nikon improved their autofocus even more.

The Nikon 40mm f2 Z is a pretty fantastic lens. In fact, it’s the closest thing to being both a nifty 50 and a first 35mm lens. Nikon’s move here was genuinely brilliant. On top of that, there’s the weather sealing and the fast autofocus. As the autofocus on their cameras improves and becomes more intelligent, this lens will just get better. In fact, I think that Nikon should offer this lens as a kit option. Take the excellent image quality, impressive weather sealing, small size, and affordable pricing, and you’ve got a winner. In fact, the Nikon 40mm f2 Z is winning our Editor’s Choice award.

The Nikon 40mm f2 Z gets five out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.