The 24-70mm f2.8 lens is known both as a sturdy workhorse and a pricey luxury. But, unlike the 24-70mm f4, Nikon’s newest wide-to-mid zoom sacrifices focal length for aperture. The new Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 isn’t as wide but just as bright and less than half the cost of the Z 24-70mm f2.8. Selling for just a few pennies under $1,000, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 is only three dollars more than the Z 24-70mm f4 S lens.
However, Nikon has cut a few things besides that widest angle in order to slide in under a four-figure price point. Without the S designation in the name, the lens isn’t quite as robust in terms of build quality and tackling common issues like aberration and edge softness. While the Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 may still be a good choice for beginners, there are a few things photographers should know before adding this lens to their kit.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
The Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 lens is an affordable, lightweight zoom that offers the bright aperture of much pricier lenses. However, it lacks the edge sharpness of Nikon’s S series lenses and it struggles with aberration. It’s a lens for hobbyists to consider, but pros who prefer the added reach on the end may want the Nikon Z 24-70mm f2.8 S instead.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to use
- Close focusing
- Great bokeh
- More affordable than the 24-70mm f2.8. It’s usually going for $1,196.95 over at Amazon and Adorama.
- No MF switch
- Build is more plasticky than S series
- AF not ready for action
- Soft edges
- RAW colors skewed by aberration
I tested the Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 with:
- Nikon Z7 II body
- Flashpoint Zoom Li-Ion II triggered by the R2 transmitter and softened with a Godox soft box (used in the indoor portraits only)
Nikon isn’t the first to cut a bit off the wide end, tack it on the long end, and sell it as a cheaper alternative to the more common 24-70mm zoom length. Tamron has a similar lens available. Tamron’s is made for Sony E mount, not Nikon Z mount, and is slightly cheaper. Reports have told us that this new Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 is the same as the previous Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 G1. Tamron’s G2 lens is different. But, for Z mount, it’s the lightest f2.8 zoom that’s available.
LensRentals lists the following technical specifications for the Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8:
- Angle of View: 75° to 32° 10’
- Aperture Blades: 9, Rounded
- Aspherical Elements: 3
- Autofocus: Autofocus
- Brand: Nikon
- Compatibility: Full Frame
- Dimensions: ø x L: 3 × 4.7″
- Extra Low-Dispersion Elements: 1
- Filter Size: 67.0mm
- Focal Length: 28.0-75.0
- Groups/Elements: 12/15
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Type: Lens
- Lens Type: Wide Angle and Normal Range
- Max Aperture: 2.8
- Maximum Magnification: 0.34x
- Minimum Aperture : 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.6feet
- Mount: Nikon Z
- Super Extra-Low Dispersion Elements: 1
- Weight: 1.2 lbs.
The design of the Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 is a bit simpler than other Z optics, hosting just two controls. There’s a thin custom control ring and a wide, grippy zoom ring. This creates a control scheme that’s ideal for beginners but offers fewer quick-access controls for pros.
The lens lacks an auto to manual focus switch; manual focus is activated from the camera body. It also lacks the custom buttons and LCD screen of the higher-end S-line optics from Nikon. Similarly, there’s no focal distance scale printed on the lens either.
For a bright zoom lens, the 28-75mm isn’t terribly heavy. In fact, Nikon says it’s the lightest f2.8 zoom they have created. It weighs 1.2 pounds and is just under five inches long. It is not an internal zoom lens, so the length of the lens extends based on the position of the zoom. It’s easy to carry and isn’t nearly as tiring as using my F-mount 24-70mm f2.8 lens for long periods.
Part of that weight savings is due to a plastic body. After using Nikon’s S series lenses, the 28-75mm feels a bit more plasticky. It feels like the budget lens that it is. It doesn’t feel as nice in the hands as S series lenses do.
Thankfully, Nikon didn’t skip the weather-sealing. I shot with this lens in a heavy spring snowfall. I also gave it a good splash from the sink. In both cases, the lens continued to function just fine. A lot of companies are skipping weather-sealing when making budget lenses. I’m glad Nikon didn’t go that direction with the 28-75mm.
While this lens produced many sharp shots, it’s not a sports lens. The lens did great with portraits. But, when taking portraits of a toddler incapable of sitting still, it had a few misses. When photographing a child running towards the camera, almost 40 percent of the images were soft. This lens also had a tendency to be a bit softer when flare is present.
While not made for action, the autofocus on the Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 lens is versatile. The lens can focus as close as .6 feet away: good for a .34x close-up. While that’s not a macro lens, it’s good enough for some types of close-ups and cropping in on portraits.
Ease of Use
Because the Nikon 28-75mm f2.8 has fewer controls than the Z 24-70mm f2.8, it’s a bit more beginner-friendly. There are no controls to bump or labels for newbies to be confused by — just mount, zoom, and shoot.
On the flip side, that also means it takes a bit longer to accomplish some tasks. Switching to manual focus via the camera’s quick menu feels a bit more tedious than just flipping a switch. That’s the control I missed the most, followed by the lens info panel on the S line lenses that lists the focal distance and aperture digitally.
Like the Z 24-70mm f2.8 S, it relies on the in-body stabilization on the camera and doesn’t have built-in VR.
At the center, the Nikon 28-75mm f2.8 has the sharpness and bokeh of the pricier Z lenses. But, the edges are softer and this lens is plagued by some colored fringing and flare that are harder to find on the 24-70mm f2.8.
This lens sacrifices a few MMs off the wide end rather than stepping down the aperture. That’s a sacrifice that’s noted in the beautiful background blur on this lens. With the ability to get in close, you can create soft backgrounds. Even at a wider angle, there’s an excellent separation between the background and the subject.
Points of light are rendered to round bokeh balls. Most of the time, this bokeh has soft edges without soap bubbling. But, occasionally harsher light sources will create bokeh with a more defined edge to it. Overall, the backgrounds from this lens are quite pleasing.
Nikon’s Z lenses are sharp. This one is too, but it drops off faster than other Z lenses I’ve tried. Shooting wide open, the lens is sharp at the center. But, the edges are soft, more so than with other similar Z lenses I’ve used. The lens isn’t one for placing subjects on the edges of the frame if you want that tack sharp subject. It is, however, sharper than older F-mount lenses, and in most cases the edge softness is difficult to notice.
As a budget lens, you get a more character and a less sterile technical perfection. When backlit, this lens creates some fun flares. These flares are mostly green but occasionally can have a bit more color variety (even a bit of rainbow to them).
The edges have a slight bending of the corners at 28mm. It’s relatively subtle and occasionally gives the bokeh the slight appearance of a swirl.
But, while those features can be fun, the chromatic aberration can be tough to deal with. In high contrast areas, particularly towards the edges, there is some significant purple fringing on the RAW files. The JPEGs only have minor aberration, so hopefully, this is something that will be easier to correct once the major editing programs support the lens profile. But, the aberration was difficult to edit out. And in some cases, it was noticeable even when not viewed at 100 percent.
The chromatic aberration gives the highlights in the RAW files a bit of a purple-pink tint. Without the lens profile, that color can be tricky to edit out of the file. It’s compounded by the Z bodies that tend to skew towards green. I usually edit out the green by adding more magenta tint, but if you have both green skin tones and magenta highlights in the same RAW file, you’re going to spend a lot of time at the computer.
Thankfully, those issues don’t persist in the JPEG files. The JPEGs feel true to the colors and impact of the Z7 II body I shot with. The aberration is minor after JPEG corrections, so there are fewer of those purple highlights.
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. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
- This lens is much lighter and easier to haul around than my D850 with a 24-70mm f2.8.
- The simple controls make this lens easy for beginners.
- Close focusing abilities add versatility and bokeh.
- The bokeh on this lens is lovely and comparable to pricier lenses.
- This lens is less than half the price of the Z 24-70mm f2.8 S.
- There’s no manual focus switch; you have to change modes on the camera body.
- The lens barrel has a definite plastic feel to it.
- The autofocus had a few more misses than I’d like with moving subjects.
- The edges are softer than Nikon’s S series lenses.
- On the RAW files, there’s quite a bit of colored fringing around high-contrast areas.
The Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 is for photographers on a budget who don’t want to sacrifice background bokeh. This lens certainly delivers a nice background bokeh, especially when working with close-ups. It’s also lightweight and easy to use. And, despite the budget price, it still has weather-sealing.
However, even the Z 24-70mm f4 S has sharper edges and fewer issues with chromatic aberration. This lens looks great in soft light with subjects towards the center of the frame. In fact, in scenarios like this, it’s difficult to distinguish it from the pricier 24-70mm lens. However, backlit subjects suffer enough chromatic aberration that the highlights tend to take on a purple tint in the RAW files. It requires more time editing in front of a computer. It also suffers from slower autofocus, so it’s not a lens that I would recommend for sports.
If you want the bokeh and light-gathering power of an f2.8, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f2.8 delivers just that. However, if edge sharpness is more important, chromatic aberration is your number one pet peeve, and your budget can stretch further, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f4 S is the better choice. The 28-75mm is not a bad buy for hobbyists. But, the extra 5mm at the end shouldn’t tempt pro photographers. The Nikon Z 24-70mm f2.8 S produces better image quality in a tougher build. Even pro photographers who shoot more on the 70mm side than the 24mm side will want the better quality of the 24-70mm f2.8. While some Nikon’s S series lenses are so lovely that I want to buy a Z body just to use them, the Z 28-75mm f2.8 isn’t one of those lenses.