Last Updated on 02/14/2023 by Hillary Grigonis
Nikon’s mirrorless S series lenses are the reason to choose the Z system in the first place. They are super sharp lenses that create lovely results. But those lenses are expensive. Can one that’s half the cost still produce great shots? That’s the question to answer for the Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8. The lens (which isn’t part of the high-end S series) is just as bright but a little less wide than the 14-24mm f2.8 S. But, the 17-28mm costs just $1,200 compared to the wider lenses’ $2,300.
That price difference makes the 17-28mm much more attractive. But will the images look as attractive? I spent a few weeks with the Nikon Z 17-28 f2.8 to find out.
The Big Picture
The Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 is a versatile ultra-wide zoom with a wide aperture. The 17mm creates that feeling of large, wide-open spaces, while the 28mm creates a bit more natural point of view. Angle this lens just right and you can get lovely flare. The lens is lightweight and capable of handling light rain. Of course, one of the biggest perks is that this lens costs $1,100 less than the 14-24mm f2.8 S.
While it’s a good lens that produces tack-sharp photos, there’s more chromatic aberration to contend with. The autofocus also isn’t quite as fast and not stabilized. But, if you don’t shoot sports and you shoot JPEG or can add the lens profile in post, it’s not a bad buy. That wide aperture and wide angle will be worth the cost for many.
I’m giving the Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 four out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.
- Ultra-wide to wide-angle versatility
- Half the price of the 14-24mm f2.8
- Produces some nice flare
- Simple to use
- No stabilization
- Slower autofocus than the 14-24mm f2.8 S
- Produces some noticeable chromatic aberration — RAWs really need that lens profile
I used the Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 with the Nikon Z 7 II.
The Nikon Z 17-28mm is less about brand-new optical technology and more about getting a bright wide-angle zoom that’s lightweight and cheaper than alternatives. This lens fits right in with the rest of the Z line-up, but it’s about half the cost of the S-series 14-24mm f2.8.
If you’ve shot with Nikon’s Z lenses before, the 17-28mm f2.8 will feel like home. It has a similar look to Nikon’s other Z lenses. The Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 doesn’t take the luxury design of some of the pricier S series lenses: it lacks the tiny screen that can be set to display things like the focal distance. But the design feels akin to other non-S series lenses.
The lens weighs one pound and is about four inches long. The lens is pretty lightweight for an f2.8 ultra-wide zoom. It’s easy to carry around for long stretches. And at four inches long, while there are smaller lenses, the low weight made this lens feel small.
The first control out from the mount is a thin control ring. Using the camera menu, this control can be set to aperture, focus, exposure compensation, or ISO. It can also be turned off. The lens does support using the ring to adjust focus after using autofocus without switching over to full manual focus. This control ring turns too easily (a small turn will still take you from f2.8 to f11). A tiny turn is all it needs. I have a tendency to bump this ring on many of Nikon’s Z lenses, so I often end up turning this control off, even though I love adjusting the aperture right on the lens. When you set the ring to control focus, you do have the option to customize how much of a turn you need inside the camera menu.
The next control is the wide, grippy zoom ring. The overall length of the lens on the exterior doesn’t change as the lens zooms, but the front glass does move further inside the lens at 28mm.
That’s all the controls; there are no shortcut buttons or LCD screens like on Nikon’s pricier lenses. Switching to manual focus is done on the camera body. The two controls, however, do make the lens easy to use. I spent much of my review using this lens with gloves on.
The front of the lens is flat, with a bit of plastic around the edge. The lens accepts 67mm filters and ships with a petal-shaped lens hood.
The Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 is weather-sealed. I suspect it’s not as thoroughly sealed as an S series lens. But I took this lens out in snowfall and didn’t experience any issues. I also splashed it with a bit of water, and it still held up just fine. And I didn’t detect any debris inside the camera body or lens during my review.
The overall feel of this lens is a little plasticky. Nikon’s S series lenses feel a bit more high-end in the hands. But, the similar S-series lens costs twice as much, so many photographers will be okay with the feel of the lens if that’s the trade-off.
I had a few autofocus misses when using the Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8. A few of those shots could simply be chalked up to the wide angle, making the subject too small for face detection to work. With the fastest shots (like my dog headed towards the camera) I ended up with around a quarter of the shots a bit soft. The number of soft shots also increases a bit indoors, where light is limited.
For the types of subjects that typically use an ultra-wide angle (like landscapes and environmental portraits), this lens will get the job done. If you want to shoot fast subjects like dogs, toddlers or sports, the Nikon Z 14-24mm f2.8 S provides snappier performance.
One highlight, however, is the ability to focus as close as .6 feet. You can get in close if you want to create more bokeh or emphasize more detail.
Ease of Use
Minimal controls make this lens very easy to use. I could even shoot with non-photo gloves on since the zoom barrel and the control dials on the camera body are pretty chunky. I could jump right into using this lens without pulling it away from my face; there are no control positions to memorize, and the two dials are easily differentiated by feel.
The Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 lacks image stabilization, however. The in-body stabilization on the Z7 II still allowed me to shoot handheld photos for half a second if I propped my elbows on something. Stabilization would have opened up more possibilities for longer handheld exposures, but don’t overdo it on the coffee. The in-body stabilization will be sufficient for most other types of shots.
To reiterate what we said in our First Impressions post, this is a “Nikon developed lens.” But for sure, this lens seems to be made by Tamron. And it’s very similar to the variant made for Sony cameras.
For being roughly half the cost of the 14-24mm f2.8 S, the Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 delivers impressive sharpness and bokeh. But it’s not quite the same level of shock-inducing image quality as S series lenses. There’s some noticeable chromatic aberration on RAW files.
Ultra-wides aren’t known for bokeh, but you can create some with this lens if you get in close to the subject and shoot at f2.8. With the right mix of conditions, this lens can create a nicely rounded bokeh with only a slightly rounded cat-eye towards the edge. It’s hard to spot any onion ringing or soap bubbling, but an occasional bokeh ball will take on a slightly harder edge to it.
The colors coming from this lens were in line with what I’ve come to expect from Nikon. That means generally true to life colors but with an extra dash of green. The lens feels consistent: I think you can batch-edit this lens with other Z lenses and still have the results come out okay. It didn’t quite take on the more golden, richer tones of Nikon’s f2.8 S series zooms but is very similar to other non-S lenses.
Look at that — a bit of flare! I was excited to see some nice flare with ghosting spots from this lens, since Z lenses tend to squash flare. Still, if you don’t care for the flare you can angle the camera a bit, because I had plenty of shots shooting generally towards the light that didn’t flare.
This lens also brings some classic ultra-wide character with vignetting at the edges. At 17mm, there’s some slight barrel distortion. That combined with the wide angle can exaggerate perspective and create a larger-than-life feel.
Sadly, there’s some noticeable chromatic aberration in the RAW files, a character that’s not welcome, like flare. Thankfully, this purple fringing was almost absent in the JPEG files. And in Lightroom (which already has the lens profile available), the purple fringing was very slight. But, in Capture One, without the lens profile, I didn’t even have to zoom in to 100 percent to spot some purple. You can spot the purple if you look at the branches by the brightest part of the sky in this photo:
The fringing is much lighter when you have the lens profile available, but I think this is another thing that the pricier 14-24mm f2.8 S lens does better.
The sharpness earns that Z name. The edges are slightly softer than the center, but this lens is sharp enough that even off-center subjects photographed at f2.8 will be nicely detailed.
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.
Who Should Buy It?
There are a few key differences between the Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8 and the Nikon Z 14-24mm f2.8 S, besides the focal length. The S lens focuses faster and produces a cleaner image with less chromatic aberration. That lens is best for pixel peepers and getting wide-angle shots of the action.
The 17-28mm f2.8 is quite a bit cheaper than the S series lens, and I liked the flare that this lens created. If you don’t need something as wide as 14mm and don’t shoot action, you can save more than $1,000 by choosing the 17-28mm. It’s not quite as good as the 14-24mm, but it’s plenty sharp, and if you apply the lens profile in post, the chromatic aberration won’t be bothersome.
This lens is for Nikon Z shooters who need something wide and bright but don’t shoot action and don’t have the budget for the S-series lens.
Want one? Check them out on Amazon.
Lensrentals lists the following specifications for the Nikon Z 17-28mm f2.8:
- Angle of View: 104° to 75°
- Aperture Blades: 9, Rounded
- Autofocus: Autofocus
- Brand: Nikon
- Compatibility: Full Frame
- Filter Size: 67.0mm
- Focal Length: 17.0-28.0
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Type: Lens
- Lens Type: Wide Angle
- Max Aperture: 2.8
- Maximum Magnification: 0.19x
- Mfr. Model Number: 20115
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.6feet
- Mount: Nikon Z
- Optical Design
- Groups/Elements: 11/13
- Aspherical Elements: 11/13
- Extra-Low Dispersion Elements: 2
- Super Extra-Low Dispersion Elements: 1
- Physical Dimensions (ø x L): 3 × 4″
- Weight: 1.0 lb.
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