Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Review
Announced back in January 2019, the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S is an ultra wide-angle lens specifically designed for the Nikon Z series of full-frame mirrorless cameras.
This lens is the first to be announced in 2019, following on from the three made available in 2018 - a 24-70mm f/4, 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.8. If Nikon follows through on its lens road-map plan, we should see several more S series lenses announced over the next year.
The Nikon 14-30mm lens features a compact design with a flat front element, with the lens allowing the use of 82mm filters without the need for a filter holder. Other features include a constant f/4 aperture, weather sealing, anti-reflective nano crystal coating, a silent multi-focusing system and a retractable lens mechanism.
Lens construction features 14 elements in 12 groups. Four ED (extra-low dispersion elements), plus four aspherical elements included. There are seven diaphragm blades.
At the time of writing, the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens is yet to go on sale, but it can be pre-ordered for £1,349, making it the most expensive Z series lens to date - until the new 24-70mm f/2.8 makes its debut later in the year.
Ease of Use
Considering the wide-angle of the lens, the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S is remarkably small. In order to get a lens matching this angle of view with existing Nikon F mount DSLR lenses, you’d need to opt for the AF-S Nikon 14-30mm f/2.8G ED lens, which by comparison is enormous. Even the AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR DSLR lens is considerably larger than the 14-30mm, making it an ideal choice for those who like to travel lightly with their Z cameras.
Not only is the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S small, but it is also the first ultra wide angle lens in the world to be able to take 82mm filters without the need for a filter holder - again keeping the size down and making it appealing to landscape photographers. The lens weighs approximately 485g, a significant weight saving when compared to similar Nikon DSLR lenses - the 16-35mm lens weighs in at 680g, while the 14-30mm f/2.8 lens is more than twice the weight at 1000g.
The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S uses a very similar design to other S series lenses in the current line-up, most closely resembling the 24-70mm f/4 lens. It uses the same retracting mechanism which keeps the 14-30mm even smaller when transporting the lens. You’ll need to extend it before taking a picture, but all you need to do is give the lens a firm twist to release it from its housing. You’ll need to do the same when you want to return it to its retracted position.
Otherwise, it’s a fairly minimal outward construction. There’s two rings - one which is used for zooming in and out between the 14-30 focal lengths (14, 16, 20, 24 and 30 are marked on the barrel) and a second, smaller ring, behind the zoom ring which can be used to adjust manual focusing. There’s no focus indicators on the lens, nor any buttons which can be assigned to specific functions - but considering space is at a premium, it’s not surprising to be missing these elements.
A switch is used to move between auto and manual focusing, and is found at the base of the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens. To attach the 14-30mm lens to your Z camera, all you need to do is align the white dot on the lens barrel with the white dot on the lens mount, then twist to lock into place. The lens mount is made from metal, and seems to be a very high quality construction.
The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S uses an extremely quiet and smooth focusing system, which makes it ideal for both photography in quiet situations, and for video recording. In the majority of situations, the lens snaps almost instantly into focus. Micro adjustments can be made using the control ring.
Good news for landscape photographers, or those who are likely to be using the lens in outdoor conditions is that the 14-30mm is completely weather sealed. As well as that, the front element has a fluorine coating to repel dirt and water.
Also supplied in the box is a lens hood, which can be slotted into place - white dots on the end of the lens barrel and on the hood help to confirm that you’ve slotted it correctly into place. Additionally, a small lens pouch which doubles up as a lens cleaning cloth is included.
The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S is for use on full-frame cameras, so the numbers printed on the lens relate directly to the focal length. The angle of view ranges from between 114 degrees to 72 degrees between the 14 and 30mm focal length.
Usually characterised as blue or purple fringing along high-contrast edges in an image, chromatic aberration is a common problem for lower cost lenses. As we’d expect from a lens of this quality, chromatic aberration doesn’t seem to be a problem - indeed it’s very difficult to find any examples of it occurring at all.
Vignetting can be a problem for wide-angle lenses with a wide aperture. That’s certainly the case here with the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S, where you can see quite clear vignetting when shooting at all focal lengths at the widest f/4 aperture. It’s not quite so obvious when shooting real-world situations, but there’s definite darkening the corners that can be seen, even at relatively small printing or web sizes. To get around this, stopping down to f/5.6 or f/8 where possible dramatically reduces the problem. You can also use adjust vignetting in raw format files when using software such as Adobe Camera Raw.
For an ultra wide-angle lens, the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens handles distortion reasonably well. We’d expect to see converging verticals when shooting buildings from the ground - something which can be corrected with careful image editing. More promising is the lack of pincushion or barrel distortion at the edges of the frames - you can see from these images, lines remain straight and we don’t see any of the typical curvature you might sometimes expect from very wide angle optics.
The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S is not a macro lens, and with such a wide-angle of view, it’s unlikely to be used as such. However, it does have a close focusing distance of 0.28m / 0.92ft from the focal plane at all zoom positions. That means you can get fairly close to your subject and create some interesting ultra-wide-angle close-ups.
Used to describe the out of focus areas in an image, bokeh is generally described in qualitative terms, such as pleasing, smooth, creamy etc. Although the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens doesn’t have a hugely wide aperture, it is still capable of producing some attractive shallow depth of field effects. At f/4, out of focus areas are rendered smoothly, with a pleasing natural drop off. Since the assessment of bokeh can be so subjective, we have included some crops below so you can judge for yourself.
In order to show you sharp this is lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.