Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S Review
Nikon’s 24-70mm f/4 lens is a “kit lens” of sorts which accompanies the new Z 7 and Z 6 cameras - or it can be bought separately (though it’s much cheaper to buy it as part of a bundle).
It is one of two lenses which are available to buy for the brand new camera series at the time of writing - the other being a 24mm f/1.8 S lens. A third lens, a 50mm f/1.8 is due to arrive some time before the end of 2018.
The “S” line is the very first line of proprietary lenses for the Z mount, with speculation that there will be other lines available at some point. The S line is designed to be the sharpest and best available, which goes some way to explaining their high asking price.
Designed with 14 elements in 11 groups (including 1 ED lens element, 1 aspherical ED element, 3 aspherical elements, and elements with Nano Crystal Coating), the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S zoom lens offers a 24-70mm focal length, a classic “walkaround” lens for full-frame users, giving you the option to cover a variety of different subjects, including landscapes and portraits.
At the time of writing, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S retails for around £999, or it can be bought as part of a kit with the Z 7 for £3999. Although not available to buy yet, you will also be able to buy it as a Z 6 kit, with a retail price of £2699.
Ease of Use
All three of Nikon’s new Z mount lenses have been designed to be roughly the same shape, size and weight. The big difference between the currently available 24-70mm and the 24mm lens, is that the for the 24-70mm, before you can use the lens, you’ll need to twist to unlock it.
This helps to keep it smaller for carrying around when not in use, and you can always leave it extended if you’re taking a lot of pictures in fairly rapid succession. If you switch on the camera while the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S is locked, a warning will be displayed on the screen to tell you to unlock it.
There are two rings around the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens, one which is for controlling the zoom mechanism, and a smaller, thinner ring which is near the base of the lens which you can use to adjust manual focus. There are no hard stops at either end of the focusing ring, which makes it a little more tricky to know when you have hit infinity focus - but it stands a good chance that most people will be using the lens in autofocus mode.
The lens has been constructed to the same weatherproofing standards as the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 cameras, meaning you can be confident using the lens when working in inclement wether conditions. The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens also has fluorine coatings to repel water, dust and dirt.
Weighing in at 500g, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens is small for a typical full-frame 24-70mm lens. To facilitate this, Nikon has gone for a narrower f/4 aperture (compared to the usual f/2.8), which also helps to keep the price down below a 24-70mm f/2.8 G series lens. Having an aperture of f/4 should be fine for most ordinary situations, but if you’re shooting in very low light, like to create very shallow depth of field effects you may want to go for a wider aperture lens.
The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S has a pretty simple design. There are no focus markers, but the focal length is indicated just above the manual focusing ring. You’ll also see a white dot in this section which indicates when the lens is in its locked position. A switch is included so you can quickly switch between autofocus and manual focus.
A metal mount is marked with a white dot, which you line up with the white dot on the Z mount. Unlike with the F mount, there are four connectors for the Z mount, making the lens feel extremely securely attached. Once you’ve lined up the dots, you simply twist it into position and wait for the click which confirms that it’s in place.
Focusing with the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is very quick, and very quiet, making it ideal for video work. It locks onto the subject with ease, with very little hunting. In very low light, autofocusing is slower - especially if you have the focusing lamp of the Z 7 switched off.
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S is designed for use with full-frame cameras, giving you the same 24-70mm equivalent focal length, with an angle of view of 84 - 34 degrees. If used with the Nikon Z 7’s crop mode, (DX format), the focal length is equivalent to 36-105mm, with a 61-22 degree angle of view.
Typically showing up as blue or purple fringes along the edges of high-contrast subjects, chromatic aberration can be a problem, particularly for cheaper lenses. The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is such a high-quality lens that we found it very difficult to find examples of fringing in our shots. The shot below, when examined at 100%, displays some very very light fringing - but it’s unlikely you’d see it at normal printing sizes, particularly if you weren’t actively looking for it.
Shooting wide open (f/4.0) at the wide-angle end of the lens (24mm), reveals some light drop off in the corners of the image. This is particularly noticeable because the subject matter is a white wall, but it’s not something which is problematic for most normal subjects. Light drop off at 28mm, 35mm and 50mm is a little less prevalent at f/4.0, becoming more noticeable again when shooting at 70mm and f/4. By the time you reach f/5.6 across all focal lengths, drop off is much less obvious, and again, overall, when shooting ordinary, everyday subjects, it’s not something which should cause too much of an issue.
Distortion is kept to a minimum with this lens, even when shooting at the 24mm end of the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens. You may see some distortion when shooting very close to a subject for an exaggerated effect, but not in normal circumstances. When shooting portraits with a lens like this, it’s recommended that you use the telephoto end of the lens for the most natural look.
Although the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is not designated as a macro lens, it is suitable for use when shooting typical macro subjects such as flowers. You can get fairly close to your subject, with a minimum focusing distance of 0.3m.
Usually described in qualitative terms such as smooth or creamy, bokeh is the word to describe the out of focus areas in an image. Although the maximum aperture of the lens is f/4, you can still get some very pleasing shallow depth of field effects, with pleasing and attractive bokeh. Since evaluation of bokeh can often be down to personal preference, we have included some samples below so you can judge for yourself.
In order to show you sharp the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.