Although Nikon announced the 45Mp Z7 and 24Mp Z6 at the same time, the Z7 went on sale first. It was accompanied by two Z-mount lenses, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S and 35mm f/1.8 S. A few weeks later, they were joined by the Z6 and the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8.
It’s interesting that rather than focusing on extending the focal length range of its new Z-mount optics, Nikon has concentrated on introducing the most popular options. So although we already have the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S has arrived ahead of the promised Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S.
While the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is a great pairing with Nikon’s mirrorless cameras, many professional and high-end enthusiasts like to have an f/2.8 lens for the extra stop of light and the greater control over depth of field.
The Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is a full-frame lens with the new Z Mount. That means it’s directly compatible with the Nikon Z7 and Z6 full-frame mirrorless cameras.
It’s constructed from 17 elements in 15 groups, with two ED elements and four aspherical elements. Nikon has also applied its ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings to reduce ghosting and flare. In addition, the front and rear elements are fluorine-coated to help avoid problems with fingerprints, dirt and water droplets.
As the focusing is internal, the lens doesn’t change length when the focus shifts. In addition, the closest focusing distance, 38cm, is constant throughout the zoom range.
Nikon has given the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S a 9-blade aperture for attractive, rounded bokeh.
As you’d expect with a lens aimed at professional photographers, there are weather-seals so it can be used in all conditions.
|Type||Nikon Z mount|
|Focal length||24–70 mm|
|Lens construction||17 elements in 15 groups (including 2 ED elements, 4 aspherical elements, elements with Nano Crystal and ARNEO coats, and fluorine-coated front and rear lens elements)|
|Angle of view||FX format: 84° to 34°20', DX format: 61° to 22°50'|
|Focal length scale||Graduated in millimeters (24, 28, 35, 50, 70)|
|Focusing system||Internal focusing system|
|Minimum focus distance||0.38m (1.25ft), from focal plane at all zoom positions|
|Maximum reproduction ratio||Approximately 0.22x|
|No. of diaphragm blades||9 (rounded diaphragm opening)|
|Coating||Nano Crystal Coat, Fluorine coat, ARNEO coat|
|Filter attachment size||82 mm (P = 0.75 mm)|
|Diameter x length (extension from lens mount)||Approx. 89 mm/3.6 in. maximum diameter x 126 mm/5 in.(distance from camera lens mount flange)|
|Weight||Approx. 805 g|
Build and Handling
The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S has a reassuring feel. It’s solid and well-made, and the rings have just the right amount of torque.
At 89mm in diameter and protruding 126mm from the lens mount, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is shorter, but a little wider than the AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR (89×154.5mm). However, at 55mm, the Z mount is much wider than the 47mm F mount, and the new lens is broader throughout its length. This helps to make the lens feel a little less front heavy than the F-mount optic.
Unusually, the lens has three rings. The ring closest to the front element is the manual focus ring, the broad middle ring is for zooming between focal lengths and the slim ring nearest the camera body is for adjusting aperture or exposure compensation.
I used it to adjust exposure compensation. It’s especially useful during video recording as it operates silently. There’s also a Function (Fn) button on the lens that can be customised to access one of 21 functions.
In another unusual move, the lens has a small OLED on top of the barrel. This is activated by pressing the display (DISP) button just next to it. You can change the information the screen displays by repeatedly pressing the button. The options are the focal length, focus scale with depth of field, or the selected aperture. This is a nice addition, but it’s not especially useful as the depth of field scale in compressed and difficult to interpret. It proved handy for testing the lens as the focal length readout is accurate and I was able to ensure I had selected each of the marked settings.
I tested the Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S on the Nikon Z7. This camera captures a huge amount of detail and it produces superb results with the new lens. The detail always seems to stand out from the camera’s screen and this is especially noticeable at 70mm and f/2.8 when the depth of field is shallow.
It’s interesting to compare the results from the lens when the in-camera corrections are applied with those when they’re not. With the corrections turned off, for example, the Jpegs show some barrel distortion, but the raw files don’t. Adobe Camera Raw helpfully informs me that the raw files have automatic corrections applied to them. The impact is obvious as straight lines look straight.
At 24mm and f/2.8, the sharpness is good across the whole image. It only drops-off a little in the very far corners. Closing down to f/4 improves the centre and the corners, but using f/5.6 gets the far edges just a fraction sharper.
Zooming in to 28mm or further also improves the corner sharpness, but again, closing the aperture down to f/4 or f/5.6 gets them looking their best. You need to close to f/5.6 or even f/8 to loose the vignetting, but I didn’t find it to be a major problem in most normal shooting situations.
The impact of diffraction starts to become apparent at f/16 – but only if you’re pixel-peeping. It’s more noticeable at f/22 and is worst at 35mm. In fact, I’d aim to avoid using f/22 at 35mm. But that’s the only focal length and aperture combination I would try not to use, the results are generally excellent.
At 70mm, the centre sharpness is especially impressive at f/2.8, but it still improves slightly at f/4.0.
I was unable to find any chromatic aberration.
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There’s no doubt that the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is smaller and lighter than the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, but the Nikon Z7 and Z6 have a good, deep grip so the bigger lens doesn’t feel too out of place.
The results at f/2.8 are also very good, so you can get greater separation of the subject from the background if you want to.
We’ll be posting an in-depth comparison of the two lenses in the near future, but if you want the best results with this focal length range, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S gets my vote. It’s weatherproof and built to a high standard, there’s a useful function button, a dedicated control ring and the operation is super-smooth.
While I wouldn’t hesitate to use f/2.8, the best results are obtained between around f/4 and f/11.