Reviews |Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and Z 28mm f/2.8

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and Z 28mm f/2.8 Review

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and Z 28mm f/2.8 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£259

$266 / £309 / $297
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Our Verdict

The Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) doesn’t just look good, it’s also a very competent performer. Like the optically identical Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8, it can’t claim to capture the same sharpness as an S-line lens, but neither lens disappoints. They are also a fraction of the cost. Whether you plan to use them on the Nikon Zfc or Z50, or a full-frame camera like the Z7 II or Z6 II, either lens is a worthwhile addition to your kit and a nice optic for a day out with your camera.

For

  • Good image quality
  • Weather-sealed
  • Light and compact

Against

  • No focus scale
  • Single control ring
  • SE (retro style) version more expensive in the UK than non-SE version

What are the Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8?

Nikon announced the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) with the Nikon Z fc, and it is sold with it as a kit as it has the same retro style. Initially, in the UK, the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) was only available as a kit with the Z fc, but in other areas, including the USA, it was available separately for around $297 (approximately £218). It’s also now available by itself in the UK.

The SE in the original lens’ name stands for Special Edition and on 18th November 2021, Nikon announced the non-special edition Nikkor Z 28mm, which has more modern looks than the Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) but the same optical design.

While the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) launched with the APS-C (DX) format Nikon Z fc,both it and the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 are in fact a full-frame lenses and suitable for use on cameras such as the Nikon Z7 II and Nikon Z6 II.

On the Z fc or the Nikon Z50, the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 have an effective focal length of 42mm, which makes them ‘standard’ lenses that can be put to a wide range of uses, everything from still life to portraits and street to landscape photography. On a full-frame camera, however, they are wide-angle lenses and likely to be used for street, landscape, architecture and interior photography.

Specification

  • Product type: Wide-angle prime lens – two different barrel designs
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Format: Full-frame (FX)
  • Focal length: 28mm (42mm on APS-C format)
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 9 elements in 8 groups with 2 aspherical elements
  • Coatings:
  • Focusing system: Internal
  • Minimum focus distance: 19cm
  • Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.2x
  • Stabilisation: No (in-camera only)
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 7
  • Filter size: 52mm
  • Weight: Non-SE version: 155g/ 5.5oz, SE version: 160g / 5.7oz
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): Non-SE version: 70 x 43mm / 2.8 x 1.7-inches, SE version: 71.5 x 43mm / 2.9 x 1.7-inches
Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 and Z 28mm f/2.8 review
The Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) is on the left while the Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 is on the right. Both lenses are mounted on the full-frame Nikon Z7 II.

Features

Nikon constructs the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and non-(SE) Z 28mm f/2.8 from 9 elements arranged in 8 groups. Amongst those elements there two that are aspherical to correct for distortions across the frame.

The lenses are also weather-sealed to keep out dust and water droplets.

As you’d expect, the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 have a ring that can be used for focusing the lens manually, but its purpose can be customised via the camera’s menu so that it can be used to adjust the aperture, sensitivity (ISO) or exposure compensation.

In a first for a non-S line Z lens, focusing is handled by two high-speed stepping motors that drive two focus groups, with everything in sync. Using two motors and focus groups helps speed the focusing and reduces distortion around the edge of the frame. This focusing system operates internally, which means the lens doesn’t change length nor does the front element rotate during focusing.

With a closest focusing distance of just 19cm or 0.63 feet from the sensor, the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 and (SE) lenses let you get close to the subject while still having plenty of context in the frame beyond.

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE)

Build and handling

Nikon based the design of the barrel of the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) on that of lenses from the 1980’s and it looks great on the Z fc. In fact, as you can see above, it also looks good on non-retro cameras like the Z7 II and Z6 II.

The knurling around the control ring is said to be based on old design drawings while the typeface and Nikkor logo are true to the era.

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE)

The Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8, however, has a more modern design without the metal band or the knurling on the ring of the SE version.

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 review

At just 155g/ 5.5oz, the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 is currently the lightest Nikon Z-mount lens available. However, the SE version of the lens is only a tiny amount heavier, weighing just 160g/5.7oz. Despite their low weight, both lenses feel well-made. One disappointment, however, is that their mount is plastic rather than metal.

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 review

As well as being light, the lenses are just 43mm long from the mount, and they feel nicely balanced on the APS-C format Nikon Zfc and the full-frame Nikon Z7 II. They’re lenses you won’t mind mounting on either camera and carrying all day.

Aside from the customisable ring, there are no other controls on the barrel of the Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and Z 28mm f/2.8, which means that you have to use the camera’s menu to switch between manual and automatic focusing.

On the Nikon Zfc, I used the Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE)’s control ring to adjust aperture, but on the Z7 II I tended to use it for exposure compensation. That’s partly because the Z fc has a dedicated exposure compensation dial whereas the Z7 II doesn’t, but also because ring-based aperture control works well with the traditional controls of the Z fc.

The control ring on both lenses rotate smoothly, requiring very little effort without feeling too loose. There are no ‘clicks’ when the rings are rotated so you don’t get any haptic feedback when it’s used to adjust a setting. It would be nice to have the option to turn clicks on and off, but that would add to the cost.

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE)

Performance

I tested the Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and the Nikkor Z 28,, f/2.8 on the Nikon Z7 II, a 45.7Mp full-frame mirrorless camera that sits below the 45.7Mp Nikon Z9 in the range. I also used the Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) on the Z fc, the 20.88Mp APS-C retro-style mirrorless camera and it fared very well on both.

Naturally, the Z7 II gives the lens the tougher test, but together they capture a high level of sharp detail. As you might expect, the images don’t have quite the same level super-crisp detail as from the Nikon Z 24mm f/1.8 S, but that’s one of Nikon S-line optics and it retails for £1,049/$999, more than 3x the price of the Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) and non-SE Z 28mm f/2.8. Also, while the Z 24mm f/1.8 S isn’t huge, it’s not specifically designed to be compact.

When either of the the Z 28mm f/2.8 lenses are on the full-frame camera, sharpness falls off towards the edges of frame at the wider aperture settings, but it’s not bad, and it’s only apparent if you’re photographing a flat subject straight-on. It improves at f/4 and again at f/5.6.

There’s also a slight hint of vignetting if the in-camera Vignette control isn’t activated, but it’s subtle at f/2.8 and virtually gone by f/4.

On the APS-C format Z fc, the edges of the image projected by the Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) are cropped out, which means that you don’t see any fall-off in sharpness or brightness.

Curvilinear distortion isn’t apparent in images captured with the Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) on the Z7 II or the Z fc.

Flare is also controlled well and I was only able to find a few mild examples of chromatic aberration when I checked along backlit edges in my images.

Being a relatively short focal length lens, the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 lenses are able to deliver extensive depth of field, but if you go close to the subject and use a wide aperture, you can still throw the background out of focus. Generally, out of focus areas look nice and smooth, but some specular highlights have a rounded heptagonal shape and there’s a suggestion of chromatic aberration around them.

Nikon promises that the Z 28mm f/2.8 lens’ stepping motors deliver fast, quiet focusing and they don’t disappoint. The focusing is effectively silent, which makes it of use for video when the microphone is mounted on the camera.

I used the lenses in a wide range of situations and I never felt the need to switch to manual focusing other than to test the mechanism.

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images shot with the Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) on the Nikon Z7 II.

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) images

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images shot with the Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 on the Nikon Z7 II.

Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 image gallery

Verdict

While they don’t hit quite the same highs as Nikon’s S-line lenses, the Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 and Nikon Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) are solid performers and attractive lenses for travel or street photography as well as those days when you want to keep your kit light. The Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE)  is a particularly nice partner for the Nikon Z fc, but it also works well on a full-frame camera like the Z7 II or Z6 II.

In the UK, the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) is more expensive than the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8. If I was buying one of the lenses for the Z50, Z5, Z7 II or Z7 II which have Nikon’s modern styling I would definitely got for the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8.

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