Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens Review: A New Benchmark

When the Z mirrorless system was first announced, Nikon committed to providing lenses with far superior image quality and optical characteristics over its F-mount DSLR siblings, and it all started. with the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens. Despite the performance of the f/4 “kit” version over the F-mount version, the 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens at 2 $295 might be one of the best 24-70mm lenses ever made.

Most people would agree that the 24-70mm lens (36-105mm on a cropped/DX format) is one of the biggest workhorses in any photographer’s toolbox, as it offers a range of Decent wide-angle to telephoto zoom that suits a plethora of photography styles and needs. This includes everything from landscape to product to portrait, all in one lens. Thanks to the constant f/2.8 aperture, the lens is the central core of ‘holy trinity’ lenses and is often described as the ideal ‘deserted island’ lens.

With Nikon’s initial laser lens aiming to entice professionals to switch to mirrorless, the S lens was expected to outperform its existing rivals. While it might be one of the most expensive lenses of its focal lengths on the market, it comes with some of the best specs to make the price worth it.

Build quality and design

The Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens is larger, faster, and heavier than the f/4 version for the mirrorless system, but it’s still smaller (one inch) in length than the mount sibling. F, which makes it much more portable and easier to pack when traveling. It features 17 elements in 15 groups that include two extra-low dispersion (ED) and four aspherical elements along with nine rounded blades and a focal length range of f/2.8 to f/22. The lens features an additional customizable control ring and button to allow quick changes to multiple settings and modes without having to take the camera away from your eyes. Additionally, the lens also includes a small OLED information display on the lens barrel that can be cycled through multiple information displays including focal length, focus distance, and aperture.

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The 24-70mm f/2.8 S is about five inches long with a barrel diameter of about 3.5 inches in diameter, with a weight of about 805 grams. While not quite small, this is one of the lightest and smallest 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses for mirrorless cameras overall. The focus ring sits at the front of the barrel with the zoom ring located directly behind (just above the OLED screen). The three rings adjust smoothly with little to no drift present due to the overall “stiffness” of the rings, making fine adjustments for zoom and focus incredibly easy to make.

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It’s worth noting that the focus ring has a speed-sensitive system, which means that moving it slowly will allow for incredibly precise micro-adjustments, while rotating the ring quickly will shift focus. point from one extreme to the other with very minimal movement. It’s pretty great when shooting for stills, but can be a bit of a pain in focus when working in video with this particular lens.

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The programmable L-Fn button next to the display mode button can be set via the camera’s menu system to include autofocus lock, subject tracking, frame playback and plenty of other options that make it easier to focus through the lens rather than struggling to touch. screen menus while working. Personally, I tend to set the L-fn button for tracking modes and the control ring for ISO settings. Finally, at the very base of the lens is a switch for quickly switching between manual and autofocus modes.

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The 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens is fully sealed to protect against dust and moisture with gaskets on the base, control rings, buttons and switches, and every gasket between components . Arguably the only thing missing from this particular lens is a built-in Vibration Reduction (VR) system. While that’s by no means a dealbreaker as the professional Z mirrorless housings all have built-in image stabilization which works incredibly well, it would have been nice to have the few extra steps of VR to work in very heavy situations. low light that event photographers often find themselves in.

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Another nice feature of the 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens is the fluorine-coated front and rear lens elements for resistance to dust, moisture, smudges, and fingerprints, as well a felt lens hood to help protect the lens from light leaks and prevent flare. Finally, for people who want to use filters with the system, the versatile lens comes with an 82mm thread for screw-on filters.

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The bottom line here is that the lens is pretty much built like a tank, and while it’s heavier than the f/4 sibling, that doesn’t really affect the feel of using it. Over the past few months I have used this lens for everything from auto show shoots, comics, weddings, fashion images, product shots for advertising and astrophotography, as well as landscapes , street and candid.

Image quality and performance

The 24-70mm f/2.8 S is one of the sharpest and cleanest lenses the company has ever made, consistently outperforming all of its siblings as well as most competing lenses (according to DXOMark). The lens itself has a close focusing distance of 15 inches (0.37 meters) and a magnification of 1:4.2 in manual focus at 70mm, meaning it can not only Work great as a daily and general purpose lens, but can also be used to capture great product/food/drink images with very impressive sharpness.

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Autofocus with this lens was incredibly impressive. It uses a new multi-focus system that behaves similarly to Sony G Master lenses by using multiple AF motors and groups to improve system performance. The difference with Nikon is that it uses two stepper motor actuators to move both focus groups at the same time. This seems to make the system incredibly quiet and more precise, however, it often feels like it takes a bit longer to get from focus to focus on your subject compared to the f/ version. 4 or even F-mount DSLR versions.

Despite the overall sharpness of the lens, distortion is still slightly noticeable if you don’t enable distortion correction and vignetting removal in-camera (or via a lens profile in Photoshop/Lightroom). By default, the Nikon Z system appears to automatically apply lens profile corrections directly to RAW files when imported by Adobe. But after manually disabling and re-enabling these settings for a few images (see the gifs below), you can see the differences between the enabled and disabled profiles.

24 mm profiles on/off
24 mm profiles on/off
70mm profiles on/off
70mm profiles on/off

When it comes to image sharpness, subjects are consistently and incredibly sharp in the central lens area no matter what focal length you’re using, but the corners do get a bit soft when shooting wide aperture. Once you drop down to f/5.6, edge-to-edge sharpness is near perfect with hardly any visible vignetting or distortion.

Bokeh when shooting wide aperture is nice and smooth, and it’s a huge improvement over the f/4 version, but there can occasionally be some ‘cat’s eye’ type bokeh patterns that appear when there is a busy background outside. focus areas near the edges of the frame. This pattern might not be very serious or even pleasing to some, but for me, I prefer my bokeh patterns to be a bit more consistent. Even with that gripe, the lens can create some lovely stellar bokeh throws.

Fortunately, due to the design of the lens, there are virtually no issues with lens flare, chromatic aberration, or ghosting. Over the months of using the lens for several projects, everything has been very well controlled and I haven’t had any “disposable” shots due to this possible issue.

Below is a series of photos in various disciplines that I took with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 S, which shows its versatility.

A superior successor to a legendary F-mount lens

With the release of the Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, Nikon has offered its mirrorless users a larger, sharper and better sealed version of its f/4 sibling that is even smaller than most other mirrorless lenses. of its category. While the cost is significantly higher than the f/4 version and it arguably focuses a little slower than the F-mount DSLR version, it’s still worth more than what you get in return, especially if you have already the 14-24mm and 70 -200mm Z mount lenses to complete the trinity.

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The 24-70mm f/2.8 S is a stunning lens that truly succeeds its DSLR predecessor with exceptional sharpness, clarity, bokeh and close-up performance. It’s one of the smallest and lightest lenses in its class, boasts incredible weather sealing, and is by far the best 24-70mm f/2.8 lens Nikon has ever produced.

Are there alternatives?

Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S kit vs. f/4

As I mentioned before, within the Nikon lineup there are several alternatives, including the $2,096 24-70mm f/2.8 ED-IF VR DSLR (with FTZ adapter) which is bigger and heavier. , the $997 Z 24-70mm f/4 S kit lens. which is smaller and lighter, but you lose the extra controls, extra aperture range, and several other features. There’s also the $1,196 Z 28-75mm f/2.8 lens which is an affordable alternative if you’re fine with slightly lower image quality and a different focal range.

Apart from Nikon, there are a few other third-party DSLR lenses like the $1,199 Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 and Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM lens. at $1,299, both of which will require the use of the FTZ adapter.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens is more than worth the investment and is an absolute workhorse of a lens.

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