Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S review

A versatile lens offering excellent image quality

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Our Verdict

For those making the switch to Nikon's new full-frame mirrorless system, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S demands to be an essential part of their kit.

For

  • Excellent optical performance
  • Compact design
  • Weather-proof

Against

  • High price for an f/4 standard zoom

Alongside the Nikon Z7 and Z6, Nikon launched three dedicated lenses for its new Z mount. There were two primes – the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S and Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S – with the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S currently the only zoom available (although it will soon be joined by the Z 14-30mm f/4 S). 

It's also the only lens that's being offered as a bundle with both the Z6 and Z7, and if you choose to buy one of these mirrorless cameras you can save quite a bit of cash by purchasing a kit that includes the lens, rather than buying it separately.

While it might seem a rather modest focal range, covering moderate wide-angle to moderate telephoto lengths, a fast standard zoom is regarded as an essential piece of kit by many enthusiast or pro photographers, thanks to its versatility – it's a lens that's capable of shooting anything from sweeping landscapes to pleasing portraits. 

Features

  • Constant f/4 maximum aperture
  • 14 elements in 11 groups
  • 7-blade aperture diaphragm 

While the new Z mount has an opening 11mm wider than Nikon's long-established F mount, the new Z 24-70mm f/4 S is substantially smaller than Nikon's FX format AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, weighing in at just 500g compared to 1,070g, while it's also quite a bit more compact, measuring just 77.5 x 88.5mm compared to 88 x 154.5mm.

Granted, the F mount lens is a stop faster at f/2.8, while it also features Nikon's lens-based Vibration Reduction (Nikon's Z cameras sport in-body image stabilization don't forget), but the new lens is still quite a bit smaller.

Specification

Focal length: 24-70mm

Mount: Nikon Z

Filter size: 72mm

Max aperture: f/4

Minimum focus distance: 0.3m

Dimensions: 77.5 x 88.5mm

Weight: 500g

Its constant f/4 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range should make the Z 24-70mm f/4 S versatile enough for most shooting situations – and if you're going to be shooting in poor light regularly, the Z6 or Z7's in-body stabilization system makes that extra stop of light you get with a f/2.8 lens less of an issue.

That extra stop may be a bit more of a deal-breaker if you're planning to shoot portraits regularly, but if you really what that extra degree of flexibility then you'll have to wait a little longer for Nikon to launch the Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. Don't forget, though, that there's also an FTZ adapter available, so you could always use something like the AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR if you prefer.  

The lens features a optical design of 14 elements in 11 groups, with Nikon’s anti-reflective ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings, which are designed to reduce ghosting and flare. 

There's also an electromagnetic diaphragm that’s designed to provide highly accurate control of the aperture blades, to ensure more consistent exposures during continuous shooting. 

Build quality and handling

  • Collapsable design
  • Useful control ring
  • Weather sealed

The Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S features quite a simple design, with no focus markers, while the lens features a retracting design, making it more compact when not in use. The lens is activated once you twist the zoom range to 24mm and beyond - you won't be able to shoot otherwise. 

There's a reasonably sized zoom ring at the front of the lens, while there's also a control ring that can be assigned a range of features such as exposure compensation or ISO adjustment if you're using autofocusing. Flick the switch on the side of the lens to manual focus and focusing is adjusted via the control ring.

Overall build quality is very good, with the lens weather-proofed to the same impressive standard as the Z6 and Z7 that it's going to be used with, while there's a fluorine coating on the front element to actively repel, water and dust. 

We used the lens on both the Z6 and Z7 and found focusing to be both fast and quiet, while the minimum focus distance is also good at 0.3m.

Performance

  • Great sharpness and contrast
  • Hard to see signs of flare and fringing
  • Distortion handled very well

Optically, the Z 24-70mm f/4 S doesn't disappoint. Sharpness at the center is excellent, while sharpness at the edge of the frame is very good – especially when you consider that this is a standard zoom and not a dedicated prime. 

Another surprise is the way the lens handles color fringing; it's incredibly well controlled, and where it does appear it's incredibly hard to see unless you're inspecting the image at over 100%. 

The good news doesn't stop there, with distortion also handled very well – it's so well controlled that you won't be able to spot it. Shooting wide-open at f/4 does reveal some hints of vignetting, but this shouldn't be an issue for most subjects and is easily corrected in post.  

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Verdict

Just as the Z6 and Z7 have impressed, so does this brilliant standard zoom. It might not feature the most generous focal length range, while the maximum aperture of 'only' f/4 may sound unremarkable, but don't overlook this lens. 

This compact lens is versatile, and most importantly it backs that up with incredibly assured optical performance that does justice to the new cameras. For those making the switch to Nikon's new full-frame mirrorless system, this lens should be an essential part of their kit.