Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens

      Photo Review 9.0

      In summary

      As a kit lens, the 24-70mm f/4 S provides enough versatility to satisfy most purchasers of Nikon’s Z-mount cameras, ranging from wide-angle to portrait-length perspectives.  Its constant f/4 maximum aperture and electromagnetic aperture mechanism provide stable focus and exposure control and near-silent autofocusing and its overall performance is excellent for a lens of this type.

      Internal focusing ensures the length of the lens remains constant during use, while the stepping motor provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance along with full-time manual focus override. The button-less retractable barrel and magnesium alloy construction keep the lens relatively compact and light and make it an excellent companion to the Z7 and Z6 cameras.

      Full review

      The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is the first zoom lens released for Nikon’s Z7 and Z6 mirrorless ‘full frame’ cameras and will be offered with both as a standard kit. Covering a useful range of focal lengths from moderate wide-angle to portrait perspective, it is made mainly from magnesium alloy and boasts dust- and drip-resistance plus a rounded seven-blade iris diaphragm for attractive bokeh. The review lens was supplied with the Nikon Z7 camera, for which it is a perfect match.

      Side view of the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens, shown without end caps and lens hood. (Source: Nikon.)

      The optical design of the 24-70mm f/4 S lens consists of 14 elements in 11 groups and includes two extra-low dispersion elements (one of which is aspherical), plus three aspherical elements which together minimise chromatic aberrations and distortions throughout the zoom range.  Their positions are shown in the diagram below.

      Both Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coatings have also been applied to control flare and ghosting and maintain contrast and colour saturation. The front element has a fluorine coating that repels moisture and grime and also has an anti-reflective effect.

      The 24-70mm f/4 S lens uses the same autofocus driver as the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S lens, with a stepping motor that ensures fast and quiet focusing. It also has an electromagnetically-controlled diaphragm mechanism for reliable aperture control.

      The lens is supplied with front and end caps and a petal-shaped lens hood that can be reversed over the lens barrel for storage and during transporting.  A soft XL-X1 lens pouch is also provided.

      Build and Ergonomics
      The 24-70mm f/4 S lens is made mainly from magnesium alloy, which is both light and robust. The supplied lens hood and end caps are made from solid black polycarbonate and attach to the lens with bayonet fittings. A low-gloss finish gives the lens a ‘quality’ look.

      The front section of the lens, which is about 12 mm wide, is attached to the inner lens barrel. Behind it, part of a middle barrel section is visible. Both the inner and middle barrels can be extended, adding  approximately 30 mm when the zoom ring behind them is rotated from the 24mm position to 70mm. The front element of the lens does not rotate during focusing or zooming.

      The zoom ring is 40 mm wide, with a finely-ribbed rubber grip band covering the middle 28 mm of its surface. Focal length settings for 24mm, 28mm 35mm, 50mm and 70mm are stamped on its trailing edge. These line up against a white line on the 5 mm wide fixed section of the outer barrel between the zoom and focusing rings. There are hard stops at each end of the zoom range so the zoom ring only turns through a little over 50 degrees.

      The programmable control ring is located aft of the zoom ring. By default, it’s set to adjust manual focus but it can also be programmed to control aperture adjustments or exposure compensation. This ring turns through a full 360 degrees and communicates with the camera through electronic contacts.

      The ring itself is unmarked. It’s just under 10 mm wide with a grip band covering an 8 mm wide section on its leading edge. The ribbing is a little finer on this band and it appears to be moulded into the plastic.

      Behind the control ring is a 20 mm wide section of the outer barrel that carries the focus mode selector switch that selects between auto and manual focus. This switch is over-ridden when manual focus is set via the camera’s menu.

      The only other things on this section of the barrel are the lens mounting index mark, which is a raised white dot, and the lens designation and branding labels. The barrel ends in a very solid metal mounting plate with 11 gold-plated contacts for interfacing with the camera.


      This graphic shows the weather-proof sealing in the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens. (Source: Nikon.)

      Weather-resistant sealing around all the moving parts of the barrel (shown above) prevents dust and moisture from entering the lens. The lens is made in Thailand in Nikon’s factory at Ayutthaya, where most of the company’s cameras and lenses are made.

      Performance
      Imatest showed the review lens to be a good performer on the Nikon Z7 we used for our tests, although not quite up to the standard of the 35mm f/1.8 S lens. The highest centre resolution in JPEG files just met expectations for the camera’s 45.4-megapixel sensor, with the best performance occurring at the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths with apertures between f/5 and f/7.1.

      Like the 35mm f/1.8 S lens we found resolution remained high for almost all focal lengths and throughout the full aperture range. Edge softening was relatively slight, with most occurring at the widest apertures with the 24mm focal length.

      Diffraction had a slightly greater effect, kicking in at about f/10 for most focal length settings. Resolution declined between f/16 and f/22, the smallest aperture setting. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

      Lateral chromatic aberration was marginally greater than we found with the 35mm f/1.8 S lens, but still remained fully within the ‘negligible’ band, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below. The red line on the graph indicates the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.


      Because Z Nikkor lenses are designed for use with cameras that provide automatic corrections for rectilinear distortions and  vignetting chromatic aberration, we shot both JPEG and raw files to assess performance in these areas and found the following.

      There was very little distortion across the zoom range. In contrast vignetting was visible at all focal lengths, with edge and corner darkening becoming more obvious at longer focal lengths. Stopping down to f/5 eliminated most of the darkening

      Flare resistance was generally excellent, thanks to the well-designed lens hood and effective anti-reflection coatings. Flare artefacts were difficult to generate, but could be produced when a bright light source was within or just outside the frame.

      Bokeh was smooth and attractive, particularly at longer focal lengths, where it’s relatively easy to isolate the subject from the background at f/4. However we found some outlining around bright background highlights, even at the widest aperture and they became more intrusive as the lens was stopped down.

      Isolating subjects from the background isn’t as easy at 24mm or 35mm, where the close focusing limit of 30 cm restricts the types of suitable subjects. With more of the background included, bokeh becomes more important and the outlined highlights more of a distraction.

      Conclusion
      As a kit lens, the 24-70mm f/4 S provides enough versatility to satisfy most purchasers of Nikon’s Z-mount cameras, ranging from wide-angle to portrait-length perspectives.  Its constant f/4 maximum aperture and electromagnetic aperture mechanism provide stable focus and exposure control and near-silent autofocusing and its overall performance is excellent for a lens of this type.

      Internal focusing ensures the length of the lens remains constant during use, while the stepping motor provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance along with full-time manual focus override. The button-less retractable barrel and magnesium alloy construction keep the lens relatively compact and light and make it an excellent companion to the Z7 and Z6 cameras.

      Although the highest resolution measured in out tests is not quite as high as that of the 35mm f/1.8 S lens, it’s not far behind in most of the features we tested. Unfortunately, once again, we haven’t reviewed an equivalent Nikon F-mount lens we can compare it with.

      It’s difficult for us to make price comparisons because, unlike almost all local distributors, Nikon does not release RRPs to journalists so we’re forced to scan the local market to come up with a credible RRP. The highest price we found was AU$1799, which was offered by several major re-sellers, so that’s the price listed in our specifications.

      That’s expensive for a kit lens, which is why it’s worth buying this lens at the same time as a Z6 or Z7 camera. But it’s relatively cheap when compared with Nikon’s AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens (the closest equivalent),  although similar in price to the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Series lens (which we haven’t reviewed). Both these lenses are a full stop faster and designed for F-mount cameras (at least for the present in the case of the Sigma lens).

      While some online re-sellers (both local and offshore) still have the 24-70mm f/4 S listed for pre-ordering and others only offer this lens with a Z7 body, it can be difficult to compare prices online. Discounts are beginning to appear and we’ve found this lens listed separately for as low as AU$1550 on one website and AU$1650 on a couple of others, so it’s worth shopping around.

      Off-shore re-sellers are offering this lens at around AU$1400, which could look like a bargain. However, once you take GST, shipping and insurance costs into account, you’ll be paying more than the best local price. You also lose the benefits of warranty support and local consumer protection laws if you buy offshore.

      SPECS

      Picture angle: 34 degrees 20 minutes to 84 degrees
      Minimum aperture: f/22
      Lens construction: 14 elements in 11 groups (including 3 aspherical elements, 1 aspherical ED lens and 1 ED glass element); Nano Crystal and fluorine coatings
      Lens mounts: Nikon Z Mount
      Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
      Focus drive: Stepping motor
      Stabilisation: No (relies on in-camera shake correction)
      Minimum focus: 30 cm
      Maximum magnification: 0.3x
      Filter size: 72  mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 77.5  x 88.5 mm
      Weight: 500 grams
      Standard Accessories: Lens front and end caps, HB-85 hood, CL-C1 lens case

      Distributor: Nikon Australia,1300 366 499; www.nikon.com.au.

       

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG images captured with the lens on the Nikon Z7 camera body.

       

      SAMPLES


      Vignetting at 24mm f/4.


      Vignetting at 35mm f/4.


      Vignetting at 70mm f/48.


      Rectilinear distortion at 24mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 35mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 70mm.


      24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/14.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/8.


      24mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/9. 


      70mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/9.


      24mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/25 second at f/5.6.


      70mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/20 second at f/5.


      Close-up at 24mm f/4; ISO 100, 1/160 second.


      Close-up at 35mm f/4; ISO 100, 1/200 second.


      Close-up at 50mm f/4; ISO 100, 1/200 second.


      Close-up at 70mm f/4; ISO 200, 1/250 second.


      Close-up at 70mm f/5; ISO 100, 1/25 second.


      Close-up at 70mm f/6.3; ISO 100, 1/80 second.


      Close-up at 70mm f/4; ISO 100, 1/2500 second.


      Strong backlighting with sun at the edge of the frame; 24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/18. Note the flare artefacts.


      Normally backlit subject; 70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/13.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/8.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/11.


      57mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/7.1.


      24mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/20 second at f/7.1.


      24mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/60 second at f/8.

      Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Nikon Z7 camera.

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$1799; US$999.95

      • Build: 9.0
      • Handling: 9.0
      • Image quality: 9.0
      • Versatility: 9.0

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