Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens
The Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 is a small, light weight kit lens.
It has above-average imaging and AF performance, although relatively slow maximum aperture and zoom ranges.
Announced in July 2020 at the same time as the Z5 body, the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 is the smallest mid-range zoom lens for full-frame cameras in the Nikkor Z range. Commonly offered as a kit lens, its retracting barrel makes it ideal for travel and street photography when lightweight equipment is required. It is also relatively unobtrusive, although the user is required to rotate the barrel to extend it before the lens can be used, which may not suit some folk.
Side view of the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens. (Source: Nikon.)
The optical design of this lens (shown below) is relatively simple for a zoom lens, with 11 elements, which are arranged in 10 groups. Included among them are three aspherical and two ED (extra-low dispersion) elements.
Interestingly, the largest element bulges outwards at the rear, where it’s protected by being inside the camera during use. Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating is applied to suppress ghosting and flare.
While making no firm claims for weatherproofing, Nikon’s website asserts the lens was ‘designed carefully considering dust- and drip-resistant performance with a sealing that prevents dust and water droplets from entering the lens’. But it adds: ‘Perfect dustproof and waterproof performance is not guaranteed under all conditions.’ Despite a reasonably wide overlap when the lens is fitted, no sealing ring is present around the lens mount so we’d caution against using it in the rain.
The lens will focus to within 35 cm at all settings in the zoom range. The maximum reproduction ratio is 1:5.8 at the 50mm position. It is made in China and only supplied with front and rear caps.
Who’s it For?
Many people will purchase the Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens bundled with the Nikon Z5 camera since it’s currently the only model it’s offered with. Nikon ‘guru’ Thom Hogan suggests the lens was only created to provide an affordable kit option with the that camera.
Interestingly, the Nikon Z6 II on which we carried out our tests is being bundled with the more expensive 24-70mm f/4S lens. As Hogan explains: ‘in not having a Z5+24-70mm f/4 kit or a Z6 II+24-50mm kit: it makes for a clear price differential.’
Key factors that advantage the 24-50mm lens over the 24-70mm lens are its compact size, lighter weight and affordable price. The main disadvantages are its plastic lens mount, shorter zoom range and relatively slow speed. It also lacks stabilisation, which won’t be an issue if it’s used on a camera with IBIS.
The Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 lens is not supplied with a lens hood but if you want one, the petal-shaped HB-98 will set you back between AU$60 and AU$90, depending on where you buy it. Compatible third-party hoods are also available for much lower prices.
Build and Ergonomics
Build quality is a little better than we expected for a budget lens made almost entirely from composite plastic (except for the contact points diaphragm blades and any screws needed for assembly). The most potentially vulnerable lens element, the bulging rear element, is protected when the lens is fitted to the camera, which means care is required when swapping lenses.
Only two control surfaces are provided, the zoom ring and the focusing ring; there’s no distance scale (and no depth of field markers). The zoom ring must be rotated to the 24mm position before the lens can be used and the camera will post a warning to alert users.
Rotating this ring to the 24mm position extends the inner barrel by approximately 22 mm, where it remains for most of the rest of the zoom range, dipping in very slightly as it passes through the 35mm position. For travel and storage the lens contracts to roughly 50 mm in front of the camera body.
The zoom ring itself is 21 mm wide, with a 13 mm wide thickly-ridged grip band near its leading edge. Zooming to 50mm requires just under a quarter of a turn from the 24mm to 50mm, which changes the maximum and minimum apertures of the lens between f/4 and f/6.3 for the former and f/22 and f/36 for the latter. The table below shows the maximum and minimum apertures at the main focal length settings.
|Focal length||Maximum aperture||Minimum aperture|
The control ring is located between the zoom ring and the camera body. It’s only 10 mm wide with the front 8 mm finely ribbed. In common with other Nikkor Z lenses, its default setting is as a focusing ring but it can also be set to adjust aperture, exposure or ISO sensitivity via the camera’s Custom menu.
Like most mirrorless lenses, focusing in this lens is internal and driven from the camera so the ring can be turned through 360 degrees when power is off. Manual focus over-ride is available in AF mode.
The 12 mm wide section of the outer barrel between the control ring and the camera body carries the lens focal length and maximum aperture ranges (24-50/4-6.3) plus a raised white index dot for aligning the lens with the camera when it is fitted. The lens accepts 52 mm screw-in filters.
As expected for a plastic kit lens, we found overall performance to be patchy. However, our Imatest tests showed the review lens to be somewhat better than we expected for its price tag. Edge softening was less than we usually find for a kit lens and centre sharpness remained relatively high right up to f/16 at all focal lengths we measured.
The highest resolution we measured was with the 35mm focal length at f/5.6. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was minimal in JPEG files, due in part to in-camera corrections. But it remained well within the negligible zone with NEF.RAW files, showing the lens to be relatively free of this aberration. In the graph below, which shows our JPEG results, the red line marks the boundary between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.
The review lens was moderately flare-resistant, although not entirely flare-free. We found slight veiling in shots taken with the sun on the periphery of the frame, although no flare artefacts in the form of starbursts, rings or circles. Fitting a lens hood would reduce the degree of veiling flare in most situations.
Because Nikon cameras automatically correct distortion and vignetting, our assessments of both aberrations were carried out on converted raw files. Barrel distortion was evident at 24mm but it changed to slight pincushion distortion between the 28mm and 35mm settings and increased through to 50mm. Both issues are easily corrected with in-camera adjustments and with image editors and/or raw file converters.
The relatively slow maximum apertures of this lens makes it difficult to evaluate its bokeh, although we found it to be much as you’d expect from a budget kit lens. It’s impossible to throw backgrounds totally out-of-focus to produce smooth gradations so if you want anything like smooth blurring you’ll need to shoot with the 50mm focal length.
Autofocusing performance, which is influenced by the algorithms in the camera, was generally excellent. Manual focusing was aided by the excellent EVF on the Z6 II camera we used for this review. We found slight focus breathing, which caused the scene recorded to become marginally larger with close focusing.
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Picture angle: FX format: 84 to 47 degrees; DX format: 61 degrees to 31 degrees 30 minutes
Minimum aperture: f/22 to f/36
Lens construction: 11 elements in 10 groups (including 2 ED elements and 3 aspherical elements)
Lens mounts: Nikon Z mount
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
Weather resistance: No
Focus drive: Stepping motor (internal focusing)
Minimum focus: 35 cm at all zoom positions
Maximum magnification: 0.17 x (at 50 mm position)
Filter size: 52 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 73.5 x 51 mm
Weight: 195 grams
Standard Accessories: LC-52B Lens Cap (front cap), LF-N1 Lens Cap (rear cap)
Distributor: Nikon Australia, 1300 366 499
Based upon JPEG files captured with the Nikon Z6 II camera.
Based upon NEF.RAW files recorded simultaneously with the JPEGs above.
Vignetting at 24mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 28mm f/4.5.
Vignetting at 35mm f/5.
Vignetting at 40mm f/5.6.
Vignetting at 50mm f/6.3.
Rectilinear distortion at 24mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 28mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 35mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 40mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 50mm.
24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/7.1.
50mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/9.
Close-up at 24mm, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.
Close-up at 50mm, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/6.3.
Close-up at 24mm f/4 showing bokeh, ISO 100, 1/640 second.
Close-up at 50mm f/6.3 showing bokeh, ISO 100, 1/200 second.
Slight veiling flare at 24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/9.
Slight veiling flare at 50mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/9.
Strong backlighting, 24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/11.
Moderate backighting; 50mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/6.3.
50mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/50 second at f/6.3.
50mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/7.1.
36mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/40 second at f/8.
Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Nikon Z6 II.
RRP: AU$799; US$399
- Build: 8.5
- Handling: 8.7
- Image quality: 8.9
- Autofocusing: 8.9
- Versatility: 8.6