Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 lens
The combination of excellent performance, compact size and an affordable price tag will make this lens worth considering by anyone who owns a Z-mount camera, whether they be full-frame or APS-C Z-mount shooters.
The recently announced Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 lens provides a low-cost option for owners of Nikon Z-mount mirrorless cameras who want a reasonably fast, lightweight and compact standard prime lens. When used on an FX (full frame) camera it covers a 57 degree angle of view, which is slightly wider than the usual 50mm standard prime lens. On a DX (cropped sensor) body the coverage is equivalent to a 60mm lens in 35mm format, which is a little longer, thanks to the 1.5x crop factor.
Angled view of the new Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 lens. (Source: Nkon.)
Weighing only 170 grams and just 46 mm, this sits alongside the Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and Z 28mm f2.8 SE at the affordable end of the Z mount range. All three lenses are made mainly from plastic – including their lens mounts and none of them comes with a bundled lens hood.
The optical design of the Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 lens showing the positions of the aspherical elements. (Source: Nkon.)
The optical design of this lens is relatively simple, with just six elements in four groups, as shown in the diagram above. Among them are two aspherical elements to minimise spherical aberrations and distortion, while Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating is applied to control ghosting and flare.
Autofocusing is driven by a stepping motor that is fast, quiet and smooth enough to be used while recording movie clips. Only internal lens groups are moved during focusing and full-time manual focus override is supported.
Another useful feature is the electromagnetic aperture mechanism, which provides precise aperture control and stable exposure levels while recording movies and during continuous shooting. The rounded nine-bladed iris diaphragm contributes to attractive bokeh quality.
Stabilisation is not built into this lens, although it can utilise the sensor VR in Nikon’s Z-mount full frame cameras. In addition, although Nikon says this lens is ‘designed with consideration for dust and drip-resistant performance’ that’s limited to a rubber ring around the lens mount, which aims to prevent dust and water droplets from entering the lens. It’s not sealed to any recognised standard.
Minimum focus is a decent 29 centimetres, which provides 0.17x magnification. Like other Z-mount lenses, this lens includes an integrated control ring, which can be programmed to adjust focus, ISO, aperture or exposure compensation
Who’s it For?
The small size, light weight and affordable price tag of this lens will make it a popular choice for everyday photographers and travellers. The 40mm focal length provides a natural angle of view on FX cameras and a slightly tighter angle with DX cameras for shooting flattering portraits.
It is also inconspicuous enough to be used for street photography with any Z-mount camera. Another potential use is for photographing food and shooting top-down tabletop photos.
Build and Ergonomics
The build quality of the Z 40mm f/2 lens is surprisingly good when you consider it’s largely made from industrial plastic – right down to the lens mount. This also explains the light weight of the lens and the fact that focusing is driven by a stepping motor, which is cheaper than the linear motors and also appropriate where compact size is prioritised.
The front element is approximately 16 mm in diameter and sits within a plastic annulus that extends outwards beyond the 52 mm diameter, raised filter thread. There is no bayonet moulding on the front of the lens and Nikon doesn’t appear to offer a hood for this lens. Fortunately, hoods that screw into the filter thread could be used – but make sure they’re short enough not to vignette the frame.
There’s only one adjustable component, the control ring, which begins 6 mm behind the front of the lens and is 15 mm wide and entirely covered in ridging. This customisable ring defaults to adjusting focus but can be set to select the lens aperture, ISO value or exposure compensation.
The 21 mm section behind the control ring contains only the Nikkor brand name and the 40/2 designation of the lens. A raised white index dot behind it provides an index mark for aligning the lens when it’s fitted to a camera.
As mentioned, the lens mount is plastic and there are the usual 11 metal contact points inside it for passing signals between the lens and the camera. The lens is supplied with front and rear caps plus a printed multilingual User’s Manual on a large, single sheet of paper.
The review lens was a good performer in our Imatest tests. In the centre of the frame, the measured resolution comfortably exceeded expectation for the 24-megapixel sensor in the Nikon Z6 camera we used for our tests and only fell a little short towards the edges of the frame.
The best performance was recorded at f/4 but resolution remained relatively high from f/2 (the widest aperture) through to between f/8 and f/11 where diffraction began to take effect. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was well down in the ‘negligible’ band in our Imatest tests. We found no signs of coloured fringing in our tests shots, even when uncorrected raw files were examined. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
As usual, to escape the influence of in-camera processing of JPEGs, our assessments of vignetting and rectilinear distortion had to be carried out on raw files, which were converted into TIFF format with all optical adjustments disabled. Some vignetting was evident at f/2 but it had largely vanished by f/3.2. The review lens appeared to be distortion-free, with no signs of either barrel or pincushion distortion evident in either JPEGs or raw files.
Autofocusing was fast and accurate under a wide range of conditions, as well as virtually noise-free. This augurs well for its use byvideographers.
The minimum focusing distance of 29 cm enables this lens to be used for close-ups of medium-sized flowers or large insects. At wide aperture settings, the bokeh is shots were quite attractive, with smooth transitions in out-of-focus backgrounds. We found no traces of outlining in bright background highlights.
Backlit scenes were handled well, although it was easy to force the lens to flare when a bright light source was on the edge of the frame. Stopping the lens down to f/16 produced 18-pointed sunstars around direct light sources within the frame.
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Picture angle: 57 degrees (FX format); 38 degrees 50 minutes (DX format)
Minimum aperture: f/16
Lens construction: 6 elements in 4 groups (including 2 aspherical elements), Super Integrated Coating
Lens mounts: Nikon Z
Diaphragm Blades: 9 (circular aperture)
Weather resistance: Dust and drip-resistant
Focus drive: Stepping motor, internal focusing
Stabilisation: No (can use sensor VR)
Minimum focus: 29 cm
Maximum magnification: 0.17x
Filter size: 52 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 70 x 46 mm
Weight: 170 grams
Standard Accessories: Front and rear caps
Distributor: Nikon Australia, 1300 366 499
Based on JPEG files taken with the Nikon Z6 camera.
Vignetting at f/2.
ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/9.
Crop from top edge of the above image enlarged to 100% showing no coloured fringing.
Close-up at f/2, ISO 100, 1/1250 second.
Close-up at f/3.5, ISO 200, 1/125 second.
Close-up at f/2, ISO 100, 1/500 second.
Close-up at f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/2500 second.
ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
Forced flare; ISO 200, 1/120 second at f/9.
Backlit subject (from NEF.RAW file); ISO 400, 1/250 second at f/6.3.
ISO 400, 1/320 second at f/7.1.
ISO 800, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
ISO 500, 1/50 second at f/13.
ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/9.
ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/6.3.
ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
ISO 100, 1/50 second at f/2.5.
ISO 450, 1/50 second at f/2.
ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/10.
Sunstar; ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/16.
RRP: AU$449; US$299
- Build: 8.8
- Handling: 8.9
- Image quality: 9.0
- Autofocusing: 9.0
- Versatility: 8.5