Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S vs Nikon F 14-24mm f/2.8
For our first comparison, let’s take a look at how the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 compares against its direct (though DSLR-based) predecessor, the Nikon F 14-24mm f/2.8.
Below is their performance at 14mm, with the Nikon Z lens shown first and the F lens shown second:
We can already see a huge advantage to the Z-series lens, particularly in the corners. From f/2.8 to f/8, it’s no contest; the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is way ahead. Stopping down to f/11 and especially f/16 renders the differences negligible, as is often the case.
Both lenses get a bit stronger at 16mm, but the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 is clearly the sharper of the two. The numbers are actually very good for the F-mount lens, but it’s no contest that the Z lens is sharper. The differences are more pronounced at wider apertures but continue through f/8.
The Nikon F-mount 14-24mm f/2.8 has some good numbers at 18mm, but it’s still not even close. The Z lens is noticeably better through f/8. Beyond that point, the two lenses have basically the same sharpness performance.
Finally, here’s 24mm:
The 24mm end is the weakest point for both lenses, at least if you’re taking corner performance into account. Throughout the aperture range, both lenses have comparable corner performance, although the Z lens is slightly ahead in the corners wide open. But if you look at the midframe and center instead, this is the most lopsided comparison yet. The Nikon Z lens is so far ahead that it’s almost comical, particularly at f/2.8 and f/4.
The amazing thing about this comparison is that the F-mount 14-24mm f/2.8, by most measures, is an impressively sharp lens. Even a few years ago, its sharpness was considered state-of-the-art for a 14mm zoom. Yet the Z-mount lens is so much sharper.
Now let’s take a look at how the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 fares against a fellow Z-series lens, the 14-30mm f/4 S.
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S vs Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S
The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S is a lower-grade lens, but still one that potential 14-24mm f/2.8 S buyers may be considering. It’s a less expensive lens at $1300 (sometimes on sale for $1100) and lighter at 485 grams / 1.07 pounds rather than 650 grams / 1.43 pounds – not exactly a surprise considering that it’s an f/4 rather than an f/2.8 lens. It also zooms to 30mm and takes native 82mm filters.
But how does their sharpness compare side-to-side? We’ll start with 14mm. Remember that the maximum aperture values are different, so make sure you’re comparing the values you intend:
At 14mm, the 14-24mm f/2.8 S is a much sharper lens. Central performance is pretty similar on both lenses, but midframe performance is far better on the 14-24mm, and corner performance is in a different league altogether. In fact, the 14-30mm f/4’s corners at 14mm are never as sharp as the 14-24mm’s corners wide open at f/2.8! This is all the more impressive considering that the 14-30mm f/4 S isn’t even a bad lens at 14mm. It just looks that way compared to the 14-24mm f/2.8 S.
Next, let’s compare the performance at 16mm:
The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 improves substantially at 16mm, but the comparison remains lopsided because this is the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8’s sharpest focal length. Throughout the aperture range from f/4 onward, there’s not a single place where the 14-30mm f/4 is the sharper of the two.
No real surprises. The Nikon 14-30mm is certainly good, but the 14-24mm f/2.8 S is better, no matter where you look in the frame or what aperture. So far, this matchup is just as lopsided as the earlier Z vs F 14-24mm f/2.8 comparison.
Lastly, here’s how the two lenses look at 24mm:
This is one of the 14-30mm f/4’s stronger focal lengths, and it’s the Z 14-24mm f/2.8’s weakest (at least in the corners). As such, while the center performance of the f/2.8 lens is clearly better, the corner performance of the Z 14-30mm f/4 actually wins out of the two, at least through f/8. It’s not a massive difference, but I have to give credit where it’s due; the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 does a very good job around 24mm.
Still, taking every focal length into account, there’s no contest. The Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is clearly sharper than the 14-30mm f/4 S, especially at the wider end of the scale. It’s a big enough difference that some photographers who don’t need f/2.8 should still consider the 14-24mm f/2.8 S if maximum sharpness is critical to their work.
As our final comparison in this review, let’s take a look at how the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S holds up against a wide-angle Z-series prime, the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 S.
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S vs Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S
This comparison is pretty quick because we only need to look at one focal length, 20mm:
It’s a surprisingly close comparison! In the center of the frame, the sharpest aperture on both lenses is f/4, where the differences between the two are statistically insignificant. Both are exceptionally sharp. However, there is a center sharpness advantage to the prime if both lenses are set to f/2.8.
In the midframe, there’s a similar story. Both lenses hit similar maximum sharpness levels (the zoom at f/5.6, the prime at f/4 and f/5.6), but the 20mm f/1.8 S is the sharper of the two at f/2.8. Either way, it’s an excellent midframe performance from both lenses.
Finally, in the corners, there is a clear advantage to the prime lens at the wider aperture values. The performance benefits of the 20mm f/1.8 S are especially pronounced at f/2.8 and f/4. Beyond that point, the zoom picks up in sharpness and surprisingly starts out-resolving the prime in the corners at f/8 and narrower.
Overall, while the prime lens is a bit sharper, the differences are less pronounced than we’d usually see with a high-end prime versus a zoom of any kind. Considering that 20mm isn’t even the sharpest focal length on the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, that’s a remarkable result.
Next, I’ll sum everything up and give my final opinion on whether or not you should get the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S. So, click below to go to the next page of this review, “Verdict”:
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