Even though the Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8 is not an S-line lens, it arguably could be – at least, based on its performance. It never really falters no matter what image quality factor you’re considering – focusing, distortion, chromatic aberration, and so on. Even the vignetting is on par with other ultra-wide lenses.
As for sharpness, the Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8 never gets into blurry territory, even in the corners at f/2.8. However, it does lag behind Nikon’s best 14-24mm f/2.8 S and 20mm f/1.8 S ultra-wides.
Whether that matters is another question. This lens performs quite well in most of the common situations you’ll use it for. In particular, the exceptionally low levels of coma make this a great choice for Milky Way photography at f/2.8, and the all-around performance at f/5.6 and beyond is more than sharp enough for landscapes. Finally, the impressive flare and sunstar performance leave little to be desired for using this lens in backlit situations.
Arguably the biggest negative of the lens is the limited zoom range. 17-28mm simply isn’t impressive compared to Nikon’s 14-30mm f/4, or compared to various 16-35mm lenses on the market. Even a 14-24mm zoom feels more versatile by comparison, since those extra 3mm on the wide end make a much bigger difference than the extra 4mm on the long end.
The Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8 is still more versatile than a 20mm or 24mm prime lens, of course, but it’s sure to beg the question. Since the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 is a higher-performance, less expensive, brighter lens, how much do you need the ability to zoom?
Personally, my answer is that I need something wider than 20mm for my landscape photography – whether this lens, the 14-30mm f/4 S, or the 14-24mm f/2.8 S. But it’s a question I’d ask myself, at least, before spending over $1000 on a lens.
Here’s how I’d sum up the pros and cons of the Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8.
- Very good build quality and solid weather sealing features
- Best-in-class distortion and coma performance among a wide-angle zoom
- Good sharpness including at f/2.8 in the corners
- Excellent in backlit situations, with minimal flare and great sunstars
- Remarkably small and light for an f/2.8 zoom
- $1200 price is competitive among Nikon Z options
- Lack of any buttons or switches harms the lens’s handling
- Inner barrel moves when the lens is zoomed – not uncommon among wide-angle zooms, but still not ideal
- Relatively high vignetting that doesn’t diminish quickly when stopped down
- Sharpness, though still good, is either 3rd or 4th among the four Nikon Z ultra-wides
- $1200 price is $300 more expensive than the Tamron lens it’s based off of
Yes, sharpness is both a pro and a con. So is price. That’s because, in both cases, it really depends how you look at it. For one thing, the 17-28mm’s sharpness is good in a vacuum – and it beat my expectations – but it’s clearly not Nikon’s sharpest ultra-wide, even for the price. Speaking of price, $1200 is fair compared to Nikon’s alternatives, but I can’t help but compare it to Tamron’s version of the lens, which is selling for $900 (actually less at the time I’m publishing this review, since it’s on sale).
How would I characterize this lens overall, if you’re still trying to make a decision? I’d say that the 17-28mm f/2.8 is basically the midpoint between the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S and the 14-30mm f/4 S. If you need the brightest possible aperture (or maximum image quality), go with the 20mm prime. On the other hand, if you need the most zoom range, the 14-30mm f/4 S is your lens. Otherwise, the 17-28mm f/2.8 is a very well-balanced option between them. (Meanwhile, the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 is certainly a better lens, but it’s also $2500.)
The Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8 doesn’t hit the extremes in any category, but it does a good job at a variety of things – image quality, weight, maximum aperture, and so on. In short, it’s a great, general-purpose wide angle lens for anything from travel to Milky Way photography. Depending on what you shoot, it could strike the ideal balance among Nikon’s ultra-wide options today.
That sums up this hard-to-define lens. And maybe it’s hard to define precisely because it is partly a Tamron lens at its heart – a bit different from most of Nikon’s Z lineup in some subtle ways. That said, I liked the Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8, and I enjoyed using it during my months of testing. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if you’re considering an ultra-wide zoom for the Z system.
I hope that you found this review of the Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8 to be helpful in making your decision! If you want to purchase the lens, you can thank Photography Life for all the work that went into this review by using the link below:
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Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8
- Optical Performance
- Build Quality and Handling
Photography Life Overall Rating
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