Although the 24-70mm f/4 S is the only midrange zoom available for the Z series at the moment (with the f/2.8 version scheduled to ship later in 2019), there are several competing midrange zoom lenses for the Nikon F-mount. Below is a comparison of the Z-mount 24-70mm f/4 versus the F-mount 24-70mm f/2.8 VR and 24-120mm f/4 lenses.
All three lenses were tested on the Nikon Z7. We used the FTZ adapter to attach the two F-mount lenses. As shown in our Z7 review (page four), there is no meaningful loss in sharpness when using an adapted lens on Nikon Z cameras via the FTZ adapter.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S vs Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR
The top midrange zoom in Nikon’s lineup at the moment is the 24-70mm f/2.8E VR for the F-mount. It also happens to be one of the most balanced wide to standard range zooms we have tested at Photography Life, making it ideal to compare against the Z 24-70mm f/4. Here is how the two lenses stand at 24mm:
As you can see, the 24-70mm f/4 S outperforms the $2,400 Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR, with higher maximum sharpness numbers in the center, midframe, and the corners. This is not something we expected to see from a “kit” grade lens, but this shows just how much better the Nikon Z system is when compared to the F mount in terms of lens resolution.
Next is 35mm:
It’s pretty much the same story here – the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S out-resolves its big brother for the most part, especially at f/5.6. Next we have 50mm:
And here, it is clear that the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S is a remarkable little zoom lens. It shows much sharper results in the center and the mid-frame at large apertures. Although it starts out a bit weaker in the corners, once stopped down to f/5.6, it just takes off.
Lastly, let’s look at both lenses at their maximum reach of 70mm:
The f/4 corner performance on the 24-70mm f/4 S is not great at 70mm, although it still wins out by a significant margin in the center and mid-frame at that aperture. By f/5.6, it handily beats the 24-70mm f/2.8E VR throughout the frame. The same is true at f/8; it’s really no contest. At those apertures, I would rather use the Z-mount version any day.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S vs Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR
Now let’s take a look at the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S versus the Nikon F-mount 24-120mm f/4G VR – the other f/4 midrange zoom in Nikon’s lineup. Here are both lenses at 24mm:
As you can see, the 24-70mm f/4 S wins out by a significant margin, especially at f/5.6 where it really is no contest. The 24-120mm f/4 has respectable center and mid-frame sharpness, but its corners are fairly weak wide open. Although the 24-120mm f/4 improves at smaller apertures, it never matches the peak performance of the 24-70mm f/4 S in the center, mid-frame, or corners. Next up is 35mm:
The story is similar here, with the 24-70mm f/4 out-resolving the 24-120mm f/4 quite a bit, especially at f/4 and f/5.6. By f/8, the lenses are a bit more comparable, although the 24-70mm f/4 S still has the edge. By f/11 and f/16, diffraction has evened out lens performance to the point where the two are nearly identical. And here is how the lenses look at 50mm:
The Nikon Z 24-70mm corner sharpness drops at 50mm, but unfortunately so does that of the 24-120mm f/4. From f/4 to f/11, the Z-mount lens wins out in every category each time – center, mid-frame, and corner sharpness. It is only by f/16 that the lens performances are similar due to diffraction. Next up is 70mm, the Nikon Z lens’s weakest focal length:
Although the Nikon Z lens has dropped significantly in sharpness at this focal length, especially wide open and in the corners, it still manages to beat the 24-120mm f/4 at 70mm as well. Although wide-open sharpness numbers are comparable in the corners, the Z lens is ahead in almost every other regard. The 24-120mm f/4 never beats the 24-70mm f/4’s top center and mid-frame performance (at f/5.6) or its top corner performance (at f/8).
Overall, you can clearly see just how much better the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S is when compared to its Nikon F equivalents. Whether you are looking at the top-of-the-line Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR, or the much less expensive 24-120mm f/4G VR, they cannot deliver the same level of performance or consistency.
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