As you can see, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S is an excellent kit lens for the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras, outperforming two of Nikon’s top zooms in sharpness and boasting exceptional flare performance and focusing accuracy. It is highly weather sealed, lightweight, and – at least when bought as part of a kit – a very good value at $600.
The negatives of the lens come down to vignetting and distortion performance most of all, where its numbers are not particularly good. For example, despite beating the 24-120mm f/4 F-mount lens in sharpness at all focal lengths, the Z-mount 24-70mm f/4 has worse distortion by a pretty significant margin. However, not all photographers will even notice the high levels of distortion on this lens, since Lightroom and Nikon Capture NX apply irreversible lens profile corrections with the 24-70mm f/4. This also has the side effect of hiding some vignetting simply by cropping it out.
A Very Digital Lens
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 embodies a tradeoff we have started to see more and more frequently with today’s high-performance compact lenses – a tradeoff between sharpness and distortion. In the heyday of film, distortion was a much bigger problem than it is today, since there was no realistic way for most people to correct it.
If you used the 24-70mm f/4 S on a film camera, you might not be very happy with the images, since their distortion and vignetting would be very hard to ignore. But on digital cameras, these two issues are comparatively easy to fix in post-production with relatively minimal side effects. For that reason, lens manufacturers almost across the board – not just Nikon – are starting to shift priorities in this direction with their newest lenses. The 24-70mm f/4 S is a very digital lens, and, to me, that’s a good thing.
Pros and Cons
Here is a quick list of the pros and cons of the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 lens:
- High sharpness at all focal lengths, even wide open in the corners, especially at f/5.6
- Fast and silent autofocus with exceptional accuracy
- Good macro capabilities
- Supports 5-axis IBIS in Nikon Z cameras, with 5 stops of image stabilization or more
- Extensive weather sealing
- Impressive flare performance even against the sun
- Low to nonexistent chromatic aberration and coma
- High-precision build quality with tight tolerances
- Minimal sample variation from lens to lens
- Small and lightweight design
- Effective fluorine coating on front element to repel water
- Relatively low price of $600 when bought as a kit
- Collapsible lens design can be ergonomically awkward
- Two-tiered telescoping barrel increases potential points of failure
- High levels of distortion in uncorrected RAW files (and no easy way to access uncorrected RAW files in software like Lightroom)
- Strong vignetting, especially wide open at 24mm
- Unusual starburst appearance; I like it, but some of our readers have said they do not
- Focus by wire design is not ideal for manual focus
- Does not zoom to 105mm, like Canon’s and Panasonic’s competing kit lenses (though those are larger lenses that weigh 700 g and 680 g respectively, versus 500 g for the Nikon)
Nikon has created a true winner with the 24-70mm f/4 S. Its performance, especially sharpness, is so unexpectedly good that I can’t wait to see how future Z lenses will perform by comparison. If this $600 kit zoom works so well, what can we expect from the upcoming 24-70mm f/2.8 S or 70-200mm f/2.8 S? Not to mention the many wide-angle lenses Nikon has planned, and prime lenses as well. The Nikon Z system definitely is not fleshed-out yet, but I like the direction it is going.
If you’re planning to buy the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S, you should do so as part of a kit with the Nikon Z6 or Z7. You will need one of those cameras to use the lens anyway, and it lowers the price from $1000 to a much more reasonable $600. You can support our efforts by purchasing from the following links:
- Nikon Z6 and 24-70mm kit at B&H, Amazon, and Adorama
- Nikon Z7 and 24-70mm kit at B&H, Amazon, and Adorama
- 24-70mm (lens only – not recommended) at B&H, Amazon, and Adorama
- All Nikon Z equipment and accessories at B&H
You can also read more about this lens on Nikon USA’s website.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S
- Optical Performance
- Bokeh Quality
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
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