My takeaway is that the Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 will be a polarizing lens. On one hand, the small size and weight make it one of the most enjoyable lenses to carry along while you travel, even if you don’t expect to need it that day. However, the handling and image quality compromises are noticeable, so you need to figure out if they’ll matter to your work.
Personally, I aim for portability in my landscape photography lenses, but the Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 takes things a bit too far. The existing Z 28mm f/2.8 is less expensive, sharper corner-to-corner, and hardly any heavier – just a difference of 125 grams and 155 grams (almost exactly one ounce).
Rather than weight, the biggest advantage of the 26mm f/2.8 compared to the 28mm f/2.8 is size – it’s slim enough to fit in a jacket pocket or other unobtrusive place while you travel. Indeed, I see the Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 as a specialized travel photography lens, rather than landscape photography in general. It’s a very easy lens to slip in a bag anywhere you go.
Here’s how I’d sum up the pros and cons of the Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8.
- Best-in-class portability
- Sharpness in the center is high even at f/2.8
- Impressive flare and sunstar performance
- Good bokeh and close-focus capabilities for a 26mm lens
- Weak midframe and especially corner sharpness throughout the aperture range
- Field curvature and focus shift add to sharpness issues
- High levels of distortion and vignetting
- External focusing design harms the build quality
- Comes with some handling compromises, from the lack of controls to the odd lens cap
- $500 launch price is high compared to the $300 Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8
In terms of both handling and sheer performance, the Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 is low on the list of Nikon Z lenses that we’ve tested. Still, it’s not so bad as to be unusable. The question is whether the excellent portability is worth the tradeoffs to you.
Simply put, a lens you carry along will take better photos than a lens you don’t. If you keep a copy of the Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 in your bag for unexpected moments, you may find that you capture some of your best photos with it, and the aforementioned issues won’t feel very relevant. If you’re primarily a travel photographer, I’d seriously consider it despite the drawbacks.
However, for most photographers who want a portable prime lens like this, my recommendation is to save some money and get the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 instead. Alternatively, most Nikon Z zooms will give you better image quality than the 26mm f/2.8, while also allowing you to reach more focal lengths.
I hope that you found this review of the Nikon Z 26mm 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:
The next page of this review has some more sample photos from the Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8, followed by reader comments on the final page. So, click the menu below to jump to the section you want:
Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8
- Optical Performance
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
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