At first glance, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 lens seems a bit out of place. Nikon already has a 24-70mm f/2.8 S for their mirrorless system, and it’s one of the best lenses we’ve ever tested. Why would Nikon release another f/2.8 zoom with such a similar focal length range?
But when you look at the prices, it becomes more interesting. The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is $2400. The Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8, which I’m reviewing today, is $1200. That’s literally half the price, and it begs an important question: why?
The first clue is that the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 is not an S-line lens. To remind you, the S line is Nikon’s designation for “lenses that were developed in pursuit of a higher level of optical performance.” Does this mean the Nikon 28-75mm f/2.8 essentially trades optical performance for a lower price, somehow? Maybe, but that’s not the whole story.
The second clue is in the name of the lens itself. To be specific, the zoom range of 28-75mm is very unusual for a Nikon lens; there’s no other 28-75mm lens in Nikon’s entire arsenal, past or present. There isn’t even another zoom that ends at 75mm.
But there is one lens on the market that seems a lot like this one: the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD. I’ll emphasize that again… the Tamron lens seems a lot like the Nikon lens.
I’m not just referring to the focal length and f/2.8 aperture. Here are the optical construction diagrams of both lenses:
The Tamron lens diagram is first, and the Nikon lens diagram is second. Not that it matters. It’s the same diagram. Clearly, Tamron and Nikon worked together in some way on the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8.
On top of that, based on the lens diagrams above, the Nikon lens is actually based on the older, “G1” version of the Tamron lens. Meanwhile, Tamron released a new and improved “G2” version of the lens for Sony shooters in September of 2021 (several months before this Nikon lens). Adding insult to injury, the Tamron G1 28-75mm f/2.8 sold for $800 when it was available new, whereas the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8’s selling price is $1200.
Photographers – especially online photographers – are very rational, level-headed people. The reveal of the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8, and the subsequent realization that it was based on the G1 Tamron yet $400 more expensive, barely caused a ripple. Everyone reacted with some curiosity and amusement, then went about their day.
But even if you find Nikon’s decision here kind of ridiculous, I still think they’ve stumbled upon something interesting. While $1200 is much more than the Tamron lens originally cost, a native Nikon lens has plenty of perks. Along with Nikon’s full warranty, you also know this lens won’t have any future compatibility issues with Nikon Z cameras. Resale value should stay higher, and, at least in theory, autofocus should be just as good with this lens as with any other native Nikon Z optic.
To me, there are two ways to think about this lens, and both are pretty accurate:
- It’s an overpriced re-branded Tamron lens, and not even the better Tamron lens.
- It’s a native f/2.8 zoom for the Nikon Z system at half the price of Nikon’s usual f/2.8 zooms. So long as the performance is solid, that’s a great value.
With this review, I’ve endeavored to figure out which of those two descriptions is more precise. It all depends upon how well the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 actually performs. After all, if it managed to blow the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S out of the water in performance, that $1200 price would look like a massive bargain!
Before I get to our detailed lab tests of the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8, let me first go through the lens’s specifications and build quality.
Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 Specifications
- Announced: December 14, 2021
- Mount Type: Nikon Z Mount
- Focal Length: 28mm to 75mm zoom (2.7× zoom)
- Angle of View (DX): 75° to 32°
- Angle of View (FX): 53° to 21°
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8 at all focal lengths
- Minimum Aperture: f/22 at all focal lengths
- Aperture Blades: 9, rounded
- Filter Size: 67mm
- Lens Elements: 15
- Lens Groups: 12
- Special Elements: 3 aspherical, 1 ED glass, 1 super ED glass
- ARNEO Coating: No (Tamron BBAR coating instead)
- Nano Crystal Coating: No
- Super Integrated Coating: No
- Fluorine Coated Front Element: Yes
- Electronic Diaphragm: Yes
- Vibration Reduction: No
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Control Rings: One (generally used for manual focus)
- Function Button: No
- Information Display: No
- Internal Zooming: No
- Focus Motor: STM
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.19 m / 0.63 feet (at 28mm); 0.39 m / 1.28 feet (at 75mm)
- Maximum Magnification: 0.34× at 75mm (1:3)
- Mount Material: Metal
- Weather/Dust Sealing: Yes
- Dimensions (Length × Diameter): 121 × 75 mm (4.8 × 3.0 inches)
- Weight: 565 g (1.25 pounds)
- MSRP: $1200
- Lowest Sale Seen: $896.95 (check current price)
One of the first things to stand out for me is the price – not the $1200 MSRP, but the sub-$900 sale price. In short, the launch price of $1200 that garnered so many complaints is a bit of an illusion; this lens goes on sale all the time. Heck, it’s probably on sale right now. The lowest price I’ve seen of $896.95 is hardly more expensive than the original Tamron lens.
Something else to note is the lens coating situation. Nikon’s usual ARNEO, Nano Crystal, and Super Integrated coatings are all absent on this lens. Instead, it uses Tamron’s BBAR coating. Does this mean the lens performs poorly in backlit situations? Not really – it isn’t perfect, but it’s better than I expected in that regard.
As for the rest of the lens’s specifications, everything looks about as expected for a non-S midrange zoom. The final thing I’ll point out is the zoom range itself: 28-75mm. I found myself keeping the lens at 28mm during much of my time using it, and I often wished I had a bit more field of view. The usual 24-XX zooms on the market feel meaningfully wider. It may not matter to you, especially if you’re also carrying a wide-angle lens, but I couldn’t shake that feeling during my testing.
The Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 has Nikon’s usual Z-series build quality, with a mostly plastic construction but tight tolerances overall. Even though this is a non-S lens, Nikon put a lot of effort into weather sealing on the 28-75mm f/2.8. There are extensive seals, both internal and external, and the front element of the lens has Nikon’s water-repellant fluorine coating. The lens mount is metal, as expected.
The Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 does extend while zoomed, but there is no wobble that I can detect whatsoever. I used the lens in sandy, dusty conditions for months on end, and the zoom ring never got stiff. I still prefer internally zooming lenses for adverse weather conditions, but I can’t really complain about the 28-75mm f/2.8. It seems just as well-built as any of Nikon’s S-line lenses.
Beyond that, I’m impressed by the low weight of this lens. At 565 grams, it’s barely heavier than the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S. It’s a bit on the long side, which may harm its portability if you’re using a small sling bag, but your shoulders won’t be sore after carrying this lens all day. It’s one of the lightest f/2.8 zooms on the full-frame market.
With the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8, there is little to discuss in the way of handling. There’s only one control ring, which you’ll highly likely keep for manual focus adjustments. The lens has no custom function buttons, no EL display, and no switches (not even for manual vs autofocus). It’s one of Nikon’s sparsest lenses; there’s not much going on here.
Although the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 has no vibration reduction built in, it works well with the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) of any Nikon Z cameras that have it. In my head-to-head tests against the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4, both lenses averaged the same performance for image stabilization.
Next up, I’ll cover the optical characteristics of the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8, including focusing performance and sharpness tests in the lab. Click the menu below to go to the next page of this review, “Optical Features”: