Focus Speed and Performance
The Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 autofocuses quickly and almost silently, with very impressive accuracy both in the viewfinder and in live view. I admit that I had some doubts whether the lens would match the focusing performance of Nikon’s other midrange zooms (since it’s a non-S lens based on a Tamron lens design), but those concerns proved unfounded.
In fact, because of the f/2.8 maximum aperture, I found that the 28-75mm f/2.8 focused a bit better and faster in low-light conditions compared to Nikon’s f/4 zooms. After all, f/2.8 is twice as bright as f/4, so you can focus in conditions that have half the amount of ambient light.
In terms of close-focus capabilities, I like that the lens has a high maximum magnification of 1:3 when you zoom into 75mm. That’s not quite macro territory, but it’s getting close. You can fill the frame with something that’s about 11 cm / 4.3 inches wide (assuming a full frame camera).
Lastly, there is a moderate amount of focus breathing on the 28-75mm f/2.8. This makes it a less appealing choice for video usage, and it means you need to leave extra room around the edge of your composition if you intend to create a focus stack of multiple images.
The Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 has very good distortion performance for a midrange zoom lens. There is 2.22% barrel distortion at the wide end and 1.60% pincushion distortion at the long end. There’s less distortion at the middle focal lengths.
For reference, here’s a simulation of the 2.22% barrel distortion at 28mm, where it is the most extreme:
By comparison, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S maxes out at 4.43% distortion at 70mm (pincushion rather than barrel). The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S reaches up to 2.93% distortion, also pincushion at 70mm. Meanwhile, the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S has 5.01% barrel distortion at its highest, which is at 24mm. Finally, the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 leads the pack (and not in a good way) with 5.82% barrel distortion at 24mm.
All in all, this is a good showing by the 28-75mm f/2.8 – the best of Nikon’s normal zooms. Admittedly, its job is easier in some sense because it starts at 28mm instead of 24mm. But it’s still impressive.
Keep in mind that if you’re using Adobe Lightroom (or Nikon’s own software) to edit your photos, you will never see distortion at all on the 28-75mm f/2.8. That’s because Lightroom applies a built-in distortion correction profile for the 28-75mm f/2.8, and it cannot be disabled. I wish that Adobe had at least given us the option to disable the correction – especially since distortion is low on the 28-75mm f/2.8 anyway – but so it goes.
In uncorrected images, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 has fairly low levels of vignetting, though it depends on your focal length, aperture, and focusing distance. It’s worst at 28mm and 75mm.
Here’s a full chart of vignetting levels:
The highest value in the chart is 1.79 stops of vignetting, which it reaches at f/2.8, infinity focus, and 75mm. This is already a good result, and it improves substantially when you stop down to f/4. I consider the vignetting at f/4 and narrower to be negligible.
By comparison, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S maxes out at 1.92 stops of vignetting. The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 has 2.01 stops at the worst. The 24-120mm f/4 S reaches 1.81 stops. And the 24-200mm f/4-6.3 reaches a whopping 2.47 stops. So, the 28-75mm f/2.8 holds up well by comparison.
Keep in mind that Adobe Lightroom’s lens profile for the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 directly reads information from your in-camera vignetting reduction setting. If you want your photos from this lens to have full corrections in Lightroom by default, you need to turn the vignetting correction to “High” in your camera. This is true even if you’re shooting .NEF files. You can always add back the vignetting later if you want.
There is a relatively low amount of chromatic aberration on the 28-75mm f/2.8. Aside from an improvement at 75mm (widest apertures only), it’s fairly consistent across the focal lengths and apertures at about 1.5 pixels of CA in our tests. Here’s the full chart:
Anything under one pixel is almost impossible to notice in real-world images, even with chromatic aberration corrections turned off. The 1.5 pixels of chromatic aberration averaged by this lens, however, is still a good performance and usually won’t be noticeable in practice.
By comparison, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S maxes out at 1.22 pixels of chromatic aberration. The 24-120mm f/4 S goes up to 1.76 pixels. The 24-200mm f/4-6.3 tops the charts at 2.64 pixels. And lastly, the high-end Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S performs the best of the bunch with 1.17 pixels at its highest.
Sunstars and Flare
Starting with sunstars, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 isn’t a beam-of-light machine, but it does a reasonable job here. Many of Nikon’s mirrorless lenses have bad sunstar performance, so this is actually better than average:
If you want the sun to have well-defined beams like the ones above, it’s best to use a narrow aperture like f/16 and the widest focal length of 28mm. Then, position yourself so the sun is partially blocked and as small as possible in the photo.
What about lens flare? Zoom lenses with a lot of elements tend to have high levels of ghosting and reflections when the sun is in your frame. Being a mirrorless lens, it’s also expected that the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 would produce some red dot flare. And, as you can see from the photo below, both types of flare are present when bright points of light are in your frame with this lens:
Even though this doesn’t look great, it’s better than average for a complex midrange zoom. It even beats some primes. Compared to the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 that I just reviewed, for example, the zoom actually does a better job with flare overall.
Contrast remains high when the sun is in your frame, so Nikon (or Tamron) has done a good job suppressing veiling flare with this lens. The performance above obviously isn’t perfect, but it’s better than I had expected.
The 28-75mm f/2.8 has an interesting sharpness profile, with some clear strong points and weak points. Here’s how it performs at 28mm:
This is good performance so far, even wide open at f/2.8. The sharpest aperture in the center is f/4, and the sharpest aperture in the midframe and corners is f/5.6. As with all lenses, the 28-75mm f/2.8 shows significant diffraction at f/16, leading to a loss in sharpness.
Central and midframe sharpness is basically the same at 35mm, while corner sharpness has dropped some. It’s still good performance overall, but the f/2.8 corner performance is starting to look a bit weak.
The lens is clearly weaker at 50mm, especially in the corners at f/2.8, where it has pretty dismal sharpness. The good news is that simply stopping down to f/4 is enough to improve corner performance substantially, and the lens looks really good again once you get into the “landscape apertures” (f/5.6 and narrower).
Finally, here’s 75mm:
The corners look a bit better than they did at 50mm, but this is definitely the worst focal length for center sharpness. At f/2.8 in particular, the lens had some fuzziness that never went away no matter how carefully I focused it. Like before, at least the lens improves substantially when stopped down. Even one stop narrower at f/4, the center looks really good again.
As for other sharpness issues, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 has a small amount of focus shift that isn’t much of an issue in practice. There is a bit of field curvature, which is one reason for the poor corner results at f/2.8 at the longer focal lengths.
Lastly, in terms of sample variation, I’ve only tested one copy of this lens so far. It didn’t show decentering at any focal length, so I believe I tested a good copy – but at the same time, other photographers have reported slightly better performance than this at the longer focal lengths.
Related to sharpness is coma, a lens aberration that can make dots of light in the corner of a photo look like smears. Coma isn’t usually visible in everyday photography, but for something like Milky Way photography, it can be a factor. The Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 wouldn’t be my first choice for Milky Way photography, but it’s an option at 28mm and f/2.8. So, I wanted to put its coma performance to the test.
The image shown below is an extreme crop from the top-right corner of an image at 28mm and f/2.8. I cropped the Nikon Z7’s 45-megapixel sensor down to a minuscule 960 × 640 pixels and didn’t do any resizing; this is a direct excerpt from the image:
Amazingly, I see almost no coma at all! This is a great performance. The 28-75mm f/2.8 still wouldn’t be my first choice for Milky Way photography simply because of its focal length and aperture, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it in a pinch.
Below is a photo of overnight climbers on El Capitan in Yosemite, camping directly on the rock face (the tiny points of light on the mountain on the right). I was glad to have this lens with me when I noticed them!
Many photographers pick f/2.8 zooms because they want to capture photos with a shallow depth of field. Especially at 75mm and f/2.8, you can get a reasonable amount of background blur on this lens – but how does that blur look?
To my eye, it’s decent. Out-of-focus specular highlights are nice and round, but they do have pretty strongly defined edges in some photos. This can give the bokeh a “busy” look. The example below (not a crop) shows what I mean.
Here are a few more examples of the lens’s bokeh with different, less chaotic backgrounds:
And here’s a crop to show the texture of the background blur up close:
That’s not awful, although I’ve definitely seen better. I’d rate the Nikon Z 28-75mm’s bokeh performance as solid – nothing special. You can find backgrounds that make it look good, and you can find backgrounds that make it look bad.
The next page of this review dives into the sharpness numbers a bit more, with some comparisons against other lenses that Nikon photographers might be considering. Click the menu below to go to “Lens Comparisons”:
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