Nikon Z 40mm f/2 vs Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S
In terms of focal length and maximum aperture, the closest Nikon lens to the Z 40mm f/2 at the moment is the Z 35mm f/1.8 S. However, focal length and maximum aperture are where the similarities end. The 35mm f/1.8 S is a higher-end and much pricier lens, not to mention heavier as well.
Still, all the more reason to compare the two of them. Even before getting a copy of the 40mm f/2 for testing, I had no illusions that it would outperform the 35mm f/1.8 S. But if it’s close enough, maybe it could be a much less expensive alternative?
Here are the sharpness numbers of both lenses, starting with the Z 40mm f/2. Make sure that you compare the apertures properly, since the Z 35mm f/1.8 S has an extra column for its performance at f/1.8:
Of the two, the sharper lens certainly is the Z 35mm f/1.8 S. This is especially apparent at f/2 and f/2.8, where the S-line lens is clearly ahead. However, the advantage tapers off at f/4 and beyond.
I’d say that the biggest reason to choose the Z 35mm f/1.8 S in terms of sharpness is if you plan to shoot in the f/1.8-2.8 range and need high levels of midframe and central sharpness. In those areas, the Z 35mm f/1.8 S simply trounces its competitor.
Meanwhile, if you tend to shoot at narrower apertures like f/5.6, f/8, and beyond, I would pick the Z 40mm f/2. The two lenses are extremely similar in sharpness at those apertures, meaning that there is much less reason to spend several hundred dollars more to get the 35mm f/1.8. This is welcome news for landscape photographers who want to travel light.
Nikon Z 40mm f/2 vs Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S
The other S-line prime that earns constant comparisons to the 40mm f/2 is the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S. This is Nikon’s least expensive S-line lens so far, and one of their best performing.
Here’s a head-to-head comparison of the two lenses, starting again with the 40mm f/2:
Yes, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 S – a lens that almost breaches our chart’s upper limit – is the sharper of the two here. There’s not a single aperture or portion of the frame where the Z 40mm f/2 is the sharper lens, in fact.
Still, like before, the advantage shrinks quite a bit at the narrower apertures. By about f/5.6, the differences are slim enough that I wouldn’t worry about them. In other words, it’s a similar story as before: If you need to maximize performance at wide apertures, especially in the center, get the S-line lens. Whereas landscape photographers and others who stick to the f/5.6-16 range will be well-off with the Z 40mm f/2.
Nikon Z 40mm f/2 vs Nikon F 50mm f/1.8G
There are a few Nikon F-mount lenses that I potentially could have chosen for this comparison instead, but I think the 50mm f/1.8G is a good baseline. Both lenses are lightweight, budget options that make a good “first prime lens” for Nikon photographers. But which one is sharper?
Below, the 40mm f/2 is first, and the 50mm f/1.8G is second:
As before, remember to compare the same apertures against one another; the 50mm f/1.8G has an extra entry in the graph above for f/1.8.
With that in mind, the two lenses have pretty similar central sharpness performance. The Nikon Z lens is ahead at f/2, but the F-mount lens is ahead at every narrower aperture. In the midframes, the Z 40mm f/2 wins by a bit, until they equalize by f/8. In the corners, the two lenses start out about the same at f/2 and f/2.8, but the Nikon Z lens pulls way ahead at f/4. It’s not until f/11 that the corners start to look similar in performance again.
On balance, this makes the 40mm f/2 clearly better for landscapes, where corner performance in the f/5.6 to f/8 range is very important. Beyond that, even though the 50mm f/1.8G is sharper in the center at most apertures, the 40mm f/2’s has better central sharpness wide open, which is pretty important for a lens like this. The two lenses are definitely in the same ballpark overall, but I give the nod to the Z 40mm f/2.
Nikon Z 40mm f/2 vs Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8
Although these two lenses have pretty different focal lengths and maximum apertures, they share a very similar construction and target audience. Both the 40mm f/2 and 28mm f/2.8 are inexpensive, lightweight, non-S prime lenses for Nikon’s mirrorless system.
Which one of the two performs better? Below is their head-to-head performance, with the 40mm f/2 shown first and the 28mm f/2.8 shown second:
Since the 28mm f/2.8 maxes out at f/2.8, make sure that you compare the right apertures against each other above.
When you do that, you’ll see that the two lenses are quite similar to one another. The center doesn’t favor either in particular, while the corners are a bit better on the 40mm f/2. Both lenses have field curvature, too, which suppresses midframe performance at various apertures – but neither lens has a clear advantage there anyway.
I’d rate the 40mm f/2 a bit higher in this comparison as a whole, mostly because of its corner performance. Still, the two lenses are pretty similar.
Nikon Z 40mm f/2 vs Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S
For the last comparison, I think that it would be useful to see how the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 stacks up against a common Nikon Z zoom lens. Are you gaining any sharpness by going with a prime lens, even a budget one like this?
To answer that question, here’s the 40mm f/2 followed by the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S at both 35mm and 50mm:
Central sharpness is pretty comparable here, although it leans slightly toward the 40mm f/2. The minimal amount of field curvature on the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S makes it look better in the midframe, especially at 50mm. However, the corner performance of the 40mm f/2 is much better than the corner performance of the 24-70mm f/4 S. All told, I’d rate the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 as sharper than the zoom, but they’re not wildly different.
Next, I’ll sum everything up and give my final opinion on whether or not you should get the Nikon Z 40mm f/2. So, click below to go to the next page of this review, “Verdict”: