Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S hands on review

Nikon’s first ‘pro’ Nikkor Z lens looks set to become a standard zoom for Z owners

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Our Verdict

This looks set to become the standard ‘pro’ lens for Nikon Z 7 owners (Nikon Z 6 users might prefer to stick to the smaller and lighter 24-70mm f/4). First impressions are that its design and build quality are first rate and that its clever customisable controls could offer new ways of shooting stills and video.

For

  • Neat design, build quality
  • Customisable control ring
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • Digital display

Against

  • Bigger than 24-70mm f/4
  • Quite expensive – of course!

Nikon is quickly ramping up support for its new mirrorless Z series cameras, showing its brand new Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 S lens at The Photography Show 2019

This is a key lens for the system in a number of ways. Nikon already has a 24-70mm Z-mount lens, which it launched alongside the new cameras in 2018, but that’s a retracting 24-70mm f/4 lens designed more as a compact, general-purpose kit lens. The new Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 S kit lens is a much more serious proposition.

Nikon has used the optical advantages of the wide Nikkor Z lens mount and short flange-sensor distance to produce a lens with “outstanding” sharpness across the frame and boldly claims that the lens’s close-up performance exceeds that of any other 24-70mm lens available today. The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 S uses 17 lens elements arranged in 15 groups and boasts Nikon’s latest ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings. It also comes with extensive weather sealing.

We were not able to test the new lens’s optical performance during our brief time with it at the Photography Show, but we were able to get a feel for its design, build, handling and innovative functions.

Larger than the existing 24-70mm f/4 lens, the new Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 S is aimed at professional users.

Larger than the existing 24-70mm f/4 lens, the new Nikkor Z 24-70mm f2.8 S is aimed at professional users.

Build and handling

For a start, it’s the first Pro lens for the Z system, offering the constant f/2.8 maximum aperture professionals will look for in their standard zoom lens. Nikon says it’s “exceptionally” compact, but these things are relative, and while it might be a little smaller than Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8 VR DSLR lens, it’s a good deal larger than the existing Nikkor Z f/4 version.

We were especially interested to try out the additional function built into this lens which represent an interesting shift in shooting controls from the camera body to the lens, a trend we’re seeing increasingly on mirrorless camera lenses.

There is an additional customisable control ring on this lens which is set for manual focus control by default but can also be used for EV (exposure) compensation for silent aperture adjustment – which could be especially useful for videographers.

We especially like this electronic display, which can show focus distance, depth of field, the aperture setting and the precise focal length.

We especially like this electronic display, which can show focus distance, depth of field, the aperture setting and the precise focal length.

There’s no aperture ring on this lens, but there is a small electronic display which can be set to display aperture values (this could work well with the custom control ring set to aperture control), focus distance, exact focal length and even depth of field – this looked like a very interesting option for landscape photographer and other areas where depth of field control is important, and an electronic display like this one is the only way to work with depth of field values with zoom lenses.

There is one further control – a customisable L-Fn lens function button which can be used for up to 21 different functions, such as AF lock, metering, bracketing and more. 

As we’d expect from Nikon pro lenses, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f2.8 S feels very well put together, with smooth controls and a modern, understated design. We’ll have to wait until we get a test sample to reach any firm conclusions about its optical quality, and it will take a while to fully explore the control options this lens offers, but first impressions are that this could become a standard pro choice for Nikon Z users.

Read more:

Nikon Z 7 review
Nikon Z 6 review
Best mirrorless camera in 2019