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Nikon Z 40mm f/2 review

Small but highly capable, the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 is an excellent everyday prime lens

Nikon Z 40mm f/2
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The slimline benefit of a mirrorless camera is rather lost when you mount a big, hefty lens. By contrast, this compact and very lightweight prime is a perfect fit, bridging the gap between 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, combining a versatile viewing angle with a respectably fast f/2 aperture rating. The net result is useful and affordable optic that delivers good sharpness and smooth bokeh, along with quick and virtually silent autofocus, making it eminently suitable for shooting both stills and movies.

For

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Fairly fast f/2 aperture
  • Sharp and silent

Against

  • No genuine lens hood available
  • No optical image stabilization
  • No auto/manual focus mode switch

Digital Camera World Verdict

The slimline benefit of a mirrorless camera is rather lost when you mount a big, hefty lens. By contrast, this compact and very lightweight prime is a perfect fit, bridging the gap between 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, combining a versatile viewing angle with a respectably fast f/2 aperture rating. The net result is useful and affordable optic that delivers good sharpness and smooth bokeh, along with quick and virtually silent autofocus, making it eminently suitable for shooting both stills and movies.

Pros

  • + Compact and lightweight
  • + Fairly fast f/2 aperture
  • + Sharp and silent

Cons

  • - No genuine lens hood available
  • - No optical image stabilization
  • - No auto/manual focus mode switch

Nikon is pretty well stocked when it comes to native Z-mount 35mm and 50mm prime lenses, with the high-performance Z 35mm f/1.8 S, Z 50mm f/1.8 S, super-fast Z 50mm f/1.2 S and Z MC 50mm f/2.8 macro offerings already on the market. The Z 40mm f/2 is something a bit different. The focal length falls between the two more mainstream camps and is actually ideal for casual shooting with a full-frame camera, while also giving a fairly natural perspective on DX format bodies like the Z 50 and Z fc, where it has a 60mm ‘effective’ reach. It’s refreshingly compact, lightweight and affordable, tipping the scales at just 170g and costing barely more than half the price of the Z 50mm f/1.8 S-line lens.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: specifications

  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Lens construction: 6 elements in 4 groups
  • Angle of view: 57 degrees
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.29
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 0.17x
  • Filter size: 52mm
  • Dimensions: 70x46mm
  • Weight: 170g

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: key features

The optical design is similarly simple, based on just six elements arranged in four groups. That’s half the total number of elements of the Z 50mm f/1.8 S and, while both lenses feature a pair of aspherical elements, the 40mm lacks any ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass or Nano Crystal coat, instead relying on Nikon’s more basic Super Integrated Coating to suppress ghosting and flare.

Like some other Nikon Z-mount lenses, the 40mm looks pretty basic. There are no switches and the only external moving part is the manual focus ring. On the plus side, the focus ring can be assigned to various other functions, like control over aperture and exposure compensation. Also typical of the breed, autofocus is driven by a linear stepping motor which gives fast performance for stills along with smooth and virtually silent focus transitions during movie capture.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: build and handling

For such an inexpensive and lightweight lens, the Z 40mm feels pretty solid and well-engineered, and includes multiple weather-seals in its construction. Handling feels refined with smooth, high-precision control over manual focusing and the bonus of being able to customize the control ring for alternative functions. The lack of optical image stabilization is a non-issue when shooting with any of Nikon’s full-frame Z-mount bodies, all of which feature IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) but it can be a drawback if you’re using a DX format Z 50 or Z fc body. Even so, the fairly fast f/2 aperture rating often comes in handy for beating the shakes in handheld shooting.

(Image credit: Nikon)

As with many low-budget lenses from both Nikon and Canon, the Z 40mm isn’t supplied with a hood. More surprisingly, Nikon doesn’t offer one as an optional extra for this lens. The upshot is that if you want to shield the front element from stray light and give it physical protection, you’ll need to buy an aftermarket hood that screws into the 52mm filter attachment thread. Another slight niggle is the absence of an auto/manual focus mode switch, demanding that you make the swap via a relatively time-consuming camera menu option.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: performance

To use a well-worn adage, the little Z 40mm punches above its weight. In our tests, autofocus proved not only rapid but unerringly accurate. We’ve become used to seeing excellent corner-to-corner sharpness from Nikon Z-mount lenses, and the inexpensive 40mm follows suit, even when shooting wide-open, where it’s capable of delivering a tight depth of field with smooth bokeh. The quality of defocused areas remains good when stopping down a little as well, helped by a well-rounded 9-blade aperture diaphragm. Resistance to ghosting and flare is pretty good, even without using a hood, Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating earning its keep. Distortion and vignetting are basically non-issues, and in-camera corrections are available anyway.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: sample images

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/640 sec, f/8, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/6400 sec, f/2, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/60 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/60 sec, f/8, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/20 sec, f/8, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/100 sec, f/8, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/50 sec, f/8, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/160 sec, f/8, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Exif: Nikon Z 7II + Nikon Z 40mm f/2 (1/1000 sec, f/2, ISO 200) (Image credit: Matthew Richards)

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: lab results

We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the centre of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)

Sharpness is excellent in the centre of frame, especially at f/4 and narrower. Sharpness in the mid frame is a little lower, but there's very little additional softening as you move further out into the corners of frame - an impressive result.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)

Lateral chromatic aberration is as good as non-existent at any aperture - you're highly unlikely to spot any in real-world shooting, and these results are obtained with in-camera fringing correction disabled, making them even more impressive.

Distortion: -0.98

There's a touch of barrel distortion visible with in-camera distortion correction disabled, but this is easily cured with auto correction enabled.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: verdict

A little lens with a big heart, the Z 40mm is a truly versatile prime with a focal length and viewing angle that work really well for street photography, portraiture, architectural shooting and more besides. It feels right at home on both FX (full-frame) and DX (APS-C) mirrorless bodies and boasts a good turn of speed in both its autofocus performance and f/2 aperture rating. The lack of a lens hood, even as an optional extra, is disappointing but overall, the Z 40mm is a strong performer and a steal at the price.

Read more:

Best Nikon Z lenses
The best Nikon lenses
The best Nikon camera

Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.