The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S comes as a kit lens with Nikon’s Z 5, Z 6II, and Z 7II mirrorless cameras. But does this lens perform like kit lenses from years past or like a more modern lens? Find out in our full review.
- Compact for a 24-70mm zoom
- Weather sealing
- Crispy images and quiet autofocus
- Great flaring and fringing performance
- Good autofocus performance
- Macro capability
- Retractable design gets old
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S — Technical specifications
All technical specifications for the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 are from the official Nikon website:
- Maximum aperture: f/4
- Minimum aperture: f/22
- Max angle of view: 84˚, Min angle of view 34°20′
- Construction: 14 elements, 11 groups, 7 diaphragm blades
- AF actuator: STM (stepping motor)
- Min focus distance: 0.99 ft, 0.3m, 11.88-inches
- Filter size: 72mm
- Approx dimensions: (diameter x length) 3.1 in. (77.5 mm) x 3.5 in. (88.5 mm)
- Approx weight: 17.7 oz, 500 g, 1.1lbs
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S — Ergonomics and build quality
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 is a compact zoom. At just 3.5 inches long and 3.1 inches in diameter the lens pairs nicely with the Z 6II that it arrived with. The lens is light at just 1.1lbs (500g) so it’s easy to tote around. Like other Z mount lenses that are not in Nikon’s pro range, the Z 24-70mm f/4 has a very minimalist design.
There’s just one control that switches between manual and autofocus. Then there’s a nice sized zoom ring, and then the manual focus/control ring toward the mount of the lens. That’s it. It looks sleek and simple and because of this, it’s a very approachable lens. It’s what a kit lens should be. If you want to use filters with this lens you’ll need to purchase filters with a 72mm thread. Overall the lens balances very well on the Z 6II and the lens feels nice to hold.
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S feels like a great quality lens. The barrel is made out of composite plastics that feel sturdy and tough. There’s no real texture to the barrel but the large zoom ring offers a nice place for your hands to rest. The mount, of course, is metal so it will hold up well.
As you can see in the image, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 is not scared of the rain or other inclement weather. There are six gaskets in total in this lens (five through the barrel and one at the mount). It may be a kit lens, but it’s designed and built like a more premium offering.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S — In the field
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S is a nice lens to use overall. The compact design lends itself well to activities like photo walking and hiking. You can walk around for long periods without this lens becoming a burden too due to the weight of 1.1lbs. The zoom range of 24-70mm also makes it a great all-purpose lens.
You won’t be able to shoot in extremely low-light situations without cranking up your ISO due to the max aperture being just f/4, but that’s OK. Cameras today perform well at high ISOs. There’s no stabilization built into this lens either, but if you’re using the Z 6, Z 7, Z 6II or Z 7II you’ll be fine thanks to the IBIS in the camera. You can easily handhold this lens down to 1/5s with good technique.
Make it work for you
The zooming action is good, though the zoom ring does seem to be a little stiffer than similar lenses. This does mean that there is no lens creep, though, so it’s a good trade-off. The manual focusing/control ring, however, turns smoothly which leads to an enjoyable experience for those who like to manually focus. You can also reprogram the control ring to control features other than manual focus. In the menus, you can set the control ring to change aperture, exposure compensation, and ISO. You can even disable it totally if you wish. It adds a nice layer of versatility.
There’s are no real issues with this lens, there is however one design feature that just gets annoying and that’s the retractable design that locks the lens when it’s not in use, You have to almost forcibly twist the zoom ring to unlock it. The camera will not even work without you performing this twist. When locked, you’ll just get an error message on the screen. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but if you retract the lens and turn the camera off, you’ll likely miss an event unfolding in front of you if you forget to take that extra step of unlocking the lens.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S — Autofocus
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S is a decent performer when it comes to autofocus. It’s not a lens that will set speed records. Still, it’s more than fast enough to partake in most genres of photography. For street, it’s fine, landscapes and a general walk-around lens, no problem, light sports work, it kept up well. The lens tracked and stuck with the soccer players in the images above. It would be more than good enough for event work too.
The lens was also accurate when shooting in both good and lower light situations, though I did notice a little hunting when the lights went low. So, overall, the lens is fast enough for most uses, however, it still lags behind others in this class.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S — Image quality
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again when it comes to image quality, Nikon has knocked it out of the park when it comes to their Z mount lenses. The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 is no exception to this.
There’s some slight distortion at both the wide and long ends of this lens and some vignetting at f/4. However, these two characteristics aren’t bad at all and the in-camera lens corrections do a nice job eliminating the issues. There’s no need to do a whole section about these two things as they’re not an issue at all. Let’s break things down a little further.
Chromatic aberration, flares and ghosting
The coatings that Nikon uses on this lens, and the aspherical and low dispersion elements do a nice job keeping aberrations, ghosting, and flaring to a minimum, When shooting into light sources there’s very little ghosting, as you can see in the image with the sun star. Sun stars aren’t the nicest you’ll see by the way.
The other two images show how well the lens handles chromatic aberrations. Even in high contrast situations, there’s no fringing at all. It’s impressive performance for what’s essentially a kit lens.
The levels of sharpness across the zoom range are great. At 24mm and f/4, you’re going to get superb sharpness in the center with the corners being just a tad softer. Stop down to f/5.6 and it’s sharp across the board. One common trait with zoom lenses is that they can get softer as you zoom. This is not the case with the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S, though. Even at 70mm, the lens remains nice and sharp. Again this performance is great for a lens that costs as little as $600 when you buy it as part of a kit.
You’re not going to buy an f/4 lens to create nice bokeh. That’s just a fact. However, the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 can still deliver when needed. The bokeh can look a bit busy when shooting at the wide end of things, but it’s still possible to create subject separation.
As you can see in the image of the Fujifilm XF 18mm f/1.4, at 70mm and when shooting at the minimum focusing distance, you can blow the background out. Bokeh balls, when you create them, aren’t the nicest you’ll ever see. This is down to the seven aperture blades, however, they still add something to your images. When it comes to bokeh, it’s not the best performing lens you can have in your arsenal, but it’s not designed to be that lens. Keep your expectations in check and you’ll be pleased.
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S renders nice colors, but they do tend to lean toward the cool and sometimes green side of things. This is pretty standard fare for Nikon cameras and lenses to be fair. So, this should come as no surprise.
If you’re going to be shooting and sharing JPEGs, you might want to pick a picture profile that adds a little warmth to your images, unless of course, you like cool tones. If you shoot RAW, you’ve nothing to worry about as you can change the colors during post to suit your style.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S — A versatile lens for the masses
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S may come packaged as a kit lens with various Nikon cameras but it performs like a lens that’s anything but. To start with the lens is well made, it has weather sealing galore, and it feels nice when in use. You also can’t forget that this lens has solid optics that produce images with nice colors, decent bokeh, and great overall sharpness. The autofocus performance isn’t too shabby either.
For a lens that costs just $600 when you purchase it with a camera, it punches well above its weight. If you want to buy this lens sans camera, you’ll have to pony up just under $1,000, which while a little harder to swallow but still represents decent value. If you’re looking for a versatile do-it-all lens, the Nikon Z 24-70 f/4 S is a fine choice. The only other Z mount lens that offers this much versatility at the time of writing is the Nikon Z 24-70 f/2.8 S which costs an eye-watering $2,296.95. If you don’t need the extra stop of light that lens offers, the f/4 version will do well for you.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S
The Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S offers up outstanding performance for what’s essentially a kit lens. The optics are great, the build quality is very good, and it even has weather sealing. For $600 as part of a kit with a Z mount camera or $1,000 as a standalone lens, it’s hard to go wrong. This lens punches well above its price point.