The new Nikon 28mm F/2.8 SE is a lens that can come bundled with the Nikon Z fc. However, is this moderately fast sub $300 fast prime lens worth a buy? Let’s talk about that in our full review.

I have spent the last few weeks with both the Nikon Z fc (be sure to read our review of that camera) and the new Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE. This reto-styled lens brought a smile to my face when I set my eyes upon it as it reminds me of primes from the 60s! The lens definitely looks the part and Nikon says it performs, but does it walk the talk? Well, yes and no. Read on to find out more.


  • Small and light
  • Gorgeous retro design
  • Good optics with some character
  • Snappy and accurate focus
  • Weather sealing
  • Crazy low price-point


  • Plastic mount
  • Some may find the ‘character’ off-putting
  • Not the best build quality
  • No lens hood

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE — Technical specifications

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8

All technical specifications for this lens are from the product listing page at B&H Photo:

  • Max aperture: f/2.8
  • Min aperture: f/16
  • Angle of view: 53°
  • Focal length: 28mm (42mm on DX format)
  • Min focus distance: 7.6 inches / 19.2 cm
  • Max magnification: 0.2x
  • Optical design: Nine elements, eight groups, seven rounded aperture blades
  • Filter size: 52mm
  • Dimensions (ø x L): 2.8 x 1.7″ / 71.5 x 43 mm
  • Weight: 0.35lbs / 160 g

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE — Ergonomics and build quality

The Nikon Z 28mmf/2.8 SE is a tiny lens that has been designed for the company’s full-frame and APS-C (Z 50, Z fc) mirrorless cameras. One thing I love about this lens is its overall design. It reminds me of primes from the 60s with their knurled grips. The Z 28mm f/2.8 matches perfectly with the aesthetics of the new retro-inspired Nikon Z fc. Dare I say it’s cute? Well, it is.

This lens is one of Nikon’s smaller mirrorless lenses to date. While it has a large diameter thanks to the huge Z mount, the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 is just 1.7 inches long and weighs only 0.35lbs! It’s positively tiny which makes it easy to use. Needless to say, it balances very well on the Z fc. The only control you’ll find on the lens is the control/manual focus ring, which spins smoothly. The front element is also tiny. Still, you’ll need 52mm filters for this lens.

In terms of build quality, well, keep your expectations in check. This is a sub $300 lens, and it feels like it. The lens is a plastic fantastic that feels very hollow. Even the mount is plastic. Sheesh! However, the plastic is rigid and doesn’t flex, but I can’t help but feel that one drop would crack the body. On the plus side, Nikon has made this lens dust and splash resistant which is a nice touch. If you’re not too rough with the lens, I think it will hold up decently. If you’re a little ham-handed with your gear, well, your mileage will vary greatly.

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE — In the field

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8

You’re going to find that the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE is a pretty solid performer out in the field. The lens is easy to use thanks to its simple design. As mentioned above, there’s just one physical control on the lens and that’s the control ring.

You can set this ring to perform a few different functions such as changing the aperture, exposure compensation, and so on, or you can just use it as a manual focus ring. The choice is yours. You do have to switch to manual focus via the body, or you can half-press the shutter and take over focus control that way. Because the lens is so light you’re barely going to notice it’s there. This makes it pleasant to use on long photo walks. There’s no optical stabilization in the lens. Still, I was able to handhold this lens on the Z fc (with no IBIS) at 1/15th of a second.

The Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 is a full-frame lens, however, it pairs perfectly with Nikon’s APS-C (DX) cameras bodies too. When you use this lens on the Z fc or the Z 50, this 28mm lens will give you a focal distance of 42mm, which makes it ideal for street photography and documentary work. The Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 is as simple and as fun as lenses come. Just attach it to your camera and start creating with it. You’ll have a good time with it.

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE — Autofocus performance

Nikon’s cameras (up until the Z 9) have been holding their lenses back when it comes to autofocus performance. Still, with this in mind, the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 performs as well as it can on current cameras like the Z fc. I found that, for the most part, the lens was snappy and accurate, especially in good light. In low light, I did encounter some hunting and some misfocusing. However, it’s really hard to know whether this is a trait of the lens or the autofocus system employed by the camera.

Out on the streets, this lens performed well. I was able to capture people walking swiftly by, tracking cars or other fast-moving subjects was easy enough, I was even able to track ducks playing in a pond. In good light you’ll be fine, just be ready for a little hunting in low light. One other plus with this lens is its close focusing capabilities. You can get as close as 7.6 inches, which means you can get pretty creative with it. Overall, autofocus performance is decent for a sub $300 lens.

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE — Image quality

Nikon has done a great job with the optics on the Nikon 28mm f/2.8 SE. This should come as no surprise. There hasn’t been a Z lens yet that has disappointed me in this area. I’m pleased to say that this lens has come character. If you’re looking for clinical perfection, this might not be the lens for you, Still, Images are plenty sharp, there’s little in the way of fringing, distortion is well controlled and bokeh can be pleasing.

The colors that this lens renders are on the cool side of things. Still, this is what I expect from Nikon. Colors are hardly an issue these days anyway thanks to image profiles and the ability to change color temperature easily if you shoot RAW. Let’s break down image quality further.

Lens character

Sun stars are pure sadness.

What some call character others call imperfections. This lens has some character to it, which to me, is fine. At the end of the day, this is a $300 lens. It’s not going to be perfect. So, as you can see in the image above. When shooting into light sources the lens exhibits some pretty harsh ghosting and flaring. You can use this creatively, of course, or you can put on your best frowny face because it’s there.

A tiny amount of purple fringing will show up in high-contrast images. You can see a small amount around the boy on the horse.

Flare and ghosting would no doubt be helped if Nikon included a lens hood in the box, but they cheaped out. This is a trend we need to get away from, Nikon (and everyone else). Stop nickel and diming us to death. Thanks. When it comes to distortion Nikon has done a grand job. There is none.

There’s some slight vignetting at f/2.8 but it disappears by f/4. Chromatic aberrations are also well controlled without only a little purple fringing showing up in high-contrast scenes. However, sun stars are sadness visualized. They are mushy and gross. Still, I like the character that this lens has overall.


The Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE is nice and sharp. When shooting wide open at f/2.8 center sharpness is great, though the corners are soft. However, stop the lens down and by f/5.6 this lens is tack sharp across the entire frame until diffraction starts setting in around f/10. The amount of detail this sub $300 lens can capture is quite impressive. Even when paired up with the 20.9 megapixel Nikon Z fc, this lens performs well.


Thanks to the close focusing distance and the moderately fast maximum aperture of f/2.8, you can create some pretty nice bokeh with this lens. Is the bokeh going to be the creamiest you’ll ever see? No, of course not. Still, it’s more than acceptable for a 28mm (or 42mm equivalent) lens.

Bokeh can range from little busy to decently creamy, or hazy. The fall-off is quite nice too. The bokeh balls are quite round and stay that way until you get to the extreme corners and edges. Then you’ll see some cateye bokeh. Lenses like this aren’t generally designed for bokeh, but it can create it when needed and it does a good enough job.

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE — A fun lens with character

Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8

The Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 SE is a great little lens to pair up with a camera like the Nikon Z fc. Its aesthetics match that camera perfectly. It can, however, be used on all Nikon full-frame and APS-C mirrorless cameras. For under $300 you’re going to get a weather-sealed lens that produces sharp images that have a little character to them. Autofocus performance is more than good enough for its intended audience and purpose, and as long as you’re not heavy-handed with it, the lens should last a while.

However, the lens isn’t perfect, so don’t go into the purchase thinking it is. What it is, though, is a retro-styled prime that’s fun to use when you’re out on photo walks or when you’re doing documentary or street photography. The moderately fast aperture helps in low-light situations and it can help create some nice bokeh. If you want a small, light lens that will bring a smile to your face and that won’t break the bank, you should give this option from Nikon a closer look. Want one? Check out the current price and availability here.