Hands-on with Nikon Nikkor Z 24-120mm F4 S
The Nikon Nikkor Z 24-120mm F4 S is a native Z-mount counterpart to a popular AF-S zoom for the company’s D/SLRs. Originally roadmapped as a 24-105mm, we were pleased when the lens was officially released to see that it had been given some additional telephoto reach.
We’ve had our hands on a Z 24-120mm for a few days (check out our gallery of samples here) and in this article we’ll be providing an overview of Nikon’s latest zoom for the Z mount.
Standard zoom for everyday shooting
The Z 24-120mm F4 S is billed as a high-quality, versatile zoom lens for everyday photography. It takes up about the same space in a camera bag as the Z 24-70mm F2.8 S, but it’s slimmer than the 24-70mm, and lighter, too (630 g / 1.4 lb compared to 805 g / 1.75 lb).
The overall handling is closer to the older AF-S 24-120mm, and like that lens, the Z 24-120mm F4 S is an extending lens design, which increases in length as the lens is zoomed in towards 120mm. The zoom ring is rubber-coated, and moves smoothly, with good resistance. Our sample doesn’t show any tendency for the zoom to ‘creep’ towards 120mm when the lens is carried inverted.
Including the zoom ring, there are five controls on the Z 24-120mm F4 S. The others (in order of appearance from filter ring backwards) are a manual focus ring, a customizable L-Fn button, a customizable control ring, and an AF/M switch. The L-fn button is found on all of Nikon’s current high-end Z-mount lenses, and can be set to perform various functions, depending on the camera.
Similarly, the clickless control ring can be assigned to direct control over multiple parameters – aperture control, exposure compensation or ISO. It can also be disabled to avoid accidental control inputs.
This is an ‘S’ line lens – a designation that Nikon uses for its highest-quality optics. As such, build quality is high, and the lens features extensive environmental seals. My overall impression shooting with the Z 24-120mm is one of a high-quality product, with no rattle or ‘give’ anywhere. Construction is a mixture of polycarbonate and metal, and even when fully zoomed in to 120mm, the lens assembly remains rigid.
The optical makeup of the Z 24-120mm consists of 16 elements in 13 groups, including three ED glass elements, one aspherical ED element, and three aspherical elements. The optical construction also includes Nikon’s latest Nano Crystal and ARNEO coatings to mitigate flare and ghosting.
Nine rounded aperture blades help keep defocused point highlights circular, and the front ring accepts screw-in filters with a diameter of 77mm.
The Z 24-120mm offers a minimum focus distance of 0.35m (1.15 ft) at all focal lengths, which equates to a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:2.6 at 120mm. That’s not true macro (1:1 reproduction) but it’s impressively close in a lens intended for everyday photography. The image above was taken wide open at F4, at 120mm and close to minimum focus distance.
Twin STM focus motors
The Z 24-120mm F4 S is the latest Nikon lens to feature twin focusing motors, for precision across the focal distance range, from very close up to infinity. In normal lighting conditions autofocus is fast and virtually silent, which is useful for video as much as for stills. Focus speed can drop in lower light, but in general, autofocus performance is excellent across the zoom and focus range.
Summing up and initial impressions
Our initial impressions of the Z 24-120mm F4 S are very positive. Based on our shooting so far, it looks like an excellent addition to the Z mount lineup. While it can’t match the very high optical standard set by the higher-end 24-70mm F2.8 S, it does offer some advantages over the costlier lens. The most obvious benefit is the versatility afforded by its extra telephoto reach, but the lighter, more portable form factor and lower price also likely make this zoom a more practical choice for a lot of photographers.