DPR

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 S field review

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Introduction

Nikon’s Nikkor Z 24-70mm F2.8 S is a fast standard zoom lens for the company’s Z-mount mirrorless cameras.

With a focal range of 24-70mm on FX-format bodies or 36-105mm equivalent on DX-format bodies, it’s well-suited to everything from landscapes and street photography to portraits, weddings and event photography. It can also serve double-duty as an impromptu macro lens in a pinch and is quite well-suited to video capture, making it a pretty versatile all-rounder.

Available since April 2019, list pricing is set at $2299.95.

All images edited in Adobe Camera Raw 11.2.1 unless otherwise noted, with adjustments limited to white balance, exposure, highlights, shadows, white and black levels. Sharpening and noise reduction at defaults.



Key specifications:

  • Focal length: 24-70mm (36-105mm equiv. with APS-C crop)
  • Aperture range: F2.8 – F22
  • Stabilization: No
  • Filter thread: 82mm
  • Close focus: 0.38m (15.0″)
  • Maximum magnification: 0.22x
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Hood: Yes
  • Weight: 805g (1.77 lb)
  • Optical construction: 17 elements in 15 groups (4 aspherical, 2 ED)

With the Z-mount still being relatively new, the Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 S unsurprisingly has no direct rivals, but there are nevertheless several other lenses with which to draw some worthwhile comparisons.

ISO 2800 | 1/100 sec | F2.8 | 51mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Barney Britton

The nearest alternative on Z-mount would be the Nikon Z 24-70mm F4 S, which is far smaller, lighter and more affordable, but also rather more consumer-oriented. It lacks the customizable button and info display of the brighter F2.8 lens, and has both a less complex optical formula and two fewer blades in its aperture iris. Impressively, given its affordable price tag, it does still include weather sealing throughout, though, and its smaller 72mm filter size could also save you more money.

If you need the extra stop of light and the thinner depth of field you can get from an F2.8 lens, though, your only other Z-mount alternative is one of the numerous 24-70mm F2.8 lenses available on the Nikon F-mount, converted to mirrorless by way of the Mount Adapter FTZ.

Seen alongside its F-mount equivalent with Mount Adapter FTZ (top), the size advantage of going for the made-for-mirrorless Z-mount lens (bottom) is clear.

A comparison against the DSLR-oriented Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR really shows the benefits mirrorless can offer in terms of lens size and weight. Although barrel diameter is close enough to be indistinguishable, the Z-mount lens is 28.5mm (1.0″) shorter. And it weighs around one-quarter less, shaving 265g (9.3oz) off the weight of the F-mount optic, even before you add the bulk of the mount adapter.

Yet despite being far more portable, the 24-70mm F2.8 is an even better lens than its already-impressive DSLR forerunner in almost all respects. It has both an extra customizable control ring and button, a really handy OLED info display and excellent image quality despite a somewhat less complex optical formula.

ISO 64 | 1/640 sec | F2.8 | 52mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Barney Britton

Really, there are only two drawbacks versus the DSLR lens. We felt that despite its dual-motor autofocus drive, AF performance lagged just slightly behind the F-mount optic.

As for other DSLR and mirrorless rivals, there are simply too many to compare to them all. (We have no less than 16 full-frame 24-70mm F2.8 lenses for mirrorless or DSLR cameras in our lens database.) There are two in particular we think it’s worth comparing, though: The first-party equivalents on the Z-mount’s strongest competitors, the Canon RF and Sony E-mounts.

ISO 64 | 1/1600 sec | F2.8 | 27mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Barney Britton

For RF-mount, that’s the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM, which is almost exactly the same size, but weighs about 12% more and carries a list price that’s $100 higher. It has a more complex optical formula and a far speedier nano USM autofocus motor in place of the Nikon’s dual stepper motors. It offers a more powerful 0.3x maximum magnification versus 0.22x for the Nikon, but we placed the Nikon ahead of it as a runner-up for Best Zoom Lens in our 2019 DPReview Awards for more balanced optical performance, thanks to a lower degree of chromatic aberration and smoother bokeh thanks to a more Gaussian circle of confusion.

As for the E-mount, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM is $100 more affordable, but it’s also 10mm (0.4″) longer and weighs 10% more than the Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 S. It opts for a fast piezoelectric AF drive rather than the dual stepper motor setup of the Nikon, and with a 0.24x maximum magnification will give you a slightly better macro capability. In our experience though, performance on the long end can be quite variable, unit to unit.

Compared to…

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 SNikon Z 24-70mm f/4 SNikon AF-S 24-70mm F2.8E ED VRCanon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USMSony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM

Price (MSRP)

$2299.95$999.95$2099.95$2399.00$2199.99
FormatMirrorlessMirrorlessDSLRMirrorlessMirrorless
Mount(s)Nikon ZNikon ZNikon FCanon RFSony E
Optical construction17 elements, 15 groups14 elements, 11 groups20 elements, 16 groups21 elements, 15 groups18 elements, 13 groups
Aperture blades97999
Weather sealedYesYesYesYesYes
AF driveDual stepper motorStepper motorRing-type ultrasonicNano ultrasonicPiezoelectric
Minimum focus distance / max magnification0.38 m (15.0″) / 0.22x0.3 m (11.8″) / 0.3x0.38 m (15.0″) / 0.27x0.21 m (8.3″) / 0.3x0.38 m (15.0″) / 0.24x
Filter size82mm72mm82mm82mm82mm
Diameter x Length
(no hood)

89mm x 126mm (3.5″ x 5.0″)

77.5mm x 88.5mm (3.1″ x 3.5″)88mm x 154.5mm (3.4″ x 6.0″)88.5mm x 125.7mm (3.5″ x 5.0″)87.6mm x 136mm (3.4″ x 5.4″)
Weight

805g (24.8oz)

500g (17.7oz)1070g (38.4oz)900g (31.7oz)886g (31.3oz)

Handling

Although it’s not a small lens by any means, the Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 S is certainly a good bit smaller and far lighter than its DSLR equivalent, and it’s both the lightest and among the smallest such lenses for a mirrorless camera.

Measuring 126mm (5.0″) long with a barrel diameter of 89mm (3.5″) and a weight of 805g (24.8oz), it has a rather sleek design that balances very nicely with Z-mount cameras such as the Nikon Z7 with which we shot both of our sample galleries. With its exterior made from a mixture of both metal and plastic, it doesn’t feel as burdensome to carry as you’d usually expect of an F2.8 lens of its type.

The rearmost control ring and L-Fn button can both be reconfigured to your tastes in-camera.

As well as a focus ring at the front of the barrel and a zoom ring directly behind it, the 24-70mm F2.8 S also offers a customizable control ring near the rear of its barrel. This can be used to control the lens’ aperture, ISO sensitivity or exposure compensation, though be aware, it only operates smoothly with no option to be ‘clicky’.

The mechanical zoom ring requires a fair bit more force to start turning than the other two, making it a little tricky to make very fine focal length adjustments, but once in motion it turns smoothly and spans the zoom range in a quarter-turn.

The focus ring has a speed-sensitive response, requiring only a quarter-turn or so to span the focus range if moved quickly, but as much as a half-turn if moved slowly. While convenient for still shooters, this does make it harder to pull focus for video, and no linear response is provided to give easily-repeatable manual focus pulls.

Pressing the Display button next to the OLED panel cycles through aperture, focal length and focus displays. The latter also includes a handy depth-of-field scale.

In between the zoom and control rings you’ll find a small information display and two buttons. The L-Fn button on the left quadrant of the barrel is another configurable control which can be set through the camera’s menu system to options including autofocus lock, subject tracking, image playback and more.

The Display button, which is closer to the OLED panel itself, cycles through three different display modes: focal length (to the nearest 0.5mm), aperture or focus distance. The aperture value is only shown in aperture-priority or manual modes, and in these modes the focus display also gains a depth-of-field indicator beneath the distance scale.

Finally, off the left side of the 24-70mm F2.8’s base is a focus mode switch. The lens is fully sealed against dust and moisture, with seals not only at the base, but also at its control rings, buttons and focus mode switch, as well as at joints between components. There’s no optical image stabilization on this lens, but most Z-mount cameras offer in-body image stabilization anyway, and we’ve found it to be quite effective.

The front and rear lens elements are fluorine-coated to resist moisture, fingerprints and smudges. Up front, there’s also a set of 82mm threads for screw-in filters, by far the most common filter size for a modern 24-70mm F2.8 lens.

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Autofocus and focus breathing

The Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 S has a new Multi-Focus System which operates in a similar manner to some of Sony’s high-performance G Master lenses, using multiple autofocus motors and groups to improve performance, but with a significant difference that affects overall speed. Whereas most recent Sony lenses rely on speedy linear focus motors, Nikon’s lens employs two stepper motor AF actuators to move two focus groups at once.

ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F2.8 | 25.5mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Chris Niccolls, edited in Capture One 12.1.1

The result is that, despite a sophisticated AF system, we still felt focus performance was slightly slower than Nikon’s AF-S DSLR lenses. Full-rack autofocus time is just slightly under one second.

The 24-70mm isn’t a macro lens, but with a minimum focusing distance of 0.38m (15″) at the 70mm telephoto position for a maximum magnification of 0.22x (1:4.5), it will still get you close enough to mostly fill the frame with a larger flower.

ISO 125 | 1/160 sec | F3.5 | 70mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Barney Britton

And there’s good news for videographers, as Nikon has once again done a great job of controlling focus breathing, just as it did in the other members of its Z-mount F2.8 zoom trinity, the Nikkor Z 14-24mm F2.8 S and Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2.8 VR S.

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Image quality

The Z-mount Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8 turns in a solid performance in terms of image quality. Aside from rather ho-hum sunstars and some intermittent issues with bokeh, it delivers in most respects and surpasses its much bulkier F-mount predecessor, which traded off absolute central sharpness for a more uniform field. There’s considerable barrel distortion on the wide end that turns into pincushion distortion on the telephoto end, as well some vignetting and lateral CA, but these are taken care of easily thanks to the lens correction profiles Nikon includes in the metadata associated with Raw files (something that can’t be said about its Canon RF counterpart).

ISO 64 | 1/800 sec | F6.7 | 37mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Chris Niccolls, edited in Capture One 12.1.1

Sharpness

At the wide end of its zoom range, the Nikon 24-70mm delivers excellent sharpness on the 24MP Z5 in the center of the frame at F2.8, and while the corners are a little softer they’re still quite good. Stopping down to F5.6 makes little to no noticeable difference in the center of the frame, but does improve corner sharpness, which is more noticeable on the higher resolution Z7 (compare the peripheries of this F2.8 image vs. this F5.6 image shot on the Z7). Focusing in the corner improves sharpness so slightly that it’s reasonable to surmise the lens does not suffer from much field curvature.

ISO 140 | 1/100 sec | F5.6 | 70mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Chris Niccolls, edited in Capture One 12.1.1

At telephoto, sharpness is still very good in the center of the frame at F2.8, although there’s a slight improvement to be found by stopping down to F5.6. Again, the corners are a little softer wide-open but still quite acceptable, but stopping down to F5.6 brings back the corner sharpness, perhaps a bit more so than on the wide end.

Overall, this is a very, very sharp lens capable of delivering extremely high resolution in the center of the image at both ends of its zoom range, even when wide-open. It can certainly handle the 45.7-megapixel resolution of the Nikon Z7 with no issues whatsoever.

Bokeh

The Z 24-70mm delivers quite pleasing bokeh overall, and is a definite improvement over the Z-mount F4 which has a very poor circle-of-confusion that can affect bokeh performance, particularly the appearance of out-of-focus highlights.

The bokeh can sometimes show a bit of patterning in out-of-focus highlights; for example, take a look at the pitted appearance of the out-of-focus highlights below. Cats eye effect is certainly present, and begins to appear at only modest distances from the center, but it’s never so severe as to be distracting. Stopping down to F5.6 largely corrects this cats eye effect, but instead the bokeh starts to take on a noticeably polygonal shape, suggesting the aperture blades aren’t as rounded as could be (or, a greater number of blades might be helpful). Generally though, you can achieve very pleasing out-of-focus, creamy and smooth blurred backgrounds.

ISO 2800 | 1/80 sec | F2.8 | 70mm | Nikon Z5
Photo by Mike Tomkins, edited in Adobe Camera Raw 13.4

The problem that rears its ugly head from time to time, though, is busy bokeh in slightly defocused regions or transition zones. Below, take a look at a slightly defocused region behind the focus plane. Objects appear to have a double-edge, almost a motion blur-like appearance. We’re increasingly seeing this type of busy bokeh in transition zones of modern lenses using multiple complex aspheric designs, so we’ll stress that this is nothing particularly unique to this lens, but it is something you may see pop up from time to time that may be distracting. It won’t affect more defocused bokeh, but subjects just starting to fall out of focus may appear busy.

Nisen, or double-edged, bokeh in slightly defocused regions or transition zones. This sort of problematic bokeh is increasingly apparent in modern lens designs employing multiple aspherics, so is not unique to this particular lens. See full image here.

ISO 160 | 1/160 sec | F2.8 | 70mm | Nikon Z7

Flare, ghosting and sunstars

The Z-mount 24-70mm F2.8 ships with a petal-style bayonet lens hood in the product bundle, and unlike that of the earlier DSLR lens, it attaches directly to the telescoping front section of the lens, rather than the lens extending within the hood as you zoom in and out.

ISO 100 | 1/320 sec | F5.6 | 70mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Chris Niccolls, edited in Capture One 12.1.1

We had no issues whatsoever with lens flare. This lens handles bright light sources very, very well, and ghosting is pretty well controlled too.

Sunstars are somewhat middle of the road; the total of 18 points can provide a nice effect, but we’ve seen better definition from competitors’ options. As is typical of Nikon lenses, rays tend to diverge as they emanate from the center of the star, as opposed to converge like the best sunstars we see from Canon – as well as recent Sony – lenses. Just keep in mind you’ll want to balance the effect with the loss of resolution you’ll see from diffraction at narrower apertures.

ISO 220 | 1/100 sec | F22 | 24mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Allison Johnson, edited in Adobe Camera Raw

Longitudinal / lateral chromatic aberration (fringing)

Longitudinal chromatic aberration or LoCA is also very well-controlled. We didn’t find it to be an issue, and frankly such purple and green fringing in front of, and behind, the focus plane wasn’t a huge issue with the AF-S version either, but it did pop up if you were to pixel peep from time to time. This time around, it’s nothing to concern yourself over, which is great news as this particular aberration can be quite difficult to tame in post-processing. Like the previous AF-S lens, there’s still a fair degree of lateral chromatic aberration, but it’s easily corrected for in post-processing with the included profile.

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Conclusion

What we likeWhat we don’t
  • Very lightweight and quite compact for its class
  • Comprehensive weather-sealing
  • Very sharp and free of most offensive optical defects
  • Decent macro performance
  • Handy multi-function OLED display
  • Works well for video too
  • Autofocus isn’t as speedy as peers
  • No linear focus response for video
  • Bokeh can be a bit on the busy side in transition zones
  • Lateral CA performance, albeit easily corrected for, could be improved

With the Nikkor Z 24-70mm F2.8 S, Nikon gives Z-mount shooters a higher-end alternative to the existing, more consumer-friendly 24-70mm F4 S. In the process, it completes a lineup of bright F2.8 zooms that, along with the excellent Nikkor Z 14-24mm F2.8 S and Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2.8 VR S, span the entire range from a 14mm wide-angle to a 200mm telephoto with no gaps in coverage.

The 24-70mm F2.8 S is a fantastic lens that really delivers on the promise of mirrorless. Although it might focus just a smidgen slower than its SLR equivalent, the popular AF-S 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR, it’s an excellent optical performer and easily Nikon’s best 24-70mm F2.8 zoom to date. And with its solid, weather-sealed build and suitability for both video and macros, it’s just as versatile as a 24-70mm zoom should be.

ISO 360 | 1/100 sec | F8 | 44mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Barney Britton

As the lightest and very close to the smallest lens in its class, we found ourselves impressed by its portability. Of course if size and weight are your primary concern and you can live without its F2.8 maximum aperture, you’ll still want to consider the even more portable 24-70mm F4 S, which also focuses noticeably closer.

But with its better controls, super-handy OLED display and excellent image quality, we recommend spending the extra for the F2.8 optic if you can. You’ll have to decide whether or not the extra cost is worth it. And though the Z-mount lens lacks the optical image stabilization of the F-mount, Nikon mirrorless cameras’ capable in-body stabilization largely obviates the need for it, particularly at these focal lengths.

ISO 1600 | 1/80 sec | F2.8 | 34mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

And when compared to its nearest mirrorless rivals on other platforms, its pricing doesn’t seem unreasonable. There’s a reason that this lens scored the runner-up spot for Best Zoom Lens not just in our 2019 DPReview Awards, but also in our Reader’s Choice Awards that same year. It’s an excellent lens for everything from landscapes to portraiture, and if you’re a Z-mount shooter who can stretch your budget, it definitely deserves a place in your camera bag.

Fast 24-70mm lenses always come with some tradeoff, be it sharpness performance on one end or wide open, chromatic aberration performance, or some other tradeoff in aberration correction, but this Nikon lens walks a fine line in delivering sharp performance across the board, with generally well-controlled aberrations. Does it deliver prime lens performance? No, but does any 24-70/2.8? The Nikon Z 24-70m F2.8 S garners a Silver Award because it’s a solid fast mid-range zoom that has no severe shortcomings that would stop us from recommending it. The same can’t be said about similar offerings for other systems.

ISO 1600 | 1/100 sec | F2.8 | 70mm | Nikon Z7
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

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Scoring

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm F2.8 S
Category: Normal Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 S is an all-rounder fast zoom for Nikon’s mirrorless system. With a versatile focal length range and a fast aperture for low light photography and blurry backgrounds, this lens provides sharp imagery with smooth bokeh and without distracting color fringing from chromatic aberrations. Autofocus isn’t as speedy as its peers, and slightly defocused subjects can be a bit busy, but the overall performance can’t be argued with.

Good for
Landscape, portrait, wedding, low light, travel photographers

Not so good for
Videographers looking for linear focus response, or action and candid photographers looking for the fastest autofocus performance
87%
Overall score

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DPReview TV review

See what our team at DPReview TV has to say about the Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm F2.8 S.

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Sample galleries

Please do not reproduce any of these images without prior permission (see our copyright page).

Nikon Z7 (DPReview HQ gallery)

Nikon Z7 (DPReview TV gallery)

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