The AF-S 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 has been a staple of Nikon’s DSLR F-mount offerings for a long time, and it has been a staple in my kit for quite a few years. They’ve also continued it with a new version for the mirrorless Z-mount.
But then there’s this lens: the NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/4 S. It had me intrigued. There’s an obvious overlap with the focal length: 14-30mm vs 14-24mm. And it’s clearly slower, with a maximum aperture of ƒ/4 vs ƒ/2.8. Yes, it zooms in a little more, but it’s not that big of a difference in practical terms.
There are a few interesting things about this lens:
- It’s cheaper than the 14-24 by about half. Although it’s still not what you’d call a “cheap” lens.
- It takes regular screw-on filters. That’s unusual for an ultra-wide lens like this. The 14-24mm, like most other ultra-wide lenses, has a curved, bulging front element that prevents filters from going on.
- It’s significantly smaller and lighter than the 14-24mm. And for a travel photographer, a high-quality lens that is smaller and lighter and therefore much easier to carry around all day is like catnip.
But here’s the other aspect that piqued my interest. This is not just some cheap budget version that’s slower. The “S” in its name is the giveaway. Nikon only uses that “S” in the names of some of its lenses to denote its highest-quality lenses. It doesn’t stand for a particular word, but it’s designed to bring to mind words like “superior,” “special,” or “sophisticated.”
So I thought I’d try it out, and I’ve been using it in a combination of client shoots and travel-style photography on the Nikon Z8.
- Useful zoom range for ultra-wide perspective
- Very good optical performance
- Small and compact
- Affordably priced
- Some lens distortion
- Maximum aperture of ƒ/4
- Zoom locking mechanism has to be unlocked before lens can be used
Design & Handling
This is a relatively compact lens and an easy one to fit in the kit bag. And that’s one of its major selling points.
There are two rings. The larger, farthest from the camera, is the zoom ring. It locks into place when rotated fully around to the dot market. Because this is a telescoping zoom where the lens barrel goes in and out, the zoom isn’t especially smooth or precise.
The narrow ring nearest the camera serves double duty, depending on which setting you have the A/M focus switch on. If that switch is on M, the ring is used for manual focus. If the switch is on A, the ring us a utility ring or, as Nikon calls it, the control ring. You can set its function in the camera’s menu system. Some obvious examples are to use it as an aperture ring or to adjust exposure compensation, but there are a number of other functions you can assign to it. The precise menu item you’re looking for on the camera can vary a little depending on the camera model, but it’s along the lines of “Custom controls” or similar variations on that. 1
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Lens in Use
Despite being a zoom, this lens only does wide-angle. So it’s not necessarily a super-versatile go-anywhere lens. If you’re shooting a lot of interiors, landscapes, or astrophotography, it might see a lot of use.
But it’s less suited to traditional portraiture, sports, or wildlife (the emphasis here is on “traditional,” since it’s obviously very possible to get creative with wide angles in any of those types of photography). I’ve put together a separate post with visual examples of the zoom range to see what the focal lengths mean in practice.
For the most part, this is a straightforward lens to shoot with. But like a handful of other lenses, there’s a locking mechanism for retracting the telescoping zoom. That is, you have to rotate the zoom ring before the lens is available for use. When the zoom is fully retracted, the ring rotates around to a dot marker that indicates that the lens is “closed.”
That telescoping zoom also means that using the zoom isn’t especially smooth and true. In fact, it’s a bit clunky and uneven. That’s less of an issue when shooting stills, but it’ll be a dealbreaker when trying to zoom while filming video.
Despite the aspherical elements, when shooting wide, there is some lens distortion that adds some curvature to straight vertical and horizontal lines near the edges of the frame.
But the optics are admirably sharp. Yes, there’s some softness at the very edges and corners of the frame, particularly when shooting wide, but overall I’ve been impressed with the sharpness.
I’ve included a few sample photos I’ve taken with this lens below.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Lens Sample Images
Here are a few photos I’ve taken with this lens on a Nikon Z8. I’ve posted a larger collection of sample images I’ve taken with this lens separately.
You can click on each image to get a full-size version for a closer look.
The most direct competition is Nikon’s own 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 S. Aside from the obvious difference in the amount of zoom, a key difference is that that lens is faster, with a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 as compared to ƒ/4. It’s also a bigger, heavier lens. And it has the traditional curved front element, which requires a different approach to filters. Both are in Nikon’s S premium lens series. And another key difference when trying to choose between them is that the 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 is about double the price of the 14-30mm ƒ/4.
|Specification||Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S||Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S|
|Focal Length||14 to 24mm||14 to 30mm|
|Lens Mount||Nikon Z||Nikon Z|
|Lens Format Coverage||Full-Frame||Full-Frame|
|Angle of View||114° to 84°||
FX: 114° to 72°|
DX: 90° to 50°
|Optical Design||16 Elements in 11 Groups||14 Elements in 12 Groups|
|Minimum Focus Distance||11″ / 28 cm||11″ / 28 cm|
|Diaphragm Blades||9 Rounded||7 Rounded|
|Filter Size||112 mm (via Hood) Gel Filter (Rear)||82 mm (Front)|
|Dimensions (ø x L)||3.5 x 4.9 inches / 88.5 x 124.5 mm||3.5 x 3.35 inches / 89 x 85 mm|
|Length at Maximum Extension||4.92 inches / 125 mm||4.49 inches / 114 mm|
|Weight||1.4 pounds / 650 grams||1.07 pounds / 485 grams|
As of writing, Sigma presently lacks a direct rival (or any zoom lenses for Nikon Z, for that matter).
Another good, but probably less obvious choice, is Nikon’s F-mount AF-S 16-35mm ƒ/4G. It has marginally different focal lengths at both ends of the zoom range and requires the FTZ adapter to work on Nikon’s mirrorless cameras. But it has similar pricing (and good chances of finding used copies that are even more reasonably priced).
Things Worth Knowing About the Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S
- It takes 82mm screw-on filters. That it takes screw-on filters at all is somewhat unusual for a lens this wide. Most ultra-wide lenses for DSLR and mirrorless cameras have a bulging front element that prevents flat filters from screwing on.
- Some Nikon Z lenses have a feature to allow for firmware updates. This isn’t one of them.
- It does not have VR, which isn’t unusual for wide-angle lenses.
What’s in the Box?
- LC-82B 82mm snap-on Front Lens Cap
- LF-N1 Rear Lens Cap
- HB-86 bayonet-style lens hood
- CL-C1 soft lens pouch
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Manual
You can find the lens’s manual here.
My main complaint with this lens isn’t really about the lens performance at all. It’s about how liberally Nikon is applying the “S” label to some of its lenses.
This is a decent lens. A good lens, even. It’s a solid mid-range lens and has above-average optics. It’s small and compact. It’s moderately priced. And it takes filters. All good things.
But it’s not on the same level as the 14-24 ƒ/2.8. And you would expect that; after all, one is priced almost double the other. And while the S-line designation is aimed primarily at optics rather than a more holistic view of performance, build, and handling, I’d argue that even on that more limited measure, the 14-24 ƒ/2.8 is categorically better.
I’d go so far as to argue that slapping the S on lenses like this–and the ƒ/4 and ƒ/2.8 versions of the 24-70mm fall in the same category–reduces the value to the prospective buyer of the S-line designation. Or at least encourages confusion. It’s simply not a reliable or useful guide in the same way as, say, Sony’s red badge lenses.
In fact, so many of Nikon’s Z-mount lenses are getting the “S”, that one starts wondering whether it’s already lost its usefulness as a way of distinguishing lenses. It’s on anything from $15,000 lenses to $600 lenses.
But with that out of the way, this is a very good lens overall. And with its compact size, it’s a very attractive option for travel photography.
I found its optics to be very good, especially its sharpness. The handling and overall performance aren’t necessarily at the same level as some top-shelf lenses, but it makes up for it in terms of portability and price.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Price & Availability
Nikon has set the MSRP for this lens at $1349.
Check the current price and availability at:
It comes with a dedicated bayonet-style lens hood. If you need a replacement or spare, it’s model HB-86.
- Some examples are Custom controls, Custom controls (shooting), and Custom control assignment.