Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Wide-Angle Zoom Lens Hands-on Test & Review

Small, light, with great optical performance, and affordably priced, there’s a lot going for the Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/14-30mm S ultra-wide zoom. Here’s my hands-on review.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f4 S Wide-Angle Zoom Lens. Photo by David Coleman " havecamerawilltravel.com
Text & Photos By David Coleman
Last Revised & Updated:

I MAY get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

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.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f4 S Wide-Angle Zoom Lens

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.”

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f4 S Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
With the supplied lens hood attached.

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. 

Pros

  • Useful zoom range for ultra-wide perspective
  • Very good optical performance
  • Small and compact
  • Affordably priced

Cons

  • Some lens distortion
  • Maximum aperture of ƒ/4
  • Zoom locking mechanism has to be unlocked before lens can be used
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Z-mount Lens
  • Z-mount for mirrorless
  • FX full-frame format
  • Constant ƒ/4 maximum aperture
  • Weather-sealed design
  • Programmable control ring

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.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f4 S Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
The narrower ring at the bottom of this shot (closest to the camera) is the zoom ring. The larger ring at top is for manual focus.

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 f4 S Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
There is a single switch on the side that switches between A (autofocus) and M (manual focus). On this lens, Nikon has kept it simple and doesn’t use the older, and more confusing, style of including M/A and/or A/M options. The NIKKOR S badge indicates that this is among Nikon’s premium lineup of Z-mount lenses.

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. 

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm F4 S Sample Image
Taken with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/4 S zoom lens on a Nikon Z at an aperture of ƒ/11 and a zoom setting of 17mm. I deliberately used a small aperture to create the star-like light effect. At a larger aperture, they’d come out more circular.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm F4 S Sample Image
Taken with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/4 S zoom lens on a Nikon Z at an aperture of ƒ/4 and a zoom setting of 14mm. Lots of fine details in this image, and it’s worth zooming in to check out the sharpness.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm F4 S Sample Image
Taken with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/4 S zoom lens on a Nikon Z at an aperture of ƒ/4 and a zoom setting of 14mm. The aspherical elements were working well in this shot, but in some other shots I found that vertical and horizontal lines would get a definite bow when near the edge of the frame.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm F4 S Sample Image
Taken with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/4 S zoom lens on a Nikon Z at an aperture of ƒ/4 and a zoom setting of 14mm. Again, lots of find details through the frame to look at zoomed to 100%.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm F4 S Sample Image
Taken with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/4 S zoom lens on a Nikon Z at an aperture of ƒ/4 and a zoom setting of 14mm.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm F4 S Sample Image
Taken with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm ƒ/4 S zoom lens on a Nikon Z at an aperture of ƒ/8 and a zoom setting of 17.5mm. In this shot, I’ve corrected the perspective (verticals) using Lightroom Classic.

Other Alternatives

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
Maximum Aperture f/2.8 f/4
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°
Minimum Aperture f/22 f/22
Optical Design 16 Elements in 11 Groups 14 Elements in 12 Groups
Maximum Magnification 0.13x 0.16x
Minimum Focus Distance 11″ / 28 cm 11″ / 28 cm
Focus Type Autofocus Autofocus
Diaphragm Blades 9 Rounded 7 Rounded
Image Stabilization No No
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 f4 S Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
The lens comes with a dedicated lens hood. It’s a light plastic petal-style hood that is model number HB-86.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Manual

You can find the lens’s manual here.

S?

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

Wrap Up

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:

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Z-mount Lens
  • Z-mount for mirrorless
  • FX full-frame format
  • Constant ƒ/4 maximum aperture
  • Weather-sealed design
  • Programmable control ring

It comes with a dedicated bayonet-style lens hood. If you need a replacement or spare, it’s model HB-86.

It takes 82mm screw-on filters: Polarizer | UV/Haze | ND

  1. Some examples are Custom controls, Custom controls (shooting), and Custom control assignment.[]

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2024-03-02 at 15:34. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Profile photo of David Coleman | Have Camera Will Travel | Washington DC-based Professional Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a professional photographer based in Washington, DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and many places in between. I've been shooting for 30+ years, and my photos and time-lapse videos have appeared in a bunch of different publications, from major newspapers to magazines and books, billboards, TV shows, professional sports stadiums, museums, and even massive architectural scrims covering world-famous buildings while they're being renovated. You can see some of my travel photography here and here.

Leave a Comment