Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 Test & Review

Here’s my hands-on review of the Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8, a small, light, and cheap prime lens for Nikon Z-mount mirrorless cameras.

Nikon Z NIKKOR 28mm f2.8. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Text & Photos By David Coleman
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Nikon has been busy building out their Z-mount prime lens offerings in recent years. And they’ve put particular emphasis on small primes that make for nice pairings with their retro-style cameras like the Nikon Zfc and Zf.

There are now several lenses in this series, all FX, and all attractive options for travel and street photography and general candid shots.

I’ve reviewed the 26mm ƒ/2.8 and 40mm ƒ/2 recently. The lens that I’m focusing on here, the Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8, also fits squarely in that same category of small, light, and inexpensive Z-mount primes.

Nikon Z Small Prime Lenses. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
From left to right: Nikon Z 26mm ƒ/2.8; Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8, Nikon Z 40mm ƒ/2, Nikon Z 50mm ƒ/2.8 Macro.

The key differentiator and selling point of this lens is that it doesn’t cost $500. That’s what the 26mm ƒ/2.8 costs.

Sure, 28mm is a classic street photography focal length, but the difference in perspective between this and the 26mm is minimal (I have some side-by-side examples below). And the 26mm is significantly smaller and lighter. Taking price out of the equation, and I’m choosing the 26mm every time.

Nikon Z NIKKOR 28mm f2.8. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com

But the price difference is significant. The 26mm is priced at $499. The 28mm is priced at $299. Put another way, you can almost get both the 28mm and the 40mm ƒ/2 for the price of the 26mm.

So it all comes down to how, and how much, you plan to use it.

Build & Handling

It weighs just 5.5 ounces (155 grams) and measures 1.7 inches long (43mm). So it’s small and light, almost identical to the 40mm ƒ/2. But also longer than the 26mm even with the lens hood attached.

Like most other Z lenses, this one is mostly plastic. Strong plastic, to be sure, but still plastic. But as much as I like the solid feel of the old Nikon metal lenses, you can’t argue with the weight savings that the modern construction offers. And it also means there are fewer joins and seams for moisture and dust to get in, which is also a plus.

And like several other lenses in the Z range, there’s not much glass in this lens. The elements themselves are small and don’t cover anywhere near the full diameter of the lens barrel.

Compatibility

This is an FX lens, which means it’s designed to work on Nikon’s full-frame Z-mount mirrorless cameras.

You can also use it on DX Z-mount mirrorless lenses, and the SE version with the retro styling comes as a kit lens option with the Nikon Zfc. On those, the perspective will be tighter, equivalent to the view of a 42mm on a full-frame camera (i.e., 35mm equivalent).

As with any Z-mount lenses, it won’t work on F-mount DSLRs, and there’s currently no adapter to make it work on those.

Performance & Handling

So what is it like to shoot with this lens?

Simple. In that there are no buttons, dials, or fancy features to contend with. It’s a put-it-on-and-forget-it’s-there lens. Perfect for walking-around photography or just general everyday shooting where you want to focus on making the image rather than the gear you’re using.

Optically, I have no complaints. I’m one of those who is always itching for faster maximum apertures, but ƒ/2.8 is respectable. Combined with the Z-mount cameras’ excellent low-light performance and the wider base of Z lenses, it’s a good option for low-light photography. (It does not have its own vibration reduction built-in.) The combination of 28mm and ƒ/2.8 doesn’t give a lot of leeway to blur the background all that much, but it definitely can be done.

Adding to its versatility, it has close focusing, down to 19 centimeters (7.5 inches). So while it’s not a macro, as such, the close focusing makes it very useful for close-up subjects.

Sample Images

Here are a few photos I’ve taken with this lens on the Nikon Zf and Nikon Z8. I’ll post a larger collection separately.

You can click on each image to open a full-size version for a closer look.

Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The Wharf, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The Wharf, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Washington Monument, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The light levels here were actually quite low, but with the combination of the relatively large maximum aperture and the low-light performance of the Nikon Zf, it’s still viable to take shots like this hand-held. Southwest Waterfront, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Grand Central Station, New York, NY. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The Wharf, Washington DC. You can see the effects of the aspherical elements here keeping lines straight. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Tidal Basin, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
You can see some definite softness on the corners and edges here. The focus is on the monument itself, but the branches near the center of the frame are clearly sharper and more defined than those at the corners and edges. National Mall, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Washington Monument, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 28mm f2.8 Prime Lens Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel

28mm ƒ/2.8 vs 26mm ƒ/2.8

Nikon Z 26mm f2.8 lens and Nikon Z 28mm f2.8. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
On the left is the Nikon Z 26mm ƒ/2.8. On the right is the Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8.
Nikon Z 26mm f2.8 lens and Nikon Z 28mm f2.8. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
On the left is the Nikon Z 26mm ƒ/2.8. On the right is the Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8.

26mm vs 28mm Compared


Nikon Z 26mm ƒ/2.8. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com

Specs Compared

Specification Category Nikon Z 26mm f/2.8 Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8
Mount Type Nikon Z Mount Nikon Z Mount
Focal Length 26mm 28mm
Aperture Max: f/2.8, Min: f/16 Max: f/2.8, Min: f/16
Format FX FX
Angle of View DX: 57°, FX: 79° DX: 53°, FX: 75°
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 0.19x 0.2x
Lens Construction 8 Elements in 6 Groups 9 Elements in 8 Groups
Vibration Reduction (VR) No lens VR No lens VR
Diaphragm 7 Rounded Blades 7 Rounded Blades
Aspherical Elements 3 2
Autofocus Yes Yes
AF Actuator STM 2 STM
Minimum Focus Distance 0.66 ft. (0.2m) 0.63 ft. (0.19m)
Focus Mode Auto, Manual Auto/Manual
Filter Size 52mm 52mm
Accepts Filter Type Screw-in Screw-in
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 2.8 in. x 1 in. 2.8 in. x 1.7 in.
Weight Approx. 4.5 oz. (125 g) Approx. 5.5 oz. (155 g)
Lens Type Prime Prime

Wrap Up

This is a solid, no-nonsense lens. It performs well optically. It’s small. It’s light. And it’s cheap.

It’s a good choice for a light, easy walking-around prime lens that can be versatile in lots of different types of shooting situations.

After shooting with it for a while, I’ve not come across any real strikes against it. But the biggest decision is whether to get this or go for the more expensive 26mm ƒ/2.8.

In my case, I’ve chosen the 26mm. I’ve decided that the smaller size and ever-so-slightly wider perspective matter more to me than the higher price. But I also plan to have it on my camera a lot. If it was more of an occasional-use lens for me, I’d be inclined toward the 28mm instead.

Price & Availability of the Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8

Nikon has set the MSRP of the 28mm ƒ/2.8 at $299. There’s also a special edition with retro styling on the exterior this is priced around $10 higher.

Buy New

Check the latest price and availability at:

Buy Used

It’s a relatively new lens, but I have seen some turning up on the used market.

Some good places to look are:

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.

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