Nikon Z 40mm ƒ/2 Test & Review

I’ve been out shooting with the Nikon Z 40mm ƒ/2 prime lens. It’s a small, light, and relatively fast prime that is a great option for candids, street, and travel photography. Here’s my take on it.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm f2 Prime Lens for Mirrorless Z-Mount Cameras. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Text & Photos By David Coleman
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I’ve recently been testing the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 lens. And it’s a lot of fun to shoot with.

It’s one of several low-profile primes that Nikon has released for their Z-series. None of them is especially fast—this is the fastest at ƒ/2, and there’s also a 26mm ƒ/2.8, a 28mm ƒ/2.8, and a 50mm ƒ/2.8 (technically a macro). I’ve recently reviewed the 26mm ƒ/2.8 and 28mm ƒ/2.8. Here I’m focusing on the 40mm ƒ/2. and I’ll be reviewing the others shortly.

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.

(NB: I’m referring here to the small, low-profile lenses. Nikon also has a 35mm ƒ/1.8, a 50mm ƒ/1.8, and a 50mm ƒ/1.2 in the Z lenses, but all of those are much larger and heavier.)

Fun fact: It looks like the Nikon Z 40mm ƒ/2 is a candidate for astronaut training to go to the moon!

Why would you put a sub-$300 lens on a $4000 camera body? The lens, after all, is a huge part of image quality. And there are, frankly, better lenses available—better, at least, in most objective and measurable ways. The 35mm ƒ/1.8 and 50mm ƒ/1.8 are two obvious options. Both are a little faster and optically higher performance. And then there’s the even better 50mm ƒ/1.2 (and a 35mm ƒ/1.2 expected).

But there’s a crucial area where the 40mm ƒ/2 shines and those other lenses fall down. It’s in size. For studio work, this isn’t really a consideration. But for street and travel photography, being able to get great results out of a tiny lens is huge (pun intended!). It’s less to carry around, obviously, but it’s also a very discreet and unobtrusive lens that is much less likely to attract unwanted attention.

It’s very small and compact. And while a camera like the Z8 might not be a natural choice for street photography when there are some other superb alternatives available (such as the Fujifilm X100 series or the Ricoh GR III, which is one I often use, or the Nikon Zf or Fujifilm X-T5), attaching this lens keeps it much smaller and attracts less attention. For instance, I can take this with me to take shots of our family outings to the baseball without the security guards at the entry refusing it because it looks like a “professional camera” (whatever that is). Even more so with the somewhat smaller and plainer Zf.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm f2 Prime Lens for Mirrorless Z-Mount Cameras. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com

There are, of course, other primes that also meet this criterion of small size. On the wider end, the Nikon Z 26mm ƒ/2.8 and Nikon Z 28mm ƒ/2.8 are both very compact and relatively inexpensive lenses (although both are also, obviously, a touch slower).

Compatibility

The obvious body for a lens like this is something like the new Nikon Zf. That is, a relatively compact full-frame camera that’s especially suited to street photography or minimalist travel photography. And I’ve been using it on the Zf in precisely that way. I’ve also been using it on the Nikon Z8.

It’s an FX lens designed for Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, but you can put it on DX Z-mount bodies. When you do that, it’ll give the perspective equivalent to what a 60mm focal length would be on a full-frame (or 35mm film) camera.

Design & Build

Like others of these small prime lenses in Nikon’s mirrorless Z lens lineup, this is a very simple lens to use. There aren’t any switches or dials on the lens itself. It doesn’t have fancy codes or technology, and in many ways, it could be considered bare-bones. There’s a focus ring on the lens, but that’s it. There are no M/A switches or info displays or or buttons or even really any markings at all. And there isn’t any vibration reduction or other optical tricks.

All of the aperture controls are handled in the camera itself by default. You can reassign the focus ring to be for aperture; you do that through the camera’s menu system (Custom Controls).

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.

Size

It’s physically small, as I’ve already mentioned. But it’s also light. And a lot of that is because there’s not much glass. If you’re used to traditional camera lenses that contain large glass plates, this is not like that. The glass element is quite small.

It’s not alone in that–several others in the Nikon Z prime lineup share that characteristic. But despite my initial skepticism, I’ve yet to find it to be an optical negative.

Weight 6 ounces / 170 grams
Diameter 2.8 inches / 70mm
Length 1.8 inches / 45.5mm
Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm f2 Prime Lens for Mirrorless Z-Mount Cameras. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
For size comparison: on the left is the Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm ƒ/2. On the right is the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm ƒ/1.8 S. Both are without lens hoods (the 40/2 doesn’t come with one; the 35/1.8 does).
Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm f2 Prime Lens for Mirrorless Z-Mount Cameras. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
For size comparison: on the left is the Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm ƒ/2. On the right is the Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 50mm ƒ/2.8 macro.

What It’s Like to Shoot with the Nikon Z 40mm ƒ/2

There are no special tricks to using this lens. It suits the kind of photography where you can get back to concentrating on composition and subject rather than technicalities.

At ƒ/2, it’s fast enough for low-light shooting, especially when paired with the excellent high-ISO performance of Nikon’s mirrorless cameras. And it benefits from the wider Z-mount system, which allows more light in. And it’s fast enough to pick out a subject on a focal plane and blur out the background. While there are fancier lenses with fancier bokeh (the new 135mm Plena lens, for example), the bokeh on this one is quite nice and rounded.

I’ll put together a separate post with a lot more sample images I’ve taken with this lens. But here are a few examples. You can click on each image to open a full-size version for a closer look.

Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
It allows for nice, smooth background blurring. Nokesville, VA. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
As most lenses are, it has coatings to reduce flare and ghosting. National Mall, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
What might look like vignetting here isn’t. There are floodlights illuminating it, and they don’t illuminate the statue evenly. Tidal Basin, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
I’ve included this less for the foreground than for the out-of-focus background. The Wharf, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
No perceptible barrel or pin-cushion distortion going on. The horizontal and vertical lines are good for looking for that, especially the ones closest to the edges of the frame. Tidal Basin, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Nice, round bokeh from the 9 rounded blades. It’s a little more lemon-shaped near the edges, as is normal. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The two aspherical elements at work keeping lines straight. Midtown, New York, NY. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
This was handheld. The relatively fast aperture makes it useful even for low-light conditions. The Wharf, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The ƒ/2 maximum aperture, combined with the 40mm focal length, is plenty to be able to separate foreground from background when shooting wide open or close to it. Washington Square Park, New York, NY. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nikon Z 40mm f2.8 Sample Image. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The high-contrast grill in the skylight here is like catnip for chromatic aberration. But the in-camera algorithms do a good job of catching anything there might be before you even download the image. Union Station, Washington DC. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel

Accessories for the Nikon Z 40mm ƒ/2 Lens

Lens Hood

Somewhat unusually, this lens doesn’t come with a lens hood. I’ve been using it with the Sensei Pro LHM-52 aluminum lens hood, which has been working well. And, as I’ve written before, I’m a fan of aluminum hoods on lenses like these.

It does add to the size of the lens. Not a lot, but definitely a significant amount when compared to the small size of the lens itself.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm f2 Prime Lens for Mirrorless Z-Mount Cameras. Photo by David Coleman - havecamerawilltravel.com
The 40mm ƒ/2 doesn’t come with a lens hood. I’ve found this inexpensive aftermarket metal hood by SenseiPro to work well in terms of both stray light and protection while also being rugged and not too bulky.

Filters

It takes 52mm screw-on filters.

If you happen to be using the lens hood I mention above, you can still use 52mm filters; they just screw onto the end of the hood rather than directly onto the lens. Or you can sandwich them between the hood and the lens.

Specs

Specification Detail
Focal Length 40mm
Maximum Aperture f/2
Minimum Aperture f/16
Lens Mount Nikon Z
Lens Format Coverage Full-Frame (FX)
Angle of View 57°
Minimum Focus Distance 11.4″ / 29 cm
Maximum Magnification 0.17x
Optical Design 6 Elements in 4 Groups
Diaphragm Blades 9, Rounded
Focus Type Autofocus
Image Stabilization No
Filter Size 52 mm (Front)
Dimensions (ø x L) 2.8 x 1.8″ / 70 x 45.5 mm
Weight 6 oz / 170 g

Wrap Up

The headline feature of this lens is its small size and low weight. If those don’t matter to you, there are higher-end lenses that are faster and optically superior.

This is not to imply that this lens is an optical slouch. It’s not. I’ve found it to be sharp and generally lacking the typical optical flaws of vignetting or chromatic aberration (Nikon Z cameras will often correct for those issues in camera by default anyway).

But it’s the overall package that appeals here. It’s small. Optically very good. And cheap. So you can take it practically anywhere, and it’s extremely versatile (for a prime). What’s not to love?

I’ve really enjoyed shooting with it, especially for candids, street travel photography, and particularly with black and white. It’s just a simple, no-nonsense lens that performs well without fuss. Between this lens and the 26mm ƒ/2.8, it’s a great walking-around photography combo.

It’s a natural fit for something like the Nikon Z f, and it’s not surprising that it’s one of the kit lens options that you can find with the camera and lens bundled. The Special Edition (SE), which has a retro-styled exterior but is otherwise the same, is an especially appropriate option. But even on larger cameras, like the Z8, it makes for a pairing that’s well worth considering.

Price & Availability

This lens comes in two versions: the regular version, which is what I have, and a special edition that has more retro exterior styling but is otherwise optically the same.

Nikon has set the MSRP at $299. Which is something of a bargain for what you get. And you can often find them used for closer to $200.

Buy New

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm f/2 Lens
  • Nikon Z-mount
  • FX full-frame
  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm
  • Stepping Motor AF System
  • Two Aspherical Elements

Buy Used

They’re starting to turn up on the used market with more frequency. Some good places to try are:

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2024-02-27 at 16:19. 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.

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