Nikkor Z 14–30mm f/4 S: Embracing the Future

 

Exemplifying the advantages of a shorter, flange distance, and a wider mount, Nikon introduces world’s first FX-format full frame ultra wide zoom lens with a filter thread, the Nikkor Z 14–30mm f/4 S. Nilofer Khan finds out more.

 

Nikon jumped on the bandwagon when they unveiled their Z series. The introduction of the shorter, wider lens mount enabled them to improve the design, as well as the optical performance of the upcoming lenses. To expand their existing range of the S line lenses, the company has announced its first ultra wide zoom lens—the Nikkor Z 14–30mm f/4 S, which also is the smallest and lightest of its kind in the world.

Features
Designed using 14 elements in 12 groups, including four ED and four aspherical elements, it has a seven-blade diaphragm with electromagnetic mechanism, to provide accurate blade control for continuous shooting. The lens has a 0.16x maximum reproduction ratio and Nano Crystal coat. Significantly, its 82mm filter size accepts screw-in filters, making it the world’s first FX-format full frame ultra wide zoom lens to do so. An internal zoom lens, it measures the longest at the wide end. It features Internal Focus, AF stepping motor for silent autofocus, with MF override during AF. It has a customisable focusing ring, which can be used for aperture control or exposure compensation. Also, the camera automatically sets the MF to infinity when you switch it on. It has a detachable lens hood, and lacks IS. The lens has a dust- and moisture-resistant construction, along with a fluorine coat on the front element.

Handling
Weighing 485g, its retractable design with locking mechanism also makes it very portable at a mere 3.5 inches. To unlock the lens, you need to turn it towards the telephoto end. The metal mount, the metal rear of the lens barrel, and the engineering plastic give a stylish finish. The broad zoom ring is on the front of the lens with a rubberised grip, and the thin customisable ring is placed at the back for focus (default). The ring (focus-by-wire) is capable of responding to quick or slow rotation, even during manual override. Some advance photographers might feel the lack of any controls for maintaining the lens at hyperfocal distance settings. Both the rings function quite smoothly.

Even in dimly lit, complicated conditions, the AF was extremely quick to respond and lock. Contrast is excellent. Colour renditions are rich. Exposure 1/13 sec at f/4 (ISO 1250). Photograph/Nilofer Khan

Performance
The AF is fast, silent, and locks on quickly, even in difficult situations. The MF is extremely smooth as it goes from closest distance to infinity, which is great for videographers. Overall, the image quality of the lens is very good, and the colour rendition is neutral. Focus breathing is controlled well at 14mm, but slightly visible at 30mm.

The lens has the sharpest centre at 14mm, and there is a minor drop-off in sharpness by 30mm. There is also visible coma at the corners at 14mm. Both, this and the centre to edge sharpness, improves from 16mm onwards, with the soft spot being f/6.3. However, at 14mm, stopping down to f/8 to f/11 will give better results for the centre to edge sharpness.

Distortions are also controlled well. The lens correction feature of the Z 7 did an excellent job with JPEGs. Vignetting is quite strong, -4EV at wide and -3EV at telephoto end, with vignette control switched off. It is prominently visible with vignette control set at high as well. The lens shows superb control over flare and ghosting. Bokeh and blurs are pleasingly rendered too. Lateral chromatic aberrations and fringing are controlled excellently.

Conclusion
While the Nikkor Z 14–30mm f/4 is useful for close range landscape photography and architecture, I found it wonderfully usable for street photography as well. The lens provides sharp images at the widest aperture, good colour rendition, and well-controlled distortion and flare. It is also lightweight, sturdy, and compact for an ultrawide zoom lens. If you consider using the FTZ mount adapter, a number of options both from Nikon and other manufacturers come into play, especially at its price of Rs. 99,950. But its size, weight, portability, and ergonomics makes this is a very unique lens, without any immediate competitors.

This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Better Photography.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
82mm filter, customisable ring
19/20
Performance
Fast AF, sharp images at 14mm, good colour rendition, and heavy vignetting
31/35
Build Quality
Lightweight, engineering plastic, and weathersealed
22/25
Ergonomics
Large zoom ring and lock mechanism
15/15
Warranty & Support
Limited service network, 2 year warranty
3/5
MRP Rs. 99,950
OVERALL 90%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3.5/5
Who should buy it? Users who enjoy landscape and street photography, as well as videography.
Why? It is portable, lightweight, has good ergonomics, and delivers fast AF and sharp images at wide aperture

 

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