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Summary

The Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S is a 5x zoom covering a wide-angle to moderate telephoto range. It is corrected for full-frame cameras but can also be used on a cropped body like the Z fc or Z50 where it covers a field of view equivalent to 36-180m focal length. It is the successor to Nikon's AF-S 24-120mm f4G VR which was introduced in 2010 and still can be used via FTZ adapter on Nikon's Z cameras. The new lens has a dedicated focus ring, an extra function button and is a member of Nikon's "S-Line" class of lenses which implies very good optical performance. Nikon also claims that the lens has minimal focus breathing or focus shift which bodes well for shooting video. The lens is fully sealed against the elements and also has Nikon's best coating against flare and glare but it misses optical image stabilization. So it relies solely on the body-based stabilization on Nikon’s full-frame Z cameras - which you'll sorely miss on a Nikon Z fc or Z50 camera. Check back soon for my full review!

Buy it now!

Check prices on the Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S preview
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The Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S is a 5x zoom covering a wide-angle to moderate telephoto range. It is corrected for full-frame cameras but can also be used on a cropped body like the Z fc or Z50 where it covers a field of view equivalent to 36-180m focal length. It is the successor to Nikon’s AF-S 24-120mm f4G VR which was introduced in 2010 and still can be used via FTZ adapter on Nikon’s Z cameras. The new lens has a dedicated focus ring, an extra function button and is a member of Nikon’s “S-Line” class of lenses which implies very good optical performance. Nikon also claims that the lens has minimal focus breathing or focus shift which bodes well for shooting video. The lens is fully sealed against the elements and also has Nikon’s best coating against flare and glare but it misses optical image stabilization. So it relies solely on the body-based stabilization on Nikon’s full-frame Z cameras – which you’ll sorely miss on a Nikon Z fc or Z50 camera.

The Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S costs 1249 EUR / 1097 USD / 1099 GBP and should become available in December.

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Facts and features

Let’s compare the Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S (“Z 24-120” for short) to the Nikon AF-S 24-105mm f4G VR (“F-Nikkor”) and the Nikon Z 24-200mm f4-6.3 VR (“Z 24-200”). As usual I’ve rated the features with a [+] (or [++]), when it’s better than average or even state of the art, a [0] if it’s standard or just average, and [-] if there’s a disadvantage.

Size (diameter x length): 84 x 118mm (3.3 x 4.6in.). Add an estimated 35mm for the lens hood and 40mm when zoomed in to 120mm focal length. Nikon implemented a double barrel design to do this just like on the Z 24-200. The F-Nikkor is 84 x 104mm + lens hood + extension when zoom-in. Add 30mm for the FTZ adapter to use it on a Nikon Z camera. The Z 24-200 is 77 x 114mm + 38mm lens hood + 63mm when zoomed in. [0]

Weight: 630g (2.99 lb.). Add an estimated 25g for the plastic lens hood. The F-Nikkor is 710g + lens hood. Add another 133g for the FTZ adapter to use it on a Nikon Z camera. The Z 24-200 is 565g + 22g lens hood. [0]

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Optics: 16 elements in 13 groups including 7 special dispersion and/or aspherical elements. The lens has “ARNEO” anti-reflective coating in addition to Nikon’s Nano-coating to reduce flare, glare and ghosting plus fluorine-coating on the front element to repel water, dust, and dirt and make cleaning easier. The F-Nikkor has 17 elements in 13 groups including three elements. The Z 24-200 has 19 elements in 15 groups including three aspherical elements. [+]

Focal ratio: The Z 24-120 has a constant focal ratio of f4.0 over its entire zoom range just like the F-Nikkor. The Z 24-200mm also starts at f4.0 on the short end but achieves its slowest focal ratio of f6.3 already at 80mm focal length. That is 1.3 stops slower than the Z 24-120. [0]

Coverage: the 5x zoom-range of the Z 24-120 is the same as from the F-Nikkor and gives you 71% more reach over a standard 24-70mm zoom lens. But it is topped by the 8.3x zoom range of the Z 24-200 which has again another 67% more reach. [0]

Closest focus distance is 0.35m (1.2ft.) with a working distance of 0.51m (1.7ft.) at all zoom positions. At 120mm focal length maximum magnification is 1:2.6 which is very good. The F-Nikkor goes to 1:4.2 at 0.45m working distance, the Z 24-200 achieves 1:3.4 at 0.49m working distance. [+]

Image stabilization: No. The Z 24-120 relies solely on the body-based stabilization on Nikon’s full-frame Z cameras. The F-Nikkor and the Z 24-200 offer optical stabilization (VR) which works in conjunction with the Z full-frame cameras to achieve stabilization over 5 axes for the Z 24-120 and 3 axes for the F-Nikkor. [0]

Filter-thread: The Z24-120 and F-Nikkor use 77mm filters. The Z 24-200 only needs 67mm filters [+]

Autofocus: Yes with built-in AF drive. Manual-focus override is by simply turning the dedicated focus ring at the front of the lens. The ring has a variable gearing (like Nikon’s other AF Z-Nikkors) which allows for very precise manual focus when turned slowly but cannot be switched to linear gearing. Which makes smooth focus pulling for videographers almost impossible. On Nikon Z cameras introduced October 2020 or later you can reverse focus direction. Focus on the F-Nikkor works differently as it has a direct linear mechanical coupling between the focus ring and the focus action. And it also has a display showing focusing distance in meter an feet. [+]

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Aperture ring and other control elements: the multi-function control ring of the Z 24-120 can be assigned to operate the aperture (which is the default), exposure compensation, or ISO sensitivity – or simply switched off. The Z 24-200mm lacks the dedicated focus ring so the multi-function ring also controls focus when the camera is set to MF. The F-Nikkor has no aperture ring. Both the Z 24-120 and the F-Nikkor have an AF/MF switch – which the Z 24-200 lacks. And the Z 24-120 is the only lens in this comparison which has an extra function button which can be assigned different functions e.g. AE/AF-lock. [+]

Lens profile: The Z-Nikkors comes with a lens profile which can be controlled from the camera. Vignette control offers the usual options of High, Normal, Low and Off. Diffraction compensation and Auto distortion control can be activated or deactivated (except on the Z 24-200). The F-Nikkor has a lens profile in Adobe’s RAW converter. [+]

All three lenses cover full frame/FX or smaller sensors. [+]

Price: 1249 EUR (incl. 19% VAT) / 1097 USD / 1099 GBP. The Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f4G VR is currently at 850 EUR / 1097 USD / 1079 GBP, the Nikon Z 24-200mm f2.8 VR S costs 930 EUR / 897 USD / 830 GBP. The price of the Z 24-120 in EUR seems a bit too high – especially compared to the price in USD or the Z 24-200. [0]

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Both Z-Nikkors come with the usual flimsy pouch with no strings to pull it close. The lens hood is included and is reversible for transport. The F-Nikkor comes with a soft pouch and reversible lens hood. [0]

Sealing: yes. All three lenses have a rubber grommet at the lens-mount. And the Z-Nikkors have further special weather-sealing throughout the construction. [+]

At a score of 0[-]/7[0]/8[+] the Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S offers a well balanced feature set including full weather sealing, fluorine-coating, ARNEO plus Nano anti-reflex coating, separate focus ring plus multi function ring. But the lens is neither very small or light and misses optical image stabilization – which is a critical omission especially when you use the lens on a DX-body without sensor-based IS. It’s main differentiator versus the Nikon Z 24-200mm f4-6.3 is its constant f4 focal ratio. But then its focal length stops at 120mm vs the 200mm of the super-zoom, which gives you 67% more reach.


Sharpness and contrast

Let’s have a look at the theoretical performance of the Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S, Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f4G VR and Nikon Z 24-200mm f4-6.3 VR:

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Above: Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S at 240mm f4.0 (left), 120mm f4.0 (right)

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Above: Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f4 G VR at 24mm f4.0 (left), 120mm f4.0 (right)

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Above: Nikon Z 24-200mm f4-6.3 VR at 24mm f4.0 (left), 200mm f6.3 (right)

These MTF charts show the computed lens-performance of lenses wide open at infinity without influence of diffraction at 10 line-pairs/mm (red) and 30 lp/mm (blue/green). Higher values are better (more contrast) and the closer the dotted and solid lines are together the less contrast dependents on the orientation of the test-pattern (less astigmatism). The x-axis displays the distance from the optical axis (=center of the sensor) in mm.

From the charts the new Z 24-120mm f4 S should be clearly sharper than its predecessor. But compared to the Nikon Z 24-200mm f4-6.3 VR the new lens seems not so far ahead.

Check back for my full review when the lens becomes available.

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Check prices on the Nikon Z 24-120mm f4 S at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!

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