The Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S is the first 24mm prime lens specifically designed for Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless Z bodies. As such it is without direct competition. But as most modern F-mount lenses work well on a Z body via the FTZ adapter Nikon’s new lens is not without alternatives. Judged on its own merits Nikon’s Z 24mm f1.8 S looks like a very solid performer. It produces very contrasty images across the full-frame sensor (even against adverse contra-light) with very little coma and Bokeh that is astonishingly smooth for a 24mm f1.8 lens. Its focus reliability is excellent and it is hardened well against the elements including a fluorine coating against moist and dust at the front element.
What are the weak(er) points? For a start: My copy of the lens was less well centered than I would have accepted for a keeper. It’s sad to see quality issues mar the performance of an otherwise very good lens. The lens also has more longitudinal colour aberrations (loCA) than I would have liked but fortunately they are not too obtrusive and the lens produces only marginal magenta halos. Performance at closer distances renders the FX-corner with a little less detail than even the old Nikon 24mm f1.8G does. And once you get closer than 0.5m / 1.5 ft. you better stop the lens down to f2.8 or beyond for crisp and clear images. But these are small weaknesses and when shooting at longer distances resolution is at very good levels. And one last annoyance: the flimsy lens pouch for Nikon’s Z-mount lenses is worse than the old ones for their F-Nikkors.
Let’s have a closer look at how the new lens compares to some alternatives.
Compared to Nikon 24mm f1.8G
The Nikon AF-S 24mm f1.8G ED came Recommended in my review from 2015. It still is a good lens but falls behind Nikon’s new Z Nikkor: It has lower contrast, less resistance against flare and glare, stronger color aberrations and coma, and a less convincing Bokeh. It costs less than the Z Nikkor and seems smaller when viewed stand-alone. But mount it on the FTZ-adapter and it becomes longer and heavier than the new Z Nikkor. If you already have the 24mm f1.8G in your collection, you can continue using it via adapter with good results. But I wouldn’t recommend buying it for your brand-new Nikon Z camera.
For more details see my Nikon 24mm f1.8G review.
Compared to Sigma 24mm f1.4 Art
The Sigma 24mm f1.4 Art came Highly Recommended in my review from 2015. But with the advent of more modern lens designs the Sigma Art with its clear drop in contrast and resolution at the border of the DX image-circle and its pronounced coma isn’t as competitive as it once was. It still has the advantage of a 2/3 of a stop better light gathering power but for that it is larger and heavier than the Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S even before you mount it on the FTZ adapter. And its background Bokeh even looks more nervous at f1.4 than from the Z-Nikkor at f1.8. I would clearly recommend getting the Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S over the Sigma 24mm f1.4 Art for your Nikon Z camera.
For more details see my Sigma 24mm f1.4 Art review.
Compared to Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4
Putting the Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4 with its 162 x 118 mm size and almost 1.4kg weight (including lens hood) via FTZ adapter on a Nikon Z camera clearly shows that this lens is not made to be a good match for Nikon’s new mirrorless bodies. But regarding its optical performance the Zeiss Otus is still the benchmark by which other lenses are judged: It delivers very sharp and contrasty images with little coma, loCA or purple fringing even at f1.4. And its build quality is excellent. But it has an exorbitant price, and can only be focused manually – although manual focusing on a modern mirrorless camera body is so much easier than on a DSLR. Comparing the Otus to the Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S shows how far modern lens design has progressed in the past few years: The Z-Nikkor is only a little behind the sharpness and contrast of the Otus at closer distances and looks at least as sharp at long-distance shots with less coma to boot. Even the Bokeh is pretty close although the Otus boasts a 2/3 larger focal ratio. And finally: under harsh contra-light situations the Nikkor retains a clearly higher contrast than the Zeiss. All-in-all this is a clear recommendation for the Z-Nikkor.
For more details see my Zeiss 28mm f1.4 Otus review.
Let’s have a look at two other alternatives you might consider when venturing into wide-angle land with your Nikon Z camera.
Compared to Nikon Z 24-70mm f2.8 S
The Z 24-70mm f2.8 S is Nikon’s professional workhorse general-purpose zoom which came Highly Recommended in my review. It’s a very versatile lens covering a widely used range of focal lengths at a constant f2.8 aperture. It is my go-to lens for many occasions and the question is: If you already own the 24-70mm f2.8 does it make much sense to get the Z 24mm f1.8 too? With regard to resolving power both lenses are pretty close. But the prime lens has better contrast especially in contra-light situations plus the additional 1.3 EV brighter focal ratio netting the faster shutter speeds and the better blurred background. So I’d consider it a draw: The zoom is by far the more versatile lens and produces very good results, but when you know that 24mm is the right focal length for the occasion, the Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S is the better choice.
For more details see my Nikon Z 24-70mm f2.8 S review.
Compared to Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S
The Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S came Recommended in my review. It is a good lens but has stronger loCA and more nervous Bokeh than the Z 24mm f1.8 S, but at 650 EUR it also costs much less than the Z 24mm f1.8 S. Obviously you have to decide which focal length / coverage better-suits your needs: the 35mm has the benefit of a 46% longer reach with its longer focal length, but that also means the angle of view might not be wide enough for the scene in front of you. So the 35mm lens might be more suited for street photography and the 24mm lens for architecture and landscapes. But if I had to choose between both lenses for traveling or just walking around I’d prefer the Z 24mm f1.8 S over the Z 35mm f1.8 S.
For more details see my Nikon 35mm f1.8 S review.
Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S final verdict
The Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S is a very good wide angle prime lens for owners of Z-series mirrorless bodies: Resolution and contrast is as good or even better than the Zeiss 28mm f1.4 Otus – which is no small feat. It also delivers usable close-up performance when stopped down a little and retains its high contrast exceptionally well even in contra-light situations. Plus its size and weight makes it a good match for the compact Z-series bodies it’s designed for. The new Z Nikkor also focuses fast and reliably and is sealed thoroughly against the elements. Its longitudinal color aberrations could be lower but didn’t stand out in real-life shooting, and the Bokeh is quite smooth for a 24mm f1.8 lens. All-in-all the Z 24mm f1.8 S performs better than the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S and is neck-and-neck with the Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4. This deserves a Highly Recommended – provided you get a well-centered copy!
- Small and light.
- Very high contrast and resistance against flare, glare, and ghosting.
- Very high resolution across the full frame at longer distances.
- Minimal distortions (through lens profile).
- Nice Bokeh for a 24mm f1.8 lens.
- Extensive weather sealing plus fluorine coating against moist and dust.
- Pretty fast and very reliable AF operation.
- Multi-function ring assignable to manual focus, aperture or exposure compensation.
- Longitudinal colour aberrations could be lower.
- Flimsy lens pouch.
Check prices on the Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!