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Summary

Highly Recommended awardThe Z 40mm f2.0 is a much smaller, lighter and cheaper lens than the Z 50mm f1.8 S or Z 35mm f1.8 S. Its optical performance is not on the same level as from the S-line Nikkors but the new lens is still a solid performer and offers a better light gathering power and smoother Bokeh than the Z 28mm f2.8. Stop it down a bit to get very satisfying results. This makes the Nikon Z 40mm f2.0 an interesting proposition on Nikon's lens road-map and earns it a clear recommendation.

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Nikon Z 40mm f2 review
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Intro

The Nikon Z 40mm f2.0 is a short “standard” prime lens for Nikon’s Z-series mirrorless cameras of DX or FX format. On a full format body the lens covers an angle-of-view of 57 degrees, while on a cropped body like the Z fc or Z50 the lens provides a 60mm equivalent focal length. In Nikon’s lens line-up for their Z cameras the Z 40mm f2.0 is slotted between their Z 50mm f1.8 S and Z 35mm f1.8 S. Compared to the Z 28mm f2.8 which accompanied the release of the Nikon Z fc camera the new lens has a one stop brighter focal ratio but is still very small and light.

The Z 40mm f2.0 SE was announced in September 2021 and costs 279 EUR / 297 USD / 249 GBP which is similar to the Z 28mm f2.8 and much cheaper than either the Z 35mm f1.8S or the Z 50mm f1.8 S.

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Facts and features

Let’s compare the Nikon Z 40mm f2.0 to the Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S and Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S. 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): 70 x 46mm (2.8 x 1.8in.) with no lens hood to attach. The Z 50mm f1.8 S is 76 x 87mm + 40 mm lens hood, the Z 35mm f1.8 S is 73 x 86mm + 48mm lens hood. So the new 40mm Z-Nikkor is indeed the most compact normal full-frame lens with autofocus to use on a Nikon Z camera to date. [++]

Weight: 167g (6.0 oz.). The Z 50mm f1.8 S is much heavier at 412g + 27g lens hood, the Z 35mm f1.8 S is 364g + 30g lens hood. This makes the Z 40mm f2.0 also the lightest lens in this comparison by far although it is only 0.3 stops slower. Be aware though that Nikon resorted to a plastic lens mount to keep weight low. [++]

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Optics: The lens has a very simple optical design with only 6 elements in 4 groups including two aspherical elements. The Z 50mm f1.8 S has 12 elements in 9 groups with two special dispersion and two aspherical elements, the Z 35mm f1.8 S is of similar complexity. Both S lenses have Nikon’s Nano-Coating to reduce flare, glare and ghosting. [+]

Minimum object distance / maximum magnification: At 0.27m (0.9ft.) distance the Z 40mm f2.0 achieves a maximum magnification of 1:5.1 – which is not much and results in a working distance of 0.21m. But the other two Z-Nikkors are not much different at 1:6.0 and 1:4.8 for the Z 50mm f1.8 S and Z 35mm f1.8 S respectively. The Z 40mm f2.0 achieves a magnification of 1:10 at a distance of 0.46m (1.5ft.). [+]

Image stabilization: None of the three lenses in this comparison offers optical stabilization. But Nikon’s full-format Z bodies provide built-in sensor-shift stabilization over 5 axis for any Z-Nikkor – plus an optional electronic stabilization in video mode. Just be aware that neither Nikon’s Z fc nor Z 50 cameras have image stabilization. [0]

Filter-thread: 52mm. The Z 50mm f1.8 S and Z 35mm f1.8 S both need 62mm filters. [+]

Autofocus: All three lenses in this comparison offer autofocus. Manual-focus override is by simply turning the focus ring – if you didn’t assign another operation to the multi-function ring of the Z-Nikkors. The focus ring has the usual variable gearing to assist in precise manual focusing but cannot be switched to linear response for smooth focus pulling in videos. [+]

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Aperture: The multi-function control ring of the Z-Nikkors can be assigned to operate the aperture, exposure compensation, ISO (not on the Z fc), or focus (which is the default setting). It automatically falls back to its customary focus control when the camera is switched to manual focus. Although the lens control ring has not the same benefit as having a focus ring plus a dedicated aperture ring on the lens it gives you more flexibility to control one of the more important shooting parameters directly from a nice ring on the lens. [+]

Lens profile: All Z-Nikkors come 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. [+]

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

Price: The lens has a list price of 279 EUR (incl. 19% VAT) / 297 USD / 249 GBP. The Z 50mm f1.8 S is 550 EUR / 600 USD / 520 GBP, the Z 35mm f1.8 S costs 780 EUR / 850 USD / 800 GBP. [+]

The lens comes without pouch or lens hood. The Z 50mm f1.8 S and Z 35mm f1.8 S both come with a soft pouch and reversible lens hood. [-]

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Sealing: Yes, the focus ring and the front is sealed against the elements but there is no rubber grommet at the plastic lens mount. [0]

With a score of 1[-]/2[0]/12[+] the Nikon Z 40mm f2.0 is by far the smallest, lightest, and cheapest way to put a “normal” full-frame autofocus prime lens on your Nikon Z camera without using a mount adapter. And it offers a relatively bright f2.0 focal ratio which lets you achieve shorter shutter speeds and better background isolation than f2.8 lenses. But Nikon left out the lens hood and pouch and made the compromise of a cheap plastic lens mount without weather sealing – although the rest of the lens is sealed.

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Above: Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S (left), Nikon Z 40mm f12.0 (right),


Alternatives

If you’re looking for normal lenses with autofocus and Z mount there are few other alternatives in addition to the above mentioned Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S and Z 35mm f1.8 S:

  • Viltrox has the AF 35mm f1.8 Z. Its size is 70 x 90mm at a weight of 370g. Closest focus distance is 0.4m with a maximum magnification of 1:10. The lens comes with a pouch and reversible lens hood. With its shorter 35mm focal length it has 13% less reach and covers a 6 degrees wider angle-of-view than the Nikon Z 40mm f2.0. The Viltrox offers a 0.3 stops brighter focal ratio and has a “USB upgrade port” on the lens mount to update the firmware. The latter is a reminder that Nikon has patents on the camera/lens interface which might make it hard for Viltrox to work around for optimal autofocus performance. The lens is priced at 416 EUR / 399 USD / 358 GBP.

There are also quite a few manual focus lenses with Z-mount and you can of course use a plethora of F-mount lenses via Nikon’s FTZ mount adapter – adding another 31mm in length and 133g in weight.


Focus

Focus accuracy and repeatability is critical to consistently produce sharp shots. Repeatability (the accuracy of focus on the same subject after repeated focus-acquisition) of the Nikon Z 40mm f2.0 is fair (measured 95.3% in Reikan FoCal) but produced no outliers over a series of 40 shots. There is a bit of focus variation whether the lens focuses from a closer distance or from infinity and I had some cases where the lens refused to focus at all when coming from minimum object distance. The lens focuses in around 0.3 sec on a Nikon Z7 from infinity to 0.46m (1:10 magnification), which is very fast.

The focus ring is 16mm wide. Its surface is kind of rubberized and it moves super smooth. AF-operation of the lens in photo-mode can be heard from the outside and if you record video with the built-in microphone there is some low buzzing noise.

As you pull focus, you’ll notice some focus breathing: the image became 2% less magnified when I adjusted focus from infinity to 0.46m. This is hardly visible and should not be distracting when shooting videos.

Next check out my quality results!

Check prices on the Nikon Z 40mm f2 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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