Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Review | Another Gold Standard Flagship Nikkor Lens
Nikon was the first to make a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, and it was truly ground-breaking. It was one of the first exotic zoom lenses that disproved the notion “primes are always sharper than zooms”. The F-mount Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Nano, announced in 2007, was the sharpest lens in existence at 14mm. It was quite impressive throughout the rest of its zoom range, too! It set a high bar that no other lens maker would match for over a decade. Of course, this Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 review is not about that older, legendary lens, but its successor!
In 2020, Nikon announced the mirrorless version of that legendary full-frame ultra-wide f/2.8 zoom, and it really is a worthy successor, having been completely redesigned from scratch. Now, however, the competition has improved immensely! Basically all exotic wide-angle lenses these days are impressive; even the third-party options that would have been “complete junk” 10-15 years ago.
So, is the Nikon mirrorless 14-24mm worth it? Spoiler alert: YES, it is. It has a lot to offer the different types of photographers who need an f/2.8 ultra-wide zoom. Having said that, not every style of photographer really needs this focal range, and not every type of photography truly requires f/2.8 these days.
Therefore, in this review I will explain why you might want this lens, and what types of photography it’s perfect for. Also, I’ll help you consider instances in which you might choose an alternative. Let’s dive in!
Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Specifications
- FOCAL LENGHT & ANGLE OF VIEW: 14-24mm, 114° to 84°
- LENS MOUNT(S): Nikon Z (full-frame mirrorless)
- APERTURE & RANGE: f/2.8-22, 9, rounded blades
- STABILIZATION: No (in-body stabilization)
- AUTOFOCUS: Yes, silent stepper motor
- MANUAL FOCUS: Yes, electronically controlled, LCD display focus/hyperfocal distance
- OPTICAL CONSTRUCTION: 16 Elements in 11 Groups, 3 aspherical, 4 extra-low dispersion, ARNEO, Nano, Super Integrated Coatings
- MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION: Metal & high-grade plastic, weather-sealed mount & barrel
- MAGNIFICATION & FOCUS DISTANCE: 11 in, (28 cm) 0.13x magnification
- FILTER THREADS & HOOD: 2x hoods, 112mm threaded filters w/ larger hood
- SIZE: 3.5 x 4.9 in. (88.5 x 124.5 mm)
- WEIGHT: 1.4 lb / 650 g
- PRICE: $2,396
(B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Review | Who Should Buy It?
In the past, a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens was seen as a highly exotic, specialty ultra-wide lens that you only bought if you really needed the 14mm focal length. Otherwise, it was smarter to buy something a little less wide, such as a 16-35mm or 17-35mm.
Now, with Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless Z mount, they’ve decided that 14mm is the new standard for their ultra-wide zooms. Whether you want a constant f/2.8 aperture, or you’re okay with an f/4 aperture, 14mm is what their wide-angle full-frame zooms offer.
(Maybe they’ll make another f/2.8 wide-angle zoom someday, but, since it’s not on the official roadmap yet, we can assume it will be years before we see something like a Nikkor Z 17-35mm f/2.8 S, if ever.)
The question today is, do you need f/2.8, or are you okay with f/4? This will depend on what type of photography you do, of course, and you know what? Quite honestly, a lot of photographers might be perfectly happy with the very respectable Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S, which we have reviewed here.
So, without any further ado, let’s talk about the different types of photography/photographers who should consider getting Nikon’s new flagship wide-angle zoom.
First and foremost, landscape photographers love ultra-wide focal lengths. A focal length such as 14mm allows you to create truly dramatic, dynamic compositions, or capture sweeping vistas from a mountain top, or work in cramped environments such as slot canyons.
Plus, of course, landscape photographers prefer lenses that are extremely rugged–weather-sealed, made of metal, and generally ready for all conditions, no matter how horrible. (If you’re crazy enough to set your alarm for 4 AM and go out in sub-freezing temperatures, or a rain/dust storm, then your camera gear better be up to the task, too!)
Honestly, this new Nikon 14-24 2.8 Z is one of the best ultra-wide lenses for landscape photography that I have ever reviewed. It’s basically perfect for the job.
But, here’s the thing: maybe you photograph all your landscapes at f/11, and have little need for f/2.8? If so, then one of the beautiful things about Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless system is that they put almost the same effort into their more affordable, lightweight Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S. I can see a lot of landscape photographers being totally happy with it, too!
[Related: Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Review: The Best Wide-Angle Landscape Photography Lens?]
Is the Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S slightly better, even at f/8-11? Yes, for about $1K more, you definitely get better image quality, but it’s mostly just seen when you look in the very edges/corners of your images. Otherwise, the 14-30mm f/4 Z is honestly just as good, and for some, it’s a better, more downright practical choice with a lot better overall value.
Whether you’re into landscapes, nightscapes, or literally anything else, you might be interested in making a time-lapse video! A lot of time-lapse photography looks awesome with a wide-angle lens, and it is often very important to be able to work in conditions that are changing from very bright to very dark.
For this reason, having f/2.8 at your disposal, plus the well-suited zoom range from 14-24mm, will make this an excellent time-lapse photography lens.
[RELATED: Nikon Z6 II Review – A Great Camera, Perfected?]
Nightscape & Astrophotography
These days, many landscape photographers also want to see stars or even the Milky Way above their beautiful scene, just as much as they want an epic sunrise or sunset!
Therefore, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 once again becomes the highly desirable, holy grail of a lens. (Compared to an f/4 alternative.)
All in all, in this regard, Nikon has produced another champion ultra-wide zoom for those who want impressive results at every aperture from f/2.8 to f/8+. If you’re looking for a balance of incredible image quality, a fast aperture, and relative portability, this is the absolute best lens on the market.
Real Estate Photography
Real-estate photographers live at the focal range of 14-24mm for interior shots, and they also care deeply about having straight lines, well, not look all wobbly at the edges of the frame. As such, the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is another workhorse of a professionally capable lens.
However, once again, if you’re doing all of your work at f/11 or even f/16 to capture all the details of an interior real estate image, then you must ask yourself, how much do you need f/2.8? The Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S is, again, an impressive alternative. Both lenses require you to use their profile corrections, if you’d like to “keep straight lines straight”, but with the profiles left on in-camera, and with both lenses set to f/11, you’ll be hard-pressed to notice a difference. However, with the low ISO noise and impressive dynamic range of all of Nikon’s full-frame Z-mount camera bodies, there really aren’t many drawbacks to using the $1,296 Nikon 14-30mm instead.
By the way, for those of you who think it’s a good idea to photograph real-estate interiors hand-held, (it is NOT!) …yes, the in-body stabilization on all of Nikon’s FX mirrorless bodies works excellent, and delivers perfectly sharp results (often, but not every time) at 14mm and as slow as 1/5 or 1/4 sec. Just in case you were wondering.
Candid & Street Photography
If you’re any type of photojournalist or are just capturing candid images of everyday life, then you’ll probably find yourself hand-holding in low light very often. Having the constant f/2.8 will really help, because even though Nikon’s in-body stabilization is one of the most effective of any full-frame mirrorless systems, there is no substitute for sheer speed when it comes to freezing action in low light.
Action Sports Photography
Speaking of freezing action, the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 is a worthy update to Nikon’s original workhorse ultra-wide lens, the 14-24mm f/2.8 G that was announced with Nikon’s first full-frame action-sports lens that really changed the game for action sports photographers, the Nikon D3. (2007!)
If you work in low light capturing “extreme” action, or anything where you need as fast a shutter speed as possible, then the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is the new standard for working professionals.
Wedding & Portrait Photography
One genre of photography where you might literally ALWAYS be in low light when you reach for your ultra-wide lens is, of course, wedding photography. Whether it’s a dimly lit church or a wedding reception dance floor, you need two things: As much “speed” as possible, plus, of course, reliable autofocus.
In both cases, Nikon has created an impressive system of gear overall, and when you combine a lens like the Z-mount 14-24mm f/2.8 and one of the latest Nikon bodies like the Z6 II, (review here) or Z7 II (review here), or even the Nikon Z5, (review here!) …you’ll be very impressed by the autofocus performance.
The 14-24mm f/2.8 is, in fact, a little better at tracking moving subjects in low light compared to the f/4 aperture Z-mount lenses, and if you’ve configured the AF system correctly, it will hardly ever let you down in terms of low-light reliability.
If you’re not photographing weddings, but are doing portraits exclusively, then you might find yourself in more well-controlled lighting conditions, making f/2.8 less necessary. Also, at such ultra-wide focal lengths, you are a lot less likely to be concerned with achieving shallow depth; you’re more likely to be reaching for this type of lens because you want a large group of people to all be in focus. (As opposed to a Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, (review here) in which case you might be using the f/2.8 aperture to really blur a background nicely.)
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Review | Pros & Cons
The spoiler for this section of the review is this: The lens is almost perfect. Something you ought to expect, of course, for the price tag, but it still needs to be clearly stated.
It’s really hard to complain when Nikon made a lens that not only delivers better image quality than the competition, but also does it in a more lightweight package, and with more functionality & customizations, too.
No other full-frame 14mm f/2.8 lens has a system that allows both front and rear filters. No other full-frame mirrorless wide-angle lens offers a digital focus distance and hyperfocal scale. Really, the only question you have to ask yourself is, can you justify spending ~$2,400 for this f/2.8 lens, or are you okay with the ~$1,300 f/4 Nikkor sibling that is almost as sharp, and significantly more portable?
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S | Image Quality
The sharpness samples will speak for themselves. On a 24-megapixel full-frame camera, this will be the sharpest wide-angle lens you’ve ever used. Even on a 45-megapixel Nikon Z7 II or Z7, you’ll be hard-pressed to see any difference in the level of fine detail.
For an example of how sharp this lens is at 14mm, f/2.8, in the extreme image corner, on a 45-megapixel sensor, see the Coma/Astigmatism test below!
For those select few photographers who are concerned about shallow depth and bokeh at ultra-wide focal lengths, (okay, there are probably plenty of photographers who care about bokeh on a 14-24mm lens!) …there is more good news: Nikon’s wider, shorter Z-mount optics are all capable of beautifully smooth background blur, especially at their wide-open apertures.
Colors & Contrast
There is something stunningly colorful about Nikon’s latest Nikkor flagship lenses. Of course, their latest camera sensors likely also play a big role in that, as well as Adobe’s processing defaults, but, what can I say… colors and contrast from the images coming from this lens are absolutely gorgeous.
Honestly, I am finding that I actually edit my photos less, because they come out of the camera looking more clear and vibrant than ever. Although, again, it’s not just this one lens that is producing such results, pretty much all Nikkor Z-mount optics are producing stunning results in terms of color accuracy, saturation, and the overall beautiful contrast of images.
Vignetting & Distortion
There is not much distortion or vignetting to speak of, and if you leave the in-camera correction profiles turned on, they will carry over to your raw processing, (Adobe Lightroom, as well as Capture One, and probably most others) …so you’ll never even notice it.
Having said that, if you turn the distortion correction OFF in Lightroom, you will notice that although there is just a basic “straightening of lines” being done in the main area of the image, it is actually surprisingly simple–it’s not the common “wobbly mustache” type distortion, like almost all ~14mm lenses have.)
You will lose about 2-4% of the extreme corners and left/right edges when turning the correction on, but that’s about it. Sharpness seems unaffected by this correction, by the way.
Vignetting is almost invisible when turning the correction off and on in Lightroom, but that may be because Nikon is still “baking in” more under the hood. Again, just leave the in-camera correction turned on, and you’ll barely notice any vignetting even at 14mm f/2.8!
NOTE: I must also mention something that applies to virtually all mirrorless lenses I have reviewed in recent years: If you over-edit your images to extreme levels, namely with Sharpening, Clarity, and Texture, then you will see very distracting patterns in smooth-surfaced subjects. To remedy this, either turn off the lens profile correction, or edit your photos a little less “extra crispy”!
Sunstars & Flare
As with all of Nikon’s modern flagship lenses, in most shooting conditions you will see very little flare dots, if any, even if you put extremely bright lights in the image frame. Even that warm haze is a little hard to come by, when you want it, because the lens’ glass is just so beautifully clear and crisp.
Sunstars are quite good by f/8; they have well-defined points, but they are not pin-points like some lenses with optimized aperture diaphragms. (This lens’ aperture is optimized for a balance of good bokeh and good sunstars, I’d wager.) Therefore, I must give the same advice as usual: If you’re obsessed with sunstars, get an old manual focus lens without rounded aperture blades. (Just don’t expect the same level of overal sharpness, flare aversion, etc.)
Color Fringing, Aberration, Coma & Astigmatism
Here’s what makes this new lens really exciting: Nikon did not “skimp” on this lens by just making it sharp, or have low distortion since those are the usual things that most photographers care about. This lens is a perfect tool for nightscape or astro-landscape photography, and so Nikon made sure that all coma, astigmatism, and other aberrations are virtually zero or minimal.
Among competition where “nearly perfect” is the new status quo, Nikon delivered a lens that is either on par with, or better than, the excellent competitors.
Macro & Close-Up Photography
Although the actual magnification (reproduction ratio) is not very impressive on the spec sheet, getting up-close with an ultra-wide lens is still a lot of fun! Thankfully, this lens stays very sharp when focused close-up.
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Review | Pros: Design & Durability
Nikon’s flagship lenses have almost always been very rugged and durable, made of metal, weather-sealed, etc. Still, once in a while I encounter a minor engineering flaw here or there, and that was the case with the original Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 G: though it was mostly metal, if you bumped the rear barrel hard enough on anything solid, you could ding/deform the barrel enough that it would grind against the zoom ring, which (aluminum on aluminum is never good) would rapidly lead to the zoom ring jamming completely, which was a costly repair.
I mention this because, I want everyone to know that even the best companies who are renowned for making rock-solid quality products, (and even lenses with metal barrels) don’t always get it right. Sometimes, there’s a minor design or durability flaw that can really be a hindrance to someone who is especially brutal towards their gear.
With that said, the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 seems to be brilliantly designed, both in terms of durability, and overall ergonomics. Not only is it a svelte 1.4 lbs, and balances very well in the hand, but the physical durability seems relatively “indestructible”.
As one bonus that I really appreciate, the front element of this particular 14-24mm is very different from all other ultra-wide zooms: it doesn’t protrude out in a bulbous way, begging to be scratched if you’re reckless. It’s almost perfectly flat, and that is how you are able to mount 112mm threaded filters when using the larger of the two available hoods.
Yes, the hood system that accepts filters is a bit unwieldy, but the whole point of this innovative design is that, if you don’t need filters, you can literally leave that whole option off your lens!
Features, Functions, & Customization
The Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is definitely one of the most unique ultra-wide zooms I have ever reviewed. The first thing you notice when you inbox the lens is, without a doubt, the visual appearance of the design of the front of the lens. As I mentioned, that nearly flat front element makes the lens look very unique, and is what allows the use of filters.
2 Hoods Are Better Than 1?
Actually, there are two different hoods included. The larger hood is absolutely enormous, but that’s because you use it to add filters to the lens. Indeed, they must be 112mm, which means your selection will be limited, and they will be quite pricey. (Don’t worry, this 14-24mm also accepts rear gel filters, too, for those who only wish to do ultra-long exposures using a simple ND filter!)
The smaller hood, though, is much more practical and is a perfect add-on for photographers who don’t need filters. Lastly, without any hoods attached, there is still a little bit of hood-style protection on the frontmost barrel of the lens itself, so even if you drop the lens without any hoods on, you might be okay.
Next, when first mounting the lens onto your camera body, you’ll undoubtedly notice that there is an LCD display on the lens itself! I still miss the old days of physical distance markings and mechanically coupled focus rings, but this exclusive Nikon feature is quite useful.
Especially if you hit the “DISP” button and cycle through its options until you get to my favorite: the hyperfocal distance feature. Again, no other lens maker has a feature like this!
Last but not least, yes, you can customize that ring to do other things besides control your aperture; my favorite things to do, depending on the shooting needs, are to set it to either control EV compensation or ISO. You can also customize the L-Fn button, of course, to do a handful of functions.
By the way, Nikon has more lenses than both Canon and Sony that possess both a customizable dial/ring and Fn button. Canon’s RF lenses have “command rings” but almost completely omitted Fn buttons, and Sony’s G/GM lenses that do have both a Fn button and a control ring have limited the ring to aperture control only.
Good, reliable autofocus is a result of both the lens and the camera body, of course. In that regard, it seems that Nikon’s Z-mount lenses are capable of great speed and precision, and are virtually silent. Nikon’s Z-mount camera bodies are also stepping up their autofocus performance with each new generation and each major firmware update, especially when it comes to AF tracking reliability. With an f/2.8 aperture, and significantly less glass to “push” when focusing, plus modern focus motors, your experience will be significantly improved with this lens compared to DSLRs.
That’s the bottom line, really. In other words, these Nikkor lenses are going to be ready for whatever high-end action-sports flagship (Nikon Z9!) is coming next, there is no doubt about that!
Manual Focus Performance & Focus Breathing
I don’t always use the on-board LCD display that shows focus distance and/or hyperfocal markings, however, it is pretty useful in some situations. More importantly, the electronically controlled manual focus ring itself is capable of high precision, even for challenging things like focusing on stars at infinity for nightscapes.
Also, I should note that there is very little focus breathing, which of course applies to both autofocus and manual focus.
One of the reasons I’ve preferred Nikon for more than 15 years now is that they always deliver value. Whether I’m saving up for a flagship camera/lens, or I’m on a tight budget, Nikon always delivers a well-rounded assortment of value options.
Value Compared to Others
By comparison, the other top two full-frame mirrorless systems, Sony and Canon, also have excellent “exotic” ultra-wide lenses. However, their systems as a whole don’t always offer the same well-rounded value.
In other words, if you have more than $2K to spend, then sure, Nikon’s flagship lens is a fantastic investment. But what if you’re looking for a more well-rounded system? Instead of a Nikon Z6 II (~$2K) and this Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S (~$2.4K) you could get a Nikon Z5 (~$1.3K) and the Z 14-30mm f/4 (~$1.3K), …and save $1,800!
That is to say, this particular Nikkor Z optic may cost a pretty penny, but the Nikon Z full-frame system as a whole provides one of the best values around.
Also, for the record, this Nikon 14-24mm is currently more affordable (at $2,196, with a $200 instant savings) than both its direct name-brand competitors; the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS is $2,299, and the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 GM is $2,898. (Review coming soon!)
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Review | Compared To The Competition
If you’re looking for native, Z-mount full-frame lenses, then you won’t have to look far. There are only two Nikkor zoom lenses, and one prime, that are wider than 24mm. There is a relatively limited selection of third-party options, all prime lenses, and they’re all manual focus.
Thus, there really is no comparison. If you’re shopping for an ultra-wide zoom with autofocus, then don’t waste your time reading about manual focus primes. Just get this Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S! Or the Z 14-30mm f/4 S, if it’s a better fit for you. End of discussion. Okay, maybe get the Nikkor Z 20mm f/1.8 S, ($950) if you’d rather have a faster aperture and a more portable package.
Is Autofocus a Must?
With that said, many landscapes and nightscape photographers may not need autofocus. Others might not even care about being able to zoom in from ~14mm. If this is you, then here are some additional thoughts:
There are some relatively affordable alternatives from third parties like Venus/Laowa, Samyang/Rokinon, Nisi, and TTArtisan. Laowa’s 15mm f/2 is now available for the Z-mount, and so is Rokino’s oldest 14mm design, the UMC 14mm f/2.8.
The Bottom Line on Competitors
Honestly? None of them are nearly as good as the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S. They’re all decent, for their price and/or portability, but they still don’t come close to matching the overall “total package” you get with the Nikkor.
If you really want a half-decent competitor, then F-mount (DSLR) ultra-wide zooms are the next-best solution, for now. Nikon’s legendary 14-24mm f/2.8 G is still a champ, of course. Also, there are two good third-party competitors: the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 HSM Art, and the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC G2. Both are decently sharp; unfortunately, though, both are utterly massive and will be totally front-heavy on the FTZ adapter. You’ll want to put your tripod foot on the FTZ adapter to reduce stress on the camera body’s mount!
Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S Review | Conclusion
I can sum up this review with an overall statement about Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless system. It has arrived, better than ever, and it’s highly competitive with other name brands and third-party lens options. (Should they ever become options!)
If you appreciated the D850 and Nikon’s “holy trinity” of f/2.8 zooms, you’ll love the new full-frame mirrorless trinity. They’re all incredible. Because of how much lighter and smaller it is compared to everything else, The Z 14-24mm is my new favorite wide-angle lens. For that reason, I highly recommend this lens.
[RELATED: Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Review – The Future of Pro Mirrorless Zooms has Arrived]
[RELATED: Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Review – The Most-Anticipated Lens of 2020?]
Check Pricing & Availability
The Nikon Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is available for $2,396.95 at these retailers:
- Exceptional Image Quality
- Rugged Build Quality & Extensive Weather Sealing
- Impressive Autofocus Performance
- Extensive, Unique Features & Customizations
- Lightweight, Compact Handling & Ergonomics
- Nearly Flat (Not Bulbous) Front Element
- Solid Value
- Threaded Filters Are 112mm
- Two Different Sets of Hoods and Caps
With a surprising level of innovation, Nikon has reinvented their original, legendary 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. Its impressive image quality, plus the compact portability and unique features, make it a proper cornerstone to the Nikkor Z flagship lens lineup.
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