In 2007, Nikon made waves with their F-mount 14-24mm f/2.8. At the time, most major manufacturers wide zooms were limited to the 16mm range on the wide end. The 14-24mm became known as a legendary lens that not only had extreme width, but was also simply excellent optically. 16 years later, 14mm ultra-wide zooms are pretty common, especially on mirrorless systems, and even wider lenses such as the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 GM, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L and Canon’s latest RF 10-20mm f/4L have pushed the boundaries in the extreme width category. For the Z mount mirrorless system, though, Nikon again made a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, but while this new lens doesn’t break new ground with regards to focal length, it wows simply through exceptional optical design.
Construction and Handling
The Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is a lens that’s constructed like a lot of fast ultra-wide zooms, with a somewhat bulbous front element and a small integrated hood, but Nikon has done some interesting things with the construction of the 14-24mm S. The lens is typically sized for a 14mm and wider f/2.8 zoom lens, as it is roughly the same length and diameter as Sony’s 12-24mm f/2.8 GM or Sigma’s 14-24mm f/2.8. However, while similar in size, the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 is lighter than both of them, at just 650g. That’s nearly 150g lighter than the Sigma and 200g lighter than the Sony. It’s also 200g lighter than Canon’s RF 15-35mm f/2.8L. The weight distribution is good too, such that the lens is easy to handle in the field, and feels at home on any Nikon Z full-frame body. It’s of course not as compact as Nikon’s collapsible 14-30mm f/4 lens, but that’s to be expected with the stop faster aperture.
The lens is predominantly constructed of engineering plastics on a metal mount and subframe. The 14-24mm f/2.8 S is solidly constructed, and there’s no flex in any part of the lens. When zooming, the lens stays a constant length while the front element moves inside the lens with its small integrated mini-hood. The manual focus ring at the front of the lens turns smoothly and with good damping. The zoom ring is in the middle of the lens and moves smoothly, though there is the tiniest bit of play in the zoom ring if you push it slightly longitudinally.
The 14-24mm f/2.8 S also features the LCD display that is present on a lot of Nikon’s higher end Z lenses from early in the system. This can be set to display the current focal length, selected aperture or a focus scale, and while sometimes this information can be handy, the implementation here is mediocre, as the display turns off after a few seconds and has to be manually turned on by pressing the DISP button. On this lens, I honestly never use it.
The Nikkor Z 14-24mm also has a programmable L-Fn button on the side of the lens, along with a programmable control ring and the AF/MF toggle switch. As I’ve mentioned previously, I am not a big fan of Nikon’s programmable control rings, as they lack any tactile feedback, making them difficult to use for aperture changes and too easy to accidentally activate in the field. I leave them turned off.
In all, the 14-24mm f/2.8 is a solidly constructed lens that is lightweight for its size, focal length and aperture.
Lens Hoods and Filter Use
A lot of 14mm wide zoom lenses have a bulbous front element and built-in permanent lens hoods that preclude using traditional front mounted filters. This was the case with the original F mount Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, as well as the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8, and essentially all zooms wider than 14mm. Using front filters with these lenses has generally meant buying enormous and expensive specialized filter holders with 150mm filters. Only the slower f/4 zoom lenses like the Nikon 14-30mm f/4 and the Canon 14-35mm f/4L have thus far managed to have standard front filter threads.
With the Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, Nikon has taken a sort of middle-ground approach with regards to lens hoods and filter use. First, the lens has a very small built-in hood of sorts, which is more of a stylized end of the lens tube holding the front element group. This provides a very small amount of shading for the front element, and a bit of protection, but isn’t too large. The lens comes with a specialized lens cap that sits perfectly into this mini-hood. This cap is excellent, and provides good protection while being very secure compared to most standard lens caps.
Nikon includes two different hoods in the box for use with the 14-24mm. The first hood is a fairly standard ultra-wide bayonet-mount lens hood. It’s made of plastic,has a locking mechanism, and has velvet flocking to reduce reflections. This hood provides a little extra protection and shading compared to the integral hood, and is reversible for storage. This is the hood that stays on my lens most of the time. The second lens hood is larger and has its own set of filter threads, which allow 112mm filters to be installed in the hood. This isn’t as convenient as having a lens that can take smaller standard filters, but it’s a good compromise that gives relatively easy access to front filters while keeping the size at least somewhat manageable.
The filter hood mounts using the same bayonet mount as the standard hood. This hood includes a large specialized lens cap for the entire hood assembly. While this filter hood is large, and the filters are expensive, the assembly is significantly smaller and less expensive than specialized 150mm filter holders used previously on 14-24mm zoom lenses. Above shows the Nikon filter hood with 112mm circular polarizer installed. The hood is large, but it is still small enough that I can leave the filter mounted to my lens while the lens and my camera are in my backpack, something I could never do with the Nisi filter holder I used on my Sigma 14-24mm.
There is one downside to the included Nikon filter hood, though. The hood has some small slits at the back to allow for movement of the locking mechanism (and perhaps other reasons), and as such, it’s possible for stray light to make its way through the rear of the hood if you have a bright light source behind you. Because the filter is at the front of the hood, these light leaks can reflect off the filter and cause image problems. I haven’t personally experienced this yet with the built-in hood, but I can see light coming in if I have the camera on with the lens cap on the filter hood. If this is a situation that bothers you, or you’d like to prevent potential issues, Nisi makes an oustanding aftermarket filter hood for the 14-24mm f/2.8, which is made of anodized aluminum and uses the same bayonet mount as the stock hood. This hood completely seals out light from the rear of the lens, and is tapered to provide easy access for turning polarizers or variable ND filters, and removing filters from the hood. It also is very solidly made, and fits the stock filter hood cap from Nikon. This hood will run you $69 if you choose to purchase it.
One final thing: I wish both Nikon and Nisi would have included a rear cap for the filter hood. I like to leave my polarizer installed in the hood, and want it protected when I’m not using it. I keep the hood/filter in the front pocket of my shoulder bag for daily transport. It would be great to have a dedicated rear cap that is meant for this. To solve this, I’ve rigged up some rubber and plastic caps for both the Nikon and Nisi filter hoods. The Nikon filter hood has a 110mm outer diameter on the rear flange, so I purchased a rubber 110mm cap from GL Optics. This didn’t fit perfectly, but I trimmed down the height of that hood with scissors, and then used gaffer tape around the lip to make for a tighter fit. It works perfectly. For the Nisi hood, I repurposed the 100mm plastic cap I had been using on the filter holder for the Sigma 14-24mm. The rear of the Nisi hood is 98mm in diameter, so I did the same gaffer tape buildup on that cap, and then cut a small notch in the rim to go around the locking pin.
The Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S has Nikon’s high quality stepping motors that they use in most of their Z mount lenses. The autofocus is reasonably quick and very accurate, and I have had no issues with focus at all in my time with the lens. Even in low light, I experienced good accuracy with reasonable speed.
The 14-24mm does not feature any optical image stabilization, but of course works well with the in-body VR of Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless bodies.