Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor

 
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Updates:
06/17/2019: Field Test & Gallery Images added

 

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Field Test

Does the first Nikkor S wide-angle lens live up to the legacy of Nikon's excellent F mount lenses?

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 06/17/2019

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/6.3, 1/320s, ISO 100.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

As Nikon expands its Nikkor S lens lineup for its new full-frame mirrorless camera system, we have seen that many of the new lenses share focal length and aperture specifications with existing Nikon F-mount lenses. However, there are some Nikkor S lenses which are taking full advantage of the new, large-diameter Nikon Z mount. One of these lenses is the new Nikkor 14-30mm f/4 S wide-angle zoom lens.

This lens may be slower than the 14-24mm f/2.8G lens (and the 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens which is currently being developed for Z Mount), but it offers a bit more zooming capability and distinctly, it has a filter thread. The ability to attach a screw-in filter to the new 14-30mm f/4 lens is a great feature, especially for landscape photographers. But how does the lens perform overall? Let's find out.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/7.1, 1/125s, ISO 64.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Key Features and Specs

  • Full-frame ultra-wide angle zoom lens for Nikon's new mirrorless camera system
  • 114 degrees to 72 degrees field of view
  • Constant f/4 aperture
  • 82mm filter thread
  • Buttonless retractable design
  • Weighs 1.1 pounds (485 grams)
  • Programmable control ring
  • 14 elements in 12 groups
  • Four ED elements and four aspherical elements
  • Nano Crystal and Super Integrated coatings
  • Stepping Motor AF system
  • Maximum magnification ratio of 0.16x
  • $1,296.95 USD suggested retail price
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Product Image

Lens Design

The Nikon 14-30mm f/4 S lens is quite compact and lightweight for a full-frame wide-angle zoom lens. Part of why it's compact is because it utilizes a collapsible design. The result is that when you aren't using the lens, it's just a little over three inches long (85 millimeters). However, to use the lens, you must rotate it from its collapsed position to 14mm, which adds about an inch to the lens' total length. It's a smart design to help keep the size down. As for weight, the lens weighs just over a pound (485 grams), so it's not too heavy and it balances well on the Z7 camera body.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Product Image

The focal length ring has a nice feel to it. Focal lengths are marked at 14, 16, 20, 24 and 30mm focal lengths. The control ring, which can handle manual focus, feels okay but doesn't have the same feel as a standard focus ring nor does it have a rubber grip like the focal length ring.

The lens includes an 82mm filter thread, which is basically unheard of for an ultra-wide full-frame lens. The lens also comes with a removable petal-shaped lens hood.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Product Image

The 14-30mm lens has the same styling as existing Nikkor S lenses. Build quality is strong and the lens includes weather sealing, meaning it should work nicely for landscape work in harsh weather. Overall, the lens feels good and balances nicely on the Nikon Z7 (and Z6, which is identical physically).

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Product Image

Image Quality

The Nikon 14-30mm f/4 lens includes 14 elements in a dozen groups. There are four ED elements and four aspherical elements, plus the lens has Nikon's Nano Crystal and Super Integrated coatings.

Sharpness

The images below were processed as raw files in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings before being exported as high-quality JPEG files. You can view and download the original full-resolution raw and JPEG files in the Gallery.

At 14mm, the lens offers good center sharpness at its f/4 maximum aperture. However, corners are a bit soft. As you stop the zoom lens down, corner sharpness improves slightly, although the lens never quite reaches the performance of Nikon's 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. The corners improve more noticeably as you stop the lens down, although they continue to lack strong detail.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
100 percent center crop from the above image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
100 percent top left corner crop from the above image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 64.
100 percent center crop. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 64.
100 percent top left corner crop. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Zooming to 20mm, both center and corner sharpness are improved quite a lot at f/4. This is not too surprising, given that 14mm is the extreme widest focal length of the lens, but there is a greater difference in performance between 14mm and 20mm than I expected. Stopping the lens down results in the extreme corners being impressively detailed.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 20mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 20mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
100 percent center crop from the above image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 20mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
100 percent top left corner crop from the above image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 20mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 64.
100 percent center crop. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 20mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 64.
100 percent top left corner crop. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

At the longest focal length, 30mm, the lens performs really well in the center and in the corners at f/4. There is a bit of sharpness falloff toward the edges of the frame, but generally, the entire frame looks good.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
100 percent center crop from the above image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/4, 1/800s, ISO 64.
100 percent top left corner crop from the above image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 64.
100 percent center crop. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 64.
100 percent top left corner crop. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw using default sharpening settings. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Interestingly, the 14-30mm f/4 lens performed a bit better in terms of maximum sharpness at f/4 and f/5.6 than at f/8, particularly when considering the 20mm and 30mm focal lengths. This is quite unusual. I can barely discern a difference between f/4 and f/5.6 when looking at the center of the frame. The corners change quite a bit as you stop down, both in terms of sharpness and brightness falloff, but the center of the frame seemingly peaks at f/4 and f/5.6.

Editor's Note: As it's generally not typical to see sharpness seemingly decrease as you stop down, we verified our results with Nikon. It turns out that according to Nikon optical engineers, the sharpness characteristics we observed with the 14-30mm are accurate. The drop in perceived sharpness at f/8 is due to diffraction. However, it's not so much that sharpness is "bad" at f/8, but rather Nikon's purposefully enhanced the sharpness performance of the lens at its widest aperture. So, essentially, f/8 sharpness is good, while f/4 sharpness is very good.

Overall, the 14-30mm is somewhat disappointing at 14mm if you're hoping for particularly sharp corners. Obviously there are engineering challenges associated with making a 14-30mm full-frame zoom lens which can accept front screw-on filters, but I do wonder if the wide-angle performance has suffered for it. With that said, the lens is really good as you zoom in to longer focal lengths, and its ability to produce very good center sharpness even when shot wide open is impressive. It's not a second-coming of the 14-24mm f/2.8 in terms of wide-angle performance (keep in mind that a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens for the Nikon Z mount is on the way), but it is nonetheless a good wide-angle zoom lens.

Vignette

There is some vignette when shooting wide open at both extremes of the Nikon 14-30mm lens. With that said, it is more noticeable at 14mm than it is at 21mm or 30mm. Unsurprisingly, by stopping the lens down, the brightness falloff is decreased. Overall, the performance here is generally okay, especially when you start to zoom in with the lens.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/4, 1/60s, ISO 64.
Vignette test image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw with clarity reduced to help illustrate the vignette. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 21mm, f/4, 1/80s, ISO 64.
Vignette test image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw with clarity reduced to help illustrate the vignette. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/4, 1/80s, ISO 64.
Vignette test image. This image has been converted from raw in Adobe Camera Raw with clarity reduced to help illustrate the vignette. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

In the Field

There's a lot to like about the Nikon 14-30mm f/4 lens when shooting in the field. The aspect that I like the most is that it has a filter thread. Being able to use a polarizing filter to cut down on reflections, particularly when photographing water, is excellent. While you can attach filters to other wide-angle lenses such as the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens with the use of adapters, this is a cumbersome solution and requires large filters. Further, the lens is pretty lightweight and compact given its zoom range, which makes it a nice companion to the already rather compact Z7 camera body.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/8, 10s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file. Being able to easily use a polarizing filter is an excellent feature of the Nikon 14-30mm f/4 lens. Being able to cut the reflections on water is great and a very difficult, if not impossible, effect to recreate using a photo editor.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 18mm, f/7.1, 6s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file. On the other hand, a polarizing filter used at wide-angle focal lengths can have a negative impact on skies, as seen in this image. Ideally, you stack two images, one with polarization for the water and one without polarization for the sky.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/9, 1/15s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/10, 1/25s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/7.1, 1/400s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/8, 1/320s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/7.1, 1/13s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 14mm, f/8, 1.3s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 26mm, f/13, 1s, ISO 64.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

Autofocus

Autofocus performance is quite good. The lens utilizes a stepping motor autofocus system, which is quick and quiet. When manually focusing the lens, however, the experience is not quite as pleasing. I found that there was a noticeable delay when trying to adjust focus, almost like focus changes are playing catchup to the focus ring rotation on the lens. Overall, the manual focusing experience on the 14-30mm lens is fine in terms of being able to magnify in, check focus and use focus peaking, but the delay in manual focusing responsiveness, especially when you are trying to quickly change focus, can be frustrating.

The lens can focus pretty closely, although it is of course not a macro lens. You can focus as close as 11 inches (28 centimeters), which results in a maximum magnification ratio of 0.16x.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/4, 1/30s, ISO 450.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file. You can get pretty close to small subjects when using the 14-30mm f/4 lens.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 1800.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file. When you are close to your subject, the lens can produce some decent bokeh, but as one would expect, it is not the strong suit of an f/4 wide-angle zoom lens.

Nikon 14-30mm f/4 S Lens Field Test Summary

A great wide-angle lens with some new tricks up its sleeve

What I liked:

  • Good build quality
  • Quite compact when retracted
  • Impressive image quality overall, especially as you zoom in
  • Quick and quiet autofocus
  • Built-in filter thread
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 30mm, f/8, 25s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

What I didn't like:

  • Some softness when shooting at 14mm
  • Maximum aperture of f/4 limits its usability in very low light
  • Pretty expensive for an f/4 wide-angle zoom lens

The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 G is one of my favorite wide-angle lenses ever and continues to be a standard-bearer in the category. The new Nikon 14-30mm f/4 S lens may not quite match that lens in terms of performance or impact, but it is nonetheless a strong wide-angle lens and its ability to use screw-in filters is fantastic. The lens is nearly always good, sometimes great, and a worthwhile inclusion in a landscape photographer's kit.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Shot on Nikon Z7 at 20.5mm, f/8, 30s, ISO 64.
This image has been converted and processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Click for the full-size image. Click here for the RAW file.

 

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