The Nikon Z 28mm F/2.8 lens was announced in a special pairing with the Z fc camera. There was a lot of excitement and chatter about it. The $297 pocket lens packs a lot in a small and affordable package. It is one of the lightest and smallest lenses available for the Z mirrorless system.
This tiny full-frame wide angle lens is made mostly of plastic, and it weighs a lot less than Nikon’s high-end glass. It is lightweight at just 155g (5.5 ounces), making it easy to transport as an everyday lens. Its close focus distance of 7.5 inches and claimed weather sealing add to its value.
Technically, the lens is between the 24-mm f/1.8 S (and the 35mm F/1.8 S) lenses. However, it lacks the “S”, designation of its siblings. It might be more attractive on a crop sensor body due to its unusual focal length. This lens has a 75-degree field-of-view on a full-frame system. However, it is closer to the “human eye’ perspective when attached to a DX system such as the Z fc and Z50. It was tested on several full-frame systems for this review. However, the 28mm lens would have been more useful if attached to a DX system such as the Zfc or Z50 (which I did not have access to unfortunately).
Design and Build Quality
This compact lens has a similar design to Nikon’s 40mm F/2 lens. It also has very similar dimensions and exterior appearance. The lens’ single control ring controls the focus ring automatically, but can be modified to adjust the aperture and other features according to the camera. The 28mm lens also excludes the Auto/Manual focus switch (AF/M), and the familiar lens hoods that come with most Nikon lenses, just like the 40mm.
The inside of the lens is very similar to its 40mm sibling, but it also lacks internal image stabilization. It is not a major issue, but it would have been nice to have a few more steps for low-light moments.
The 28mm f/2.8 lens frame and mount are made mostly from plastic, making them feel less sturdy than the S-line lenses. The plastic body is lighter and therefore costs less. The lens feels solid and balanced despite being made from plastic.
It is not an S-lens. This means that it lacks the extra “fancy” coatings. While it is almost invisible if you do heavy comparisons with images shot under harsh backlit conditions (like shooting in the sun), the differences between high-end and low-end Nikon glass will begin to be apparent.
Image Quality and Performance
The lens was slightly too long for my full-frame cameras (I tried it with the Nikon Z6 II and Z9), but the images were sharp and clean. I also liked the quiet autofocus that it provided when tracking moving objects. It achieved precise focus in less than a second in almost every situation I could think of.
The lens’ control ring is completely customizable and can be adjusted to any desired settings. There is also no haptic feedback for minimum or maximum focus/aperture ranges. When manually focusing, you will notice a slight focus breathing as the lens pulls from its maximum to minimal focus distances. In my testing, the magnification was barely noticeable if I wasn’t using a tripod to shoot static targets. Even then, it is minimal enough that it shouldn’t be an issue for casual stills and video work.
You will notice some minor aberrations and vignetting when you reduce the aperture to f/2.8 or f/4. This would not be noticeable if you weren’t looking for them. There are very few issues with clarity, sharpness or aberration once the aperture is set above f/4. For most situations, the sharpest focal sweet spot was around f/5.6 to about f/8. Because of its wide field, the lens can create strong separation between subject and background when photographing close-up objects. Creatives don’t need to be stuck at f/2.8 for their images.
The bokeh is a smooth separation that can be managed, but the actual bokeh pattern seems to be the most bland of all the Nikon Z lenses I’ve used so far. Although it isn’t bad, it didn’t stand out.
It is important to note that the Z mirrorless camera has an option for “Vignette control.” This allows you to shoot at “normal” apertures with virtually no vignetting, except when shooting wide open at F/2.8. The raw files will still show visible vignetting at the corners when the aperture is set to that setting. This can be easily corrected in post or by applying the lens profile on the images.
Here are some sample images from the Nikon Z 28mm F/2.8 lens.
Below are a set of sample images taken with Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 lens:
Small, Mighty, and Cheap
Although the Z-mount 28mm F/2.8 lens by Nikon is not as high-quality as the S-line, it delivers a lot for a much lower price than the S-line lenses. The Z-mount 28mm f/2.8 lens is extremely stable with very little aberration. It also has a quiet and high-quality autofocus motor, which makes it a great choice for videographers. It’s also very affordable.
This lens’s most notable feature is its small size, weight, and cost. Although the FX system performance was not impressive, I felt that the lens would perform well when used with a DX camera. I also feel that any issues I had around corners or aberration would be minimal.
This lens is versatile enough to be taken with you on your travels as part of your “everyday” kit.
What are the Alternatives?
Nikon offers several S-line options for this lens, which are priced significantly higher than the original. These include the Nikon 24mm f/1.8 S for $997 and the $357 35mm f/1.8 S for $847. Both lenses are similar in focal range, but are heavier and larger than the former. They are also less discreet than the 28mm F/2.8, which is useful for street photography.
The Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8 is a lot more expensive than the Nikon Z 24mm f/1.8, but the $429 Viltrox AF 24-mm f/1.8 is a good alternative. However, I cannot speak to the quality and the number of photos it produces.
Should You Buy It
If you’re looking for a cheap lens for street and travel photography, or to fill in gaps between focal lengths, then yes. The entry-level $297 28mm F/2.8 lens is well worth it.