Nikon Z 14-30mm f / 4 S Review ‣ Frame by Frame: A Samy’s Camera Blog
Last month, I highlighted the performance of the Nikon Z 14-30mm f / 4 S on my trip to Death Valley.
It was a short trip, and the first such excursion I was able to take with this lens. Now that I’ve had more time to explore its capabilities, I have a more detailed review ready for you.
As I mentioned in my Death Valley article, though many folks have pondered a move to the Nikon Z6 or Nikon there has been some apprehension about the availability of glass for those cameras.
I’m here to tell you that even though the selection is thin at the moment, this lens and its S-series compatriots certainly more than make up for it with quality.
Let’s get to the Nikon Z 14-30mm f / 4 S review!
Table of Contents
Nikon Z 14-30mm f / 4 S Specs
Since this is the first ultra-wide lens for Z-series cameras (and it will be the only one for about another year), it was met with universal interest.
It had a lot to live up to given that the image quality of its predecessors in the S-line of lenses has been nothing short of impeccable.
I’ll get into the image quality later in this review, but for now, let’s have a look at some of this lens’s noteworthy specs:
- Focal length: 14-30mm
- Aperture range: f / 4-f / 22
- Aperture blades: 7 rounded
- Diaphragm: Electronic
- Lens elements / groups: 14/13
- Special elements: 4 aspherical, 4 ED
- Coatings: Nanocrystal, fluorine, super integrated
- Mount: Metal
- Filter size: 82mm
Many of these specs are self-explanatory, but there are a couple of things I’d like to point out.
First, note that this lens takes a standard 82mm filter. That’s because there’s not a huge, bulbous glass element on the front of the lens like the 14-24mm f / 2.8.
Second, not only is the mount on this lens metal, but the lens is also weather and dust-sealed, so it’s durable and up to the challenge of shooting in adverse conditions.
Other features worth noting are a near-silent AF-P stepper motor, a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches, and a viewing angle that ranges from 114 degrees to 72 degrees.
Lastly, this lens is miles smaller and lighter-weight than the 14-24mm f / 2.8 I’ve been lugging around for years. Coming in at just 1.07 pounds, it’s featherlight.
Get a complete rundown of the features of this lens in the video above by TheSnapChick.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f / 4 S Handling & Build Quality
As far as handling goes, the lightweight and smaller form factor make for a pleasant shooting experience.
The lens doesn’t weigh you down, nor does it feel overly obstructive, as I have found the 14-24mm f / 2.8 to feel at times.
Beyond that, Nikon has done a fantastic job building this lens to improve handling.
In fact, as a long-time Nikon shooter, this feels like a Nikon lens – it’s ergonomically spot-on, has familiar construction, and handles well. If you’ve ever used a Nikon lens before, this one will feel familiar to you.
From a standpoint of design, it’s sleek and minimal.
There’s a single switch that’s used to change from autofocus to manual, along with a focus ring and a zoom ring.
Some reviewers have noted that this sleek design is too streamlined, but for me, it worked beautifully thus far.
It has a locking mechanism that makes the lens shorter when not in use, which gives you a little added room in your camera bag and less surface area to catch on things as you walk around (though it is too easy to unlock the lens inadvertently).
Though the mount is metal, there are many plastic parts on this lens, which at first is a little disconcerting. No one would blame you for wondering if it’s actually a durable lens the first time you hold it.
But as you use it, you quickly realize that this is one heck of a well-built lens.
There is no wobble when the lens barrel is extended, its weather and dust-sealing are excellent, and it can tolerate extreme temperatures (at least on the high end, as I learned in Death Valley).
In addition to Death Valley, I’ve taken this lens to several beaches here in Southern California and no sand has made its way into the lens yet, so I’m impressed on that front!
Having said that, since this is an external zoom lens, I concede that there is always going to be a possibility that grain or two of sand gets in there which makes zooming a more difficult task.
Likewise, external zoom lenses are more prone to water and dust creeping in. But, at this point, the build of this lens – particularly the Nikon used seals – seems to be more than capable of protecting the delicate internal components of the lens.
By the same token, the fluorine coating on the lens glass makes removing water, smudges, dust, and so forth a much easier task.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f / 4 S Optical Performance
This lens is surprisingly sharp throughout the aperture and zoom range.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the least sharp on the edges of the frame at 14mm. Even zooming in just 16mm improves corner sharpness. It’s important to note that the corners are never supremely sharp, but they’re never terrible either.
In the center of the frame, this lens really shines. Whether you’re at 14mm, 30mm, or somewhere in between, you can expect superb sharpness in the middle, particularly at f / 5.6 and f / 4. Get more details on the optics of this lens in the video above The Art of Photography.
Vignetting is fairly significant, especially at 14mm, but nothing so bad that it can’t be easily corrected in post-processing. Vignetting is present as you zoom in as well, but between 16mm and 30mm, the vignetting is noticeably reduced.
This is true even when using a filter on the lens. So long as the filter has slim housing, you won’t notice any increase in vignetting.
Distortion is high at 14mm – very high, in fact. Distortion is also present at longer focal lengths. But since Adobe has a built-in profile for this lens, you’ll probably never see all that distortion.
The issue with this is that Adobe corrects for the distortion by stretching the pixels in the corners of the photo, which makes the corners – which are already not as sharp – even less sharp.
However, for me, this isn’t a huge crisis. Yes, the corners are less sharp, but not so much that I would get rid of this lens and never shoot with it again!
From a focusing standpoint, it’s hard not to be impressed with this lens’s autofocus. It’s both fast and virtually silent and gives you accurate results as well.
In fact, the precision with which it works in Live View and in the viewfinder is quite impressive.
For close-ups, the lens will get you a maximum magnification of 1: 6.25 at 30mm, which is good enough to fill the frame on the horizontal axis with a subject that’s about 8-10 inches in size.
That’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, but this lens was never intended to be used for close-up or macro work anyway.
And while the AF-P motor in the lens makes manual focusing not as easy as it could be, you can still use manual focus and get clear, pinpoint sharpness.
Nikon Z 14-30mm f / 4 S Price
At $ 1,296.95this is not exactly a cheap lens, but it’s not the most expensive lens in the world either.
As I mentioned earlier, when you first pick up this lens and realize how lightweight it is and how much of it is plastic, you can’t help but wonder if it’s worth the $ 1,300 price tag.
But as I’ve explained above, while this isn’t a perfect lens, it’s a darn good one – a great one, in fact.
I primarily shoot landscapes, and I’ve been totally impressed with its handling, build quality, features, and performance in the field thus far.
I picked up this lens from my buddies at Samy’s Camera and they told me that it would be a good fit for my workflow, and they were right.
After a decade of being their customer, they know me, the type of work I do, and what will and won’t work for me, and that’s worth its weight in gold!
If you shoot with a Nikon Z6 or Z7, and you want to pick up this lens or another S-series lens, do yourself a favor and hit up Samy’s for a great deal and excellent service before, during, and after the sale!