After all the fanfare surrounding Nikon’s Z 9 mirrorless flagship and its accompanying fast telephoto lenses, the latest announcement is a lot smaller. Literally. The Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 is billed as the smallest Z Series full-frame prime lens yet for Nikon’s burgeoning mirrorless system, and while it’s probably not going to set the world alight like last month’s news, as JRR Tolkien once said, “even the smallest Nikon mirrorless lens can change the course of the future.”
Well, maybe he was talking about hobbits, but this new prime certainly has a lot going for it, too. Measuring 70mm wide by 43mm long, and weighing 155g, it’s by no means a pancake lens, but doesn’t extend far beyond the grip of a Z Series body, either. It’s therefore pocket friendly when mounted – assuming you’re not planning on keeping it in your jeans – and way more compact and light than the Nikkor Z 28mm f/1.8 S. It’s also a lot more affordable. And while, sure, this isn’t an ‘S’ lens, which denotes Nikon’s superior optics, if the previous Nikkor 40mm f/2 S was anything to go by, the new model will be no slouch in the image quality department.
Keen-eyed studiers of spec tables will notice that this is basically the same lens as the previous Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 SE, launched alongside the Nikon Z fc, but it’s fractionally smaller and lighter still, and without that model’s vintage vibes. Its optical construction of nine elements in eight groups with two aspherical elements is identical.
The 28mm focal length gives a nice narrative view – not unrealistically wide, and not too cropped. What’s more, on DX-format Nikon Z bodies, or with that 1.5x crop mode enabled on full-frame model, it gives an almost-standard 42mm equivalent, and with drip and dust resistance, promises to be a very dependable walk around lens. There’s also the now-familiar customisable focus ring, which can be remapped to functions like ISO, aperture, or exposure compensation.
With all the fast primes currently being launched, f/2.8 might not seem a stellar maximum aperture, but it’s plenty for most subjects, and the seven-bladed rounded diaphragm is claimed to give “incredibly soft, natural-looking background bokeh.” If you want rough bokeh, you’ll therefore have to look elsewhere.
Using a stepping motor for its AF, the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 also has a decent close focusing distance of 19cm, where you’ll get a magnification of 0.2x. So, it’ll give nice big foreground details and textures if that’s what you ask of it. The filter size is 52mm, so you can pack smaller, cheaper NDs and polarisers.
What’s more, like the Z 40mm f/2.8, the new lens makes a great option for video, being small enough to use on a gimbal, and easily swapped out for the former without the need to re-balanced much. It also promises “dramatically reduced focus breathing,” so composition won’t change as you rack from near to far. The Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 is available now, priced around £249, and below are a few more shots from it.