Due to the increasing popularity of Nikon mirrorless cameras among professionals and enthusiasts alike, Nikon has added another mid-range zoom lens to its lineup that will appeal to both groups. The new Nikkor Z 28-75mm f/2.8 resides between the Z 24-70mm f/4 kit lens and the Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens both in features and price. With an MSRP of $1,199.95, the new lens is much closer to the f/4 option in size and price but matches the professional f/2.8 in maximum aperture. With a focal length range suitable for portrait, wedding, landscape, travel, and street photography as well as videography, it was a great lens to leave mounted on my camera no matter what I was doing.
Weighing 1.2 pounds, and measuring 3 inches in diameter and 4.8 inches long at 28mm, the lens is comfortable enough to carry for an all-day event, long hike, or walking the streets, while being relatively unobtrusive. I found it much better balanced on my Nikon Z 6 than the heavier and larger 24-70mm lens. The filter diameter is a common and affordable 67mm. The f/2.8 aperture remains constant throughout its focal range.
At a list price that’s less than half that of the Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens, the new Z 28-75mm sacrifices only a little in terms of image quality. At maximum aperture, image quality of the new lens is slightly soft at the edges, but only when compared to the excellent quality in its center. I don’t photograph test patterns, so I never found the corner image quality objectionable. There is possibly some vignetting at the edges and barrel distortion at the wider focal lengths, but the automatic lens corrections afforded by the Z cameras serve to eliminate these issues. The lens does not incorporate a vibration reduction option, but the vibration reduction in the Z series cameras is more than adequate at these focal lengths.
An additional advantage I found over the Z 24-70mm cousins that particularly appeals to me is its close focusing ability. At 28mm, the minimum focusing distance is about 7.5 inches, giving a reproduction ratio of 0.34X versus 0.22X for the other lenses. The reproduction ratio decreases slightly at longer focal lengths, but this versatility adds to its appeal as you wander around taking photos for fun or profit. Minimum focusing distance of the Z 24-70mm f/4 is about a foot at all focal lengths, while that of the Z 24-70 f/2.8 is 1.25 feet.
The Z 28-75mm gives up nothing in terms of autofocus speed compared to its other family members. This speed and virtually silent operation coupled with its other advantages should make the new lens especially appealing to videographers, although there’s no option for linear gearing of the manual focus.
For professionals used to having 24mm as the wide zoom focal length, using a lens that goes only to 28mm takes some adjustment. But this turned out to be less of a reorientation for me than I originally thought it would be. The greater reproduction ratio at the widest position may be the reason, as you can move in closer to maximize the wide-angle effect.
The Nikkor 28-75mm f/2.8 is not in the Nikkor professional S series for the Z-line bodies, so there are some sacrifices. Their importance may or may not be a deciding factor in your buying decision, depending on your planned use for the lens.
Weather and dust sealing seem to be up to the level of the S lenses, and the front element is coated to resist dirt and fingerprints. Lacking are Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat for eliminating incidental light from a diagonal direction and new Arneo Coat for eliminating incidental light from a vertical direction. The result is greater flare than you would find in an S-series lens. This is particularly noticeable with bright sources near the center of the image.
Also missing is an information panel that S-series lenses provide to display aperture, depth-of-field, and focus distance information, along with a display and a lens function button. In fact, the lens is devoid of any extraneous switches or buttons, including the A/M switch found on the Z 24-70mm f/4. Many users may find these omissions well worth the cleaner lens exterior, lighter weight, more compact size, simplicity, and cost savings.
What I missed most was a dedicated manual focus ring. The new lens does have a control ring close to its base, which automatically functions as a manual focus ring when the body is switched to manual focus. Using the camera’s standard settings it cannot be used to touch up focus with the camera set to autofocus. However, custom settings can get you there. Go into the controls panel of the custom setting menu, navigate to the lens control ring submenu, and select the M/A Focus (M/A) option to have the control ring adjust focus with the camera set to autofocus. Using the thinner control ring for this was a little more troublesome and fussier than a dedicated focus ring, but it works well enough. Of course, if you are accustomed to using the lens control ring on your other Z lenses for another purpose (I prefer Aperture), you lose that function on the Z 28-75mm until you reset it.
The zoom ring is well positioned and requires only about a 70-degree rotation through its range. The lens consists of 12 groups of 15 elements, of which there are three aspherical elements and one each of ED and Super ED glass. Also contained within the lens is a nine-blade diaphragm that produces smoothly rounded highlights in out-of-focus areas.
Overall, Nikon has produced another excellent piece of glass for a mid-range zoom. This makes determining your best option more difficult. The kit Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S is compact with superb sharpness but one stop slower than the similarly-priced Nikkor Z 28-75mm f/2.8. If you can’t live without the wider f/2.8 aperture and need that 24mm focal length, then you require the deep pockets for the optically and in every other way superb Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. Not an easy decision.
Stan Sholik is a writer and photographer in San Clemente, California.