Lens review

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S

16 June 2020
Maciej Lata││o

4. Image resolution

It's just a beginning of our tests of the Nikon Z system lenses based on the Nikon Z7 body; the RAW files, produced by that camera were developped by neutral software such as dcraw. We have been able to check thoroughly optical properties of several fixed-focal instruments of this system so far, so we think we are able to determine proper reference levels. Lenses reaching record revels should be able to exceed 85 lpmm; maximum results of other excellent system prime lenses might fit the range from 80 to 85 lpmm. The decency level we set at 42–44 lpmm. Of course, while adding more Z system tests, we might need to correct these values a bit.

Let's see how the Nikkor Zá24–70ámm f/4áS compares; its results, reached in the frame centre and at 24, 45, andá70ámm, presents a graph shown below.

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Image resolution

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The Nikkor Z 24–70 mm f/4 S is supposed to be a basic lens, offered in a set with a body. As such, it is aimed at less advanced, not so demanding users – photographers who definitely don't need a fast device with journalistic parameters such as 24-70 mm f/2.8.

The resolution graph shows clearly that weight and dimensions were a priority here. We wish we could say the same about low price but it is not exactly true. As we've already mentioned, the lens costs about $1000 if you buy it separately and in a set with a camera body you'll still be surcharged $600 for it.

There's a huge difference between the Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S and other fixed focal length lenses from that system that didn't have any problems with reaching 80 lpmm in this category. The tested lens doesn't even get to 70 lpmm. The contrast is huge but also understandable. Fixed focal length lenses reach their maximum resolution near f/4.0 and for the Nikkor 24-70 mm it is actually the maximum relative aperture where different optical aberrations make themselves felt. They can be efficiently damped down only on stopping down the aperture by 1-2 EV but then diffraction is already active. As you see there are no miracles and it would be foolish to expect them. An f/4 zoom lens will always lose when stacked up against prime lenses as fast as f/1.8.

Still, a good performance at the maximum focal length should be considered an asset, along with the fact that even at the maximum relative aperture, no matter what angle of view you use, you get results exceeding 50 lpmm so distinctly above the decency level.

Now let's check how the tested lens performs on the edge of the APS-C/DX sensor.

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Image resolution

There are no reservations whatsoever concerning 45 and 70 mm focal lengths. Even at the maximum relative aperture you get useful images and on stopping down to near f/5.6 – 8.0 the lens can achieve truly good resolution levels.

Some problems you might experience at the maximum relative aperture when it comes to the shortest focal length but, fortunately, image quality improves very quickly on stopping down. As a result, already by f/4.5 – 5.0 the performance of the lens is beyond reproach.

Now let's check how the tested lens fares on the edge of the full frame sensor – an appropriate graph you can find below.

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Image resolution

The performance at the maximum relative aperture is very similar at all focal lengths and images, produced by the lens, can hardly be called useful. Fortunately, in the majority of cases, stopping down to an area near f/5.0 helps, with an exception of the maximum focal length which needs stopping down to about f/8.0.

The resolution results of the Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S prove it's a solid instrument and an efficient kit lens. It offers good image quality across the whole focal and aperture range both in the frame centre and in the APS-C/DX area. On edges of full frame there are a bit more problems, especially close to the maximum relative aperture, but such a weak point is only to be expected.

At the end of this chapter, traditionally, we present crops taken from photos of our resolution testing chart which were saved as JPEG files along the RAW files, used for the analysis above.

NikonáZ7, JPEG, 24ámm, f/4.0
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Image resolution
NikonáZ7, JPEG, 70ámm, f/4.0
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Image resolution