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Lens review

Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S

16 June 2020
Maciej Lata││o

6. Distortion

When you attach the Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S to the Nikon Z7 the camera option controling distortion correction stops being available and it stays blocked on the ON position. In our view it is an example of arrogance of Nikon engineers – they know better what a photographer needs and they switch this option off even if it remains available for other lenses. We think it's wrong; after all, we can imagine situations when some distortion would be tollerable in exchange for a bit wider field of view. That aberation doesn't disturb you much in landscape photography without any buildings and/or straight lines in your frame. It also wouldn't matter in photographs of starry sky. I frankly don't understand such a choice-limiting policy.

Checking real distortion levels of the Nikkor's optics is not easy. After all you deal here with a lens that can cooperate with the APS-C/DX sensor and full frame; you can employ JPEG files with forced distortion correction or RAW files developped with independent software. As you see, you get a whole array of variants to test. The situation is additionally complicated by the fact that from time to time you deal with moustache distortion. As a result this distortion chapter is the longest in the history of our tests I have ever written.

Let's start with the easiest alternative – the APS-C/DX sensor and corrected JPEG files. Nobody expects here any deformation-related slip-ups and, in fact, there are none at all. In our tests at 24, 28, 35, 50, and 70 mm focal lengths we reached the following results: −0.43%, −0.35%, −0.23%, −0.13% andá−0.10%. They mean distortion remains invisible at any of these focal lengths.


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The situation changes significantly for RAW files – the problems appear very quickly even on the smaller detector. At 24 mm you deal with distinct barrel distortion amounting to −3.25%, that decreases to a still visible level of −1.91% after passing to the 28 mm focal length. Lack of distortion problems can be observed only near 35 mm where we got −0.20%. A moment later distortion changes its sign and at 50 mm you see nice 'pincushion' deformations amounting to +1.21% that increase to +1.74% on passing to the maximum focal length.

Progressing to full frame doesn't hurt so much, providing that you stick to JPEG files. At 24, 28, 35, 50, and 70 mm focal lengths we got the following results:−0.62%, −0.41%, −0.30%, −0.24% and−0.20%. As you see, some slight chances to notice distortion you get only at the widest angle of view; then the aberration decreases to practically zero.

As the lens experienced so many problems with RAW files produced by a smaller sensor it would be normal to fear the performance on full frame. Indeed, our test confirmed the fact that distortion level is huge and can be noticed at many focal lengths. At 24 mm you deal with 'barrel' variation of −5.28%. If it wasn't enough, you also get moustache distortion that lowers the averaged out results across the frame. When you limit yourself to the 1:1 markings area, distortion level increases to −5.85%. Also at 28 mm you will experience distortion problems as its level amounted to −2.75% for that focal length. Unfortunately moustache deformations are still present as well and their value in the 1:1 area is −3.42%.

Near 35 mm focal length distortion is zero – even for RAW files and on full frame we officially got just −0.26%. With the increase of focal length distortion turns into its pincushion version and starts to increase fast. At 50 mm you see a level of +3.28% and at 70 mm it is as much as +3.95%. These are huge values, easily noticeable in real life photos.

Looking at the results of our test we aren't surprised anymore that Nikon engineers try to hide this aberration by forcing automatic correction by the camera's software.

Nikon Z7, APS-C, JPEG, 24ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, JPEG, 28ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, JPEG, 35ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, JPEG, 50ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, JPEG, 70ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion

Nikon Z7, APS-C, RAW, 24ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, RAW, 28ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, RAW, 35ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, RAW, 50ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, APS-C, RAW, 70ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion

Nikon Z7, FF, JPEG, 24ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, JPEG, 28ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, JPEG, 35ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, JPEG, 50ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, JPEG, 70ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion

Nikon Z7, FF, RAW, 24ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, RAW, 28ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, RAW, 35ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, RAW, 50ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion
Nikon Z7, FF, RAW, 70ámm
Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70 mm f/4 S - Distortion