Ultrawide Lens Comparison
When in the market for ultra-wide landscape lenses, I had really two options that would work with Z system from Nikon. The 14-30mm f/4 S and the 14-24mm f/2.8 S lenses. Nikon makes some seriously good wide lenses and the old AF-S 14-24 was considered to be the best of the best. So I was curious how the heir apparent 14-24mm Z lens would stack up against its predecessor. In this post I want to compare the 14-30mm f/4 to the 14-24mm f/2.8 to each other and see which one might come out on top. Lets start with the weight. The 14-30 weighs 485g (1.07 pounds) while Nikon has managed to bring the 14-24 lens’s weight down to a remarkable 650 grams (1.43 pounds). By comparison, the F-mount version weighs 1000 grams (2.20 pounds), which is more than 1.5 times as heavy.
Next, lets talk about price. As you know you pay for speed and with the 14-24mm being a stop less than the 14-30mm that comes with a higher price tag, As of this post, the 14-30 was $1200 USD and the 14-24 was $2400 with periodic sales bringing it down to around $2200. So this is a question you need to ask, Is one stop worth double the price? Valid question and one you will have to determine for your budget and price point. How about the construction? Both outer casings are plastic but feel well designed. Both lenses are weather sealed, however, the 14-30mm barrel does move in and out. The element on the 14-24mm moves in the lens itslef as shown in the pictures at 14 and 24mm. The Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 has a reasonably complex design with 16 lens elements in 11 groups, of which three are aspherical and four use extra-low dispersion glass. It has Nikon’s high-end construction for a Z-series lens, with two control rings, a custom function button, and an EL display for things like distance and depth of field information.
Something unusual about the 14-24mm f/2.8 S is that it ships with two lens hoods rather than one. The first, the HB-96, is a smaller, standard lens hood like you’d expect. The other is called the HB-97, and it’s a slightly larger hood with a built-in filter thread for 112 mm filters. The HB-97 lens hood is that it doesn’t just fit the Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, but also three other Nikon Z lenses so far: the 14-30mm f/4 S, 24-70mm f/2.8 S, and 70-200mm f/2.8 S. This means that if you get a 112 mm filter or holder system to use with the 14-24mm f/2.8 S, you can rapidly swap it from lens to lens just by swapping the hood! What a cool feature and well done to Nikon for thinking up such a clever system. (Of course, the original lens hoods for the 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 provide more coverage against the sun than the wide-angle-optimized HB-97 – but they don’t have filter threads.)
You also have the option to use rear gel filters with the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, although the only way to attach or remove them is to take the lens off your camera. The good news is that rear gel filters are smaller and lighter than a 112 mm front filter, so they may be preferable for certain applications. That said, they’re mainly just useful if you want to use an ND filter. I personally have never used this feature but it is nice to know that you have that capability for long exposures and such. I don’t beleive that Nikon makes native rear filters but there are good third party aleternatives like these from Haida.
Lastly I will say that the choice between the f/4 14-30 or the f/2.8 14-24 comes down to image quality for me. They are both sharp, but I found the 14-30mm f/4 a bit softer on the edges but only when magnifying to 200% in Lightroom. To the naked eye it is hard to tell. I do feel personally the 14-24mm f/2.8 is slightly sharper in the center and across the frame as a whole. I also love that there is no flare from the 14-24mm, I mean none, even when shooting directly into the sun. I like how the starbust, shot at f/22, is sharp and clean from 14-24mm on the left, It seems soft on the 14-30mm. Mild difference but I like the 14-24mm better.
Hopefully these little pearls will help someone decide on how they want to proceed and which lens to perhaps purchase. It is always a good idea to rent first and try the lens if you can to help you better decide what is best for your photography needs.