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Home » Nikon Z 40mm F2 Compared – Does it beat a 12-year-old lens?

Nikon Z 40mm F2 Compared – Does it beat a 12-year-old lens?

Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Compared

When Nikon announced the Nikon Z 40mm F2 – the Z-mount finally got the nifty-fifty it deserved. Of course, the Nikon Z 40mm is not a nifty-fifty. But who cares when it’s this cheap and barely weighs more than its packaging.

I love cheap fast primes – they give so much for so little. But how does the Nikon Z 40mm compare to the older but still excellent Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G? Should you stick with the fifty or upgrade? Let’s take a look. Jump to conclusion

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Nikon Z 40mm Compared – Contents

What is the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F2

The Nikon Z 40mm F2 is a cheap, compact, and lightweight prime lens designed primarily for full-frame Nikon Z cameras. Because it’s a prime lens, the Nikon’s 40mm focal length presents a constant angle of view of 56.7 degrees. In other words, the Z 40mm is an excellent choice for everyday photography.

Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Lens
The Nikon Z 40mm F2


With its large F2 aperture, the bargain-basement Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F2 can soak up twice as much light as Nikon’s expensive F2.8 zooms and four times more light than the premium Nikon 24-70mm F4 kit lens. As a result, the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F2 will focus well in low light and be an effective option for shooting in dimly lit environments. Read What is Aperture in Photography.

Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Lens Construction
Nikon Z 40mm F2 Lens Construction

Setting the Nikon Z 40mm to its maximum F2 aperture will also reduce your depth of field, enabling you to blur your subject’s background. This is hugely useful for blurring out distracting background clutter and creating a sense of depth between your in-focus subject and its blurred surroundings. Read What is Depth of Field in Photography.

Controls and Build

In terms of controls, the Nikon Z 40mm bears a single control ring. However, the control ring can be configured to drive manual focus, set aperture, or adjust exposure compensation.

Nikon Z6 plus Nikon Z 40mm F2

In terms of size, the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2 weighs just 170 grams and is 70mm wide and 45.5mm long. Therefore, the Z 40mm F2 makes a great pocketable companion to heavier standard zooms such as the Nikon Z 24-70mm F4 and Nikon Z 24-120mm F4. Read Nikon Z 24-120mm F4 Compared.

Towards the front of the lens is a 52mm filter thread for smaller, cheaper filters. And talking about cheap, the lens mount is entirely plastic. While I expect it makes no practical difference, more affordable lenses such as the Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 and the Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G feature metal mounts. At this price, the all-plastic mount feels mean.

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM
Hmmm. Metal

Of course, the Nikon Z 40mm F2 is not a premium lens. Thus it’s no surprise it lacks premium features such as optical stabilization, fancy nanocoatings, and weather sealing. While Nikon advertises drip and dust resistance, it also states it’s less tolerant than its premium lenses. In other words, don’t push your luck.

Nikon Z 40mm F2 Specifications

Nikon Z 40mm F2
Min Length45.5mm
Max Length45.5mm
Filter Size52mm
Optical Design6 Elements in 4 Groups
Aperture Diaphragm9 Rounded Blades
Max ApertureF/2
Min ApertureF/16
Minimum Focus Distance29cm
Max. Magnification0.17x
Image StabilizationNo

Nikon Z 40mm F2 Compatability

Does the Nikon Z work with Nikon DSLRs and Z DX cameras?


The Nikon Z 40mm F2 will work fine on a Z DX camera such as the Nikon Zfc or Z50. However, due to the smaller sensor, the Z 40mm will present a much narrower 39-degree angle of view. Or about the same as a 60mm lens on a full-frame camera. Unfortunately, this is a little too narrow for everyday photography but good for portraits.

And because the Nikon Zfc, Z50, and Z 40mm all lack image stabilization – you’ll have to keep those shutter speeds and ISOs high to avoid camera shake-induced blur. Read Avoiding Camera Shake.

Nikon DSLRs

The Nikon Z 40mm F/2 is not compatible with any Nikon DSLR.

Nikon Z 40mm F2 Image Quality

I’m yet to have a proper play with this little gem, but I have a long history of using cheap Nikon primes, and they have all been good. So, for now, here is the Nikon Z 40mm F2 MTF Chart.

Nikon Z 40mm F/2 MTF Chart
Nikon Z 40mm F2 MTF Chrt

If you a new to MTF charts, it illustrates that the Nikon Z 40mm F/2 is sharp at the center of the frame and fades quite drastically towards the corners.

However, this is unusual for a cheaper prime lens and will most likely improve as you stop down from the Nikon Z 40 mm maximum F2 aperture. But how does the Nikon Z 40mm F2 compare with the older Nikon AF-S 50mm F/1.8G?

Nikon Z 40mm F2 Compared.

Nikon Z 40mm F2 vs Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8 G

I adore my Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G, and if you consider its price-performance ratio, it isn’t easy to beat. The AF-S 50mm F1.8G is so good I have taken it on professional shoots and sold its output. The Nikon 50mm is an excellent lens for everyday shooting and a very good portrait lens.

Nikon Z 40mm F/2Nikon AF-S 50mm F/1.8G
Min Length45.5mm52.4mm
Max Length45.5mm52.4mm
Filter Size52mm58mm
Optical Design6 Elements in 4 Groups7 Elements in 6 Groups
Aperture Diaphragm9 Rounded Blades7 Rounded Blades
Max ApertureF/2F/1.8
Min ApertureF/16F/22
Minimum Focus Distance29cm45 cm
Max. Magnification0.17x0.15x
Image StabilizationNoNo
Nikon Z 40mm F2 vs AF-S 50mm F1.8 G

Compared with the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F2, the Nikon AF-S 50mm has a narrower field of view (47 degrees), making it a better lens for portraits. In contrast, the Nikon Z 40 mm wide angle of view makes it a better option for street photography and landscapes.

Due to its slightly larger F1.8 aperture, the Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8 G soaks up approximately 25% more light than the Nikon Z 40mm F2. And because the 50mm combines a larger aperture and longer focal length, it can better blur backgrounds.

While I’ve yet to get my hands on the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F2, all Z lenses have indeed, so far, proven to be superior to their F-Mount equivalents. At least for now, we can compare the MTF charts of each lens, and it appears the Nikon Z 40mm F2 outperforms the Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8 G overall.

Nikon Z 40mm f2 vs AF-S 50mm f1.8 MTF Charts

That said, the older lens puts up a hell of a fight, and toward the center of the image, both lenses are very sharp. However, the Nikon Z 40mm maintains better sharpness towards the edge of the frame, while the Nikon AF-S 50mm tanks. MTF charts are all good, but I look forward to seeing the real thing.

Nikon Z 40mm F2 vs Nikon Z 50mm F1.8

The Nikon Z 40mm F2 was designed to cater to small budgets and even smaller camera bags. In contrast, the Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S caters to neither.

Nikon Z 50mm F1.8S
Nikon Z 50mm F1.8

Although both lenses do the same thing, the larger, heavier Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S costs more than twice as much. So, what do you get for all that extra bulk and cost? You get an ever-so-brighter F1.8 aperture, outstanding nano-coated optics, and a drip and dust-sealed body.

Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 SNikon Z 40mm F2
Price (US$)$629$299
Focal length50mm40mm
Angle of view47 Degrees57 Degrees
Maximum apertureF1.8F2
Minimum apertureF16F16
Diaphragm blades9 Rounded Blades9 Rounded
Lens construction12 Elements in 9 Groups6 Elements in 4 Groups
Optical Image StabilizationNoNo
Minimum focus distance40cm29cm
Maximum reproduction ratio0.15x0.17x
Filter-attachment size62mm52mm
Dimensions (approx)76mm x 86.5mm71.5mm x 45.5mm
Weight (approx)415g170g
Nikon Z 40mm F2 vs Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S Specifications

Regarding image quality, the Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S is difficult to beat at any price and, thus, handily beats the more affordable Nikon Z 40mm F2.

Nikon Z 40mm F2 vs Z 50mm F1.8

Of course, image quality only matters if you’re willing to carry the lens with you, and at 415 grams, the Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S begs to be left at home. In contrast, the diminutive Nikon Z 40mm F2 weighs just 170 grams and will fit into many jacket pockets.

The Nikon 40mm F2 is a much smaller lens compared to the Nikon 50mm F1.8 S. (Approximate Sizing)


Overall, the Nikkor Z 40mm F2 appears to be a no-brainer. Not only is it relatively affordable, compact, and light, but it’s likely to outperform the older but still great AF-S 50mm F/1.8G but, optically speaking, fall short of the larger, more expensive Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S.

Nevertheless, lenses such as the Nikon Z 40mm are great on their own and brilliant as pocketable companions to versatile zooms such as the Nikon 24-120mm F4. Although the Z 40mm F/2 lacks the flexibility of a zoom, its modest dimensions, large background melting aperture, and fast-prime optics make the Z 40mm an ideal lens in many situations.

If you own neither lens, there seems to be little reason to choose the older AF-S 50mm unless you require continued compatibility with F-Mount cameras. Otherwise, the Nikon Z 40mm F2 is likely to be optically superior and a lot more compact. But if you’re happy to trade a little convenience for image quality, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 S.

The only thing that takes the shine off the Nikon Z 40mm F2 is the lack of a metal lens mount. While this is unlikely to be of any practical concern – I find the pure austerity of this decision a little bleak.

In conclusion, the Nikon Z 40mm F2 brings the Nikon Z system 10mm closer to a legitimate nifty fifty. But even when a true nifty-fifty appears, you may find the 40 mm wide angle-of-view more useful, more often. There’s no real downside to lenses such as these, so you might as well whip out your credit card and treat yourself.

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