When Nikon announced the Nikon Z 40mm F/2 – the Z-mount finally got the nifty-fifty it deserved. Of course, the Nikon Z 40mm is not a fifty at all. But who cares when it’s this cheap and weighs barely more than its own 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
Table of Contents
- What is the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2
- Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Specifications
- Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Image Quality
- Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Compatability
- Nikon Z 40mm F/2 vs AF-S 50mm F/1.8G
- Nikon Z 40mm F/2 vs AF-S 50mm F/1.8G Specs
- Nikon Z 40mm F/2 vs AF-S 50mm F/1.8G Image Quality
What is the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2
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 a great choice for everyday photography.
With its large F2 aperture, the bargain-basement Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2 is able to soak up twice as much light as Nikon’s expensive F2.8 zooms and four times more light than the premium F/4 kit lens. As a result, the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2 will focus well in low light and be an effective option for shooting in dimly lit environments. Read What is Aperture.
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 their blurred surroundings. Read What is Depth of Field.
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.
In terms of size, the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2 weighs 170 grams, and is 70mm wide and 45.5mm long. Therefore, the Z 40mm F/2 would make a great pocketable companion to heavier everyday zooms such as the Nikon Z 24-70mm F/4 and Nikon Z 24-120mm F/4. Read Nikon Z 24-120mm F/4 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. Whilst I expect it makes no practical difference whatsoever, cheaper lenses such as the Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 and the Nikon AF-S 50mm feature metal mounts. At this price, the all-plastic mount just feels mean.
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. Whilst Nikon advertises drip and dust resistance, it also states it’s less tolerant to either than other lenses. Or, to put it another way – don’t push your luck.
Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Specifications
|Nikon Z 40mm F/2|
|Optical Design||6 Elements in 4 Groups|
|Aperture Diaphragm||9 Rounded Blades|
|Minimum Focus Distance||29cm|
Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Image Quality
I’m yet to have a proper play with this little gem but I do 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.
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 somewhat as it gets towards the corners. Overall, this is impressive for a cheap lens. But how does the Nikon Z 40mm compare with the older Nikon Nikkor AF-S 50mm F/1.8G?
Buy a Nikon Z 40mm F/2
Nikon Z 40mm F/2 Compatability
Does the Nikon Z work with Nikon DSLRs and Z DX cameras?
The Nikon Z 40mm F2 will work just 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.
The Nikon Z 40mm F/2 is not compatible with any Nikon DSLR.
Nikon Z 40mm F/2 vs AF-S 50mm F/1.8G
I adore my Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G and if you consider its price-performance ratio, it’s difficult to beat. In fact, the AF-S 50mm F1.8G is so good I have taken it on professional shoots and sold its output. Altogether, the Nikon 50mm is great for everyday shooting and a pretty good portrait lens to boot.
Compared with the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2, the Nikon AF-S 50mm has a narrower field of view (47-degrees) making it a better option for portraits. Whereas the Nikon Z 40mm’s wide angle of view makes it a better option for street photography and landscapes.
Due to its slightly larger F/1.8 aperture, the Nikon AF-S 50mm soaks up approximately 25% more light than the 40mm’s F2. And because the 50mm has a larger aperture and longer focal length, it is better able to blur backgrounds.
Nikon Z 40mm F/2 vs AF-S 50mm F/1.8G Specs
|Nikon Z 40mm F/2||Nikon AF-S 50mm F/1.8G|
|Optical Design||6 Elements in 4 Groups||7 Elements in 6 Groups|
|Aperture Diaphragm||9 Rounded Blades||7 Rounded Blades|
|Minimum Focus Distance||29cm||45 cm|
|Nikon Z 40mm F/2||Nikon AF-S 50mm F/1.8G||Nikon AF-S 50mm F/1.8G + FtZ|
As you can see, adding an FtZ adapter completely undermines the Nikon AF-S 50mm’s modest dimensions. In fact, the combination is almost twice as large and heavy as the Nikon Z 40mm F2. But what about image quality?
Nikon Z 40mm F/2 vs AF-S 50mm F/1.8G Image Quality
Whilst I’ve yet to get my hands on the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F/2, it’s true that all Z lenses have, 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 40mm has the 50mm licked.
For the most part, the older lens puts up a hell of a fight and towards the center of the image, the 40mm is a little sharper. However, the Nikon Z 40mm maintains better sharpness towards the edge of the frame whilst the Nikon AF-S 50mm tanks. Obviously, MTF charts are all well and good but I look forward to seeing the real thing.
Overall, the Nikkor Z 40mm F/2 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 wonderful AF-S 50mm F/1.8G.
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.
The only thing that takes the shine off the Nikon Z 40mm F2 is the lack of a metal lens mount. Whilst this is unlikely to be of any practical concern – I find the pure austerity of this decision a little bleak.
To conclude, the Nikon Z 40mm F/2 brings the Nikon Z system 10mm closer to a legitimate nifty-fifty. But even when a true nifty-fifty appears, you may find the 40mm’s wide angle-of-view more useful, more often. To be honest, there’s no real downside to lenses such as these so you might as well whip out your credit card and treat yourself.
Buy a Nikon Z 40mm F/2 S