Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S review

The Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S is the widest-angle Nikon Z-mount prime lens to date, combining versatility with top performance

OUR VERDICT
When you need a wider viewing angle than your 24-70mm zoom can deliver, this is often the perfect prime lens for Z 6 and Z 7 cameras. Image quality is up to the typically terrific standard of Z-mount NIKKOR S-line lenses, and you’ll enjoy similarly refined handling, virtually silent autofocus, and negligible focus breathing. Overall, it’s an outstanding lens that’s equally capable for stills and movie capture, and it’s also a delight for astrophotography.

FORNOT FOR
Spectacular image quality
Negligible focus breathing
Filter thread with separate hood
Relatively pricey
No focus distance scale

The Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S features a lot to measure up to. Both of Nikon’s 24-70mm Z-mount f/2.8 and f/4 zooms are tremendously versatile, but what does one do once you need a wider viewing angle?

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The most obvious choice is that the similarly excellent Z 14-30mm f/4 S zoom, which provides a mighty maximum viewing angle of 114 degrees. However, if you’re after a hard and fast focal distance and a faster aperture rating, the newer 20mm lens is literally a major candidate. It gives a generous 94-degree viewing angle on FX bodies, and a useful 70 degrees on the DX format Z 50, like employing a 30mm lens on a full-frame camera.

SPECIFICATIONS


  • Mount: Nikon Z FX
  • Full frame: Yes
  • Autofocus: Yes
  • Image stabilization: No
  • Lens construction: 14 elements in 11 groups
  • Angle of view: 94 degrees
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.2m
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 0.19x
  • Filter size: 77m
  • Dimensions: 85x109mm
  • Weight: 505g

KEY FEATURES


The Z 20mm features a very manageable size and weight, at 85x109mm and 505g respectively. For such a fisheye lens , the modestly sized 77mm filter thread may be a bonus, enabling the straightforward fitment of screw-in filters, or a square filter holder. It’s a specific advantage for landscape photography, to which the lens is especially compatible . The Z 20mm is equally adept at large-scale architectural photography and cityscapes.

The combination of wide viewing angle and fast f/1.8 aperture works well for shooting under low lighting conditions. for instance , when shooting indoors under ambient lighting, or outside at twilight, you’ll maintain fairly fast shutter speeds to freeze action without bumping up your ISO an excessive amount of . For architectural interiors where you would possibly like better to use a narrower aperture, the in-body stabilization of Z 6 and Z 7 cameras helps to avoid the shakes. And for the good outdoors, the viewing angle and fast aperture offer great promise for astrophotography.

A less obvious advantage of the lens is that it’s a very short minimum focus distance of just 0.2m (about 8 inches). Bearing in mind that this is often measured from the focal plane (effectively the active surface of the image sensor) instead of the front of the lens, you actually can get incredibly on the brink of what you’re shooting. It’s great for exaggerating perspective and, again, the fast f/1.8 adds versatility, giving a decent depth of field for isolating a close-up object against a blurred but very extensive background.

BUILD AND HANDLING


Typical of Z-mount S-line lenses, the 20mm features a simple yet highly effective design. Onboard controls boil right down to an auto/manual focus switch and one control ring. The control ring is generously large, utilizing most of the length of the barrel, and features a well-damped, fluid feel to its operation. You’d usually use it as a manual focus ring and, while there’s no physical focus distance scale nor depth of field markers to enable zone focusing, manual focus does work alright with the optional ‘focus peaking’ display of Nikon’s mirrorless cameras.

If you generally use autofocus, the control ring are often assigned to a spread of other functions instead, including declicked aperture control. this is often particularly useful when shooting movies. an extra attraction for movie capture is that focus breathing is completely negligible, therefore the effective field of view and magnification don’t change as you breeze through the main target range.

The optical design is predicated on 14 elements in 11 groups, including three aspherical elements and three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements to reinforce clarity and reduce chromatic aberrations. Nano Crystal Coat is additionally applied to attenuate ghosting and flare. Overall build quality feels robust, despite the lens being fairly lightweight, and therefore the construction features an honest range of weather-seals.

PERFORMANCE


Nikon’s Z-mount S-line prime and zoom lenses have come through our testing procedures with flying colors , so we’ve come to expect tons in terms of performance. The 20mm is certainly no disappointment, delivering spectacular corner-to-corner sharpness. Automatic in-camera corrections are available for lateral aberration , vignetting and distortion but, even when disabled, these negative attributes are very minimal. Resistance to ghosting and flare is extremely good indeed.

LAB TESTS


Sharpness: As we’ve now come to expect from Nikon Z mount primes, sharpness is outstanding, from wide open throughout to f/11. It’s particularly spectacular within the centre of the frame between f/2.8 and f/8. While corner sharpness isn’t quite so remarkable, it’s still impressive for a fisheye lens .

Color fringing: Shorter bars indicate less fringing, and therefore the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S has very short bars indeed. It produces little to no aberration and you’re highly unlikely to identify any fringing in real-world shots.

Distortion -0.5: This lens produces mild barrel distortion, but it’s negligible and positively not noticeable in most cases.

VERDICT


For a native Z-mount lens with the complete range of autofocus and handling finesse, this 20mm prime is an absolute cracker. The wide viewing angle and fast aperture combine to offer great versatility for everything from cramped interiors to rolling landscapes and beyond, taking in heavenly skies in the dark . It’s pretty pricey, costing about an equivalent as Nikon’s Z 14-30mm f/4 S zoom, but the sheer quality and performance makes the 20mm well well worth the money.

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