Hands-on with the Nikon Z 40mm F2

Hands-on with the Nikon Z 40mm F2

The Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm F2 is one of a pair of compact, lightweight and affordable prime lenses for the mirrorless Z-mount system (the other being the Z 28mm F2.8 which was announced recently). At only 170 g (~6 oz) is an attractive everyday lens for both full-frame and APS-C (where it covers a focal length equivalent to 60mm).

We’ve been shooting with the Z 40mm F2 for a few days, and in this article we’ll provide a brief overview of its key features and handling, along with some first impressions of image quality.

Design and ergonomics

Lenses don’t get much simpler than this – the only control on the Z 40mm F2 is the focus ring, which can also be assigned to direct control over aperture, exposure compensation or ISO sensitivity. This view gives a good idea of the plastic lens barrel and mount: a cost (and weight)-saving measure which some users will hate, and others won’t remotely care about.

Optical design

It’s hard to see in this image, but if you look closely you might notice that the Z 40mm F2’s rear element is really far back, and very close to the plastic baffle that surrounds it. One of the characteristics of lenses designed for mirrorless cameras is that often, their rear elements are substantially larger than their front elements; and that is demonstrably the case here. One practical impact is that you do need to be careful when handling the lens to keep the rear element free from fingerprints.

Optical first impressions

The Z 40mm F2 gives very good performance overall, especially considering its cost. This shot (taken wide open at F2) illustrates perhaps its main weakness: pretty strong coma at the extremes of the frame. The bigger, pricier F1.8 primes that sit above the Z 40mm F2 in Nikon’s lineup are far superior in this regard, but for most shooting situations, the 40mm’s performance is perfectly acceptable. Just don’t try any astrophotography…

Optical design

Here’s the Z 40mm F2 mounted on a Z6 II, showing off its tiny dimensions on a mid-sized camera.

Optical construction is relatively simple, with 6 elements in 4 groups, including two aspherical elements. Nikon doesn’t make any great claims about weather sealing, but does describe the lens having been designed “with consideration for dust and drip-resistant performance”. We understand that there are some seals internally, but don’t expect weather-resistance to be in the same league as more expensive lenses higher up in Nikon’s Z-mount lens lineup.

52mm filter thread

Here’s that (comparatively) tiny front element. The front filter ring is an old-school traditional 52mm – a good opportunity to dust off one of those old Hoyas you’ve probably got in a drawer. The Z 40mm doesn’t ship with a hood, but if you’ve got an old Nikon HN-3 (or generic equivalent) knocking about, that’ll do fine.

This also gives you a good view of the 40mm’s 9 aperture blades. They’re not rounded, so you can expect out-of-focus highlights to look a bit polygonal as you stop down.

Final thoughts

The Nikon Z 40mm F2 is available now, for $299.95. It’s certainly not Nikon’s best-performing Z-mount lens, but given its size (and price) we think it hits a sweet spot of cost and performance. We’re certainly enjoying shooting with it.

Let us know what you think in the comments, and if you haven’t already, check out our gallery of samples, linked below.

View our sample gallery from the
Nikon Z 40mm F2