Requiring software distortion correction guarantees that the final image can never achieve full sensor resolution in at least some areas of the frame, damaging sharpness and micro contrast in the critical central area for pincushion distortion, and damaging it in the outer zones for barrel distortion. Is that the “ultimate in optical image quality”, as per Nikon’s brochure?
When the distortion is strong enough, it isn’t even viable to find a raw conversion workflow that can (somehow) disable the EXIF flag that requires distortion correction; it’s just too awful. Such as at 14mm, below.
The page looks at optical distortion for the Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S at 14mm, 19.5mm, and 30mm, showing the uncorrected and corrected image from distortion correction, along with analysis of the loss in sharpness and micro contrast.
This performance of the 14-30mm f/4 along with that of all the other Nikon NIKKOR Z lenses shows that Nikon has made an intentional systematic tradeoff in optical design for excellence in most areas (particularly color correction) by sacrificing the most important area of all for many uses: sharpness. All while claiming optical excellence including near-zero distortion. From Nikon’s PDF lens brochure “NIKKOR-Z-Brochure.pdf”, this non-sequitur:
The ultimate in optical image quality... Less Distortion
Even at their widest apertures, NIKKOR Z lenses show virtually no distortion...
I don’t have an issue with a company making design decisions. But I find outright falsehoods unacceptable.
Contrast that to the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L, Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L and the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L designs, which have extremely low optical distortion along with ultra high performance—clearly pro-oriented. The two strategies are far apart; Canon’s design approach is forward-looking and results in lenses of higher cost but of long-term satisfaction, but Nikon seemingly is not targeting professional use.