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Pancake Zoom: the Nikon Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3

The about $397 Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 is a compact retractable zoom lens for the Nikon mirrorless system. Weighing only 195 grams, this is about as light as it gets for a 35mm full-frame lens, let alone a zoom lens! It’s an ideal companion lens for quick and light mirrorless shooting, assuming distortion is not too bad.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3

While very compact when retracted, its length increases significantly when in use. My concern is that maintaining lens-to-sensor parallelism (lens skew) seem dubious with such designs especially over time and with plastic parts, but perhaps it will work out OK.

The f/6.3 maximum aperture at 50mm is extremely limiting, with f/4 at the 24mm a bare minimum. In low light shooting, a slow (dark) maximum aperture can be a serious problem for focus accuracy. And if the lens is not already at its very best wide open, it drops off my list as not so interesting.

Yet Nikon has seen fit to use 3 aspherical elements and 2 ELD elements while restricting the zoom range to only 2X, and that might mean surprisingly good image quality. But the MTF charts for Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 is fantasy MTF at only 30 lp/mm and not very instructive as to actual lens performance.

Distortion is a key concern to me (distortion correction is a surefire way to lose micro contrast), and given Nikon’s past false statements about optical distortion, optical distortion is an open question—Nikon claims “Low Distortion”, whatever that means.

* Irrelevant marketing hyperbole bordering on fraud as in “Even at their widest apertures, NIKKOR Z lenses show virtually no distortion”, requiring distortion correction with the resulting losses in micro contrast.

CLICK TO VIEW: Nikon Mirrorless system

Specifications for Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3
Focal length: 24-50mm
Aperture range: f/4 - f/22 @ 24mm
f/6.3 - f/36 @ 50mm
Iris blades: 7, rounded
magnification: 0.17x = 1:5.9
Focusing range: 1.15 ft = 35 cm
Angle of view: 84° to 47°
Number of elements/groups: 11 Elements in 10 Groups
Filter thread: 52mm
Weight, nominal: 6.88 oz = 195 g
Dimensions: 2.89 x 2.01 in = 73.5 x 51 mm
Includes: LC-52B 52mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap
Nikon LF-N1 Rear Lens Cap
Limited 1-Year Warranty Limited 4-Year USA Warranty Extension with Online Registration

The optical design with 11 elements looks to be

Optical design of
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3
  • Z-Mount Lens/FX Format
  • 3 aspherical elements
  • 2 extra low dispersion elements
  • Aperture range f/4 - f/36
  • Stepping motor suitable for stills and video.
  • Retractable design for a 2.9 inch form factor when not in use.
  • Programmable Control Ring set to adjust manual focus, can be used to control aperture or exposure compensation.
  • Specialized electromagnetic aperture mechanism provides exposure control stability.
  • Rounded seven-blade diaphragm.
  • Dust- and moisture-resistant lens barrel.
  • No focus breathing [diglloyd: ideal for focus stacking]
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3
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