Touted as “Remarkably compact and lightweight, an all-purpose prime lens by Nikon themselves, the Nikkor Z 40mm f2 is a standard prime lens that one can fall in love quickly with due to its unique blend of strengths and weaknesses. Let’s go ahead and see why.
Firstly, the Z 40mm f2 is light, and I mean very light at around 170 grams. (a standard loaf of bread is around 210 grams). For Nikkor’s range of Z-mount lenses, the size and weight of the Z 40mm itself frankly is a huge step forward for the brand in terms of portability. The lens comes in at a diminutive 45.5mm length and a common 52mm filter size.
Testament to its low price of USD297, the lens comes in the box without a hood and a pouch and only with the front and back caps.
A reason why I emphasise the size of the Z 40mm f2 so much is because comparatively, Canon’s RF 35mm f1.8 is around half the size of Nikon’s Z 35mm f1.8 S lens, and if you have seen how small Canon’s RF 50mm f1.8 is compared to Nikon’s Z 50 f1.8 S, you will probably be left speechless.
The Z 40mm f2 has a very simple optical design with only 6 elements in 4 groups including two aspherical elements to minimise spherical aberrations and distortion. Comparatively, the Z 50mm f1.8 S has 12 elements in 9 groups with two special dispersion and two aspherical elements. A very useful characteristic is the Z 40mm F2’s minimum focusing distance of 0.29m, making it a really useful daily lens.
Not to forget, the Z 40mm f2 is splash and dust proof too.
Handling and Samples
The Z 40mm F2 lens design signature goes back to the basics with the focus ring dominating 1/2 of its length, it does not have a MF/AF switch like some of the Nikkor S-line siblings but one can easily use the generous focus ring as a manual-focusing override. Personally I prefer no-fuss designs as it means lesser stuff to break and obviously, lesser stuff to have to bother with during operation.
There is no optical stabilisation, but the Nikon Z bodies do come with that. A stepping AF motor aids in providing almost silent focusing.
The Z 40mm f2 easily makes the Z system camera a much more portable setup, pictured is the Z6 II (The Nikon Z6, 6 II, 7, 7 II bodies are all similar) and I find in my experience, helps immensely with keeping one less conspicuous especially when doing street photography.
Tl:dr – The Z 40mm f2 is easily a good blend of compactness, speed, good image quality all wrapped in a small price tag.
Auto-focus is swift to lock and reliable, and performs as well as the other the Nikkor Z-mount lenses. I cannot recall a situation where the lens hunted for focus.
As part of the review, I used the Z6 II and the Z 40mm f2 setup for a product shoot for Wotancraft and some samples are below.
The Z 40mm f2 really shines in an everyday lens role capturing life’s moments.
While at wide open aperture at f2, the lens is clearly not as sharp as the Z 35mm f1.8 S or the Z50mm f1.8 S (which is an optically very excellent lens), the Z 40mm f2 still delivers a good amount of image quality for one to work with. Distortion is basically non existent and aberrations not significant, especially for a lens around half the price of the Z 50mm f1.8 S.
While some may baulk at the maximum aperture of f2, this is plenty for me to work with even in dim light situations. Moreover, on the Z-system, I am pretty comfortable with using ISO values all the way to ISO6400.
The 40mm focal length world.
As one goes further into photography, a very common question for prime users is should I go for the 35mm or 50mm option?
Why settle for either the 35mm or 50mm world? Go for the 40mm.
In my walk-about with the lens, there were seldom moments where I felt the 40mm focal length was too wide nor not close enough. It kinda felt ‘enough’ and easy to work with, regardless of whether I was going for wider perspective shots or more close-up shots. Moreover, if one really shoots wide, one will probably go wider than 35mm and if one goes telephoto, 50mm will not likely suffice either.
Mostly, I am impressed not only with just how lightweight this lens is, but also the fact that it feels well-built and balances nicely on the Z-series bodies.
While not going to perform as optically well as its siblings from the Nikon S line (such as the much touted Z 50mm f1.8 S), the Nikon Z 40mm f2 is plenty of fun and will perform well enough even for situations one never thought of using it for like the moon shot above, making it an extremely bang for buck lens in Nikon’s Z mount line-up.
After all, photography is not always about the fastest, sharpest, heaviest or costliest option, sometimes all we want is a companion that is fun, easy-going and literally no fuss to work with.
Thank you for reading.
1. The Nikkor Z 40mm f2 is a production set and running firmware 1.0.
2. The Nikon Z6 II and Z 40mm f2 are both my personal sets.
3. Every single product shot and sample shared here was photographed by me and edited to my preference in LR Classic CC. I am a firm believer of not using stock photos or worse, drawing conclusions without even using the photography equipment.