Nikon 24-120 Z first impressions

I’ve only used it a few times thus far, over the course of a week or so. It’s a fairly “boring” lens by nature, so there’s not a whole lot to say. So far I’m happy with it.

I’ve only used it on the Z9 so far, but I’m thinking it could be a great option on a Z7 as well for backpacking and other such activities that benefit from travelling light.

In no particular order:

  • Autofocus is solid. It seems pretty accurate – much more so than F-mount lenses, as is the emerging norm for Z-mount lenses. I really like that if it can focus, and the focus point is in the right place, then you can be very confident it’s nailed it.

    It struggles in low light, much like the 24-70/4 or indeed most lenses on the Z9. “low light” is a vague term, I realise. Perhaps the best way to put it is that it simply performs about how I’d expect based on other f/4 lenses. It’s not a great option in low light, but it’s certainly no worse than you’d expect for an f/4.
  • Minimum focus distance is nice and short. I’ve been repeatedly surprised by how closely I can focus – I don’t know why, but I guess just based on all the other comparable Nikon lenses I’ve used (over the course of a decade), this focuses noticeably closer. About the only lenses that beat it are actual 1:1 macro lenses. The only other non-macro lens that matches it [that I’ve used] is the 100-400 Z (though the 24-70/4 isn’t far off, at least on paper – but the extra telephoto reach really increases the perception of in-your-face closeness).
  • It suits the Z9, ergonomically. The 24-70/4 is a good size for an e.g. Z7, but a little diminutive on the Z9. It’s noticeably bigger than the 24-70/4 in ‘stowed’ position, but in use they’re actually almost identical in size – the 24-120/4 is longer by about the depth of the lens cap (within the 24-70 range – obviously past 70 it gets longer still).
  • I really like that the camera works immediately when you turn the camera on, unlike with the 24-70/4 – no need for that irritating modal error message about the lens not being extended.
  • There’s no meaningful difference in weight vs the 24-70/4.
  • Image stabilisation seems to be very good. Similar to the 24-70/4, which is one of the most impressive lenses I’ve ever used for image stabilisation. I haven’t really pushed it much yet, but e.g. hand-held down to 1/4 second – even at 120mm – yields decent results the majority of the time (your mileage may vary, of course – for me this is an above-average result).
  • It has a function button, but like pretty much all the other Z lenses with such buttons, I still can’t figure out any real use for them. Likewise the control ring (I tried it as the aperture control, but it’s more awkward to use than the camera body dials and it gets bumped by accident all the time).

    I guess I’m a lens ‘millennial’ in the sense that I got into real cameras only a decade ago, after physical aperture controls on lenses had largely faded away. So I never ‘grew up’ with that. I’ve owned a few lenses over the years that have aperture rings, but they’ve never grown on me.
  • It doesn’t have an OLED display – or any equivalent for focus distance display etc. But I don’t care much – other than for novelty value, I never use the OLED displays (having to push a button to turn them on is apparently enough of an annoyance to discourage their use). And on my older F-mount lenses that have a focus distance scale, to be honest I basically only use it to remind myself which way the focus ring turns (sigh… Sigma vs Nikon). With Sigma not making lenses for Z-mount, and Nikon making (generally) excellent Z lenses, it might be that I eventually eliminate all the Sigmas and no longer have that oblique issue.

All in all, a good result so far. No complaints (other than the long delay in actually getting one). But I haven’t really scrutinised the photos from the 24-120 yet. My impression from quick review is that they’re good, like most Z lenses. But I haven’t yet compared against the 24-70/4, side-by-side.

Sidenote: I ordered the 100-400, 24-120, and Z9 in the same order, about twenty minutes after they were launched way back in November. The 100-400 shipped in December, the Z9 in January, and the 24-120 in late February. It strikes me as interesting that the Z9 is apparently easier to get than the 24-120. Perhaps there’s huge pent up demand for a longer 24-70/4. Sad that the 100-400 is apparently not popular, but then given the price and its disappointing acuity, perhaps that makes sense.

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