Nikon 14-30mm f/4 S Lens Review & Comparison - (WARNING: Lots of Images)

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Nikon's 14-30mm was one of the lenses that made me most excited about the Z system. A compact, weather-sealed UWA zoom lens that could take screw-in filters, but was no bigger than my previous UWA zoom lens (a Panasonic Leica 8-16mm f/2.8-4 for Micro 4/3). However, when Gordon Lang published the original review of the 14-30mm, I was quite disappointed in the lens' performance, so much so that I was planning on holding on to my Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di OSD. However, Gordon has since received a second copy of the lens and updated the review, which to my eyes puts the lens on-par with the Tamron (which is very good IMO).

I received my copy of the lens today, and did what everybody does when they receive a new lens: shoot brick walls! Yes, while this isn't what I'll be shooting with this lens on a regular basis, it gives me a consistent subject to shoot with fine detail, and compare against other lenses. To provide a bit of context around my test and settings used:
  • All images are JPEG (to apply the built-in Nikon lens profiles for correction, since I don't have LR).
  • AF-S, VR off, Electronic Shutter was used, 3s delay in shutter.
  • Aperture priority, ISO 100, no exposure compensation
  • Shot on a carbon fiber tripod (32mm leg diameter) with an RRS BH-40 ball head

I've provided all of the images I shot for download if you're interested in taking a look for yourself (download all the images here). However my takeaways are this:
  • My copy of the lens appears to be pretty well centered (phew!)
  • The lens is already pretty dang sharp wide open, but the corners do sharpen up a bit at f/8
  • The 24-70 is wider than the 14-30 at the shared focal lengths (24mm and 30mm)
  • The 14-30 is a hair sharper than my Tamron 17-35

In summary, I am very pleased with this lens. The lens is sufficiently sharp for my needs, and I appreciate the smaller size for traveling.
 
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Images from Nikon 14-30mm at 14mm

Comparing the lens wide open at f/4 to f/8, I'm not seeing a big difference between the two images. This points to the lens having good sharpness wide open (helpful for when light levels require shooting at f/4). For landscapes, I'll be shooting it at f/8, which helps alleviate vignetting and improves sharpness in the extreme corners.

100% Crop at f/4 - Center
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100% Crop at f/8 - Center
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100% Crop at f/4 - Corner
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100% Crop at f/8 - Corner
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Images Comparing Nikon 14-30 to Tamron 17-35 - 17mm


Nikon (left) vs Tamron (right) - f/4 Center
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Nikon (left) vs Tamron (right) - f/4 Corner
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Images Comparing Nikon 14-30 to Tamron 17-35 and Nikon 24-70 - 24mm

Nikon 14-30 vs Tamron 17-35 - f/4 Center
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Nikon 14-30 vs Tamron 17-35 - f/4 Corner
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Nikon 14-30 vs Nikon 24-70 - f/4 Center
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Nikon 14-30 vs Nikon 24-70 - f/4 Corner
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Images Comparing Nikon 14-30 to Tamron 17-35 and Nikon 24-70 - 30mm

Nikon 14-30 vs Tamron 17-35 - f/4 Center
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Nikon 14-30 vs Tamron 17-35 - f/4 Corner
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Nikon 14-30 vs Nikon 24-70 - f/4 Center
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Nikon 14-30 vs Nikon 24-70 - f/4 Corner

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Thanks for the review+photos, I’m considering getting this lens, too.

How much vignetting (if any) occurs while using filters?
@Xx123456xX , here's a look at the vignetting at 14mm f/4. The images below are in the following order:
  • No filter, in-camera vignette control set to "OFF"
  • No filter, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"
  • B+W XS-Pro 010 UV-Haze MRC nano, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"
  • Haida Slim Pro-II MC 0.9 ND, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"
  • Haida Slim Pro-II MC 1.8 ND, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"
Based on this, it looks like with a UV filter there is no additional vignetting, however with increasing ND strength, the vignetting increases.

No filter, in-camera vignette control set to "OFF"
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No filter, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"
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B+W XS-Pro 010 UV-Haze MRC nano, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"

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Haida Slim Pro-II MC 0.9 ND, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"

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Haida Slim Pro-II MC 1.8 ND, in-camera vignette control set to "Normal"
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Looks good overall! Though it looks like the lower right hand corner seems a tad softer than the rest of the frame. Any closer shots of the full brick wall at 14mm?
 
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Looks good overall! Though it looks like the lower right hand corner seems a tad softer than the rest of the frame. Any closer shots of the full brick wall at 14mm?
Yeah, the lower right corner is softer than the rest (my Tamron exhibited the same behavior but in the top right corner). The nice thing is that it’s not an entire side that is soft, which i would’ve sent the lens back for. I realize that no lens will be perfect (just look at some of the tests Roger Cicala has done evaluating lens variability).

To me, the lens behavior is totally acceptable. As for images shot closer to the brick wall, see the vignetting samples. I was probably about ~6 ft. from the wall for those shots.
 

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