Nikon Z 14-30 f/4 S - Not So Great, or Copy Variation?

Joined
Dec 7, 2005
Messages
389
Location
MN, USA
Yeah, I'm still interested in this lens, but will not be pre-ordering it like I did the Z6.

The wife and I are heading to England in late June, and the 14-30 would be great for the time we'll spend in London. Fortunately, with a mid-April release, I'll have ~2 months to make up my mind regarding buying one or not.

What I'm really curious about is how the lens does with an 82-77 step-down ring attached to it. I'd really hate to buy and carry 82mm filters vs. 77mm ones that I already have. My gut tells me that there will be physical blocking of the corners.
We are headed to Ireland 2nd week of May so a bit more of a conundrum for me as to whether I should pick up copy before any reputable reviews may be in.
 
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
619
Location
San Diego, CA
For me the 14-30 is a lens that is difficult to love. Given what it costs Nikon has taken quite some liberties with the design, and then chosen to cover up the impact of the decisions with very strong softeware corrections. Some think that is OK, and liken it to PS post processing, but to me it is not OK. I can choose how much PP I want to do, but with the 14-30 you MUST bring the edges up more than 3 stops. And just so we don't obfuscate what that means - light intensity in the periphery is about 1/10th what it is in the center. And not in the extreme edges either, the fallofff starts about 1/3 out from the extreme edges. Barrel distortion is very high too, much more than the much maligned 16-35.

It is fine for what is is, but you have never seen another $1300 lens that is quite as poor in terms of native distortion and vignetting. It is quite annoying that all the early reviewers chose to sell their soul to Nikon and not talk about that aspect of the lens. Perhaps they were given early access precisely because they were willing to do that.
 
Joined
Mar 4, 2005
Messages
15,115
Location
Los Angeles, USA
For me the 14-30 is a lens that is difficult to love. Given what it costs Nikon has taken quite some liberties with the design, and then chosen to cover up the impact of the decisions with very strong softeware corrections. Some think that is OK, and liken it to PS post processing, but to me it is not OK. I can choose how much PP I want to do, but with the 14-30 you MUST bring the edges up more than 3 stops. And just so we don't obfuscate what that means - light intensity in the periphery is about 1/10th what it is in the center. And not in the extreme edges either, the fallofff starts about 1/3 out from the extreme edges. Barrel distortion is very high too, much more than the much maligned 16-35.

It is fine for what is is, but you have never seen another $1300 lens that is quite as poor in terms of native distortion and vignetting. It is quite annoying that all the early reviewers chose to sell their soul to Nikon and not talk about that aspect of the lens. Perhaps they were given early access precisely because they were willing to do that.
I'm not sure why Nikon is receiving so much flak for software correction, companies like Fuji and Olympus do the same thing with their lenses. Both companies bake it into their raw files. Also from editing raw samples (from DPR) of the 14-30mm shot wide open on the Z7, images looked plenty sharp to me in the corners and vignetting was fairly minimal and easy to adjust in post.

I own the Sony 16-35 f4 FE for my A7III and that lens cost more brand new and doesn't reach the corner sharpness of the 14-30mm.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
1,179
Location
St. Charles, IL
Real Name
Andy
For me the 14-30 is a lens that is difficult to love. Given what it costs Nikon has taken quite some liberties with the design, and then chosen to cover up the impact of the decisions with very strong softeware corrections. Some think that is OK, and liken it to PS post processing, but to me it is not OK. I can choose how much PP I want to do, but with the 14-30 you MUST bring the edges up more than 3 stops. And just so we don't obfuscate what that means - light intensity in the periphery is about 1/10th what it is in the center. And not in the extreme edges either, the fallofff starts about 1/3 out from the extreme edges. Barrel distortion is very high too, much more than the much maligned 16-35.

It is fine for what is is, but you have never seen another $1300 lens that is quite as poor in terms of native distortion and vignetting. It is quite annoying that all the early reviewers chose to sell their soul to Nikon and not talk about that aspect of the lens. Perhaps they were given early access precisely because they were willing to do that.
I’m very interested in a replacement for the 14-24 f/2.8. The 14-30 f/4 is tempting, but sacrificing a stop of light for screw-in filters is a good tradeoff only if the optics are equivalently good. So far, it seems they might not be.
 
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
619
Location
San Diego, CA
The early availability of the 14-30 is the one and only reason I sold my D800 and 14-24. The initial plan was to wait a couple of years for Mk2.

Don't get me wrong, the 14-30 is not a bad lens. It is very compact and is certainly good enough for advanced amateur and even all but the most demanding professional use. A Zx with 14-30 and an 82mm filter stack feels liberating in comparison to a D8xx with 14-24 and a wonderpana monstrosity. The size and weight difference is enormous.

Even with all that the lens is difficult to love the way the 14-24 was easy to love. It is not that software corrections are required. It is all about how strong the software corrections MUST be for the lens performance to be acceptable. You don't see anything like that in the Nikon range except in second tier third party lenses like the Irix and Rokinon which are 1/3 to 1/2 the price

In good to moderate light the software corrections are not a big deal. Sharpness in the extreme corners is sacrificed a bit, but in my opinion sharpness of almost any lens nowadays is irrelevant to the visual impact of an image. You will see me adding blur to my images 90% of the time, but I never thouch the ubsharp mask.

Where the corrections of vignetting could be a problem is in strongly backlit scenes where you need to bring up the shadows 2 or 3 stops. With. A 3 stop lift already baked into the outer 25-30% of the frame it is difficult to see how this does not impact the image. I did a quick test like this and posted it over on FM. The results are not terrible or even bad by any means, but neither are they great. The D8xx series taught us to be lazy and not do expoaure blending. If you want great corners in situations like this you will have to exposure blend the 14-30. The problems are most significant at 14mm wide open but are there below 20 mm at any aperture. Things clean up nicely by f/8 at 20mm.
 
Joined
Mar 4, 2005
Messages
15,115
Location
Los Angeles, USA
The early availability of the 14-30 is the one and only reason I sold my D800 and 14-24. The initial plan was to wait a couple of years for Mk2.

Don't get me wrong, the 14-30 is not a bad lens. It is very compact and is certainly good enough for advanced amateur and even all but the most demanding professional use. A Zx with 14-30 and an 82mm filter stack feels liberating in comparison to a D8xx with 14-24 and a wonderpana monstrosity. The size and weight difference is enormous.

Even with all that the lens is difficult to love the way the 14-24 was easy to love. It is not that software corrections are required. It is all about how strong the software corrections MUST be for the lens performance to be acceptable. You don't see anything like that in the Nikon range except in second tier third party lenses like the Irix and Rokinon which are 1/3 to 1/2 the price

In good to moderate light the software corrections are not a big deal. Sharpness in the extreme corners is sacrificed a bit, but in my opinion sharpness of almost any lens nowadays is irrelevant to the visual impact of an image. You will see me adding blur to my images 90% of the time, but I never thouch the ubsharp mask.

Where the corrections of vignetting could be a problem is in strongly backlit scenes where you need to bring up the shadows 2 or 3 stops. With. A 3 stop lift already baked into the outer 25-30% of the frame it is difficult to see how this does not impact the image. I did a quick test like this and posted it over on FM. The results are not terrible or even bad by any means, but neither are they great. The D8xx series taught us to be lazy and not do expoaure blending. If you want great corners in situations like this you will have to exposure blend the 14-30. The problems are most significant at 14mm wide open but are there below 20 mm at any aperture. Things clean up nicely by f/8 at 20mm.
I believe Capture One software won't apply lens corrections. I remember on the Micro Four-Thirds forum some people were using that to avoid the baked in corrections for M43 lenses. You might have to switch editing programs if you want full control.
 
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
619
Location
San Diego, CA
Yes, capture one does not bake the corrections in. Or you can convert to DNG and do a bit of file editing to achieve the same in PS. But using CO does not solve any problem. Unless you apply the vignetting correction full strength (and then add some more by hand at 14mm) the results are simply unacceptable unless your composition calls for a strong vignette.

The distortion corrections are more a matter of taste. Some landscape shots can actually benefit from a degree of distortion being present. The main consequence of the distortion corrections are a bit of narrowing of the FOV and loss of acuity in the very extreme corners. As I wrote earlier, I don't give a rat's a-- about loss of acuity over the corner 50-100 pixels of a 24mpx image, particularly not in the modest amounts present on the 14-30. It is the vignetting that is keeping me from fully loving this lens.
 

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