Hands-on with the latest Nikon Z lenses, AF-S 120-300mm F2.8

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 20mm F1.8S

The Nikon booth at WPPI is bustling with visitors hoping to listen to a free educational session or get their hands on some of the latest Nikon gear – we’ve at least done the latter, and taken some photos to share with you. Nikon announced these two Z lenses earlier this month and the 120-300mm F2.8E telephoto zoom last month, and this is our first change to get up-close and personal with them.

Let’s start off with the Nikon Z 20mm F1.8S, pictured here on a Z7 camera body. The 20mm F1.8S looks right at home in Nikon’s growing lineup of S-series prime lenses for its mirrorless system, with solid construction and a large, well-damped manual focus ring. The silver ring near the base is indicative of its ‘S’ designation.

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 20mm F1.8S

A peek at the front of the lens reveals – well first of all, some dust – but also that the Z 20mm F1.8S uses a 77mm filter thread. The optical construction comprises 14 elements in 11 groups, with three ED and three aspherical elements. It also employs Nikon’s nano-crystal coating to combat flare.

The Z 20mm F1.8S can focus down to 20cm (7.87″) for a maximum magnification of 0.19x.

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 20mm F1.8S

At the rear of the lens, we can see a rubberized gasket surrounding the large metal Z-mount. Like all of Nikon’s S-series primes, the 20mm F1.8S is sealed against dust and moisture. You can also get a glimpse of the lens’ nine aperture blades, which should produce some brilliant sunstars (we’ll investigate further when we get a copy to evaluate).

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 20mm F1.8S

On the side is the sole control point on the Nikkor Z 20mm F1.8S aside from the focus ring – an autofocus A/M switch. The Z 20mm F1.8S balances very well on the current Z6 and Z7 bodies, and should be a particularly useful lens for astrophotography and video. Or, place it on a Z50 and get a 30mm-equivalent field of view on Nikon’s APS-C Z-mount offering.

The Nikkor Z 20mm F1.8S is expected to be available next month, March 2020 for a suggested retail price of $1049.95 USD.

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 24-200mm F4-6.3

Next up, we have the Nikkor Z 24-200mm F4-6.3 lens. It’s intended as a do-it-all travel zoom, complementing the existing Z 24-70mm F4S and 24-70mm F2.8S lenses Nikon has already released for the Z system, and offering the greatest zoom range of any Z-series lens to date.

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 24-200mm F4-6.3

Here it is at full zoom; its length nearly doubles, but thanks to a reasonable 570g (1.26lb) weight, it doesn’t become ungainly or off-balance on full-frame Z-series cameras. Also visible in this image is a ‘Lock’ button that keeps the lens locked into the wide-angle position for travel, to help combat ‘zoom creep’ from the occasional bump or jostle while you wander around. There’s also a slim but customizable and well-damped manual focus ring near the base of the lens as well.

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 24-200mm F4-6.3

From the front of the lens, we can see that the Z 24-200mm takes 67mm filters. This lens has a complex optical formula of 19 elements in 15 groups, and uses a special Arneo coating to reduce flare. The minimum focus distance is 50cm (19.69″), giving a maximum magnification of 0.28x. A total of seven aperture blades should produce some pretty nice sunstars on this lens as well.

Hands-on with the Nikkor Z 24-200mm F4-6.3

A rear gasket on the Z 24-200mm F4-6.3 is physical proof of Nikon’s claims of ‘drip and dust resistance,’ which is always a nice touch on a lens that is really designed to travel with you wherever you go, for just about any focal length you might need.

This lens also comes with built-in stabilization, which Nikon says works in tandem with the in-body stabilizers on the Z6 and Z7 cameras. If you want to use this on a Z50 which doesn’t have an in-body stabilizer, you can still expect up to 5 stops of compensation. This will definitely come in handy when you get to the maximum 300mm equivalent reach on an APS-C sensor.

Nikon has said that the 24-200mm F4-6.3 will be available starting in April 2020 for a suggested retail price of $899.95 USD.

Hands-on with the AF-S Nikkor 120-300mm F2.8E

First announced back in September, then with a release date given in January, we’ve finally gotten a chance to see the Nikon AF-S 120-300mm F2.8E FL ED SR VR in the flesh metal. No surprise, it’s a pricey optic at $9499.95 USD, but one that we expect will be put to good use by a variety of sports, action and wildlife photographers. Those letters in the name stand for electromagnetic diaphragm, fluorite elements, extra-low dispersion elements, short-wavelength refracting element and vibration reduction. Oh, and there’s Arneo coating to combat chromatic aberrations as well as flare. In other words, there’s a lot of optical technology in this lens.

Here, you can see the lens mounted to the company’s latest sports DSLR flagship, the D6.

Hands-on with the AF-S Nikkor 120-300mm F2.8E

In this view, you can see the name plate, serial number and a window displaying focus distance on the top of the lens. There’s also a customizable ‘Memory Set’ button on the side.

But speaking of focus distance, the lens can focus down to 2m (78.74″) at all focal lengths, for a maximum magnification of 0.16x.

Hands-on with the AF-S Nikkor 120-300mm F2.8E

Around the side are all of the control options on this lens. There’s an autofocus mode switch, a focus limiter, vibration reduction switch, a memory recall switch and a switch for the focus confirmation beep. Mounted right on the tripod collar are also lugs to which you can attach neck straps; Nikon is touting this lens as one you could use handheld if needed.

Being able to use a lens like this handheld is always a plus – but bear in mind, it weighs 3.25kg (7.17lb) so a monopod is probably still a good bet for extended shooting.

Hands-on with the AF-S Nikkor 120-300mm F2.8E

Around the front, we have a massive front element with fluorine coating to help repel moisture and oil. The filter thread is pretty sizable at 112mm, but many users will simply keep the lens hood on, which somewhat tempers the need for protective filters.

The AF-S Nikkor 120-300mm F2.8E has an optical formula of 25 elements in 19 groups, and a nine-bladed diaphragm. Nikon claims a high degree of weather-sealing as you’d expect from a lens of this caliber.

That’s a wrap

And that’s a wrap from the Nikon booth at WPPI 2020 in Las Vegas. If you missed it, we also have a dedicated hands-on look at the Nikon D6, pictured above. Let us know what you think of Nikon’s latest lenses and cameras in the comments below.