Nikon have form when it comes to retro styling, first with the Df F mount body, and now with the Z fc and a small number of retro-styled lenses. We have looked at the 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 and now examine in detail the new Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 SE, a Special Edition lens that currently is only available as part of the Z fc SE kit in the UK. It is available separately in the USA. The new lens totally mimics the appearance of classic Nikon F SLR manual focus lenses, although it is in fact an AF lens. Not only does it appeal on a retro level, but its hidden secret is that it is in fact a full-frame optic. So let’s look at the new lens, using not only the APS-C 20.9 MP Nikon Z fc body but also the 45.7 MP Nikon Z 7 II.
For the styling of the lens, it was back to the original blueprints for Nikon and the illusion is complete. The knurling of the manual focus ring, the silver ring behind that and the general shape are all genuinely Nikon F in appearance. Of course, we lose an aperture ring or meter coupler, but otherwise, traditionalists just might relate with enthusiasm to the overall ethos of the design.
Weighing in at just 160g, clearly, this is a lens using plastics extensively, including the mount. However, plastic can be a totally effective choice. There is no provided lens hood, always a shame, but there is a standard 52mm filter thread; the traditional Nikon size. The lens is dust and drip-resistant, a welcome decision.
The control ring can be set to control focus, aperture, exposure compensation or ISO. The feel of the ring seems very similar to what would be expected from any of the old F lenses, silky smooth. There are no other controls on the lens, everything else being controlled from the camera. There is therefore no AF/MF switch. There is also no option for VR (Vibration Compensation) and that function is blanked out in the camera menus. However, in-camera VR such as with the Nikon Z7 II works just fine.
AF is driven by two stepping motors and is very fast, very quiet and very reliable. The focusing ring can be used to tweak the focus position after AF. Focusing is down to 0.19m, or 0.63 feet, for a maximum magnification of 0.2x, 1:5. This is close, but no closer than many traditional 28mm lenses.
Lens construction is 9 elements in 8 groups, including 2 Aspherical. IF (Internal Focusing) means the dimensions of the lens do not change. The diaphragm comprises 7 rounded blades.
The lens is only sold as part of the Z fc SE kit in the UK, although available separately in the USA. Of particular interest is that although it is supplied as part of a kit with an APS-C format camera body, it is in fact a full-frame lens. It works just as well with the Z 7 II body and the opportunity was taken to test it out on both DX and FX formats. The FX-format results in the native 28mm focal length as intended, a very useful wide-angle; the DX-format results in a “35mm-format equivalent” of 42mm. In terms of field of view, that 42mm is very close to the theoretical “standard lens” which for full-frame would be 43mm.
Either as a wide-angle, or as a slightly wide standard, depending as detailed above on the format, this is a totally lovely lens to use. It looks great, it works faultlessly and the results will speak for themselves. What’s not to like?
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