Decisions, Decisions, Decisions! Choosing Between Three Nikon Z Lenses

Thomas Heaton is in a predicament over which lens to buy for his kit. In this video, Heaton has to choose between the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4.0 and the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4.0 lens. Which would you choose?

Thomas Heaton needs to make a decision and quickly regarding which mid-range zoom he needs for his kit. Heaton explains at the start of the video that all of his Nikon gear is currently on loan and must be returned, so now, he has to purchase the items and is in a conundrum over which lens to buy.

The choices for Heaton are the Nikon 24-70mm Z f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm Z f/4.0, and Nikon 24-120mm Z f/4.0. Naturally, some will lean to the f/2.8 lens as it is likely to pack the highest quality. However, that comes at a cost. It's a substantial cost, in fact, when you consider that the f/2.8 lens is over $1,000 more than the other two lenses in the selection and also weighs nearly double the f/4.0 version. 

Heaton values a lighter, smaller lens, as he is often out hiking on his adventures around the UK and the world, but also wants high-quality images, so his ultimate decision is going to be decided by taking sample images at all different focal lengths with the three lenses and examining the results.

After testing out the lenses, Heaton summarizes the 24-120mm as almost the same as the other two but appears to lack contrast, and the edges are a little soft. The 24-70mm f/4.0 is basically the same quality as the f/2.8, but it is just not an f/2.8. Finally, the f/2.8, even at f/5.6, has better bokeh than the f/4.0 version at f/5.6.

Heaton confirms he will take the 24-70mm f/4.0 on a trip and then make a final decision. Do you own any of the three lenses, or are you looking at choosing one for yourself? Which one would you pick and why? Let us know down below.

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Greg Sheard is a Scottish based photographer, focusing on wildlife, landscape and portrait work. Greg's mission in life is too help those who suffer with mental health issues and be a voice for the millions of people around the world who need that care, attention and awareness.

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I'm in a relatively unique position in that I use both the 24-70 2.8 and 24-120mm 4.0 professionally on a regular basis.

For my full-time job as an Army Public Affairs Officer, I use the 24-120 on a Z9. I don't do a lot of pixel-peeping, but the performance has been excellent. The extra reach over the 24-70 comes in handy for things like ceremonies - I can get away with just shooting with one camera now. Before I would shoot with two Canon 5D Mark IVs; one with the 24-70mm 2.8, and one with the 70-200mm 2.8. Between the 45mp of the Z9 and the extra reach, I very rarely bust out the Nikon 70-200mm 2.8. Since I rarely need the extra stop of aperture, the tradeoff is more than worth it.

My wife owns and operates a photography business, and we also shoot primarily with the Z9 there (Z7 and Z6 II occasionally) - but with the 24-70mm 2.8. We don't typically go all the way to 2.8 with it, as we're typically either shooting environmental portraits in Hawai'i, where you still want the beautiful backgrounds to feature, or newborns, where you don't typically want a razor-thin depth of field either. That being said, it's an extremely sharp lens with great build quality.

I don't think you can go wrong with either one, and the decision is probably pretty easy:

1. Need a 2.8 aperture? Only one choice.
2. Need the smallest/lightest? 24-70mm 4.0.
3. Need the reach? Again, easy.

These are my personal opinions and do not represent the Department of Defense or the Department of the Army.

Absolutely spot on with your reasoning here. The lens you choose really is based on your requirements and how often do you really shoot wide open.

For someone like Thomas Heaton, he is a landscape photographer, so most of the time he will sit in the f/8 to f/16 range perhaps, so no need for a 2.8 at all. This means he can save money and weight, which is great.

I got the Z7 with the 24-70 f4 from B&H *used* for $2600 in Sept 2023; didn't want to lug my D810 and primes through Europe for three weeks. The 24-70 f4 was stunning. Currently, that lens can be found used for $350-$400 and the Z7 is around $1200-$1300. BTW, do you need all the extras offered by Z9, Z8 and Z7II to shoot landscape, architecture or travel snaps? I think not; same sensor in the Z7 as the big dogs.

For sure! For us, the Z9 is only used for the autofocus for the wife, and the speed/video capabilities for my full-time job. We move to Germany in a few weeks, and the Z7 will be our primary walkabout camera - probably with the 24-200.

Well, I owned a EF 24-70/2.8 ii and sold it for the extra reach of the RF 24-105/4. Would appreciate that 24-120/4 option, but it doesn't exist in the Canon system.

Hopefully one day Canon has a comparable lens with the longer reach :)

To be fairly honnest. I use both 24-70 f4 and 24-120 f4.
Really depending on what I'm doing.

If I'm visiting a city, I go lighter with 24-70 f4 + 28 f2.8 + 40 f2.
On a day trip? 24-120mm F4, OR 28 F2.8 + 40 F2.
If I'm going to hike and see birds or animals, I tend to use 24-70 f4 + 100mm f2.8 + 100-400mm
If I'm travelling , I definitively go with 24-120 f4 + 50 f1.8 + 35 f1.8 (and depending on the location 85mm f1.8).

I love them both. Even I tend to love the tiny 24-70 f4 first for its weight and size in a backpack. But the extra reach and extra micro-contrast of the 24-120mm f4 are awesome.

Do I bought the 24-70mm f2.8?! Not yet. I don't think to buy it. I'm using primes instead.

That all sounds very reasonable, always great to know your options for the types of trips you go on as you want to ensure you have everything you need covered

Thanks for your comment Greg Sheard.

I think that the fact I bought a combo Nikon Z6 + 24-70mm f4 has influenced me in this choice of lens(es). But, regarding to my needs (and year of DSLr with heavy lenses), I could not exclude the tiny 24-70, even if I have a 24-120.

For most of the people it may be strange to have cery similar lenses, instead of tiny f4 vs huge f2.8.

I reckon the winner lens in this scenario is missing:) nikons 28-75mm f2.8 is an excellent lens at a fantastic price point!

Thats true, it is a great lens but as Thomas is a landscape photographer, maybe 28mm is a bit too narrow for him

I'm amateur (I think, but getting paid occasionally, so ...?) I use 24-120/4 and 85/1.8 for portraits and low light landscape. Absolutely love both and my lowly (?!) Z5. Had a 70/4 initially and loved it too but prefer the 24-120 reach. Came from a D80.

When I was still in f-mount world I first got the 24-70 2.8. Was never crazy about it... That focal range rarely excites me. I still used it a lot for events and such, since it was the most practical range. When I got my D750 I got the kit with the 24-120, and that was a total game changer. The added reach gave me even more flexibility, and for shooting events and what not, what I was shooting was never going to end up in an art gallery anyway, so I didn't miss the extra stop at all.

When it came time to start seriously investing in mirrorless, the 24-120 was the first lens I ordered with my Z9. Never even considered either of the 24-70's. 2nd lens was the 70-200 2.8. At that length I appreciate the added performance.