Is This Lens a Snooze or Good News for the Z System?

Is This Lens a Snooze or Good News for the Z System?

Nikon’s recent lens announcement, the Z 28-75 f/2.8, came as a bit of surprise. Notably absent from the roadmap, with few rumors or speculation in the run-up to its appearance, this lens is an odd duck in more ways than one. Is this a promising development for the Z system or a missed opportunity?

For those who didn’t catch the somewhat subdued announcement, Nikon announced the NIKKOR Z 28-75mm f/2.8, a “versatile, standard zoom lens” that shows “Nikon will continue to pursue new dimensions in optical performance”. 

About five minutes after the announcement, however, everyone had figured out that this lens was a Tamron 28-75mm in Z clothes. While there’s still ongoing speculation over how much has been changed in the adaption of this lens to Z mount and Z branding, the published optical diagrams show the lens is identical in both the layout and nature of lens elements.

For context, this lens formula was discontinued by Tamron and replaced with an improved version with a different optical formula. The new Tamron version also sells for just $899, a discount of about $300 compared to the Z version’s MSRP.

Dollars and Sense

That last point is the biggest issue that I think most will have with this lens. At $1,200, I’m not sure this represents the “affordable” choice for full frame Z shooters. The Z 24-70 f/4, with the imputed price in a kit of about $600, is a really good lens. I’ve been shooting both it and the Z 24-70 f/2.8 over the last few weeks and would be hard-pressed to tell them apart at f/4 without looking at EXIF data or pixel-peeping. 

Also, as I imagine is the case for many mid-zoom shooters, losing that 4mm at the wide end would be a deal-breaker for me. From 24 to 28mm, you lose about 10% of your field of view and a not-insignificant amount of visual impact. The gain of 5mm on the long end, however, isn’t that useful. A tiny crop will match the change in framing and is nothing for a 24- or 45-megapixel body to match. It’s a lot easier to match that crop than to create more space in cramped conditions.

At $999 to match the non-kit price of the 24-70 f/4, it feels like it would be more competitive, presenting a direct choice between wide and fast. I’m sure a rebate or implicit rebate via bundle is all but guaranteed for this lens when it comes out. That current MSRP just feels too high for a re-badged third-party lens with a reduced focal range.

The Bigger Picture

What I think is interesting about this lens, beyond the discussion about stats and price, is what it represents for the Z system. The Z system, to this point, has been lacking significant investment by third-party lens manufacturers. The only significant lines are from Venus Optics, TTArtisan, Viltrox, and 7artisans. These lines are typically specialty lenses and are mainly manual focus primes. They’re certainly nice to have, but you can’t build a kit around them exclusively. What's been absent has been lenses from Tamron, Tokina, and Sigma that help fill in gaps and offer lower-priced alternatives to the manufacturer's offerings.

If this lens is how Nikon sees third-party participation in the Z ecosystem going, with heavy Nikon control and a corresponding price bump, it’s certainly a disappointment to me. Also, while reviews haven’t come out yet, the implicit messaging behind the chosen optical formula of this lens is disappointing. It uses the older, discontinued optical formula. It’s conspicuously missing the S-line designation, despite the cheaper, more compact, and slower Z 24-70 f/4 carrying it. As a reminder, Nikon claims the S-line lenses are “subject to even more stringent expectations and standards… designed to be a step above” and can be shot wide open, thanks to their edge-to-edge sharpness. If this lens isn’t capable of that mark, requiring you to stop down to f/4, why not get the 24-70 f/4 again?

If it’s instead a pride thing, with Nikon wanting to reserve the highest designations for their lens, why not just let Tamron release the lens on their own? There’s already a number of great examples for companies building vibrant ecosystems around their products while still retaining both strong brand standards and a benefit to their bottom line.

One that comes to mind is Apple’s MFi program. MFi started as Made for iPod, a program where Apple shared technical specs with third parties, tested their products for certification, and took a cut of the revenue. A Made for Z program could open up the Z mount’s communication standards, ensuring things like AF compatibility and even enabling features like Fn switch compatibility. It would give consumers and lens manufacturers confidence that their lenses will function well, without requiring Nikon to put cash towards significant R&D or marketing.

The last concern is the fact that this lens is bumping shoulders in the most crowded part of the Z lens landscape. There are nearly a dozen ways to get a 24mm-ish field of view on Z, covering everything from tiny lenses like the 24-50mm and 24-70mm, through all-in-ones like the 24-120mm and 24-200mm, the pro 24-70mm f/2.8, and the primes like the 24mm, 28mm, and 28mm special edition. Meanwhile, you can only get 150mm from the 70-200mm and the 100-400mm, once that finally comes out. If we're dropping Tamron lenses into Z casings, why not the 70-210mm f/4 or 70-300mm instead? Those are gaps that still need to be filled and would be perfectly suited for this treatment.


Despite the strong sales performance of the original Tamron 28-75 f/2.8, I’m not sure this lens is a significant addition to the Z system on its own merits. The existing f/4 mid-range zoom is smaller, lighter, cheaper, and implicitly rated by Nikon to have better image quality, while the f/2.8 version is a phenomenal performer on every metric, significantly wider than the 28-75, and only about $600 more when comparing real-world prices. For someone only concerned about hitting f/2.8, this lens is going to be an option, but it just feels like an odd choice against the existing lens lineup.

What this lens hopefully represents is Nikon's first steps towards a broader ecosystem around the Z. Perhaps we’ll see closer collaboration with a third-party manufacturer, similar to what Nikon did with Cosina in the film era. I know Tamron has a range of interesting lens designs, including the telephoto range, which has remained a weak spot for Z even still. Here’s hoping that this lens is that first step towards a wider ecosystem.

Alex Coleman's picture

Alex Coleman is a travel and landscape photographer. He teaches workshops in the American Southwest, with an emphasis on blending the artistic and technical sides of photography.

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Apparently it's the previous generation Tamron. They're taking the piss.

I have a Z5 and am still shooting with the FTZII Adapter so really no gains in sharpness with the new camera. I'm holding out still for my first real Z lens. Probably going to be the 105 Macro as that will be useful in the studio. I am disappointed in Nikon for so many of the S line lenses being made in China. I will NOT buy a Chinese lens. I'm going to have to buy Sigma Art lenses if they ever get to building for the Z cameras. I've had Tamron in the past, and never been blown away by their sharpness.

I'm sure you only buy cameras & lenses made in your own country.

Somehow you translated the fact I don't want to provide revenue to an ethno-nationalist genocidal regime as an expression of nationalism on my part.

That happens when your comment is unclear. China isn't gonna change because you didn't buy one lens. But good luck trying.

Anyway, if you shoot Sony, you can buy the newer G2 version of this lens and it is made in Japan. Or the similar Sigma 28-70, also made in Japan.

No, champ, you just read down whatever you wanted to.

So, tell me, which countries are *completely* innocent of genocide, unjust wars, mass killing, ethnic extermination, religious oppression, cultural destruction, racial segregation, police brutality, and the like? You ONLY buy cameras and lenses from completely innocent countries, correct? Only the purest countries get your dollars, right?

It's like you're a child.

Difference is the other examples you allude to are historical.

Go away now.

Oh, I see what you mean: if the evils were committed in the past, as in yesterday ... or last week, then it's all good. You don't actually have a list of countries that are completely pure & innocent. And you'd be hard-pressed to find any photo gear if held to that principle. So you do buy photo gear from any country in the world ... just not China.

No, what I meant was "go away now".

Let me rephrase, you're stupid, obtuse, or a troll; I don't think you're stupid or obtuse.

But apparently someone having done something in the past is justification for doing the same thing now:

"Your Honour, I put it to you that John Garb's grandfather committed rape; therefore, my client should not be convicted for the alleged sexual assault."

Other people doing something immoral or illegal does not justify committing the same act.

I really shouldn't have to explain the obvious.

Go away now.

I see that you've moved up from base insults into a weak straw man argument about someone who justifies some evil behavior. That's besides the point, of course, as nobody justified any evil behavior. The point is that you'll buy any photo gear from any country anywhere as long as they've put their evil behavior into the "historical" past, such as an hour ago. That'll teach those who continue their evil behavior into the current hour.

It's not a straw man, it's a reductio ad adsurdum analogy.

Calling someone a "troll", who appears to want to provoke an argument, is not an insult, it's a factual statement.

I do find it fascinating how you have a history of lecturing others about the oppressive nature of the US; but here you are arguing I should be knowingly providing material support to a genocidal regime, because everyone has done it.

If I want arguments with Wumao, I'll go to Twitter. Stop wasting my time.

Again with that straw man argument? I didn't say you *should* knowingly provide material support to a genocidal regime. Don't. But likely you do anyway. Because it's apparent that you don't have a list of pure & innocent countries from which you exclusively buy photo gear. Instead of a clear standard, you have a slippery slope that lets you buy photo gear from countries that committed & completed such grave crimes in the past, and not even the distant past.

Besides, with so many US companies sending production to China, and importing from China, few Americans have the luxury of avoiding such items entirely. I suspect you own a lot more items made in China than you know or admit.

You were very eager to start an argument about buying photo gear, but now that you've been challenged, you don't seem to want your time "wasted".

Edited: upon reflection, I don't even care enough to respond any further.


I believe that most Nikon lenses are made in Thailand. Parts come from a lot of places, including China.

Whatever lens you buy, some or most of the parts were sourced in China. It is the modern electronics industry.

Not for long. The commercial risk is manifesting, and companies are leaving China.

You can not like China and probably have good reason, but they aren't going away. They are pretty much on an equal footing with the USA in terms of the magnitude of their economy. Stuff is going to continue to be made there. They have like 3 or 4 times the labor pool that we do, they are increasingly well educated, and you couldn't pay westerners to do many of these jobs. Sorry.

Given that most people aren't paying attention, you can be forgiven.

Our economies are decoupling.

And no, "stuff" will not continue to be made there; at least not for export to our nations.

Edit: yes, I can support this. We can start here if you like:

"A study by the UBS Evidence Lab found that a staggering 76% of US companies with factories in China were in the process of or considering moving operations to other countries in 2020."

That statement is meaningless. Companies are in the process of "considering" moving operations all the time. Sometimes China is a good fit, sometimes not. I have seen operations move in and out of China in my industry and it generally depends on production volume, support, adjacent businesses, etc. But, keep thinking that China is going away.

They actually are leaving in large numbers.

As I said, the commercial calculus has changed.

But screw it, you can use a search engine, or not.

"Can't pay Westerners that low of a wage".... Corrected it for you.

How much will it take for you to quit your current job and work long hours in some dank factory away from your family making plastic parts or tee shirts?

It's like everyone whining about immigrants from down South. How much money will it take for you to shingle roofs or lay asphalt all summer in Texas?

I like my office job.

Apparently that went way over your head.

China makes just $8.46 from each iPhone. Stop buying from China probably hurt yourself more than hurting them. American companies set up factories in China and India. Leave pollutions there, and blame them for polluting the earth. You should bring them all back to America. Let yourself rip yourself off, then you have no one else to blame.

“Why do most Americans need jobs when we have the Fed? There’s plenty of people in China and India willing to do the work for us and make everything that we need. It’s not like we have to worry about running out of paper and ink, as most of the dollars don’t need to be printed.” - Peter Schiff

Don’t think the world owe you. Your way of printing dollars astronomically out of nothing and exporting inflation has hurt the global south badly.

Zeissiez from South East Asia

As per my previous comment, the CCP are an ethno-nationalist genocidal regime; this is about having actual principles, as opposed to buying cheap stuff.

Even AP has finally admitted it’s no genocide, now the new narrative is cultural genocide. No one here believe all those warmongering BS similar to the Weapon of Mass Destruction.

Congratulations on swallowing the CCP media propaganda pill, maybe move to China to complete the cycle?

What’s between you and China and Russia, I don’t care. I don’t want my kids to consume lies every time the TV is turned on. Mainstream media has turned the world upside down.

It'll make an ideal kit lens.

It's hard to understand Nikon's thinking here. They already have 3 versions of the 24-70mm lens for the Z system, and now they introduce what is essentially a fourth lens covering the same focal length. Meanwhile, the Z system is still missing basic lenses such as a 35mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4. The larger diameter of the Z system lens mount means Nikon can create f1.2 versions of these lenses and perhaps this is taking longer than expected. But I still can't help but thinking that Nikon just hasn't gotten it right when it comes to the order in which they have chosen to release lenses for the Z system.

I wouldn't hold your breath for f/1.4 lenses. We're just going to see f/1.2 and f/1.8 lenses, which is smart in my opinion. Exceptions would be something like the 105mm, which definitely wouldn't be f/1.2.

I don't see the problem with this lens, given that Nikon almost certainly didn't put many resources into it. It's not like they focused on this instead of something else. But, I do wish it had been the 70-210/4 or the 70-180/2.8. The Nikkor AF-S 70-200/4 is a great lens and not everyone needs or wants the bulk, weight, and price of an f/2.8 70-200 lens.

Or even a budget-friendly version, like a mirrorless 70-300/3.5-5.6 would make me happy.

A non S-line budget f/2.8 zoom for the more entry level end of their line-up. I don't find that hard to understand. It seems like it was low-hanging fruit, as the cliché goes.

It’s very easy to understand. Tamron 28-75 2.8 was the best selling lens in the whole world. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a smart choice by them or that they will succeed.

I have Sony version and I like it, but Nikon is asking to much. I think Nikon still are a good option if you have legacy lenses. But with a not yet so good AF and expensive lenses it’s not so easy to jump ship. I suppose Canon is worse in terms of price. Still many DSLR users with legacy glass have good options with there own brand. Or if money is no object maybe.
It’s kind of ironic Sony is the better option if you want a mirror less system. Because there are so many lenses to choose from. That was not the case a few years ago.

I don’t know what Nikon did with Cosina but rebranded Tamron lenses at much higher price would be quite offensive. Even if it adds value to have Nikon firmware for auto focus, that feels good.

Nikon will have a tough time catching up.
There may be room for them

The first gen Tamron 28-75 on infrared converted Sony cameras did very well for IR. Maybe it will be the same on this Nikon branded lens.

It's worth noting that rebranding of third-party lenses by camera manufacturers, along with a price premium, has industry precedence. The Tamron SP AF 28-75 2.8 was sold under the Konica-Minolta label as the cheaper non-G option, as well as the A-mount Sony 28-75 2.8 SAM. Leica also had various SLR standard zooms manufactured by Sigma and Kyocera/Yashica. (AFAIK Pentax has done this with 24-70 and 70-210 Tamrons as well, but I'm happy to stand corrected.)

Personally I'm fine with this new Nikon lens as long as it performs well at 2.8 and handles auto-area AF-F competently in video. Guaranteed future firmware support and lens software profiling is also reassuring. I'm currently using a gigantic 24-70E+FTZ, so any weight savings is appreciated.

I am not sure why this lens announcement has been dunked on. I got myself on the list to buy one upon release. Why? Because 24-70 is not a lens I like, but it is sometimes the lens I need. I rarely shoot photos with my zooms if I can avoid it. There's no point in putting anything but high quality primes on a Z7 for photos. You're wasting the sensor's resolution. And for the price of the Z24-70 f2.8 you can almost buy f1.8 24, 50, and 85's that will get you faster, better image quality. I've also got f Mount Sigma 1.4 primes that are even better. When I do need a 24-70 normal zoom it's for versatility, and then an f4 becomes a hindrance in anything but great lighting conditions. Thus, it was unpalatable for me to spend $3k on a Z 24-70 f2.8 to use as a backup. But for $1200 the new 28-70 represents a great value, particularly for shooting video on a gimbal. If the image quality isn't as good as the more expensive lens I'll never see it shooting 4k video. Thanks Nikon!

considering that the nikon z5 - at $1300 is the least expensive full-frame camera with ibis, a reasonably priced "normal" zoom is in greater demand than any exotica

By branding it 'nikon" rather than just leaving the field for 3-party marketers, thy're obviously driven by economics rather than by esthetics

Why waste money on the Z lens?
A Tamron G1 rebranded as Nikon lens costing more than the Tamron G2 lens.