Nikon Z 40mm f/2 vs. Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8: Lens Showdown for the Modern Photographer

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Are you an ardent photographer in pursuit of your next perfect lens? Whether you’re delving into the intricacies of street photography, capturing memorable portraits, or exploring the mesmerizing world of macro, the selection of the right lens can be a game-changer. Enter the arena: the versatile Nikon Z 40mm f/2 and the precise Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8.

Our comprehensive comparison of these two photographic stalwarts will guide you through the maze of technical jargon, provide you with practical insights and present real-world applications for each lens. As we delve deeper into the distinctive features of each lens, we’ll dissect everything from sharpness to bokeh, aberration control to distortion handling, even throwing in user experience elements like autofocus performance and design ergonomics.

But why compare these two lenses, you might wonder? The answer lies in their unique strengths. The 40mm lens, with its wider field of view and compact design, is a favorite among street and portrait photographers, while the 50mm lens, known for its exceptional sharpness and macro capabilities, appeals to those who value detail and precision.

More importantly, this article isn’t just about pitting one lens against the other – it’s about discovering which one aligns best with your photographic endeavors. By understanding the pros and cons of each, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that caters to your style, preferences, and the genres of photography that ignite your passion.

So, strap in and get ready for an enlightening journey into the world of photography lenses. By the end of this guide, you’ll not only be well-versed with these two contenders but also one step closer to capturing those stunning shots you’ve been envisioning. Let’s dive right in and unlock your photography potential!


Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 50mm F2.8
Max ApertureF2F2.8
Aperture TypeFixedFixed
Focal Range (mm)4050
Mount TypeNikon ZNikon Z
Max Format35mm FF35mm FF

Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it has a maximum aperture of f/2, which is wider than that of the 50mm lens. This wider aperture allows more light into the camera, enhancing performance in low-light conditions. This could potentially allow for faster shutter speeds or lower ISO settings, resulting in cleaner, sharper images.

The wider aperture also facilitates a shallower depth of field, useful for isolating subjects and creating a pleasing background blur. However, if the primary usage of the lens is landscape or architectural photography, this larger aperture becomes less critical as those genres often require a deeper depth of field to keep the entire scene in focus.

Moving onto the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8, it’s a macro lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The narrower aperture could potentially limit performance in low-light conditions. The fact that it’s a macro lens makes it highly useful for capturing close-up details with high clarity, something the 40mm lens might not excel at.

Both lenses have fixed apertures, meaning they maintain the same maximum aperture throughout the zoom range, which enhances image quality and low light performance. Additionally, both lenses are designed for the Nikon Z mount and support 35mm full-frame format, ensuring compatibility and performance with Nikon’s mirrorless cameras.

Based on the above comparison, the 40mm lens would be better for situations requiring a wider field of view, better low light performance, or a more shallow depth of field, such as street or travel photography. The 50mm lens, on the other hand, would be superior for close-up detailed work, such as macro photography, or situations where a deeper depth of field is necessary.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 50mm F2.8
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀70×45.5mm⌀74.5×66mm
Weight (gr)170260
Filter Thread (mm)5246
Weather SealingNoYes
Distance ScaleNoNo
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedNoYes

The Nikon Z 40mm f/2, with a diameter and length of ⌀70×45.5mm and weight of 170 grams, is smaller and lighter than the 50mm lens. This compactness and lightness confer several benefits. Its size makes it more portable, meaning it’s less cumbersome to carry around, especially during lengthy shoots or when travelling.

The reduced weight also contributes to a more balanced camera setup, minimizing any front-heavy feeling and allowing more comfortable handling of the camera. This can be particularly advantageous during extended shoots where a heavier lens could lead to fatigue.

In terms of discretion, especially for street photography, the smaller size of the 40mm lens can help you blend in and capture candid moments without drawing undue attention. From a storage perspective, its compactness means it takes up less room in your camera bag, allowing for additional gear or a lighter, more manageable bag. Lastly, the lighter weight can ease lens swapping in fast-paced shooting scenarios.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 has a larger diameter and length of ⌀74.5×66mm and is heavier, weighing in at 260 grams. While this increased size and weight can potentially offer more sturdiness and stability, they can also pose some challenges. This lens may be more tiresome to carry around due to its weight, and its larger size could make it more conspicuous in public settings.

The lens’s heft could also render your camera setup front-heavy and affect balance, potentially complicating handling during prolonged shoots. From a storage standpoint, its larger dimensions might occupy more space in your camera bag, reducing room for other gear. The greater weight could also make swapping lenses a bit more challenging in rapidly changing situations.

If portability, discretion, and ease of handling are high priorities for you, the 40mm lens may be the superior choice. However, if you don’t mind the additional weight and size and perhaps prefer the potential stability they offer, you might find the 50mm lens more appealing.

Lens Mount and Barrel

Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, its mount is constructed of plastic. This lightweight material contributes to the lens’s portability, making it a solid option for photographers on the go or those with budget constraints. However, the absence of a rubber gasket for additional weather sealing implies that it may not be the best choice for outdoor shoots under variable weather conditions. The plastic mount, while practical, might be more prone to deterioration over time, especially when interfacing with the metal parts of the camera.

Turning to the lens barrel, it is also crafted predominantly from plastic. Again, this contributes to its light weight and compact nature, enhancing its portability and making it affordable. However, the usage of plastic might raise some concerns about long-term durability for users. The barrel’s design, clean and simple, reinforces its straightforward usage philosophy, which many photographers might find appealing.

In contrast, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 features a robust metal lens mount, which affords a strong connection to the camera body and assures durability. A significant advantage it holds over the 40mm lens is the presence of a rubber gasket for weather sealing. This feature, together with additional weather sealing elements, make this lens more resistant to dust and moisture, a valuable trait for outdoor shooting. The eleven gold-plated contact points inside also ensure efficient signal transmission between the lens and the camera.

As for the lens barrel of the 50mm lens, it’s primarily composed of polycarbonate, a type of plastic known for its lightweight properties. While it may not feel as professional as a metal barrel, it doesn’t compromise on performance and contributes positively to the lens’s portability. The lens’s ergonomic design and the extending inner barrel system enhance user-friendly operation and provide versatility for focusing on close subjects.

In conclusion, the 40mm lens, with its lightweight plastic construction, is an affordable and portable choice, well-suited for photographers who need to move around a lot. However, for those who value sturdier construction, weather resistance, and enhanced performance, the 50mm lens, with its metal mount and comprehensive weather sealing, is the superior option despite its potentially higher cost.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 presents a basic level of weather sealing. It has some internal seals for drip resistance located at the focus ring and the front of the barrel. These seals can offer minimal protection from elements like dust and light splashes of water. However, the absence of a rubber gasket at the lens mount may expose it to potential dust and water intrusions. Though it employs an internal focusing mechanism which curtails the inflow of air and dust during operation, this lens seems less prepared for intense outdoor usage or extreme weather conditions.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 goes a notch higher with a more comprehensive weather-sealing design. A rubber grommet at the lens mount acts as a first line of defense against dust and moisture, ensuring the internal components stay protected. This is further bolstered by special weather-sealing elements peppered throughout the lens’s construction, including seals on switches and the front of the barrel. An added layer of protection comes from the fluorine coating on the front lens element, which prevents dust, dirt, and smudges from accumulating, while making the lens easier to clean. This lens is clearly better equipped to handle a range of outdoor environments and unpredictable weather conditions.

In the end, the choice comes down to where and how you intend to use the lens. If you’re often working in controlled indoor environments, the 40mm lens could suffice. However, if you’re venturing into outdoor settings or harsh weather conditions, the superior weather sealing of the 50mm lens would offer the resilience and peace of mind needed for such demanding scenarios. The 50mm lens clearly outperforms the 40mm lens in terms of weather sealing, providing a more robust and comprehensive protection system against environmental factors.


The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 has a single 16mm-wide control ring located near the front of the lens, cloaked in a rubberized material for an enhanced grip and tactile experience. The smooth rotation of the ring allows for effortless adjustments, facilitating precision and control. The ergonomic design, with its comfortable width, caters to different hand sizes, making it an adaptable option for varied users.

Its versatility is further exemplified by its multi-functionality, as the control ring can also handle functions like aperture adjustment, exposure compensation, and ISO, depending on the camera model. However, the ring’s responsiveness can occasionally lead to unintended changes in settings, which may cause a bit of inconvenience. The lens utilizes plastic for its construction, which, while not as premium-feeling as metal, lends itself to a lighter, more portable lens. The trade-off, however, might be a slight compromise in durability.

In contrast, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 features a prominent control ring that also acts as the focus ring. This 24mm-wide ring, located around the middle section of the lens barrel, is ridged for a superior grip, providing a satisfying tactile experience. The dampening of the ring strikes an excellent balance between effort and precision, enabling precise focusing.

An interesting feature of this ring is the absence of hard stops, which requires some estimation when focusing to infinity. The control ring is multi-functional and can be utilized for adjusting aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation, especially when in autofocus mode. Markings on the lens barrel for distances 1:1, 1:1.4, and 1:2 serve as a rudimentary distance scale, appearing at the front as the focus ring is turned. Although the manual focusing distance is commendable, some lag is noted when the lens is significantly out of focus.

In conclusion, both lenses offer unique benefits in terms of ring design. The 40mm lens shines in its ergonomics and ease of use, whereas the 50mm lens boasts better precision and grip, despite requiring some focus estimation. When evaluating the overall design and functionality, the 50mm lens, with its superior grip, wider control ring, and multi-functionality, appears to offer a more refined user experience, making it the superior choice in terms of ring design.


The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 opts for a minimalist design with an absence of switches or buttons. Notably, it lacks an autofocus/manual focus (AF/MF) switch, a common feature in other lenses. As a result, users must access the camera’s AF settings to disable autofocus, which could be less convenient for those used to on-lens switches. There is no focus limiter, image stabilization switch, or stabilizer switch, with the lens relying on camera-integrated stabilization, such as in the Z9 model.

Further, it excludes features like focus or depth-of-field scales, an infrared focus index, or focus lock buttons. While the lack of these features may limit some of the lens’s functionality, this stripped-back design contributes to its lightness and compactness, making it an excellent travel companion and suitable for prolonged use.

In contrast, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is equipped with two switches designed for simplicity and ease of use. The A-M switch, strategically placed on the lens barrel, allows quick transitions between autofocus and manual focus modes. The range limiter, a boon for macro photography, enables users to set the focus range to full or limit it to a specific range, speeding up focusing for close subjects. It’s worth noting that this lens allows autofocus override using the manual focusing ring, even in autofocus mode.

However, the lens does not offer any additional buttons or LCD displays found in more advanced models, emphasizing ease of use over extensive functionality. Despite this, the lens’s switches and control ring are well-crafted, offering smooth operation and positive tactile feedback.

In conclusion, while the 40mm lens benefits from its minimalist design and compactness, the 50mm lens offers better control and functionality with its included switches. If the ease of use and quick focusing transitions are of high importance, the 50mm lens, with its well-placed and practical switches, would be the superior choice.

Filter Thread

The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 employs a 52mm filter thread, a standard size known for its universal compatibility. This wide availability of 52mm filters benefits photographers who frequently use filters as part of their work or creative process. Though the lens has a plastic thread, which might be perceived as less durable than its metal counterpart, it plays a significant role in maintaining the lens’s light weight and cost-effectiveness.

A crucial design feature to note is that the filter thread doesn’t rotate when focusing, a desirable attribute when using polarizing filters or graduated neutral density filters which demand a fixed orientation to perform effectively. The non-rotating feature, coupled with internal focusing, ensures that the physical size remains constant during focusing, thereby providing hassle-free use when filters are attached.

Contrastingly, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 uses a slightly unconventional 46mm filter thread, a size not as commonly found as the 52mm in the 40mm lens or the 62mm found in lenses such as the 60mm F-Nikkor. While this necessitates purchasing new 46mm filters, it could open up the possibility of using unique filters exclusive to this size.

Similar to the 40mm lens, the 50mm lens has a plastic filter thread, aligning with the lightweight design principle. Furthermore, this lens also boasts the non-rotating front element and filter thread during focusing, offering the same advantage for specific filter types that the 40mm lens does.

Ultimately, if you value wide compatibility and availability of filters, the 40mm lens, with its standard 52mm filter thread, may be the preferred choice. However, if you’re interested in exploring the potentials of an uncommon filter size, the 50mm lens with its 46mm thread could provide a unique avenue for creative exploration.

Lens Hood

Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it’s notable that this lens does not come packaged with a lens hood. This decision by Nikon seems to be a measure to keep the lens cost-effective and affordable. However, the lack of a hood means you’ll have to find an aftermarket solution if you wish to shield the front element from excessive light or provide additional physical protection. Any alternative you choose will need to match the lens’s 52mm filter attachment thread.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 comes with a high-quality plastic lens hood – specifically, the HN-41, which is a 46mm screw-in type. This design allows for smooth rotation and secure attachment to the lens. Despite these perks, the lens hood’s depth is only 6mm and needs to be mounted in the filter thread, which could limit its effectiveness in preventing lens flare. Additionally, the hood’s small size and mounting style could make it easy to lose or misplace. The lens is also compatible with another hood, the HN-30, which is a 62mm screw-in type made of metal. This secondary hood provides more protection to the internal optical assembly, though it’s not included and would have to be purchased separately.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 50mm F2.8
AF MotorStepper motorStepper motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.29m0.16m
Max Magnification (X)0.171
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalExtending front

Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it boasts a minimum focus distance (MFD) of 0.29m. This specification, in practical terms, means that you can get quite close to your subject while still maintaining sharp focus. This closeness can capture a significant amount of detail and texture, making this lens suitable for casual close-up work, but its utility may be limited in traditional macro photography due to the greater MFD.

Moreover, the maximum magnification of the 40mm lens is 0.17x, allowing the subject to be rendered on the camera’s sensor at just over one-sixth of its actual size. This is beneficial for highlighting larger details, but for true macro work where minute details are the goal, this may fall short.

The 40mm lens also utilizes an internal focusing mechanism, which means the lens doesn’t physically extend or retract as you adjust focus. This method reduces the likelihood of introducing dust or other particles into the lens and maintains a consistent lens length. Furthermore, the inclusion of Full-Time Manual Focus (FTMF) is a valuable feature, allowing photographers to fine-tune the focus manually without switching from autofocus mode, perfect for precise focusing needs.

Turning our attention to the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8, we find some compelling differences. Firstly, it provides a shorter MFD of just 0.16m, enabling the lens to get remarkably close to the subject. This feature is crucial for macro photography, capturing minute details of smaller subjects like insects or small plants that would otherwise be lost.

The maximum magnification for the 50mm lens is 1.0x, also known as life-size or true macro. This lens can capture the subject at the exact size as it exists in reality on the sensor, making it the ideal lens for detailed and impactful macro photography.

However, unlike the 40mm lens, the 50mm lens uses an extending front focusing method, meaning the lens physically extends as you get closer to your subject. Although this method might introduce more external elements into the lens, the close-up capabilities it offers might be worth the trade-off for macro enthusiasts. Like the 40mm lens, it also offers the advantage of Full-Time Manual Focus, allowing for those necessary final tweaks in focus after autofocusing.

In conclusion, while both lenses bring unique features to the table, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is superior in terms of macro photography due to its shorter minimum focus distance and higher maximum magnification. These characteristics make it a stellar choice for those looking to delve into the intricate details of their subjects. Nonetheless, the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 is a solid choice for those wanting a versatile lens capable of performing well in various scenarios, including casual close-up photography.

Focusing Performance

When it comes to focusing performance, both the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 and the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 each have their strengths and potential areas of improvement.

Starting with the 40mm lens, it boasts fast and generally accurate autofocus, achieving focus from infinity to 0.46m in about 0.3 seconds when paired with a Nikon Z7. However, it tends to struggle slightly when focusing from the minimum object distance and this issue could be amplified in low-light conditions. Its autofocus motor runs silently, making it a great option for videographers. The lens employs an internal focusing design which is beneficial as the lens length remains constant during focusing.

Additionally, it allows for a smooth manual focus override by simply turning the focus ring. However, it does exhibit minimal focus breathing, causing a slight change in the image’s magnification as you adjust focus. Yet, with only about 2% change in magnification, it’s hardly noticeable and unlikely to be distracting during video shooting.

In contrast, the 50mm lens provides a good autofocus performance, taking about 0.5 seconds to focus from infinity to 0.59m, with minimal focus variation across different distances. However, some focus hunting can occur when the lens is far out of focus, and there can be slight delays in focus acquisition when transitioning between different types of subjects. Its low-light performance could also be improved. The lens is somewhat noisy, emitting a low hum during autofocus operations, but this is quieter when recording video using the built-in microphone. It also supports manual focus override, allowing the user to easily switch to manual focus when needed, although it may be less precise and responsive than a mechanical manual focus system.

Unlike the 40mm lens, the 50mm lens exhibits more noticeable focus breathing with about a 5% change in magnification, which could be visible and potentially distracting during video shooting. It incorporates a focus limiter switch, a feature not present in the 40mm lens, to reduce focus hunting during macro photography.

In sum, if rapid and quiet autofocus, along with minimal focus breathing, are top priorities, the 40mm lens is the superior choice, despite some struggles at minimum object distances. However, if you prioritize a lens with good focus accuracy across different distances, with a useful focus limiter feature for macro photography, and can tolerate some focus breathing, the 50mm lens may be better suited to your needs. Both lenses, however, could benefit from improvements in their low-light focus performance.

Optical Stabilization

When examining the optical stabilization in both the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 and Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8, it’s important to note that neither lens has built-in optical stabilization, also known as Vibration Reduction (VR) in Nikon terminology.

To begin with the 40mm lens, instead of optical stabilization, this lens leans on the In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) featured in certain Nikon camera bodies, such as the full-frame Z-mount bodies. The degree of stabilization offered is the equivalent to approximately 3 stops. This indicates you could potentially use shutter speeds around three times slower than what would normally be possible without inducing blur due to camera shake. This is a substantial benefit for circumstances where a slower shutter speed might be desired, such as low-light situations, and it also helps in capturing steadier video footage.

On the other hand, the 50mm lens doesn’t have any inherent optical stabilization either. Its performance, therefore, relies heavily on the presence of IBIS in the camera body. Without optical stabilization, the lens could face challenges in macro photography, where even slight camera shakes can introduce noticeable blurring, particularly when shooting handheld with a magnified view.

Image Quality

Nikon NIKKOR Z 40mm F2Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 50mm F2.8
Special Elements2 aspherical elements, Super Integrated Coating1 ASPH
Diaphragm Blades99


The 40mm and 50mm lenses exhibit different levels of optical aberrations, which may impact the image quality.

Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it suffers from a certain degree of chromatic aberration, particularly noticeable as longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCA). This aberration typically presents itself as purple and green hues around areas of sharp focus to blur transitions, becoming more pronounced at wider apertures such as f/2.0 and f/2.8. Correcting LoCA in post-processing can be challenging, and its presence can be more distinct in high-contrast situations.

The lens also demonstrates a significant amount of spherical aberration, known as spherochromatism. It shows itself as colored fringes around out-of-focus objects, particularly at larger apertures, and can be quite visually distracting. However, Nikon’s Z cameras offer in-camera corrections, which can effectively suppress lateral chromatic aberration and provide solutions for other aberrations, such as distortion and falloff.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 showcases excellent control over chromatic aberrations. Hardly any chromatic aberrations are discernible, even when used in high-contrast situations that would typically provoke such issues. The lens also exhibits little to no LoCA, even at macro distances, which is a marked advantage over the 40mm lens. The lens does display a touch of loCA at standard distances and during close-up shooting, but it’s not overly intrusive.

Spherical aberration is well-managed, leading to fewer focus shift issues, and the lens shows limited spherochromatism, a blend of spherical and chromatic aberrations, especially at wider apertures. Coma, a type of aberration causing “comet-like” distortions, is slightly more present but doesn’t significantly impair the image quality.

Considering the control and minimization of different types of aberrations, the 50mm lens exhibits superior performance. Its ability to handle chromatic and spherical aberrations, in particular, contributes to delivering cleaner and sharper images, even under challenging conditions. Therefore, it would be an excellent choice for photographers who value optical precision and image clarity.


Leading with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it impresses with its sharpness across different aperture settings and distances. Its central sharpness shines through right from f/2, maintaining consistency up to f/11. Even at f/16, where diffraction tends to limit sharpness, the lens still provides appreciable detail. The corner sharpness also stands out.

Although there’s a minor setback with sagittal coma flare at f/2, the sharpness gains momentum from f/2.8, reaching an impressive level by f/4 where the image appears sharp corner to corner. The peak corner sharpness is observed between f/5.6 to f/11, offering an optimum range for the best image detail.

Transitioning to the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8, it displays remarkable sharpness, particularly in the center of the frame, even at wide-open apertures. However, the sharpness subtly softens at smaller apertures such as f/22 and f/25, but the effect is scarcely perceptible in normally viewed images. The sharpest output, especially towards the frame edges, is often observed between f/8 and f/22. Although the sharpness at f/5.6 is impressive, a comparison with f/8 reveals a slight drop in contrast and detail.

The lens performs exceptionally well at f/8 and f/11, suggesting these are the ideal apertures for maximum sharpness and detail. Despite the marginal softness at f/16, the overall performance remains commendable. It should be noted, however, that at macro shooting distances, the lens does not perform as admirably and it is recommended to avoid stopping down too much.

Considering the performance across different apertures and distances, the 50mm lens demonstrates an edge over the 40mm lens in terms of overall sharpness. Despite the 40mm lens offering strong sharpness, particularly at the center and from f/5.6 in the corners, the 50mm lens’s impressive sharpness, even at wide apertures and consistent performance across a range of apertures, make it the superior choice for those seeking optimal detail and clarity in their images.

Bokeh Quality

Taking a close look at the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, its bokeh quality is characterized by a smooth and pleasing blur, particularly when shooting close to the subject with a wide aperture of f/2. This quality makes it adept at creating a significant subject-background separation with a softer defocused backdrop. Contributing to this smoothness is the lens’s nine-blade diaphragm, which lends a rounded and uniform appearance to the bokeh.

However, it’s not without its flaws. The bokeh may appear somewhat busy and distracting in moderately defocused areas, particularly if the background isn’t sufficiently distant from the subject. There’s also a possibility of mild longitudinal chromatic aberration visible in bokeh highlights under challenging lighting conditions, although its impact on the overall aesthetic of the image is minimal.

Turning our attention to the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8, it produces a range of bokeh effects contingent on the shooting conditions. In macro photography, the bokeh tends to be smooth and attractive, creating a pleasant blend of tones. Similarly, with evenly lit backgrounds, the bokeh appears pleasing. But certain conditions can pose challenges. For instance, backlit subjects may produce noticeable highlight outlining, even at wider apertures, resulting in a less desirable bokeh effect in some close-ups. There’s also mention of the “cat’s eye” bokeh at wide apertures in the corners, which might not be to everyone’s taste.

Notably, the lens tends to create smaller bokeh balls, potentially disappointing those who prefer a pronounced bokeh effect. At times, the bokeh can appear somewhat busy, with minor edge halos and longitudinal chromatic aberration. However, it’s worth noting that these characteristics don’t draw unnecessary attention, and depending on the photographer’s aesthetic preference, might even add character to the images.

In summary, both lenses offer distinctive bokeh quality. The 40mm lens produces a smoother and generally more pleasing blur, although with minor issues in moderately defocused areas. The 50mm lens, on the other hand, offers a versatile bokeh that can cater to a wide range of styles and preferences, but with some minor shortcomings under certain conditions. If one had to choose a superior in terms of bokeh quality, it would be the 40mm lens, primarily for its smooth and generally pleasing defocused effects. However, the decision ultimately hinges on the photographer’s specific needs and aesthetic preferences.


Examining the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 first, it showcases some evidence of flare and ghosting when subjected to strong light sources. When the light directly hits the lens, visible ghosts and flares manifest, but they are contrasted by rather dark blacks outside these areas, maintaining an acceptable contrast ratio in the scene.

Additionally, at smaller apertures such as f/16, a noticeable flare, particularly a red dot, can be detected. Accompanying this is some rainbow-colored flare right at the light source, regardless of aperture values. In contrast, the lens shows exceptional ghosting performance. There’s minimal ghosting in the images captured in several instances, indicating impressive control. Despite certain flare and ghosting occurrences, the lens generally handles these effects well in a variety of shooting conditions.

Turning to the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8, it demonstrates a certain susceptibility to flare and ghosting, particularly with direct and angled light sources. Veiling flare, which can diminish contrast, is more prominent than desirable. While it can be mitigated to an extent during post-processing, the presence of such flare might not be ideal for all photographers.

Testing against strong light sources revealed that the lens hood was not overly effective in suppressing glare and ghosting, potentially leading to light streaks when the light source is just outside the frame’s corner. However, the lens manages to stay relatively flare-free even when pointed directly toward the sun. It’s worth noting that the degree of ghosting and flare will be influenced by several factors like the light source’s angle and intensity, the aperture setting, and the composition of the shot.

In conclusion, while both lenses show a degree of flare and ghosting under certain conditions, the 40mm lens tends to manage these effects better, particularly in terms of ghosting. While the 50mm lens remains reasonably flare-free when pointed toward the sun, its susceptibility to flare and ghosting under certain conditions makes it slightly less ideal. Thus, in terms of flare and ghosting control, the 40mm lens exhibits a superior performance.


Starting with the Nikon Z 40mm f/2, it presents noticeable vignetting particularly at wider apertures like f/2, especially when shooting at infinity focus. However, this effect is considerably mitigated through in-camera corrections or with the aid of software like Adobe Lightroom, which provides a one-click profile correction for the lens. In fact, even when the default vignette correction is intentionally disabled, the vignetting doesn’t overwhelm the image, hence it isn’t overly disruptive.

Moreover, this lens allows for the accommodation of multiple stacked filters without inducing any additional vignetting. The visibility of vignetting reduces significantly when shooting at apertures like f/2.8 or f/4, specifically with the help of software corrections. There is an observed slight contrast drop when bright light sources are in play at wide apertures, but this is more attributed to lens flare than vignetting. Thus, while vignetting is present, it’s considered manageable and doesn’t strongly compromise the image quality.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 demonstrates significant vignetting, predominantly when used at wide apertures. Particularly at an aperture of f/2.8, the corners of the images darken by about 2EV. The vignetting effect lessens as the aperture is stopped down to f/4 or f/5.6, but it doesn’t disappear completely. The in-camera vignette control provides some relief but doesn’t wholly erase the effect. At closer ranges or macro distances, the vignetting effect is less pronounced and can be largely disregarded. When the Vignette control is set to high, it assists further in mitigating the darkening effect by lifting the image’s corners.

However, it’s worth remembering that at maximum aperture, vignetting remains sufficiently noticeable. Adobe’s RAW converter applies vignette control based on the setting in the camera, but it cannot be adjusted in post-processing. Despite these observations, there are cases where vignetting might enhance a photograph’s aesthetic allure, depending on the artist’s intent.

Upon contrasting both lenses, it’s evident that while both exhibit vignetting to some extent, the 40mm lens offers better control over this optical effect, especially with the aid of software corrections. While the 50mm lens does have some measures to control vignetting, it remains fairly noticeable at wider apertures and cannot be fully removed. Therefore, from a vignetting control perspective, the 40mm lens exhibits superior performance.


The Nikon Z 40mm f/2 exhibits commendably low distortion, registering only around 0.62% barrel distortion in controlled tests. Any visible distortion is swiftly dealt with using Adobe Lightroom’s built-in profile for this lens, making the distortion nearly invisible in actual usage, even for subjects with straight lines such as architecture.

However, there might be some barrel distortion noticeable if you’re shooting in RAW format without applying distortion correction. Fortunately, this minor distortion is easily handled once auto-correction is enabled. Keep in mind that these minor distortions are often more noticeable in lab tests than in day-to-day photography scenarios. Therefore, despite the measurable distortion, it shouldn’t dramatically affect the lens’s overall performance for the majority of photography applications.

On the other hand, the Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 also displays minimal distortion, which becomes even less when corrected either in-camera or during post-processing. It exhibits less than 1% pincushion distortion uncorrected, which is negligible in practical use. At macro distances or during close-up shots, the distortion is barely noticeable. The lens also displays almost indiscernible pincushion distortion even when in-camera corrections are turned off, and any distortion can be entirely corrected using software like Photoshop’s lens correction filter.

However, mild pincushion distortion might be observed when shooting from a distance, but the lens profile efficiently corrects this. If the working distance is close and the subjects are three-dimensional, any perceived distortion might be more a result of the short working distance and perspective rendition than a genuine optical problem with the lens.

Comparing the two lenses, both perform exceptionally well in managing distortion. The 40mm lens shows minor barrel distortion, and the 50mm lens shows slight pincushion distortion, but these are efficiently corrected in post-processing or with in-camera settings. However, the 40mm lens, with its lower measurable distortion and its more straightforward correction using Lightroom’s profile, takes a slight edge. Therefore, when it comes to handling distortion, the 40mm lens comes out slightly ahead, making it the preferable choice in this aspect.

Final Verdict

In final consideration, both the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 and Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 cater to different photography genres and user preferences, each excelling in distinct areas.

The 40mm lens, with its wider field of view, shines in scenarios demanding a broader perspective like street or travel photography. Its better low light performance and shallower depth of field also make it apt for portraits. Its discreet nature and ease of handling, paired with its quick and quiet autofocus, makes it suitable for unobtrusive shooting in bustling environments. Its compact and lightweight design serves as an advantage for photographers on the move. In terms of image quality, this lens manages flare, ghosting, and vignetting better, and offers a generally pleasing bokeh effect.

On the contrary, the 50mm lens, a macro lens, excels in close-up detailed work such as macro photography or situations demanding a deeper depth of field. However, its superior sharpness, better aberration control, and focus accuracy across different distances also make it a compelling choice for portrait, landscape, and even event photography. Its better control and functionality, attributed to its design and well-placed switches, provide an enhanced user experience. Despite lacking in optical stabilization, its robust construction and superior weather sealing make it a resilient choice for outdoor shooting and harsh conditions.

In terms of image quality, the 50mm lens showcases an edge with overall sharpness, distortion control, and a versatile bokeh that caters to diverse styles. Its ability to handle chromatic and spherical aberrations contributes to delivering cleaner and sharper images.

In conclusion, the 40mm lens is a versatile, user-friendly option for casual photographers and those who require lightweight gear for on-the-go shooting. The 50mm lens, however, is a more professional tool designed for precision and durability, suitable for photographers who value optical precision and versatility. Both lenses hold their own merits and would be superior choices in their respective suitable scenarios.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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