The 20mm F1.8 has been one of my go-to lenses for landscape photography. Just a little wider than a 24mm, but not over the top like a 16mm…it just looks good to me when I frame up my landscape images. I knew this was a lens I wanted for my Nikon Z system, and I have now had a chance to use this incredible lens for a month.
The DSLR f1.8 20mm version was always sharp, and F1.8 gave it an edge as a night sky lens. More than a stop of light brighter than a F2.8 lens, this lens is my favorite for northern lights. Being able to use a faster shutter speed at night gives the aurora more definition. Comparing the Z version to the DSLR version, the first thing you notice is the Z version is much longer. The lenses actually seem to weigh about the same (Z version a few ounces heavier). One thing that did stay the same is the front filter size, 77mm. Great, I can use all my filters with this lens!
But what you won’t believe is the sharpness. Comparing both lenses at F1.8, the aperture I use photographing night scenes, aurora and stars, the new Z version just blows the old lens away. From 1.8 to 5.6, the new Z version is just way more sharp. From about F8 – F16, things get a little more even. If you shoot with lots of depth of field, say F11, you may consider using the DSLR version with an adapter and calling it good. But I shoot many landscapes in the 5.6 range, and the new Z lens is so sharp here I can never go back.
Combined with the image stabilization in the Z system, this morning I was shooting my Z7II hand held at sunrise high up on a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. I left the tripod in the car to go light and fast. Even hand held in low light, I got sharp photos, something I couldn’t have done with the D850 and DSLR 20mm F1.8 (no image stabilization). I clicked into manual focus mode on the lens, which turned on focus peaking, and this helped me choose the right focus point and aperture. You don’t always need F11 or F16 when you are shooting a 20mm, especially when you are not right on top of your foreground.
Yet again the Nikon Z system is showing is optical prowess, and buying a 20mm F1.8 was an obvious choice for me. This lens will almost always be in my pack, and my main lens for night photography. Cost is around $1000, money well spent for the years of use this lens is going to get.