14-200mm is not Enough

A couple of responses to my “When Will the Dam Break” took the form of “but Nikon already has the Z-mount lenses most people would use.” 

Yes, Nikon has basically equalled Sony in terms of f/2.8 zooms. I’d even argue that the full Nikon f/2.8 zoom trio is “better" than the current Sony trio (Sony’s 70-200mm f/2.8 apparently is going to have a new version soon, though). Yes, Nikon has the most-often-requested fast primes (e.g. 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm). Yes, Nikon now has a couple of really compact lenses (28mm f/2.8 and 40mm f/2, and some might count the 24-50mm kit zoom). Yes, Nikon has state-of-the-art travel zooms (24-70mm f/4 and 24-200mm f/4-6.3). Nikon now has two excellent macro lenses, too.

I’ve not argued that the 14-200mm range of Nikon’s Z lenses is particularly lacking. It isn’t. It just needs a bit more filling out (a 70-200mm f/4, more f/1.2 lenses, 28mm and 105mm f/1.8 are the ones that I think are the highest priority there). Pretty much every lens Nikon has produced in the 14-200mm range for the Z-mount is excellent at what it does.

So, yes, if you only photograph in the 14-200mm focal range, I can’t see any real reason why you’d be dissatisfied with Nikon’s options versus Sony’s (or Canon’s, or anyone’s). 

Unfortunately, perception is the problem. I’ve already outlined Nikon’s primary fault: the lineup ends at 200mm. Nikon simply wants you to use an FTZ adapter for telephoto at the moment, and that’s not a perfect solution (and you might not already have the lens you want, so buying an F-mount lens to put on a Z-mount camera isn’t a solution most want to pursue). 

If you argue with a Sony fan, it goes like this:

Sony fan: we have more lens choice (including seven prime lenses in the 40-55mm “normal” range).
Nikon fan: but Nikon’s equivalent lenses are better.
Sony fanWhat’s Nikon’s equivalent to the 105mm, the 70-300mm, 100-400mm, the 200-600mm?
Nikon fan: Two of those are in the Road Map.
Sony fan: I wasn’t even including third party lenses, where are they?
Nikon fan: We’ve got three Viltrox autofocus primes now.
Sony fan: Compared to what? 40 in the Sony FE mount? But what I meant is that we can buy an inexpensive third party f/2.8 zoom trio and you can’t, we can buy a third party long telephoto zoom that’s less expensive and you can’t. Need I go on?

Nikon can’t (currently) win the perception game. So the on-going Internet debates start Nikon in a hole. As you’re probably starting to figure out, influencers actually do influence. Catching up once you’re in a hole is harder than not starting in a hole, which was part of my point in my articles earlier. 

Long-term readers know that I write about “frictions” that make a company (or product) less efficient than it could be. Let’s count up Nikon’s Z-mount frictions:

  1. Last to market.
  2. Not open to third party support.
  3. Some Nikon lenses not fully usable on the FTZ adapter (e.g. screw drive focus lenses).
  4. Corporate downsizing slowed lens release as they consolidated manufacturing.
  5. The pandemic has slowed engineers getting manufacturing of new products up to speed, produced parts shortages, and has made shipping (supplies and final product) slower.

Only one of those is outside Nikon’s control. So how do you overcome those five frictions? In order:

  1. Be better. Produce better products. (I’ll give Nikon a solid B on this; A on quality, including image quality, C+ on features/diversity)
  2. Encourage third party support. (Nikon gets an F here; they just won’t do it)
  3. Introduce an additional adapter to address a three-year-old problem. (Nikon gets an Incomplete here; I’ll change that to an F at some point)
  4. Just saving money isn’t the only goal, making processes more efficient is important, too. (Hard to grade at the moment; I think I’d give them a B- if it weren’t for #5)
  5. Create new ways to work, have alternate parts sources/strategies, use alternate shipping choices, even if more expensive. (Nikon has done somewhat better than average here, believe it or not. I’ll call it a C+/B-)

#1 and #2 intersect highly with what I've been writing about in terms of lens options. Nikon’s done a partial job so far. They almost certainly require the third-party lens makers to start providing additional options in order for Nikon to not cede the #2 share in ILC permanently to Sony. So, yes, when the dam breaks is critical. Sooner is better than later for Nikon users and fans. 

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