Get Ready: We're in the Second Half

Sometimes when working on Web site updates and trying to get data all up-to-date and aligned, you discover interesting things. For example, I hadn't totally realized just how the Z-mount Nikkor lineup was progressing time-wise until I produced this chart for a site page:

bythom nikkorz timeline

Some observations:

  • Lens announcements are now more typical in the second half of the year. I don't remember this being the case with the F-mount, though spring/summer was often a common time for DSLR lens releases. Some of the apparent change has to do with the timing of the Z cameras themselves. Somehow Nikon got off the early year camera releases and is now in a late year release pattern with Z-mount (only two of the Z cameras were announced in the first half of a year, and that, only barely (June 29!). Since cameras and lenses go together, I suspect that the camera development release changes triggered Nikkor timing changes. We've only had seven Z-mount Nikkors announced in the first half of the calendar year, and two of those happened this year, which means they could have been delayed due to supply chain and logistics issues. By comparison, in the DSLR era, Nikon tended to launch cameras in the Jan/Feb, May, and July/August period. For Z's, that's been late June, July/August, and October. 
  • Only half the lens announcements happened without a camera the same month. I wrote about this years ago (decades ago?). Nikon likes to introduce things in small clusters, typically around camera introductions. Sometimes that cluster is related, but often Nikon throws in something for the "other" users (e.g. something DX with an FX announcement, as happened around the Z9). 
  • 2022 is the all-telephoto year so far. Two 400's and an 800 (woohoo, 1600!) with a 200-600mm expected any time now. It's possible that we'll get as many as six telephoto lenses in a 12-month period (100-400mm late last year and 85mm f/1.2 later this year). Heck, why not announce the 600mm f/4 this year, too, since it's overdue? ;~)
  • Someone missed the memo. The 120-300mm f/2.8E for the F-mount came right in the middle of the Z-Nikkor blitz (January 2020). I'd love to have been in the room when Nikon management argued whether to release this lens as F-mount or Z-mount. Or was it just really, really long overdue? Update: it was pointed out to me that the cancelled Olympics might have gotten in the way, that the D6+120-300mm f/2.8 were intended for that. Probably true, but also at the time they released it, Nikon almost certainly knew about the Z9 and its imminent need for lenses. There had to be discussions about this, and I just would have liked to have been in on them.
  • You can see concentrations. The macro lenses came together, as did two DX models and two of the superzooms (one DX, one FX). The 28mm and 40mm were likely originally going to be announced together, but the Zfc camera launch changed that with the 28mm f/2.8 SE being an early release.
  • 2022 is a wild card year. With only three lenses so far, either the supply chain issues are coming into play, or Nikon has a lot of lenses still coming this year. Remember, we have three lenses that were originally promised by the end of the 2022 fiscal year (which ended at the end of March 2022). I've long written that the usual Nikkor release number is between six and eight lenses a year. Six seems to be easily within Nikon's capability, while eight seems like years where they're stretched to get to that number. So how are they doing? 
    • 2018 — 5 (two F-mount)
    • 2019 — 7
    • 2020 — 7 (one F-mount)
    • 2021 — 9
    • 2022 — 3

The interesting conclusion from all this—assuming the supply chain doesn't preclude it—is that we're likely to get several lenses in the last half of this year. I would guess those would be the 12-28mm and 24mm DX, the 26mm pancake, the 85mm f/1.2 S, and the 200-600mm zoom. Which would bring us up to 8 lenses for 2022. Update: why not 600mm f/4? I suspect that Nikon's experience with the 400mm and 800mm lenses will tell them they need to build up more inventory prior to launching this lens. The line capacity for the exotics is limited, and Nikon has too much demand already.

Of course, the more interesting thing in looking at timings is that the camera introductions are now back-ended in the year, too. One would normally expect the III models to be late this year, though image sensor supply might have something to say about that, as I expect at least one of those models to move to a new image sensor this round. Update: note I'm not saying that the III models will appear later this year; someone has already quoted me as saying "two new models this year," and I believe it comes from reading what I wrote earlier in this paragraph incorrectly. I'm simply saying the expectations are that the III models come next and would, on their usual two-year iteration, be due before the end of the year. I'm not so sure they will, partly due to the supply chain and logistics issues.

But given those first three lenses I expect this year, is there something coming that would match up with them well? 

In particular, that 26mm pancake has intrigued me ever since it popped onto the Road Map. At 26mm it isn't all that much different in focal length than the 28mm f/2.8, and the 28mm is already a small lens (though muffin-sized, not pancake). So what's the purpose of the 26mm? It's barely the size of the TC1.4x barrel, which is small. What camera requires such a thin, small lens? One that's smaller than the 28mm? It's not likely a DX body, since there's also a 24mm DX lens in the Road Map that's nearly as small. Does Nikon have an FX Pocket Z coming? (Remember my earlier comments about Nikon needing a unique camera?)

The funny thing is that expectations for the second half of 2022 are low among Z users, mostly because the rumor sites can't point them to anything. Yet Nikon executives, including all those I talk to, seem brimming with confidence at the moment. I know that sly Japanese smile. Something's coming they really want to talk about. But what that is, I can't seem to get any info about.

So look at that chart again. Wouldn't you expect another "big" October? I am.

Update: three typos fixed, clarification comments added.

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