Is the Z-mount an Open Mount or Not?

I mentioned Sigma’s passive aggressive launch announcement of the three DX lenses. I’m not at CP+ this year due to my tight schedule in 2023—maybe next year—but I’m following all the interviews and reports out of the show. It was inevitable that Sigma got asked lots of questions about their entry to the Z-mount. 

From PhotoTrend, for instance, Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki was quoted as saying “We looked very carefully at what would be best for Nikon users. On the APS-C side, the lens lineup for the mount is not well developed. We saw an opportunity there.”

I’d have to conclude that, at least in public, Yamaki-san is going to be very diplomatic about the Z-mount. When pressed, he said “I hope that we can turn to [full frame]. But for now, that is not our intention.” 

When further pressed on whether or not Nikon had a mount restriction, Yamaki-san’s answer was curious. If I’m reading it correctly, there’s a bit of equivocation there: “The rumors you talk about make sense to Nikon, but I don’t know more about it than you do.”

How can it be that Sigma’s CEO doesn’t know what Nikon’s strategy is? Simple: Sigma threw an initial set of lenses at Nikon they wanted to produce under license, those were all APS-C, and Nikon responded quickly by affirming licenses for them. 

The three lenses in question have been around for awhile, and I’m sure that they’re not under production constraints at Sigma, so they would obviously have been among the first they asked Nikon to license. Many of the L/FE-mount full frame lenses that Sigma produces, on the other hand, were under self-admitted tight production constraints as recently as six months ago. It’s possible that Sigma doesn’t think they have enough capacity to produce them yet in a Z-mount, thus they weren’t submitted yet for licensing. Note also that Yamaki-san used a similar “don’t know their strategy” answer when asked about Canon’s RF mount licensing. Again, I think he’s being diplomatic in public. 

So I’ll still refer to my original assertion about Nikon’s possible limited third-party mount strategy as Theory #3. I will say this: I did get a message from within Nikon that says that there are “layers” going on in their mount strategy. What that meant, I don’t know, and I couldn’t get anything more out of the source. 

We should probably talk about Sigma’s goals. I’d tend to say that they intend to have a full line of optics that work across the broadest array of mounts. They’re a lens-first company, after all. Sigma wants to be considered for any focal length, aperture, mount, size decision you’re making about lenses. Their true major competitor is Tamron. One difference between Sigma and Tamron is that Sigma, to my knowledge, has remained 100% independent, while Tamron has both shareholder and OEM relationships with camera companies. 

Thus, Tamron is more likely to play nice with their close camera company relationships’ desires. Sigma, on the other hand, by staying private and independent, is in constant competition with the camera companies’ own lens lineups. Despite Yamaki-san’s comments, I don’t think we yet know what will happen with Sigma lenses in the Z mount, particularly full frame. I know Sigma wants to produce their full lineup in the Z mount. The question that’s not yet answered is whether they’ll be able to with Nikon’s blessing. 

As I’ve noted from the beginning: I’m against any anti-competitive postures in the tech business. They only buy you time, but time is a funny thing in tech, as more time means that others will create more disruption and newer tech, so if you’re trying to stall someone else you’d also better be moving faster than everyone else. I don’t know an organization that’s truly capable of pulling off the stall/accelerate dual nature. It’s sort of akin to pushing the brakes and accelerator pedal simultaneously. Even in auto racing, where that technique has some benefits, it’s a tricky technique to get right. But that just has one individual involved, the car driver. The minute you try to stall/accelerate throughout an organization, that’s where everything starts to fail. 

I’m hoping that my sources that led to Theory #3 are wrong. I still haven’t seen evidence that they are. This is one thing I’d be very happy to be wrong about, by the way. 

In another interview, Yamaki-san said "At present, we hope to launch three APS-C format lenses first, and first look at the reactions of Nikon users. If the market feedback sounds that more Z-mount lenses are needed, we will develop accordingly, and we will not rule out that there will be a full frame lens."

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