Lens Survey Says...

Last week I asked site readers to fill out a survey outlining their preferences for future Z-mount lenses. 

Before we get started, I need to once again clarify a couple of things about the survey itself. First, many of you asked where the 70-200mm f/4 was. As I noted in the survey itself, I only included lens specifications for which I’ve seen patents, heard rumors, or have additional information that Nikon has investigated a particular design. While Nikon may have an intention to make a 70-200mm f/4, I have not seen anything yet that indicates that they will. It’s been noted in earlier surveys I’ve done that 70-200mm f/4 is a specification that a lot of you believe you want. 

It appears to me that Nikon is considering different options in the “small telephoto zoom” space. The 70-180mm f/2.8 on the Road Map is one of them. The only way that Nikon might consider 70-200mm f/4 would be if they could do something very different, such as a collapsing lens for travel purposes. Again, to date, I’ve not seen evidence that this is something they’re working on. That doesn’t mean they aren’t, only that I can’t see evidence that they are.

Another pushback I got had to do with price. I didn’t indicate any prices for a reason: I have no idea exactly how Nikon would price any future lens. However, the way I presented the question—“assume the price would be commensurate with the specifications”—is a bit of “wisdom of crowds". Not all of you would guess price correctly, but given how many survey responses there were, I’m pretty sure that your responses work towards a reasonably accurate mean here. Had I under- or overestimated a price, it would have distorted the responses more than doing things the way I did. 

So in addition to the several thousand responses I got to the survey, I got a lot of email (much of which I didn’t answer directly due to volume). But again, this survey was different in what it was asking. There’s a reason to come at a topic in different ways, as it tends to reveal more useful information that laid in the cracks of a monolithic approach.

Finally, one last point: given the large number of responses that were received in a short time, the confidence level that the results accurately applies to the sampled “population” is actually extremely high. That population is not all Nikon users. It’s zsystemuser.com site readers. As I’ve indicated before, my sites tend to be read predominately by higher practice enthusiasts and pros. The survey results wouldn’t likely apply to just casual consumers. But then again, casual consumers aren’t the ones with a dozen lenses that they’ve bought, either ;~). 

Let’s get started…

While the survey is still open, I chose to analyze the results at about the point where there were 2300 responses. I did that because it was shortly after that when “hey Thom is doing a survey, click here” posts started appearing elsewhere. Once others are spreading the survey, it becomes less about zsystemuser.com readers, and that’s the group I want to know more about. Current responses are over 3000, and the survey remains open.

The first page of the survey is a repeat of a number of previous surveys (which allows me to judge whether there are shifts in who’s responding and what they’re doing). For instance, the “don’t own a DSLR currently” response is going up as more of you transition to mirrorless. However, it should be noted that over 40% of you do still own more than one Nikon DSLR ;~). Likewise, over half the survey respondents had more than four DSLR lenses. 

In terms of other mirrorless brands that have been owned by survey takers, not a lot has changed. M4/3 is still the primary alternative this group has tried, with Fujifilm X being second. Sony E/FE would slot third among you. (In terms of what I’ve written about most on my sites over the years, m4/3 was an early emphasis, Sony a more recent emphasis.)

Surprisingly, almost half the respondents currently own two or more mirrorless cameras, and over four mirrorless lenses. 

The big surprise was in how many images survey takers say they take in a maximum month. 47% say 1000-10,000, but another 12% said more than 10,000. Good thing you folk are not using film cameras any more ;~). 

The choices I presented for lenses forced you to commit towards the not likely to buy side or the likely to buy side. The goal here was to figure out your true sentiment towards the lenses I presented, and not give you an easy out such as “unsure.” This is a common polling strategy used to suss out the true feeling towards something. Of course, about 20% of you tended to just not answer for any given lens, so we can factor that in, too. 

What I was looking for was two things: (1) which three lenses topped the Extremely Likely to Buy column, and (2) which three lenses had the best Likely/Extremely Likely results. Not everyone needs every lens, for sure, but I’m trying to figure out what lenses really trigger buying interest. 

Without further ado, let’s look at the lenses:

In FX primes I listed 29 possibilities. The results were reasonably clear as to what you really wanted (I’ll be rounding the results to simplify):

  1. 135mm f/1.8 S-line (10% extremely likely) (this is probably the 135mm lens already in the Road Map)
  2. 500mm f/5.6 VR PF S-line (10% extremely likely)
  3. 14mm f/1.8 S-line (7.5% extremely likely)

These three lenses were also close to or just over 30% when both likely/extremely likely were aggregated. So, note to Nikon: if you’re not building these lenses into your future lineup, you’re going to have a lot of unhappy high-end customers. 

The lenses that attracted the least attention were the NOCTs (21mm, 28mm) and really extreme focal lengths (13mm, 1200mm, 2000mm). That’s not surprising, as you’d also expect those to be expensive and speciality lenses, which would reduce demand.

For FX Zooms I listed 21 possibilities. Even before hitting publish on the survey I told Nikon executives what I thought the top two responses would be. I wasn’t wrong:

  1. 180-600mm f/4.5-6.3 (10%+ extremely likely) (this lens is likely the 200-600mm in the Road Map and due soon)
  2. 35-150mm f/2-2.8 S-line (6%+ extremely likely) (if this lens doesn’t show up as a Tamrikon, I’m pretty sure Tamron will produce it)
  3. 16-35mm f/2.8 S-line (6% extremely likely)

Several other zooms had strong aggregate Likely/Extremely Likely responses (20% or higher) that should catch Nikon’s eyes:

  • 10-21mm f/2.8 S-line
  • 24-80mm f/2 and f/2.8 S-line (taken together)
  • 50-300mm f/3.5-4 VR
  • 80-400mm f/4
  • 150-400mm f/4 TC VR S-line

In DX lenses, the results had less “likely” energy, but still there were three clear winners:

  1. 16-70mm f/2.8-4 (8% extremely likely)
  2. 10-21mm f/2.8 (7% extremely likely)
  3. 50-150mm f/2.8 (4% extremely likely)

Overall, the DX lens interest was lower than FX, but that’s probably due to the DX bodies that are currently available.

Meanwhile, third-party lenses didn’t fare particularly well. The highest FX Extremely Likely was 2%, which was well under the average of a wide range of the Nikon options I listed. I do note that the Likely responses were “warmer.” Still, if Nikon is worried about third-party lenses stealing customers, I suspect that this wouldn’t be true at the same or similar lens specifications. 

Surveys like this one are moments in time and represent temporarily-held beliefs. You don’t typically use them to specifically target a particular lens, but rather to get a sense of what customers feel is still missing in the lineup. The good news is that I’m pretty sure that a high number of the lenses I put in this survey are being actually explored by Nikon as future candidates for the lineup. I’ll be sharing the survey results with Nikon. They can make of the data what they will ;~). 

However, I will say that there isn’t any group of Nikon Z System users who are as sophisticated and dedicated as those reading this site (probably because of my books on the cameras). Thus I’d also say to Nikon: ignore these results at your own risk. 

Looking for other photographic information? Check out our other Web sites:
DSLRS: dslrbodies.com | mirrorless: sansmirror.com | general/technique: bythom.com | film SLR: filmbodies.com

text and images © 2023 Thom Hogan — All Rights Reserved