Survey Says...

Last week I posted a brief article indicating what I felt should be the full Z-mount lens lineup and asked for your responses via a detailed survey. 

Once all the men had answered (~99% of respondents), I had a fairly good picture of what lenses you currently own and which you still want. Total responses before I decided to evaluate them after three days was 1500 (96% completion rate, 4m32s spent on average). I'll leave the survey open, but generally I see such surveys find an equilibrium in response over time and extra responses don't tend to change the results in any meaningful way. That's proven to be true for the three days following my (then unpublished) evaluation.

What was especially interesting was to watch the early response (early first day) versus the final response. Over time, the results slowly balanced out more towards what I was expecting, but the early responders I see as sort of the canary in the coal mine: those quick to respond tended to be more professional than prosumer, and had some very specific lenses they wanted to see, and what those were surprised me a bit.

I'm not going to go through most of the first pages of questions in detail, as they were there mostly to align the results of this survey with past surveys I've done of my readership (I've been surveying Nikon users for over 15 years now). I ask some questions the same way (as much as possible) to see if, when, and where shifts occur.

As you would expect from posting a survey from a Nikon mirrorless Web site, mirrorless was better represented in your gear closet than DSLR (see above chart), though perhaps not by as much as you would expect. In answering the brand loyalty question, Nikon garnered an 87% response. The next highest response was "no particular brand loyalty" at 9%. All the other responses were down at or below 1%. So we can fairly clearly say that the folk answering my survey have a strong, vested interest in Nikon and what Nikon is/will doing/do.

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The majority of the respondents were "prosumer or serious enthusiast" (67%), with "professionals" sitting at 12%. Virtually all of the remaining survey takers categorized themselves as "casual enthusiast." Only 7 people identified themselves as "consumer."

The agree/disagree questions in the survey were to allow me to align my survey with Nikon's own survey results. These are questions Nikon asked in their last two rounds of customer surveys. 

Now on to what you really want to know. 

Let's start with lenses owned. This is a little tricky to evaluate, as the lenses owned don't exactly match up with number of survey responses. Some respondents have already transitioned fully to mirrorless, some are just now transitioning, and some are future transitioners. You can see that in the survey-by-survey answers, but the overall results mask that. I'm going to ignore the deep, detailed analysis in this article and just cut to some simple observations. Most owned primes:

  • #1 owned prime: 50mm f/1.8 S
  • #2 owned prime: 85mm f/1.8 S
  • #3 owned prime: 105mm f/2.8 VR S Micro-Nikkor

Surprised? All three had 20%+ of the responses. The inexpensive lenses (28mm f/2.8, 40mm f/2, 50mm f/2.8) don't have as much traction as you might expect, though the 40mm f/2 had somewhat more owners at 14% than the 35mm f/1.8 S at 12%. Given that the 35mm f/1.8 S has been with us from the beginning and the 40mm f/2 is a much more recent lens, that says something interesting. It's not that those three lower level primes aren't selling—they are—it's just that they probably haven't had enough time to really establish themselves in the gear closets yet. 

Most owned zooms:

  • #1 owned zoom: 24-70mm f/4 S
  • #2 owned zoom: 14-30mm f/4 S
  • #3 owned zoom: a near tie between the 24-70mm f/2.8 S, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S and  24-120mm f/4 S, with the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S coming up fast and close behind

Not surprising, as the 24-70mm f/4 S is a kit lens choice with two of the primary cameras. The wide-angle zoom is a good match to that. Meanwhile, two of the f/2.8 trinity show up, as one would expect. The 24-200mm isn't as popular as one might expect given that it's also a reasonable DX choice for some, but again, look at how many of the respondents are "high practitioners" (pros, prosumers). Tailing away far, far behind in last place: the 28-75mm f/2.8, with just 6 owners. It's a better lens than that place suggests, but it also is competing with three clear winning lenses in the mid-range category.

Before we move to the lenses you want most, let me give you a moment to lock in your guesses...

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Okay, times up, pencils down. 

For primes we have an underdog winner and runner-ups, and clearly so:

  • #1 prime wish: 200mm f/4 VR S Micro-Nikkor 25% of responses
  • #2 prime wish: 135mm f/1.8 DC S 13%
  • #3 prime wish: 85mm f/1.2 S 11%

All telephoto! The best showings under 50mm were the 14mm f/2.8 S at 9% and 20mm f/1.8 S also at 9%. Wait, the 20mm f/1.8 already exists! Yes, this was me being clever and sticking two existing lenses into the "possible" lens category in order to measure future purchases of an existing lens against possible purchases of an invented lens. 

The appearance of the 200mm f/4 Micro-Nikkor at the top of the list is something Nikon needs to reckon with: if you have unmet demand in the old mount (200mm, DX lenses, etc.), when you try to get people to move to the new mount they'll still be demanding the same things. Ignore loyal customers at your own expense, Nikon.

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that wide angles seem to have gotten short shrift, as I would have expected more energy in the lower focal range, which Sony has been mining lately. 

For zooms we find Nikon getting it right and wrong:

  • #1 zoom wish: 200-600mm f/4-6.3 VR 25% of responses
  • #2 zoom wish: 70-200mm f/4 S 23%
  • #3 zoom wish: 70-300mm f/4-6.3 VR 19%

Still all telephoto! The good news is that the number one wish is on the Road Map and should show up Real Soon Now. But that 70-300mm range needs stronger attention, particularly considering that my proposed 70-180mm f/4-6.3 VR S Micro-Nikkor was number four in the FX wishes. The top non-telephoto choices were the 16-35mm twins I proposed, each with about 9%.

Crop sensor choices are a little tough to evaluate, since Nikon really only has entry cameras so far in DX mirrorless. That shows up in the "already own" lists (not nearly as many as FX), but also in the wish list responses. The highest DX response was for the 10-20mm f/4-6.3 VR DX (13%), versus the 12-28mm f/4-6.3 VR DX (4%) that's in Nikon's Road Map. Oops. I would have also thought fast DX lenses would have been in demand, but #2 was 16-80mm f/4 VR DX at 10%.

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Finally, I always look at the "Other" responses in the wish list suggestions, of which there were over 300 (a "word cloud" for the prime responses, appears above; zooms are below). A few things stood out to me:

  • Despite that big S in the middle of the word cloud, quite a few of you want non-S versions of existing or future f/1.2 and f/1.8 lenses. The gist of these answers—some of which had justifications—was that people want smaller, more compact versions of lenses. The implication is that you're willing to give up some optical excellence for reduced size. Hopefully Nikon will figure that out.
  • While I noted the wide angle wishes seemed spartan in the tallies, perhaps you just didn't like my choices. Quite a few wide angle lenses showed up in the Other field. The thing that is interesting is that a lot of those are f/1.4. Sorry, I don't think Nikon is going to make f/1.4 primes, except perhaps at some of the more extreme focal lengths where f/1.2 might create too much lens.
  • The 58mm f/1.4 got love. Several of you just want a Z-mount version of this bokehliscious lens.
  • Phase Fresnel (PF) has a future. Beyond asking for 500mm f/5.6 PF in the Z-mount, other PF variants showed up, as well (with 600mm f/5.6 being the most demanded).
  • Likewise, the PC-E lenses showed up with strong demand, mostly at the wide angle end.
  • I noted a number of 400mm f/4.5 and 800mm f/6.3 in the Other category. I think this was a passive aggressive way of people saying "we need Nikon to ship more of these lenses." ;~)
  • Several people asked for a 120-300mm f/4 S. This seems to tie in with the "maybe not so good optically, but more compact" notion I kept seeing in some form throughout the survey. It's an interesting idea, and one I can get behind, though I'm telling you, the 120-300mm f/2.8E in the F-mount is one of those stellar, better than expected lenses and I really want it in the Z-mount. Those of us doing sports and wildlife photography really value the f/2.8E zoom, as the 70-200mm f/2.8 is often a bit short in focal length for many of our situations.
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In the comments I noticed one person said "Thank you for doing this survey. Nikon never asks me anything." Well, consider yourself heard: Nikon asked for and I've supplied them with the results of the survey. I doubt that will change anything back over in Tokyo R&D, but I'm sure that some of my findings will end up getting discussed internally as to what they mean.

Thanks to everyone who responded. I definitely learned something beyond my assumptions about my readers. Hopefully Nikon will, too.

Looking for other photographic information? Check out our other Web sites:
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