What Lens? Poll Results

I was essentially testing two things with my recent "which lens would you buy" polls. 

This wasn't a poll that can, within a particular statistical significance, predict how the market will actually react. Generally, those that responded are serious Z System enthusiasts who are eager to share information about their desires, which doesn't necessarily reflect the overall market. I was originally going to let these polls go on for a week, but as with all my polls, I monitor results as they come in, and the data began to clearly stabilize within an hour of posting! So I'm arbitrarily writing about the polls with 600+ responses each, as I don't expect that more responses are going to change the results. As I note below, I'll probably be following up with an n-sample poll of Complete Guide purchasers, which would be more statistically valid.

First up, was a poll trying to ascertain whether Nikon was making the right decisions with its lens Road Map. In a "perfect" world, every lens in the Road Map would have strong demand for it. If there are lenses that don't produce strong demand in the Road Map, then we have to assume one of two things: (1) Nikon wanted to produce that lens for bragging/competitive reasons; or (2) Nikon got their demand assessment wrong. 

I'll tell you what I thought as I pushed "publish" on the poll: that the 24-105mm, 100-400mm, 105mm macro, and 200-600mm lenses would all get strong support. I've heard from enough Z System users by now to understand their basic thinking, so I was pretty sure that clear demand would be there for those lenses. That's actually one of the things I was testing. I wanted to see if I was correctly reading my readers. 

First, some overall numbers. With the first 600+ votes counted in each poll, respondents voted for 1451 lenses in the first poll (average 2.2 per voter) and 1300 lenses in the second poll (average 2.1 per voter). Quite obviously we didn't have people who just clicked every choice. Indeed, I got plenty of emails that indicated that some didn't respond to the polls at all because the lens they really wanted wasn't in the choices. 

Thus, people seemed to have taken my "you intend to purchase" instructions to heart. I've left both polls open, to give you the chance to respond if you already haven't. (Please adhere to the intent—lenses you'd purchase assuming a reasonable price—and not try to skew the numbers with nonsense responses.)  I'll eventually do an n-sample poll of the various Z Complete Guide owners to see what results I see from book purchasers. 

Let's get to some results. In order of preference, here's the interest the lenses already on the Road Map produced:

  1. 24-105mm f/2.8-4 — 19%
  2. 100-400mm f/4-6.3 — 17%
  3. 105mm f/2.8 — 16%
  4. 200-600mm 4.5-6.3 — 12%
  5. 40mm f/2 — 12%
  6. 28mm f/2.8 — 11%
  7. 85mm f/1.2 — 5%
  8. 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 — 3%
  9. 50mm f/2.8 — 2%
  10. 400mm f/2.8 — 2%
  11. 600mm f/4 — 2%

About aperture designations. Where known, I used Nikon's value. Where unknown I had to make something up that fits with what Nikon has been doing so far. With some lenses, a change in aperture spec might change the results.

That went pretty much as I expected. I did expect the two compact primes (28mm and 40mm) to do a little better than they did, but when you get 10%+ on a "I will buy" poll from a serious audience, I'd call that indicative of strong demand. The audience that tends to read this site daily—and thus would have seen and responded to the poll—is very much high enthusiast thru pro user, and I had previously assessed that group as mostly having pent up demand for telephoto options. 

The 18-140mm DX and 50mm Micro-Nikkor feel like old Nikon consumer-influenced options. Perhaps they'd do well with that type of customer, but Nikon themselves say that they want to target high enthusiast and pro. Thus if Nikon thinks they'll be a lot of uptake on those upcoming lenses from their desired on-going buying group, they're probably wrong. 

Put another way, it's easy to see that the first six lenses in the list are going to appeal to a fair number of Nikon's most favored customers. The two exotics at the bottom of the list were always only going to have only a few takers due to likely high price. It's those other three slots in between that seem like a questionable use of Nikon's limited production capacity to me. I personally wouldn't mind seeing the fast 85mm, but #8 and #9 on that list are lenses I can't see myself, or many others, using.

My second poll was disingenuous. I've been hearing from multiple sources about bodies and lenses that are being considered and still in debate in Tokyo. (Yes, designs and prototypes sometimes don't make it to market.) 

So I put a couple of lenses I've heard seemingly valid rumors about slightly disguised in that list (no I'm not going to tell you which ones). Not only was I curious as to how those rumored lenses might be responded to, but I was also curious about some of the other gaps in the lineup and whether they were key gaps or not. In my haste to get things done, I unfortunately left out three lenses that should have been in that second list (10-20mm DX, 35mm f/1.2, and another lens I shan't name at the moment because it's also one of the specific rumors I'm getting out of Japan). That's not a huge problem, though, as again these polls aren't statistically valid; they're more of a generalized temperature reading. I'm just trying to read the room.

So how did the temperature reading go? "Compact" definitely seems to resonate in some way (I'd judge the 70-200mm f/4 and 70-300mm as "compact alternatives" to the 70-200mm f/2.8 or 100-400 telephoto zooms). Fast PF also seems to intrigue you, even though you likely know those are going to be more expensive lenses. I'll just say this: what I'm hearing that Nikon's considering in the next round of Z mount lenses has a strong component of compact as well as new exotic. 

To the actual numbers:

  1. 70-200mm f/4 — 22%
  2. 70-300mm f/4-6.3 — 16%
  3. 500mm f/2.8 PF — 10%
  4. 300mm f/2 PF — 8%
  5. 105mm f/1.8 — 8%
  6. 14mm f/1.8 — 7%
  7. 16-24mm f/4-6.3 — 7%
  8. 16mm f/1.8 — 6%
  9. 135mm f/2.8 — 6%
  10. 24mm f/1.2 — 2%
  11. 28mm f/1.8 — 2%
  12. 70-150mm f/4-6.3 — 2%

The top options were clearly telephotos, but did that 500mm f/2.8 PF number surprise you? I'll say this: it probably won't surprise Nikon. Likewise the 300mm f/2 PF. I get the strong sense out of Tokyo that there are two directions they're contemplating taking PF: (1) more reach (compete with the Canon f/11's); and faster reach (dial in lenses that don't currently exist). They might go both directions. I'd be all for that. 

For the record, the two compact zooms I put in the list would be supplements to the 24-50mm (makes a 16-150mm kit) and I would think them quite small and collapsing. I was a little surprised to see that their numbers weren't particularly high in the poll. 

Overall, there's again a lot of interest in telephoto, which is to be expected, because as I write this Nikon only has two lenses that go beyond 85mm (70-200mm and 24-200mm). 

I should say that my own answer to both polls would go like this:

  • Road Map Nikkors: 100-400mm, 105mm, 200-600mm. While obviously I'll be trying to review all the lenses on the Road Map as they appear, in terms of what I've kept in my gear closet and what I believe I still need, it boils down to those three lenses for me, and I'd tend to say I'd only keep one of the two zooms after seeing how they handle and perform.
  • Possible New Nikkors: the 16-24mm and 70-150mm would certainly be intriguing along with the 24-50mm to make for a really compact Z5 travel kit, but really the two lenses that I'd most likely purchase would be the 70-200mm f/4 and the 300mm f/2 PF.

As we started the year I was pretty sure that Nikon was going to release (announce?) two lenses in 2021 that aren't on its official Lens Road Map. On-going limitations due to the pandemic and the tightly constrained supply chain might change that, particularly now that Japan is limiting public interactions again (Nikon is reducing staff working together in offices and doing more at-home work again through February 7th, which slows down all their internal processes). 

That said, I know Nikon is hustling to get the Road Map lenses out. Moreover, we've heard rumors of another DSLR lens or two. If all this is true (and not interrupted even more by supply chain and work-related issues), that would make 2021 one of the most consequential "lens years" for Nikon in the entire history I've been covering them on the Internet. 

It's not surprising, though, that a company whose entire history has been centered on optics would turn to their primary expertise to help them navigate a pivot in the dedicated camera market. As I've noted before, Nikon doesn't have a dud in the Z-mount lineup, and they're executing many of these new lenses at a quality level they've not generally hit before, even though most of us already thought our DSLR Nikkors were just fine. 

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