Reader Questions About Lenses

"Did the 60mm Macro lens get turned into a 50mm on the Wish List?"

Slowly it's starting to look that way. Charts and references on Nikon sites are slowly starting to refer to the upcoming short macro as 50mm, whereas it was originally marked as 60mm on the Road Map. 60mm still makes more sense to me, especially since this is a small prime and Nikon will also have 28mm and 40mm small primes. 28mm, 40mm, and 60mm make more sense as a potential "set" than 28mm, 40mm, 50mm. 

"Will we get tilt-shift Z lenses?"

Probably, but none are currently on Nikon's road map. Before this gets out of hand with other "will we get..." questions, let me just say this: it's likely that we'll see Nikon eventually build out the Z-mount lens line to where the F-mount line was (about 60 lenses). Because the FTZ adapter works so well, some of the more specialized and expensive lenses will likely be the last to show up in Z form. The 19mm PC-E mounted on an FTZ adapter is really, really good on the Z7.

"Are the two Z DX lenses S-Line?"

No, they are not. Indeed, we can now see that 8 of the 23 known Z-mount lenses will not be S-Line (see Nikon's own chart, below). As usual with Nikon marketing, though, we've got almost no words from them about what that may or may not mean. Great job boys! 

The published MTF charts on the new DX kit lenses actually look quite good, and in practice, I find them very good indeed. 

What some might object to on the Z DX lenses is that they're definitely a bit lower in build quality. The mount on the lenses is plastic, and you only get cheap push on plastic lids instead of rear lens caps. You don't get lens hoods included, either. So, you're going to end up buying some extra rear Z lens caps and lens hoods. The plastic mount doesn't bother me at all. The way Nikon made the mount seems to be with a high-quality and sturdy polycarbonate. Since it's likely that people buying the kit lenses long-term aren't likely to be much of a lens switcher, I think this will work out fine (the lens mount on the Z50 body is metal). 


"Do we know when the 18-140mm Z DX lens will appear?"

No, Nikon has removed dates from their road map and charts for some reason. Perhaps because they're juggling a lot of glass in a short period and want options to add more or change priorities (at least 11 new lenses in the next 18 months are expected). 

I did hear, however, that this DX lens has been in prototype trials, which would tend to indicate that it might appear in late 2020.

"What's wrong with the Nikon Z DX lens lineup?"

For the most part, one thing: no wide angle zoom. We need a 10-20mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens, and ASAP. In fact, what Nikon's going to learn is that all those selfie and vlogging uses they've been promoting for the Z50 are going to demand this. 

Personally, I'll wait to see what the 28mm and 40mm compact lenses are like before I start getting too much into buzz, buzz land ("buzz, buzz" is my shorthand way of saying Nikon needs more DX lenses, and has been for a decade. It's my imitation of an annoying insect flying around Nikon Product Marketing's face, buzz, buzz). But the missing wide angle zoom is a clear gap they need to fix. Both Canon and Sony have IS wide angle zooms in this category. 

"How can we trust Nikon with Z DX when they didn't actually build out F-mount DX?"

We can't (buzz, buzz). I've been a harsh critic of Canon, Nikon, and Sony all for trying to relegate crop sensor products solely to entry consumer use. And that's despite bodies like the 7D Mark II, D500, and A6600. 

There's little doubt that you have to make consumer convenience zooms at the lower price points in order to hook customers. So I'm okay with each company doing a small number of those. Nikon got fully carried away with the 18-xx zooms in F-mount DX, though. Really? Did we actually need 18-55, 18-70, 18-105, 18-135, 18-200, and 18-300mm versions, many of which were iterated more than once? I don't think so. In the meantime, loyal Nikon users that wanted some additional DX lenses, such as wide to normal primes and faster zoom, got stiffed. They ended up leaving Nikon for a competitor (via methods I call Sampling and Leaking).

The difference today is that one of the APS-C mirrorless competitors has a pretty full lens lineup, another a modestly full one. If Nikon plays their old style game with Z DX, they'll be wondering why they never got their user base back and why more are leaving. Canon, meanwhile, has a totally messed up EOS M strategy. It's not a gateway drug to anything.

"Will there be another NOCT?"

Yes, I think so. It's looking like no designation is Nikon's basic lens line, S designation is their superior line, and NOCT will designate very special, fast aperture lenses.

"Will Nikon catch up to Sony (FE) or keep up with Canon (RF)?" 

Sony has enough of a head start that they could always probably be a bit ahead of where Canon and Nikon likely will be with mirrorless full frame lenses. That doesn't bother me as long as Nikon is making steady progress at filling out the Z line. Two years in, and Nikon is a little ahead of where Sony was two years in. 

To me, the more important thing is whether or not there are any significant gaps in the lens lineup that don't look like they're going to get filled, and which can't be met by using an F-mount lens on the FTZ Adapter. The only clear gap so far is wide angle DX, plus we need something in the 70-300mm, 70-400mm, 80-400mm, 100-400mm range sooner rather than later.

As of July 2020, the full frame lens lineups for the big three mirrorless makers looks like this:


"What about the big exotic lenses? When will get them in the Z mount?"

Well, what do you want? If you just want the current exotics in RF form, Nikon could probably just alter the rear of the lens, putting a barrel extension in place, much like Sigma has done for some of its DSLR lenses adapted for Sony FE. It would be a little trickier for the big exotics, as there are some stress considerations that would have to be addressed by "extending the tube." Heck, it's likely Nikon could even come up with a retrofit procedure for people who already had an F-mount lens they wanted converted to Z (though it would likely be expensive due to how much teardown/replacement/alignment there would be). 

Thing is, the old exotic lens designs are being rendered moot. Sony's 400mm f/2.8GM is a good example: Sony's engineers rethought this type of lens, using a different optical approach that puts less weight out front. Only one huge optical element sits out front, and the three biggest elements in the middle of the lens are all lighter Fluorite ones. The Sony lens is lighter and has a center of gravity far closer to the body than the traditional Canon/Nikon 400mm f/2.8 designs. Then there's Nikon's own excellent PF lenses (300mm f4 and 500mm f/5.6). They, too, have made a difference in expectations for long lenses.

Given that the current exotic Nikkors work just fine on the FTZ adapter, I'm betting that Nikon is in deep rethink mode about future Z exotics. I wouldn't be surprised to see shorter, lighter PF/FL lenses in the 300mm+ range eventually show up in the Z mount. Because just making something that duplicates the DSLR experience isn't enough any more. But such exotic exotics will take some time to get right, and the big glass takes longer to polish. My guess is that Nikon would target the 2024 Olympics for such lenses, along with a mirrorless replacement for the D6. 

"Why are the Z lenses so large?"

So you own an f/2.8D lens, do you? ;~) Because people aren't making good apples to apples comparisons. The 24-70mm f/2.8 S is smaller than the 24-70mm f/2.8E, for instance. Yes, the 50mm f/1.8 is larger than any F-mount 50mm f/1.8, but it's also a very special lens that has optical performance lightyears better than anything Nikon has produced at that focal length before. 

With a couple of obvious exceptions, it seems that Nikon has emphasized performance first, size second so far in Z lenses. Still, take a closer look at what they've really delivered. A Z6 and 14-30mm f/4 S and 24-70mm f/4 S kit packs incredibly small and will make your DSLR friends jealous.

"Will Nikon make lenses like the Canon f/11 DO ones?"

They do. It's called a Coolpix P950. Seriously. Put a 2x teleconverter on the Canon 800mm DO and you're at f/22 and 1600mm. The P950 is f/6.5 and 2000mm equivalent. Count the stop differential (just over four). Adjust for sensor size. You sort of end up in the same place. Indeed, swap in the P1000 and Canon can't get close to there. 

Yeah, but...

Nikon also has a 300mm f/4E PF that works decently with a 2x TC. That puts us at 600mm f/8 (the Canon is f/11). Then there's the 500mm f/5.6E PF and a 1.4x TC. That puts us at 700mm f/8 (the Canon is longer and f/11; the Nikon would be longer at f/11 with a 2x TC). 

Yeah, but...

All this calls attention to only one factor: cost. The thing that struck me about the Canon DO lenses was their pricing (US$699 and 899). That's really the thing Nikon can't compete against with the existing Nikkor lenses (though the Coolpix slot right up against the new Canon offerings). So, yes, perhaps Nikon will see that they need something competitive here. But I wouldn't expect it soon. Nikon has plenty of other products they need to launch that would probably have higher precedence at the moment.

"Are the Z mount specifications available to third parties?"

No, not that I know of. There may come a time when Nikon opts to have someone else produce a lens in the lineup for them—that's one way to speed up the lens releases—and if that happens then I'm sure the cat will be out of the bag, even if everyone will still go around denying it. 

I still don't know why Nikon wants to be so proprietary. It's actually hurting them this go around as they're "behind" where they could be with a little third-party help.

"Should I believe DxOMark's Ratings?"

DxOMark's overall score is a subjective scaling, and probably doesn't match what you might think of a lens. Over time, you have to watch out for differences in their Sharpness score, too, as it is dependent upon the pixel density of the camera on which they tested the lens. As with any tests that publish a final "number" for something, you need to understand how those numbers were generated in order to understand what they mean. Over time, I haven't found DxOMark's lens ratings to be useful, though some of their underlying tests do reveal some useful information.

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