Reader Questions About Lenses

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

Yes. 60mm made more sense to me, especially since this is a small prime and Nikon also has 26mm, 28mm, and 40mm small primes. 28mm, 40mm, and 60mm made more sense as a potential "set" than do 28mm, 40mm, 50mm. But the latter is what we got.

"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 Z DX lenses S-Line?"

No, they are not. 

The published MTF charts on the DX 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 and Zfc bodies are metal). 

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

Not enough lenses. Moreover, the one wide angle zoom doesn’t go wide enough and isn’t the best option for still photography. 

"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, totally messed up the EOS M strategy the same way. It's not a gateway drug to anything.

"Will there be another NOCT?"

Yes, I’ve been told there will be. It's looking like no designation is Nikon's basic lens line, the S-line designation is their superior line, and NOCT will designate very special, extremely 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.

As of April 2023, the full frame lens lineups for the big three mirrorless makers looked like this:

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

Thing is, the old DSLR 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.

It appears Nikon rethought their exotic line, and they now produce smaller, lighter lenses that have built-in teleconverters (400mm f/2.8, 600mm f/4). They’ve also extended the exotic line with the mini-exotic 400mm f/4.5 (smaller, lighter still, but not TC) and 800mm f/6.3 (PF). 

"Is a PF lens inferior in any way?"

Yes and no. In terms of acuity, the PF (phase fresnel) lenses tend to be virtually as good as a similarly specified exotic. They're also shorter in length than the equivalent exotic and lighter. However, the downsides tend to be two: (1) PF elements are prone to backlit flare; be very careful of bright light sources behind your subject; and (2) the PFs are using single stepper focus motors; the exotics tend to use more powerful motors and often multiple motors, so they tend to focus a bit faster.

"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. Likewise, so is the 14-24mm f/2.8 S mirrorless version lighter than the F-mount one. Yes, the 50mm f/1.8 S 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, smaller 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) to 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 that. 

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, which also works well. 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). We now also have the 800mm f/6.3 PF VR S, which is bigger and heavier than Canon’s optics, but far faster and better.

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 US$899). That's really the thing Nikon can't compete against with the existing Nikkor lenses (though the Coolpix slots 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?"

Yes. As I outlined as one of the possible strategies last year, it appears that Nikon has taken a “we’ll license you, but only for lenses that don’t directly compete with ours” (e.g. same aperture, same focal lengths). Tamron is the first autofocus lens out of the gate (70-300mm) and Cosina (Voigtlander) now has a handful of manual focus, chipped lenses that work in the mount. 

Also, Viltrox cracked the Z-mount nut (beginning with their 85mm f/1.8 Z autofocus lens, but now has expanded that to a number of prime lenses), and I expect others to do so in the future. 

Sigma has said they're exploring doing Z-mount lenses other than the three DX lenses they’ve produced, but I believe they’re balking at Nikon’s not same aperture/focal length demands.

"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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