The Patented Lenses We Haven't Seen

Note: patents can be tough to decipher and sometimes mask the real lens being produced. Moreover, the numbers in the patent formula are precise, but will get rounded due to CIPA marketing specifications, so my focal lengths and apertures may not be the final one if the lens gets produced. 

Bold indicates lenses I'd like to see.
BoldItalic indicates lenses likely to see production.

As I did with the F-mount for two decades, I track Nikon patents on Z-mount lenses and from time to time post and comment on ones we haven't seen actually produced yet. Here's my current (abbreviated) list for the Z-mount (with my commentary):

  • 28mm f/1.8 — Almost certainly the missing f/1.8 prime lens. The question is why it was missing in the first place, and whether Nikon sees it worth filling the gap.
  • 35mm f/1.2 — Almost certainly going to be the next f/1.2 prime after the 85mm f/1.2 comes out.
  • 20-55mm f/2 — A second variation is variable aperture (f/1.4-f/2.5). This is a big lens for its modest focal range. Moreover, it's a different optical design than I've seen Nikon use in the past, including two moving groups of far rearward elements. Clearly, the non-traditional and successful fast zooms we've seen from Canon, Tamron, and Sony are starting to get Nikon's attention.
  • 35-50mm f/1.2 — An interesting 19-element design with a lot of thick glass. Would be expensive, big, and heavy, which means I don't think it likely. But maybe it's a Zoom NOCT.
  • 70-200mm f/4 — Doesn't seem high on Nikon's priorities, but budget telephoto options are still wanting in the Z-mount and there's clear demand for this lens. Some of the options in the most recent patent indicate an attempt to keep focus  breathing to zero (good for video use). 
  • 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 — Some refer to this as 75-300mm, though I believe CIPA rounding would make it 70mm. The patent looks like a reformulated version of the F-mount AF-P lens, so this could be something we'll see in a future road map, as it should be simple to produce. However, with Tamron launching their 70-300mm in the Z-mount, I suspect we’ll never see this Nikon-designed lens.
  • 85-135mm f/1.8-2.8 — Portrait enthusiasts would probably be excited about something like this, though I'm not sure it's a sellable option. There's more demand for a 105mm f/1.8 or 135mm f/1.8. It is interesting to see that Nikon has caught onto the "faster zoom" craze and is experimenting with options there (see also 35-50mm f/1.2, above).
  • 90-140mm f/4-5.6 — I'd heard that Nikon was considering another macro zoom lens (the 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6D was my favorite macro lens in the F-mount). My only problems with this specification are that it's too narrow a range that's too close to the 105mm f/2.8 S Micro-Nikkor, and that the zoom benefits for macro would be a really tough sell point for Nikon's oft-beleaguered marketing team to describe compared to the 105mm.
  • 105mm f/1.8 DC — Likely a design experiment by a Nikon engineer to see what a modernized Defocus Control lens might look like in the new mount. The lowish sales volume of the DC lenses would not make this a likely lens for production. Still, Nikon is lacking in 105-200m fast primes, and they may want to resurrect what was once a unique Nikkor optic. We’ll see a regular 135mm f/1.8 S before we see anything like this lens.
  • 200-400mm f/4.6-7.1 — Yet another variation of telephoto zoom Nikon has been doing a lot of experimenting with.
  • 200-500mm f/5.6 PF — One of three PF zoom lenses defined by one patent (see others, below). Given the 200-600mm on the road map, I'd be a little surprised if this lens were to appear any time soon, if at all. The PF nature would increase its price over the 180-600mm, and I'm not sure if the size/weight benefit would be enough to draw sales. 
  • 300-600mm f/6.3 PF — The second of the PF zooms patented. Like the 200-500mm, above, I'm not sure if this is distinguished enough from the 200-600mm to make it to the dealer shelves.
  • 400-800mm f/8 PF — The final PF zoom patented. Of the three, it seems to me that this is the most desirable, and likely version. Yes, I know that there's already an 800mm f/6.3 PF and it's quite good. But it's not flexible. Indeed, the lack of flexibility is the thing that has me and a number of others not buying it for the moment. Giving up a bit of aperture for zoom capability is something I might consider. 
  • 1000mm f/8 PF — This lens was in the same patent that contained the 800mm f/6.3 and a PF version of the 400mm f/4.5. The latter appeared in near identical form with a regular element instead of a PF element. Thus, one might believe that Nikon is looking very closely at this telephoto optical design as a foundation for other lenses (at least eight different focal length examples have been given, though not all were described in detail). 

Nikon also sometimes files what I'd call a "mass assembly" applications that list all possible lenses using the same (or similar) optical assertion (e.g., the 1000mm f/8 patent). This happens when a design idea has implications across multiple potential lenses, but what usually happens is only one lens appears using that application in the near term (sometimes other variations eventually appear, but new ideas sometimes supplant the ones in the patent, which is what happened with the 400mm f/4.5). Besides the multiple PF zooms and the 1000mm f/8, here are some other examples of those multiple-lens patents:

  • 22mm f/2.8, 24mm f/2.8, 26mm f/2.8 — These are pancake lenses, and the last one looks like it could be the lens in the latest road maps. If so, you're going to be surprised by its optical design ;~). I can't imagine how they'd produce the bizarre elements in this patent, but maybe Nikon has discovered something and thinks they can bring it to market. I'd bet that the actual 26mm on the road map uses a different approach, though.
  • 16-50mm f/2.8-4 DX, 16-60mm f/2.8-4 DX, 16-70mm f/2.8-4 DX, 24-70mm f/2.8-4, 24-85mm f/2.8-4, 24-105mm f/2.8-4 (and more; a total of 39 lenses!)— That last option—there were many more variations in the patent—was likely the source of the original rumors that Nikon was going to make a 24-105mm zoom to augment the 24-70mm ones. It very well may have been that Nikon originally intended to produce the 24-105mm variation, as the rumors were indeed 24-105mm f/2.8-4 even though the road map was unspecific to focal length/aperture for the mid-range zoom with a longer focal range. Perhaps there was internal debate about which way to go initially, but we got a 24-120mm f/4 instead. 

Nikon has filed many, many more patents than the ones I list above. I've simply cherry-picked ones that I feel are relevant to reader interest and have potential to say something about future Z-mount Nikkors.

But don't read too much into patents, particularly those filed in Japan only. After the Nikon 1 was discontinued we still saw additional Nikon 1 (CX) lens patents, and we've since seen something referred to as Nikon 2 lens patents! 

Remember, R&D is two things. Patents tend to be about the R (research) and only sometimes suggest the D (development).

Looking for other photographic information? Check out our other Web sites:
DSLRS: | mirrorless: | general/technique: | film SLR:

text and images © 2024 Thom Hogan
All Rights Reserved — 
the contents of this site, including but not limited to its text, illustrations, and concepts, 
 may not be utilized, directly or indirectly, to inform, train, or improve any artificial intelligence program or system.