The Blanks in the Nikkor Z Lineup

bythom nikon zlenses

Nikon's roadmap for Z mount lenses keeps getting small adjustments. At the moment, Nikon is showing charts with three unidentified lenses to be released in 2020, eight in 2021. The operative question is what do we want those lenses to be, and what are they likely to be?

First, let's back up and look at the landscape that is known (through first part of 2020):

  • 14mm (covered by 14-30mm f/4, 14-24mm f/2.8)
  • 20mm (covered by 14-30mm f/4, 14-24mm f/2.8, 20mm f/1.8)
  • 24mm (covered by 14-30mm f/4, 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 24mm f/1.8)
  • 28mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8)
  • 35mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.8)
  • 50mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.2)
  • 70mm (covered by 24-70mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • 85mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.8)
  • 105mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • 135mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8)
  • 200mm (covered by 70-200mm f/2.8)

Look at it by maximum aperture choices at each focal length:

  • 14mm — f/2.8, f/4
  • 20mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 24mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 28mm — f/2.8, f/4
  • 35mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 50mm — f/1.2, f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 70mm — f/2.8, f/4
  • 85mm — f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4
  • 105mm — f/2.8
  • 135mm — f/2.8
  • 200mm — f/2.8

The first thing that stands out is that there's not a lot happening above 50mm. Clearly Nikon needs two lenses in the telephoto range: 70-200mm f/4 optimized for compactness, and a 70-300mm or 100-400mm f/4-5.6 also optimized for compactness. (I'm going to bold my choices along the way in this article, showing you what 11 lenses I'd make to fill out Nikon's road map.)

There's also no DX lenses nor any true consumer "kit" zooms to go with whatever the Z5 turns out to be (I suspect that's the next model we'll get). If we assume that a Z5 is a high-end DX model, we'd need a 16mm f/1.8 and 16-70mm f/2.8 or f/2.8-4 (I don't think this likely). If we assume that a Z5 is a low-end consumer FX model, we need a 24-100mm f/3.5-5.6, and maybe a 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6. 

Given that we've got an f/1.2 prime coming, I'd expect Nikon to fill out other offerings like that, in particular a 35mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.2. We're also missing a couple of f/1.8 offerings: the 28mm f/1.8 and 105mm f/1.8

Conspicuously missing in the Z lens lineup is a macro lens. I personally would like Nikon to break out of the box of their thinking here. Their box would predict either a 60mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, a 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, or both. I'd strongly suggest that they give us all a little more working distance while adding a telephoto lens option by making a 135mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor or maybe even a 180mm f/4 Micro-Nikkor.

While the PF primes for the F-mount are actually quite good choices on the Z cameras with the FTZ adapter, I'd really like to see Nikon start re-setting that lineup with emphasis on the two things the Z mount provides (potential outer edge gains compactness): 400mm f/4 PF. Note that this dovetails with the F-mount offerings and provides some incentive for DSLR users to switch if that's the lens they really want.

That leaves me three more lenses to fill in. I'd opt for not repeating too much in the main focal ranges, but push to provide more flexibility for the system. Thus, I'd have a fisheye (15mm f/2.8), a tilt-shift (24mm f/4), and a pancake (24mm f/2.8, but it could be 35mm or 50mm; the primary thing it needs to be is super compact).

That's my choices for filling in the 11 lenses not identified in Nikon's road map. What's your choice?

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