Nikon Z Lens Sets

We have, of course, only three native Z-mount lenses. That generally means that you're going to dip into the F-mount lenses via the FTZ adapter, pretty much no matter what you want to do. At least until we get some more Z lens releases.

So what's a Z shooter to do?

Here's a quick take on what I'm doing in the categories I'd tend to use the Z7 (and Z6):

  • Travel kit. Real simple: 24-70mm f/4 S coupled with the 70-300mm AF-P on the FTZ. Nets you a really solid 24-300mm in a pretty small and easy to pack kit. The problem? No really wide angle capability. Temporary solution? Something like the Irix 11mm f/4 or 15mm f/2.4. Smallish, light, and you're probably going to be shooting things really wide where manual focus—particularly with the Z's excellent MF helpers—isn't going to be an issue.
  • Event shooting. Real simple: 35mm f/1.8 S, 50mm f/1.8 S, and 85mm f/1.8G on the FTZ. That nets you very excellent optics in the classic focal lengths, but has you changing lenses. A lot of event shooters shoot this way anyway, so no big deal. The problem? No f/2.8 zooms yet, and nothing wider than 35mm in primes. The Solution? The 20mm or 24mm f/1.8G on the FTZ. The f/2.8 zooms on the FTZ are just too massive, but the f/1.8G wide primes work quite well and are appropriately sized.
  • Landscape shooter. Real simple: 19mm f/4 PC-E on the FTZ on the Z7, backed up with the 24-70mm f/4 S. Surprised you, didn't I? ;~) Seriously, this is an insane combination. Let's start with the 24-70mm f/4: at landscape apertures this is the best kit lens we've ever seen for getting strong edge to edge results at 24mm, particularly on a 45mp body. Just watch out for the focus shift if you're stopping down beyond f/5.6. But that 19mm? Coupled with the manual focus tools it's relatively easy to move the focus plane visually once you've gotten some practice, and the lens is sharp, sharp, sharp. I'm in heaven.
  • Macro shooter. Ugh. The problem? Staying with Nikkors on the FTZ, you're stopped at 105mm. While that's a fine lens, it's restrictive in working distance. The older 70-180mm and 200mm Micro-Nikkors are screw drive, so don't autofocus on the Z's. Which means I'm back to manual focus for macro on my Z at the moment. I'm not sure there's a real good match for the Z's, even dipping into the third-party lenses. The Sigma's beyond 100mm are f/2.8, and large. The solution? None, really. You'll have to use short (60-105mm) macros with little working distance or manual focus.

Other lenses that seem appropriate to me on the FTZ (due to size, compatibility, etc.):

  • 8-15mm f/3.5E — the way you get either type of fisheye on the Z for the foreseeable future.
  • 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G — if you really want 18-24mm in a small package for that travel kit, you can make this work.
  • 28mm f/1.8G — I'm not a big fan of this lens due to the focus shift, but like the other f/1.8G's, it's a nice match in size with the Z's, even with the FTZ mounted. 
  • 300mm f/4E PF — just as handholdable as on the DSLRs, maybe more so. 
  • 500mm f/5.6E PF — probably the longest lens that truly makes any sense on the Z's. 

It isn't that you can't mount any of the other DSLR Nikkors on the FTZ and use them with your Z body, it's that you start to get into inappropriate weight/size combinations. If you have to mount your 70-200mm f/2.8E on the FTZ for some reason, sure, that works—I did it for a college football game—but you're starting to give up some of the advantages of the Z over a DSLR at that point. I'd much rather use that same 70-200mm f/2.8E on my D850 for that kind of shooting, for instance. 

This, of course, is the dilemma that Nikon's in with a new mount. The lenses that we get in 2019 don't actually help a lot with the above. The most useful addition will be the 14-30mm f/4, which will round out that travel kit nicely. The f/1.8 Z primes coming in 2019 really just get rid of the FTZ adapter and your f/1.8G primes; you'll lose a bit of size and weight in the mix, but you'll be buying new lenses. 

The 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8 Z zooms coming in 2019 will give the event and pro shooter another choice, but I'm a little worried about how big/heavy they'll be. 

Personally, since I own both Nikon DSLR and mirrorless kits, I'm perfectly happy with what's available. The Z7 will tend to be my travel and landscape camera, the D5/D850 my event, sports, and wildlife cameras. The current lens set works quite well for me as a result. 

For those of you trying to just shoot with a Z6 or Z7—e.g. you gave up your Nikon DSLR to upgrade to mirrorless—things are likely more problematic at the moment. But give it time. It took Sony a few years to get their FE lens set filled out with enough options to satisfy most people. If Nikon meets their road map, we'll have 20 Z lenses by the end of 2021, and that is likely to get us to a very satisfactory point.

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