Nikon Lenses: The Year in Review, 2019

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Dedicating its year to Z, Nikon spent 2019 actively working toward building up its cache of lenses for the immensely popular Z 6 and Z 7 cameras, as well as initiating a DX-format system for the Z mount. Continuing to add to a series of highly useful primes, Nikon’s optics team also spent 2019 releasing a pair of useful FX zooms, a pair of DX zooms, and finally formally releasing the new Noct. With the exception of the Noct, Nikon’s strategy with the Z-mount lenses has been a seemingly more modest one than other recent entrants to the full-frame mirrorless sphere, with attention given to rounding out a comprehensive set of f/1.8 primes of common focal lengths, building up a series of f/4 zooms, and slowly releasing the f/2.8 zooms over time. They seem to be emphasizing patience and a concentration on performing the basics especially well with new optical designs to give the classic focal lengths a new lease on optical ability.

The first lens of the year for Nikon was the ultra-wide zoom NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S, which gives a bit more focal length than the classic 14-24mm at the expense of one stop. By keeping it an f/4, the lens retains a sleek and modest form factor that is in line with the Z camera bodies themselves and the 24-70mm f/4 released last year. Speaking of 24-70s, the second zoom of the year from Nikon was the second 24-70 of the Z system; the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. This lens differentiates itself from the last year’s version by its f/2.8 maximum aperture, obviously, but also has more complex and advanced optical and physical designs. ED and aspherical elements help to reduce a variety of aberrations, a new ARNEO coating works to suppress flare, and dual stepping motors yield faster AF performance. Also signaling a trend for premium Z lenses, this 24-70mm has a top OLED lens information panel to help check the aperture setting, focus distance, and depth-of-field figures right on the lens, in both bright and dark situations.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Lens

In addition to the two zooms, Nikon also released a pair of primes to expand the lineup to range from 24mm to 85mm. The NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S is a portrait-length lens that sidles up right alongside the 35mm and 50mm f/1.8 lenses from 2018. And to complement the range further, the new wide-angle NIKKOR Z 24mm f/1.8 S, also featuring a similar stature and design, covers the wide end of the spectrum of oft-used prime focal lengths. While expected, the new 24mm and 84mm lenses, along with the older 35mm and 50mm, set a precedent for usability for the Z system. Even though Nikon flaunted its large-diameter new Z mount with the possibilities of wider apertures, the choice to focus on a series of f/1.8 primes is a smart move in accessibility and having smart lenses available quickly. These four lenses cover a majority of shooting needs and their updated optics match the trend for more megapixels and more discerning shooters.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S Lens

With that modesty in mind, however, Nikon did finally release the promised crown jewel the company has been touting since the general launch of the Z system; the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct is finally official. Paying homage to the legendary Noct-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 from 1977, this new and heavily updated version is “why the Z mount was created.” Besides its impressive f/0.95 maximum aperture, the optical design of this lens has been optimized for working at wider aperture values, meaning you can readily make use of the bright and unique effects. Like its predecessor, this lens is also extremely adept at reducing coma and maintaining sharpness from edge to edge. It’s a manual focus lens and, like the 24-70mm f/2.8, has the new ARNEO coating and a top OLED to display focus and depth of field distance information. This is a huge lens that’s clearly capable of producing some amazing results, but mainly it’s a statement piece for Nikon to show what it is capable of achieving.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct Lens

And finally, in a move that is the complete opposite of the Noct, Nikon also surprised everyone by expanding the Z system to DX (or APS-C depending on nomenclature). While initially positioned as a full-frame/FX-intended mount, Nikon has made a statement that Z is its future and is welcoming a different class of shooters to its mirrorless system. Alongside the Z 50 mirrorless body, Nikon announced the NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR lenses to go along with the sleek new mirrorless camera. These 24-75mm equivalent and 75-375mm equivalent, respectively, zooms sport especially compact profiles, the inclusion of Vibration Reduction, and the same stepping motor AF and programmable control rings as the FX-intended lenses.

Nikon NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR Lens

What are your thoughts on the Nikon’s lens announcements of 2019? What lenses are you hoping to see from them 2020? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

4 Comments

It would be wonderful to see the Z 70-200 f/2.8 and a 105mm macro lens for the z. I just don't understand why Nikon is going the DX route for their mirrorless cameras.

I would first like Nikon to fulfill its obligation to deliver the 500mm phase fresnel lens.  It is back-ordered everywhere.  I can only assume that Nikon is more interested in creating a new toy (the Z bodies and lenses) than it is in taking care of its existing customers.  As for its now-offered Z long lens, I can only say that creating a slow f/4.5-6.3 looks like something a cheap off-brand lens company would do.  I committed to a Nikon system many years ago, but lately, Nikon has not been impressive.

In 2020, I am looking for a loner length zoom like the 80-400, and a matching 1.4 TC.

Fingers crossed Robert.  Hopefully we'll see something like that from Nikon in 2020!

Cheers,

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