This is one in a series of posts on the Nikon Z7. You should be able to find all the posts about that camera in the Category List on the right sidebar, below the Articles widget. There’s a drop-down menu there that you can use to get to all the posts in this series; just look for “Nikon Z6/7”.
It’s early days in my Z7 evaluation, but I’m beginning to see a kind of parallel with the Fujifilm GFX 50S testing that I did. With that camera, I started out excited about the body, but over time I came to realize that the reason to go all-in with the GFX was the lenses. Not that there’s anything wrong with the body; the GFX is a perfectly competent camera with a really nice – and unusual – user interface. The big sensor is a modest improvement over Nikon and Sony cameras with similar pixel counts. But what makes the GFX system such a standout are the Fuji G lenses. Most are fantastic performers – think Otus IQ with autofocus. One or two are merely great. They are what make the camera ecosystem stand out.
The situation with the Z7 is shaping up similarly, but with a few twists. The body is a fine MILC. It’s got a few rough edges, but it’s more than a credible effort on Nikon’s part. I only have two native lenses: the 35/1.8 and the 24-70/4 (I didn’t seek out the zoom, and bought it simply because I could get the body sooner if I bought the bundle). Nikon is not shooting as high with these lenses as Fuji is with the G lenses. But, for the money, they are truly impressive.
At $600 with the bundle, and $1,000 purchased by itself, the zoom is a screaming bargain. If offers better image quality at about half the price as the 24-70/2.8G (which, admittedly is a stop faster). The level of correction is truly impressive. I don’t have the 24-70/2.8E, but it can probably keep up with that $2400 lens except at f/2.8 through f/3.5. And the 24-70/4 is amazingly light, and small when collapsed.
The 35/1.8 is no slouch, either. It is a better lens than the well-regarded Sigma 35/1.4 ART (but missing f/1.6 and f/1.4).
I haven’t tested the 50/1.8 Z lens, but I have high hopes that when I get my hands on one, it, too, will be a price-performer. I discount the 50/0.95, which is in my opinion, a niche-y attempt at a halo product.
The lineup of Z-camera native lenses is, to put it generously, sparse. Compared to the incredible F-mount catalog, it’s almost non-existent. Z6 and Z7 owners need a bridge between now and that bright morning in the future when the Z system lens menagerie is well fleshed out. Fortunately, the FTZ adapter provides that bridge, and works well with Nikon F-mount lenses, although there are some glitches with third-party ones. (The cynic in me is reminded of the apocryphal 1980’s-era Redmond motto: “The job’s not done ‘til Lotus won’t run”.)
Is the superb price/performance ratio of the Z-mount lenses the result of the mount itself? Nikon would have you believe that, and, to some extent, it is probably true. But the current lenses, apart from the semi-announced and far from shipping 50/0.95, don’t come close to making use of the entire design envelope of the mount. But, if you’re a lens designer, more options are never a bad thing.
So color me impressed with the Z-mount lenses I’ve seen so far, and hopeful that they are the harbinger of many more to come.