As I was updating some old articles on Photography Life, I came across what I believe to be the most popular comment anywhere on the site. It concerns a particular lens that Nikon Z users have been asking about for a while now. I’ll let the comment speak for itself:
A reader of ours named Jason posted this on our Nikon Z Lens Roadmap article. He quotes the article as saying:
“What Nikon really needs to push to its Z lens roadmap, is a sharp and lightweight 70-200mm f/4 S. Nikon, please, make this a surprise announcement – it should be on the priority list way before any of the specialized or exotic primes.”
We’re not the sort of website that attracts hundreds of likes for popular comments, so perhaps 36 upvotes seems like small potatoes compared to the numbers on sites like Dpreview and Nikon Rumors. But to the best of my knowledge, there’s not another comment on Photography Life which has compelled more people to give the thumbs up.
I should point out the date of the comment: October 14, 2020. It’s been well over a year – closer to two – since Jason posted that comment. Yet there has been no word from Nikon in the intervening time about a Z 70-200mm f/4, nor something like a Z 70-300mm f/4-6.3.
Jason’s comment isn’t a fluke, either. It seems like more than half the requests on that article were asking for a lens like this. The following image is a screenshot – not a composite – of the most popular comments on the page from top to bottom:
At this point, Nikon is the only camera company not to have a 70-200mm f/4 for their full-frame mirrorless system. Canon has one, Sony has one, and even Panasonic has one. Those brands also have a sprinkling of 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses and similar, while Nikon does not. Since Nikon’s roadmap doesn’t show anything, either, it may still be years until one is announced (I dread to say it, and I think it’s unlikely, but: if ever.)
A 70-200mm f/4 is an extremely useful lens. It’s good for landscape photography, where heavy f/2.8 glass can be overkill. It’s good for budget shooters who want a bright 200mm lens (since f/4 captures more than double as much light as f/6.3). And it’s the perfect lens to form a trio of capable f/4 zooms, like Nikon’s popular 14-30mm f/4 and 24-70mm f/4 optics.
Something similar can be said of a 70-300mm f/4-6.3. As a variable aperture zoom, these are usually lower-end lenses and may not have the build quality of a constant f/4 lens. But they’re light and inexpensive, and they can reach 300mm, so they’re useful lenses in their own right. Nikon has sold tons over the years for their F-mount system.
What options do Nikon Z users have instead? Perhaps the most similar lens is the Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3. As a superzoom, it’s hardly the same as a dedicated 70-300mm f/4-6.3, let alone a 70-200mm f/4, but it does cover telephoto focal lengths without weighing a ton. There’s also a Z 24-120mm f/4 that may have enough reach for some photographers who had wanted a 70-200mm (and is proving very popular for Nikon already).
Another alternative is to adapt lenses. Nikon’s F-mount AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR is the most common adapted lens that I’ve seen among our workshop participants and readers, maybe because it’s still lightweight even with an FTZ adapter permanently affixed to the back.
But something more is needed. I don’t think I’m crazy to believe that a lightweight camera system like Nikon Z should have access to at least one dedicated lightweight telephoto. (By “dedicated,” I mean not an adapted lens, and not a superzoom.) I even believe that Nikon knows this, seeing as though one of the first DX lenses they ever released for mirrorless was the Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3. Yet there is no full-frame equivalent.
I don’t intend for this article to be an anti-Nikon tirade. Actually, I’ve been impressed at how well Nikon has fleshed out the Z system in less than four years, especially in the middle of a pandemic and supply-chain crisis. I’m not switching brands any time soon, and I even bought the 24-200mm f/4-6.3 to fill this gap for my own photography. I can put up with a vari-aperture superzoom for most of what I shoot, and the 24-200mm has surprisingly good image quality if used right. (Maybe that’s what Nikon wants us all to realize in the end.)
There’s also the practical reality of bringing a new lens to market in the first place. How many copies will it sell? How much will it cost to produce? I can’t answer those questions about a 70-200mm f/4, and internet comments and upvotes certainly don’t always translate to sales. Nikon doubtless has much smarter people working on their product lineup decisions than me. Maybe they’ve discovered a lens like this would be a bad manufacturing investment.
But I still think the time is right to at least put something on the roadmap. They already have four lightweight midrange zooms: the 24-50mm f/4-6.3, 24-70mm f/4, 24-120mm f/4, and 24-200mm f/4-6.3. Plus a cheap f/2.8 zoom in the same range (as well as an expensive one). If the market of lightweight and budget photographers is big enough to support all that, a single telephoto meant for the same audience doesn’t seem like a stretch to me.
We’re almost in announcement season for Nikon and should be seeing more news on a Z6 III and their aps-c plans before long. If we’re lucky, a lightweight telephoto for the full-frame system could be squeezed into the releases. And then the most glaring hole in the Z lens lineup – one that’s been garnering popular requests on at least one photography website since October 2020 :) – will be closed.
When Nikon announced its entry into serious mirrorless I expected that early in the body line-up would be a D500 equivalent. It would’ve been more successful than the excellent D500 for obvious reasons. But no luck. It ceded this territory to Sony and Fuji.
Nikon remains distant from its users.
I‘m waiting for this lens since the first day of Nikon Z and wrote at least 50 comments on popular photography pages and YouTube channels.
Please use your power and force Nikon to release that lens.
They are losing potential customers because of that …
I‘d like to add that I love my 24-200 and use that lens for hiking and as an allrounder. But its biggest con is that it’s not perfectly sharp at 160-200 mm.
The 70-200/4 is very popular with some who have a very specific need (not truly fast, not very long given the size/price/weight), but compared to the 70-300/4.5-5.6 variety, it’s rather niche.
I’ve owned both (and still have one (!)) and I don’t disagree (so long as you are talking about the 70-300E – its predecessors are pretty nondescript at the long end).
IMHO the AF and the IQ on the 70-200 at f4 exceed anything the 70-300 can do. My heart ruled that the 70-200 was the keeper.
(I’d also say that there are times when a cropped image from the 70-200 at 200mm can trump an image taken on the 200-500.)
I have used the 70-200mm F4 for numerous photography sessions with a TC when out walking in the countryside and without TC for working with a family occasion or open air event.
It is my preferred lens for long distance carrying or up close to a subject moments.
It is not my most preferred lens for Photography that position belongs to owned Prime Lenses, for me I always feel an image quality is lacking when taken with my 70 – 200 F4, for this reason, it is the only lens I got obsessive about carrying out calibrating on.
There is at present, without doubt, being offered from Z Lenses, ‘parity of image quality’ when recent released variable focal length lenses are compared at the same focal lengths and apertures.
With this knowledge, the lens user can be reassured that the lens will compare exactly when a shared setting is used on any recent release Zoom Lens.
I can’t see anything from a Z Lens design, and especially a S Type, that will change the image quality being parity in comparisons.
Maybe I am wrong in my assumption that a Z 100 – 400mm F4.5 – 5.6 pretty much is a permanent fix for Z Mount users, liking the idea of the availability of a
Z 70 – 200 F4
The decision in relation to the Z System Zoom Lenses, is which lens is to be chosen, in relation to available aperture settings and Zoom range.
In India, where the event photographers form a large chunk of the market, the 70-200 f/4 lenses sold (all brands) were very less compared to the f/2.8 versions. Thom also wrote that the Nikon 70-200 f/4 did not sell well – may be due to the late entry as you say. Also, note the fact that 70-200 f/2.8 was iterated three times in the same time indicating much higher demand for the faster version. I am not for this lens and I have bought the 24-200 with which I am immensely happy. YMMV!
The reasons that the 70-200 f/2.8 was iterated more than the f/4 were:
-The first version (2003) was designed for DX and didn’t have good resolution across the FX field. When Nikon came out with FX DSLRs they needed to redo this lens for this reason. Also, at f/2.8 the lens suffered from veiling flare.
-The second version (2009) was improved but had serious focus breathing problems and some lateral chromatic aberration.
-The third version (2016) was close to perfection.
The 70-200 f/4 (2012) was good from the start and didn’t need to be revamped. It also came out 9 years after the first version of the f/2.8 lens and 3 years after the second version. It was absolutely not the case that one lens was being iterated more than the other over the same period. Instead, the f/4 lens was introduced much later than the f/2.8 lens.
Here’s what Photography Life said in its review:
“With its excellent performance from center to corner, no noticeable field curvature issues, beautiful color rendition, fast autofocus, extremely useful vibration reduction and no focus breathing, it even tops the high-end Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR in a number of ways. It makes sense to use this lens over the f/2.8 version for photographing small subjects at close distances, because it has longer reach and its minimum focus distance is much shorter.”
I could care less about a 70-200mm f/4 lol, but whatever would make internet people happy, I guess is good? Yeah Nikon made the 70-200mm f/4 VR and it is and was a great little lens, especially the one I got for only $450 in mint condition a couple of years back. I soon after sold it, for a fair profit and just bought a used VRII of the f/2.8 version. I’d had the original Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR and it was never a great lens, I was never happy with it. I was more than satisfied with the VRII, it just still felt like it was not Nikon’s best. I used to shoot Canon for sports work, for the company I worked for, so I knew how great the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II was at the time. Although it’s also true Canon cameras back then did have a sort of weak spot in their poor(er) dynamic range/sensors. So I’m not hating on one brand or supporting the other. Both are great, shoot what makes you happy!
There was a big gap in IQ between the Canon and Nikon (2014-2016) lenses in my personal opinion and in my images. I loved the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II and did not like the Nikon as much. Then the FL came out just in time for me to buy/upgrade to and I’m still using one. I have zero plans to sell my 70-200mm FL even I switch to Z-mount full time someday; I’d rather adapt my favorite F-mount lenses than buy the Z-mount version. Call me stupid, crazy or whatever, I don’t want the newer 70-200mm with its little silver S badge and no buttons. I want my VR/Limit/Fn/etc buttons left alone and where they belong. The only other thing keeping me from a Z9 is I’m perfectly happy with the DSLR’s I know and can depend on. The Z9 has no WT-6A type port, and I heavily rely on my wireless transmitters that I’m hesitant to even try/buy the Z9. I’ve held them, shot them even.
Just felt like a big learning curve and learning to let go, let the Autofocus A.I. do it’s thing? Yeah I just saw myself missing opportunities I’d 99.9% had nailed with my D5/D6 or even D850. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying the DSLR’s; even the more expensive D6, is better than the Z9. It’s just so difficult and different to me; I like to be in control and I know what I can and can’t do with my cameras. The Z9 feels like Nikon took the D6 and D850/Z7 and made a mad scientist baby. However I’m not ready to hand my experience or expectations onto a camera. I’m sure the Z9 is already helping many people make great images. Without a doubt it’s a phenomenal camera for a fair price. I
just for some reason am not drinking the cool aid. I can’t seem to find any reasons to sell my current gear! It’s working so well for me, it’s never let me down. I’ve never even needed a single repair in over 20 years of shooting Nikon professionally. In that same time period I was at Canon CPS Irvine, California at least 3-4x needing everything from an $8 part to completely smashing and marrying a Canon 1D Mark III and 500mm f/4L IS. Canon didn’t even charge me a dime, I think they felt horrible for me, I was already a broken kid/young guy at the time. It meant a lot to me that Canon took care of me, when I needed it. That’s what’s so great about 2022! Any DSLR or mirrorless camera for advanced amateur or professional going back to 2012 is a great camera. We’re all spoiled with choices, no matter your budget. We’re living in the best of times if you have money and or need gear and need it cheap.
I’ve had 6 Nikon cameras. 1 needed a repair (D50) and 2 (D7500 and Z5) were defective from day 1. The Z5 has been to Nikon but the AF is still far from satisfactory and it might be paying a second visit (either that or it actually cannot AF on a static subject, namely a dog).
If I hadn’t invested in Nikon glass, I’d have looked at other options.
If and when Tamron produces a Z-mount version of their 70-180 f2.8 Sony E-mount, Nikon Z shooters will have an even better option than would be a 70-200 f4. The Tamron is compact and lightweight, 67mm filters, superb optics, good weather sealing, and it’s f2.8 through the entire zoom range.
With sensors in the 45-61 mp range, does it really matter if the lens goes to 180 instead of 200?
This Tamron has become my most used lens, and it can substitute for my 90mm macro (1:2 at 70mm manually focused). It’s only slightly bigger and heavier than my 24-105 f4 so not a burden to walk around with. In contrast, when I owned a 70-200 f4 it was too big and heavy and rarely with me.
That lens is definitely impressive for being f/2.8 and not weighing too much. It’s one of the top lenses I hope that Tamron makes for the Z system, and it would mostly solve the problem of the missing Nikon Z lightweight telephoto.
Still, there is an inherent physical cost of f/2.8 in weight and size. Even using the Tamron 70-180mm’s same basic lens design, but as an f/4 lens, would shave off even more weight, size, and price. Or, alternatively, it would allow for a longer focal length range, like up to 300mm, without weighing more.
From a brand-management perspective, I find it amazing how Nikon refuses to engage in a two-way conversation with its most loyal customers. For a brand that has decades behind it, they have shown zero interest in “having a conversation” with its brand loyal, something every other global brand understands and engages in each day. Nikon fell way behind because they refused to “see” where the market was headed and now, they continue to refuse to give customers what they want and thereby preventing them from switching to other camera companies. I shot Nikon for 25 years and switched this year to Fuji because I didn’t feel the need to wait to see if Nikon would wake up from its decade-long nap.
I think Nikon has gotten better at listening to Z-series users. The changes on the Z6 II and Z7 II were almost all in response to customer feedback, and it made those cameras much smoother to use because of it. But they have room for improvement. Some wires clearly got crossed if it’s been almost four years and there’s no lightweight telephoto available (aside from a superzoom) for a lightweight camera system.
Et imaginez un seul instant un zoom AF-S 24-300 f/4 !!!!!!!!!
70-200 f4 was not a big seller for Nikon but they sold literally millions of 70-300s. In various disguise over the years. That’s the missing piece in Z land.
Now that there’s a good Z 24-120mm f/4, I agree that a lightweight zoom that reaches 300mm rather than 200mm should be Nikon’s priority.
More like the biggest whine of the Nikon users. Go look at Mir’s site, the 70-200/4 was not a big seller in F-mount…
Customer whining usually signifies an issue. What telephoto lens do you suggest to pair with the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4, Nikon’s most popular Z lens?
Doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a 70-200mm f/4 (probably lost a lot of sales on F-mount because they released it so late) or a variable aperture 70-300mm (one of Nikon’s best-selling F-mount lenses). But something is needed.