After a long period of no new releases from Nikon, we finally have some new Z lenses slated for release. Nikon recently announced the release of two macro (Nikon calls them ‘micro) lenses – the NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S and NIKKOR Z MC 50mm f/2.8. Both lenses will be available July 2021.
The 105mm and 50mm are the first NIKKOR Z lenses to feature a 1:1 reproduction ratio, which is ideal for macro photography. It allows photographers to get extremely close to subjects, like flowers or wildlife, and fill the entire frame. Nikon guarantees edge-to-edge sharpness, from center to corners, and vivid detail. These lenses will also have excellent bokeh, and surely be upgrades over the aged DSLR versions.
If there is one thing that has really amazed me with the new Z lenses, it’s just how much better they are then the older DSLR versions – and some are only older by a few years.
Nikon still has some ground to make up, but these lenses should be fantastic. We offer many Backcountry Journeys trips with macro photography opportunities (Costa Rica is a great one) and these lenses should shine. The Z lenses have all been really incredibly in terms of quality and design, Nikon has just been slow with production and release. Of course, we were just in the midst of a global pandemic, but Sony and Canon made strides while Nikon did not.
But now, Nikon users can welcome these two new lenses, the announcement of production for a few others, and the promise that many more new releases are in store for 2021. Nikon has also updated its product roadmap, which hints at some of the lenses we can expect next – my most anticipated are the 100-400mm and the 200-600mm. The Z series needs native telephoto options, bad.
Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S Macro Lens
- Z-Mount Lens/FX Format
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/32
- 4″ Minimum Focus
- 1:1 Magnification
- Nano Crystal and ARNEO Coatings
- Dual-Motor Multi-Focus STM AF System
- VR Image Stabilization
- OLED Lens Information Panel
- Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm
- Weather-Sealed Construction
I think the 105mm f/2.8 is really the highlight of the two lenses that were released. 105mm is a excellent focal length for macro photography and the 1:1 reproduction ratio will be able to resolve great detail. It’s fast at f/2.8, yet still lightweight and versatile. And, just because it’s a ‘macro’ lenses doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other genres as well. 105mm is excellent for abstract landscape scenes, portrait work, and even wildlife.
The 105mm has a larger rear aspherical element, which helps displace the curvature from infinity to extremely close-up. It also has a short minimum focusing distance at 0.96 feet, which makes it such a great macro lens for sharp detail and bokeh.
There are two great things about this lens, especially for macro photography, that are easily looked over. The 105mm has a new ‘Multi-Focus STM’ system for smooth, silent, and accurate autofocus. This system has customized algorithms that account for slight distance changes that might affect the effective aperture. And second, the lens has a limiter switch, which can be toggled depending on the working range – this really helps autofocus accuracy for macro work. Near silent AF is so nice too, and almost an essential where even the slightest sound can disturb your model AKA small creature.
The lens has 4.52 stops of stabilization via Vibration Reduction. That will help any handheld shooting, even better, the stabilization works in unison with the full-frame Z series in-body stabilization. Users should be able to comfortably handhold this lens for a variety of shots and light.
As other premium S-line lenses, the 105mm has NANO Crystal and ARNEO coatings that limit flare and other ghosting effects that you might experience with either backlighting or shooting into the sun. These coatings work excellent. It also is equipped with a manual focus ring, a lens function button, control ring, and info panel. It is fully weather sealed.
Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
- Z-Mount Lens/FX Format
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
- One ED Element, One Aspherical Element
- 1:1 Magnification
- 3″ Minimum Focus
- STM Autofocus System
- Focus Range Limiter
- Magnification and Focus Distance Indexes
- Weather-Sealed Construction
- Compatible with ES-2 Film Digitizing Set
The 50mm f/2.8 will undoubtedly be a great lens as well, but I think it has more applications for portrait and food work than us nature photographers. It lacks the ‘S-line’ designation, but should still be optically excellent.
It stands out because it is extremely small and lightweight. It’s only 9.2 oz and has a 1:1 reproduction ratio, as well as a minimum focus distance of 0.53 ft. That’s great, I just prefer doing macro work with a longer lens.
We also see a lot of similar design qualities compared to the new 105mm. There is a focus limiter switch, similar effective coatings, and displays that show focus distance and reproduction ratio.
I really think the 50mm will be great, I just don’t know where it fits in the nature photography arsenal. Having the extra each of 105mm makes macro photography a bit easier while dealing with wildlife, like insects or frogs, whereas 50mm can be perfect for static subjects.
It is tough to argue against the build, size, and expected quality of the 50mm f/2.8 though. I’m happy Nikon is releasing some new lenses and I’m excited for what’s yet to come this year.
New Developments & Roadmap Update
Nikon also announced the development of two new primes, a 28mm f/2.8 and a 40mm f/2.
They also updated their roadmap with a display of lenses that will be available by the end of 2022. Telephotos are needed sooner or later, or it could be bad news for Nikon. The 100-400mm needs to be release ASAP.
But, there are some great lenses coming…hang in there wildlife folks – the 200-600mm, 400mm, and 600mm should be absolutely fantastic.
Another lens that I think will be great is the 24-105mm. It’s sure to be small and lightweight, and 24-105 is such a useful range for pretty much any type of photography.
Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special. Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.
Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.
As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.
You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com
Don’t miss the next session of BCJ Live!
Image Review: Wildlife
with Russell Graves
Tuesday, October 12th, 2021
11 am – 12 pm Mountain Time