It’s no secret Nikon missed the full-frame mirrorless revolution party – and was a little late to the after-party – but when it did arrive it brought the best gift: the mighty Z mount. Launching an alternative to the now 62-year-old F mount was a bold move, and one that was always going to ruffle a few feathers.
However, three years on from the release of the original Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7, it’s abundantly clear that Z mount is more than a worthy successor.
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The Z mount’s open secret is its oversized diameter. Internally, it’s 17% bigger than the F mount and larger than any full-frame mount on the market. This is advantageous for a number of technical reasons, but the keys are increased light-gathering, better image quality and smaller lenses and bodies.
The proof is in the pudding; on test the best Nikon Z lenses have consistently bettered their F-mount equivalents. In fact, we actually had to amend the scale of our lab test graphs to accommodate the incredible hike in resolution of Z-mount lenses.
All that’s really stood in the Z mount’s way is a lack of available focal lengths, but with the Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S and Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S finally completing the S-Line ‘holy trinity’, plus the release of the incredible Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S to appease macro shooters, the core bases are now largely covered.
A quick gander at the latest Nikon Z lens roadmap is a reminder that we’ve got two super-telephoto primes and two super-telephoto zooms to look forward to – essentials for wildlife and sports photographers, who are also no doubt keenly awaiting the arrival of the upcoming mirrorless flagship, the Nikon Z9.
But the Z mount isn’t just about premium-quality S-line lenses. The Nikon Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR and Nikon Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR are great budget buys, while the Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR is a very tempting prospect for the full-frame enthusiast.
Many of us are still happily working with F-mount cameras and optics – and Nikon made it abundantly clear, with last year’s Nikon D6, that there’s life in the old dog yet. And when you consider the gargantuan width and breadth of the F-mount range, its undeniable affordability on the second-hand market, its unrivaled heritage and its rock-solid performance, it’s still an extremely attractive option.
No matter what mount you currently favor, it’s good to know the future of Nikon is in very capable hands. Happy birthday, Z mount – here’s to the next 59 years!
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