Must Have "Z" Lens Recommendations

JoeW

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I have numerous Nikon DSLR bodies. I recently bit the bullet and got a Z6 Mirrorless. Yes, I already have the FTZ adaptor. But part of the advantage of mirrorless is better, sharper images because the lens is closer to the sensor. And the FTZ adaptor eliminates that advantage.

My go to camera right now is a D500. I use it for sports, wildlife. I intend to use the Z6 for Macro, for some travel (where I'm limited in the amount of equipment I can bring, ie: not 2 bodies and 5 lens and a tripod with 2 speed lights).

So my question is this (to you Nikon mirrorless users): what would be one or maybe two Z lens that you'd say are "must haves"? Exclude the long zooms--I'd use my D500 to shoot Eagles with my Tamron 600mm. What are 1 or 2 Z lens that you think fit what I'm likely to use my Z6 for and you think are pretty good lens?
 
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I have numerous Nikon DSLR bodies. I recently bit the bullet and got a Z6 Mirrorless. Yes, I already have the FTZ adaptor. But part of the advantage of mirrorless is better, sharper images because the lens is closer to the sensor. And the FTZ adaptor eliminates that advantage.

My go to camera right now is a D500. I use it for sports, wildlife. I intend to use the Z6 for Macro, for some travel (where I'm limited in the amount of equipment I can bring, ie: not 2 bodies and 5 lens and a tripod with 2 speed lights).

So my question is this (to you Nikon mirrorless users): what would be one or maybe two Z lens that you'd say are "must haves"? Exclude the long zooms--I'd use my D500 shoot shoot Eagles with my Tamron 600mm. What are 1 or 2 Z lens that you think fit what I'm likely to use my Z6 for and you think are pretty good lens?
Without knowing what you're photographing, it's impossible to recommend anything.
 
Without knowing what you're photographing, it's impossible to recommend anything.
I completely agree. Which is why, in my post, I said the kinds of things I would and would not be using my Z6 for. Specifically, I said I'd be using it mostly for macro, some travel (thus probably landscapes and "street photography") and I specifically excluded all long zooms. And I also said I'd be using my D500 for sports and wildlife photography.
 
I have been using a D500 with Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 and 600mm f/4G for quite a while now, mainly for birding, and a D850 for most everything else. I picked up a Z9 last February and have been collecting Z glass as money allows. To me, there is absolutely no loss in image quality using f-mount glass on the Z9 with the FTZII adapter. In fact, my Nikon, Tamron, and Sigma f-mount glass perform better on the Z9 than the D850 / D500. I get more sharp / in focus images and the AF seems to lock faster and more reliably with the Z9. All the FTZII adapter does is spread the light coming from the lens to cover the sensor. There is nothing in the optical path to reduce IQ.

I wanted to have at least one Z lens when I got the Z9 and for me it had to be the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S. I use that lens on my D850, and now the Z9, more than any other. It's perfect for the grand kids soccer games, outdoor portraits, going to the zoo, dogs playing in the backyard, ... The others I have collected are the 85mm f/1.8 S for portraits, and the 50mm f/1.8 S and 35mm f/1.8 S for general purpose photography, especially street photography. Next on my list are the 105mm f/2.8 S macro, and 24mm f/1.8 S for landscapes. I will eventually fill out the trinity, but my f-mount glass is filling that void for right now. Actually, I am surprised by how well my Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 works on the Z9, so I am in no hurry to get the Z glass version. I am not a fan of the 300mm and 400mm focal lengths, but that's just me.

I got tired of waiting for Nikon to announce the Z 200-600mm f/6.3 for birding, so I picked up a megadap211 E mount to Z mount adapter and a Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 telephoto zoom. It is a really, really nice piece of glass and so far, is performing flawlessly on the Z9. When money allows, I'll pick up the Z 800mm f/6.3 S. Those two lenses will take care of my wildlife, especially birding needs.

As far as the IQ improvement with Z glass, yes Z S glass does perform better, but to me, it's not the tiny improvement in sharpness (you have to pixel pick to see it), but very fast AF with less vignetting, almost not existent CA, better bokeh, and for those lenses with VR (like the 70-200mm f/2.8 S), the VR works seemlessly with IBIS for more stops of stability.

I cringe a bit when photographers say they want Z S glass for better IQ. First, the IQ I'm getting off of my dslrs and Z9 with my pro level f-mount glass is impressive (as long as I use good technique). I can get very good results off my D7200 with DX glass. The tiny improvement with Z glass is only noticeable at 100% on my monitor. Second, 75% of taking good photos comes from good working knowledge of the art and science of photography, planning, patience, and a little luck, 15% Post Processing skills, and 10% equipment, as long as that equipment meets a minimum quality level and smartphone cameras are more than good enough. There are award winning photos that are not particularly sharp or at the highest resolution, but the subject matter and composition made the shot. I guess what I'm saying, is that Z glass will not make you a better photographer. Neither will a mirrorless camera, but it may up your keeper rate and the fps rate might allow you to get a shot you might have missed at a lower frame rate dslr, but that's the camera, not Z glass.
 
I have been using a D500 with Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 and 600mm f/4G for quite a while now, mainly for birding, and a D850 for most everything else. I picked up a Z9 last February and have been collecting Z glass as money allows. To me, there is absolutely no loss in image quality using f-mount glass on the Z9 with the FTZII adapter. In fact, my Nikon, Tamron, and Sigma f-mount glass perform better on the Z9 than the D850 / D500. I get more sharp / in focus images and the AF seems to lock faster and more reliably with the Z9. All the FTZII adapter does is spread the light coming from the lens to cover the sensor. There is nothing in the optical path to reduce IQ.

I wanted to have at least one Z lens when I got the Z9 and for me it had to be the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S. I use that lens on my D850, and now the Z9, more than any other. It's perfect for the grand kids soccer games, outdoor portraits, going to the zoo, dogs playing in the backyard, ... The others I have collected are the 85mm f/1.8 S for portraits, and the 50mm f/1.8 S and 35mm f/1.8 S for general purpose photography, especially street photography. Next on my list are the 105mm f/2.8 S macro, and 24mm f/1.8 S for landscapes. I will eventually fill out the trinity, but my f-mount glass is filling that void for right now. Actually, I am surprised by how well my Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 works on the Z9, so I am in no hurry to get the Z glass version. I am not a fan of the 300mm and 400mm focal lengths, but that's just me.

I got tired of waiting for Nikon to announce the Z 200-600mm f/6.3 for birding, so I picked up a megadap211 E mount to Z mount adapter and a Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 telephoto zoom. It is a really, really nice piece of glass and so far, is performing flawlessly on the Z9. When money allows, I'll pick up the Z 800mm f/6.3 S. Those two lenses will take care of my wildlife, especially birding needs.

As far as the IQ improvement with Z glass, yes Z S glass does perform better, but to me, it's not the tiny improvement in sharpness (you have to pixel pick to see it), but very fast AF with less vignetting, almost not existent CA, better bokeh, and for those lenses with VR (like the 70-200mm f/2.8 S), the VR works seemlessly with IBIS for more stops of stability.

I cringe a bit when photographers say they want Z S glass for better IQ. First, the IQ I'm getting off of my dslrs and Z9 with my pro level f-mount glass is impressive (as long as I use good technique). I can get very good results off my D7200 with DX glass. The tiny improvement with Z glass is only noticeable at 100% on my monitor. Second, 75% of taking good photos comes from good working knowledge of the art and science of photography, planning, patience, and a little luck, 15% Post Processing skills, and 10% equipment, as long as that equipment meets a minimum quality level and smartphone cameras are more than good enough. There are award winning photos that are not particularly sharp or at the highest resolution, but the subject matter and composition made the shot. I guess what I'm saying, is that Z glass will not make you a better photographer. Neither will a mirrorless camera, but it may up your keeper rate and the fps rate might allow you to get a shot you might have missed at a lower frame rate dslr, but that's the camera, not Z glass.
First, I appreciate the detailed response and perspective. I agree that the lens (or body) doesn't make you a good photographer or turn dreck in to art.

Second, I get your point about the 70-200 f2.8 and I've got a lens for my DSLR that I use frequently. I think that's a little too long for the street photography and landscapes I'd use the Z6 for. Plus, the time I'm mostly likely to take just the Z6 is when size/weight is a factor and thus the 70-200mm isn't a good candidate.

Third, it's good to know about the FTZ sharpness. I'd been told that part of the reason mirrorless "tend" to produce sharper photos is your lens is closer to the sensor--no mirror in the way. I totally get your AF point.

So my question for you (if you don't mind follow-up) would be this: out of your lens that have a focal length under the 70-200mm, is there 1 lens (or maybe 2) that you've just found ones you'd prefer over putting on the FTZ adaptor and the DSLR equivalent lens?
 
Get the Nikkor Z 24-120mm F4. If you want wider for travel then there are a few options.
 
First, I appreciate the detailed response and perspective. I agree that the lens (or body) doesn't make you a good photographer or turn dreck in to art.

Second, I get your point about the 70-200 f2.8 and I've got a lens for my DSLR that I use frequently. I think that's a little too long for the street photography and landscapes I'd use the Z6 for. Plus, the time I'm mostly likely to take just the Z6 is when size/weight is a factor and thus the 70-200mm isn't a good candidate.

Third, it's good to know about the FTZ sharpness. I'd been told that part of the reason mirrorless "tend" to produce sharper photos is your lens is closer to the sensor--no mirror in the way. I totally get your AF point.

So my question for you (if you don't mind follow-up) would be this: out of your lens that have a focal length under the 70-200mm, is there 1 lens (or maybe 2) that you've just found ones you'd prefer over putting on the FTZ adaptor and the DSLR equivalent lens?
I had to get the Z 85mm f/1/8 S after the 70-200mm. If you look at lens rankings for many brands you'll see the 85mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses are always at the top of the list. I'm not sure of the reason why (physics?, optics? for full framed sensor size), but IQ, bokeh, CA, t-stops are all very good. It is a great portrait lens, but very good for general photography. This lens has personality. The 105s are also quite special. After that it's the Z 35mm f/1.8 S or Z 50mm f/1.8 S for street photography and general purpose photography. Nikon fixed the poor performance of the f-mount 50mm at wider apertures with the Z glass. The Z 35mm and Z 50mm are both solid performers although the 50 is better than the 35 at more open apertures. Which one to choose beyond the 85mm depends on what you shoot.
 
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I have numerous Nikon DSLR bodies. I recently bit the bullet and got a Z6 Mirrorless. Yes, I already have the FTZ adaptor. But part of the advantage of mirrorless is better, sharper images because the lens is closer to the sensor. And the FTZ adaptor eliminates that advantage.

My go to camera right now is a D500. I use it for sports, wildlife.
I intend to use the Z6 for 1) Macro, 2) for some travel (where I'm limited in the amount of equipment I can bring, ie: not 2 bodies and 5 lens and a tripod with 2 speed lights).

So my question is this (to you Nikon mirrorless users): what would be one or maybe two Z lens that you'd say are "must haves"? Exclude the long zooms--I'd use my D500 to shoot Eagles with my Tamron 600mm. What are 1 or 2 Z lens that you think fit what I'm likely to use my Z6 for and you think are pretty good lens?

105 macro + 24-120/4 + 35/1.8

105 as your macro lens.
I would go with the 105 to get more working distance from the subject.
I found with a short FL macro, I am sometimes so close to the subject, that I have trouble with lighting. I am shading the subject, or I have trouble getting lights in there.

The 24-120/4 as the GP lens.
For a single GP lens, I prefer its longer reach over the shorter 24-70/4.
Or the 24-200/4-6.3, if you want more reach.
I am a "zoomie" so I choose a zoom as my GP lens.

The 35/1.8 , as the indoor/LOW light lens.
You may not need it much, but when you are "in LOW light, FAST glass wins."
If I am in LOW light, I am probably indoors where it is cramped, so a FAST (f/2 or faster) wide makes more sense "to me," than a "normal" 50.
A f/2 wide, would be 2 stops faster than the GP 24-120/4.
The FAST Z wides are: 24/1.8, 35/1.8, 40/2. Your choice.

For travel, take the 24-120 + 35/1.8.
 
105 macro + 24-120/4 + 35/1.8

105 as your macro lens.
I would go with the 105 to get more working distance from the subject.
I found with a short FL macro, I am sometimes so close to the subject, that I have trouble with lighting. I am shading the subject, or I have trouble getting lights in there.

The 24-120/4 as the GP lens.
For a single GP lens, I prefer its longer reach over the shorter 24-70/4.
Or the 24-200/4-6.3, if you want more reach.
I am a "zoomie" so I choose a zoom as my GP lens.

The 35/1.8 , as the indoor/LOW light lens.
You may not need it much, but when you are "in LOW light, FAST glass wins."
If I am in LOW light, I am probably indoors where it is cramped, so a FAST (f/2 or faster) wide makes more sense "to me," than a "normal" 50.
A f/2 wide, would be 2 stops faster than the GP 24-120/4.
The FAST Z wides are: 24/1.8, 35/1.8, 40/2. Your choice.

For travel, take the 24-120 + 35/1.8.
Thanks, this is excellent detail. Did you find the 24-120 was sharp enough? I find that general purpose/walking around zooms that have a wide range in focal length are often pretty soft (especially at the extremes). But I have no experience with any Z-lens.
 
Thanks, this is excellent detail. Did you find the 24-120 was sharp enough? I find that general purpose/walking around zooms that have a wide range in focal length are often pretty soft (especially at the extremes). But I have no experience with any Z-lens.

For ME, for travel, I am willing to compromise much more than at home.
If I have to carry that kit for 2 weeks, traveling every day, without a rest day in the middle, I want that kit lighter and smaller than my at home kit.
At home I just need to get from my car to the shoot, and I get to rest the next day. And I can use a cart, so bulk/size/weight is not the issue it is when traveling.

To me, a GP lens, especially for travel, is a compromise.
I will compromise on several things, to get that flexibility.
- Speed. The 24-120 is slow at f/4, not f/2.8 like the 24-70/2.8, or 50/1.8.
- Weight. It is not a small light/light lens.
- Optics. The optics may not be the "best."
- - The optics only has to be "good enough."
- - To minimize size and weight, my travel lenses are usually NOT the big/heavy pro grade lenses. For travel, size and weight are my primary considerations, not optical quality.
- Alternatives: The only zoom alternatives to the 24-120 that I see are: the longer 24-200/3.5-6.3 or the shorter 24-70/2.8 or 24-70/4.
- - The 24-200 is slower on the long end. But it does have more reach. It is not a pro grade lens, and I do not know how its optics compare. Size and weight are close to the 24-120/4, so this is a tempting lens.
- - The 24-70 is shorter on the long end. For ME, it is too short to use as a SINGLE GP lens. I think it really needs to be with a longer partner, like the 70-200. But people have used a 50mm prime as their standard lens for decades.
Is the 1-stop faster 24-70/2.8 worth the shorter max focal length? That is a personal decision.
 
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For ME, for travel, I am willing to compromise much more than at home.
If I have to carry that kit for 2 weeks, traveling every day, without a rest day in the middle, I want that kit lighter and smaller than my at home kit.
At home I just need to get from my car to the shoot, and I get to rest the next day. And I can use a cart, so bulk/size/weight is not the issue it is when traveling.

To me, a GP lens, especially for travel, is a compromise.
I will compromise on several things, to get that flexibility.
- Speed. The 24-120 is slow at f/4, not f/2.8 like the 24-70/2.8, or 50/1.8.
- Weight. It is not a small light/light lens.
- Optics. The optics may not be the "best."
- - The optics only has to be "good enough."
- - To minimize size and weight, my travel lenses are usually NOT the big/heavy pro grade lenses. For travel, size and weight are my primary considerations, not optical quality.
- Alternatives: The only zoom alternatives to the 24-120 that I see are: the longer 24-200/3.5-6.3 or the shorter 24-70/2.8 or 24-70/4.
- - The 24-200 is slower on the long end. But it does have more reach. It is not a pro grade lens, and I do not know how its optics compare. Size and weight are close to the 24-120/4, so this is a tempting lens.
- - The 24-70 is shorter on the long end. For ME, it is too short to use as a SINGLE GP lens. I think it really needs to be with a longer partner, like the 70-200. But people have used a 50mm prime as their standard lens for decades.
Is the 1-stop faster 24-70/2.8 worth the shorter max focal length? That is a personal decision.
I appreciate you going to the trouble to explain your preferences, especially given the amount of Z-glass you own.
 
I appreciate you going to the trouble to explain your preferences, especially given the amount of Z-glass you own.

I don't own ALL those Z lenses.

My "travel kit" of a GP zoom + FAST wide, is a generic concept that I've used since my film days.
It does not matter what sensor or film size, camera type, or brand.

The lens selection has ALWAYS involved compromise. The ideal lens(es) is not always available, or even made.
- Example1: Which zoom lens to use as the GP lens: 24-70/2.8 vs. 24-70/4 vs. 24-120/4 vs. 24-200/4-6.3 😵‍💫
- Example2: If you decide on the 24-70, do you want to also bring the 70-200/2.8? That is more bulk, and weight.
There is no easy solution. There are many factors/variables that sometimes interact.
YOU have to make a grid chart, listing all relevant factors, then compare and YOU make the decision.
- How important is IQ? Is bulk/size/weight a factor? How important is IQ vs. bulk? Is cost a factor? etc.

The core of MY travel kit is the smaller/lighter NON-pro lenses.
- I compromise on IQ, for a smaller/lighter lens.
- - A heavy pro lens is useless, if carrying it makes you so tired that you don't want to carry it any more. Been there, done that. :grumpy:
- - On vacation I am carrying the gear "all day," for 2 weeks, with no "rest day" in the middle. What is fine for a day, may NOT be fine after a week of constant lugging around.
- As a senior citizen, I no longer have the physical strength and endurance of you youngsters. So weight is a major factor for me, whereas it may not be for you.

An issue is, if you only have the big/heavy pro lenses. To make MY travel kit, you have to BUY the smaller/lighter NON-pro lenses.
If the NON-pro lens is just for your vacation, and never to be used again, that effectively becomes a very expensive lens. In which case, you may be better off renting, or buying a used lens (from say KEH) then sell it (back to KEH) after the vacation.
 
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I don't do much with wildlife or macro, but I have been using a Z6II since it was released and am happy to share my recommendations.
  • General walk-around: 24-70 f/2.8. This lens stays on about 90% of the time.
  • Portraits: 85mm f/1.8 most of the time, Sigma 135mm f/1.8 (adapted) when I have the space, 24-70 for anything wider, like group shots
  • Sports: The 70-200 f/2.8 has been perfect for kids' soccer games. I haven't needed more reach than this, but Z-mount options (other than teleconverters) can get pricey.
  • Compact walk-around: I really like the compact size of the 40mm f/2, and the image quality is great. I don't love it though; it's a weird focal length to get used to. Great for traveling light if you can make it work.
 
I don't do much with wildlife or macro, but I have been using a Z6II since it was released and am happy to share my recommendations.
  • General walk-around: 24-70 f/2.8. This lens stays on about 90% of the time.
  • Portraits: 85mm f/1.8 most of the time, Sigma 135mm f/1.8 (adapted) when I have the space, 24-70 for anything wider, like group shots
  • Sports: The 70-200 f/2.8 has been perfect for kids' soccer games. I haven't needed more reach than this, but Z-mount options (other than teleconverters) can get pricey.
  • Compact walk-around: I really like the compact size of the 40mm f/2, and the image quality is great. I don't love it though; it's a weird focal length to get used to. Great for traveling light if you can make it work.
Thanks, this is useful information. I've got a 70-200mm f2.8 for my Nikon DSLRs so with the FTZ adaptor, I can use it. And I've also got a similar 85mm f1.8. But the 40mm f2 or the 24-70 f2.8 sound like they may be perfect for how I'd likely use my Z6. Thanks.
 
But the 40mm f2 or the 24-70 f2.8 sound like they may be perfect for how I'd likely use my Z6.
So $300 or $2300, tough call! For what it's worth, I have never regretted taking the 24-70 with me, but I have definitely missed shots when I only had the 40mm. On the other hand, there are times when I brought the 40mm when the alternative would have been just leaving my camera home.
 

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