Rangefinder

Views on the photographic universe by Erwin Puts

Nikon Z-system

Long ago, Zeiss designed new lenses for their flagship camera, Contarex. The lenses had a large volume and Zeiss explained that the size was needed to produce lenses with enhanced performance characteristics. The Contarex lenses still have this aura of “never-surpassed-quality”. Careful testing however shows that the lenses were very good, but not superior. Leitz in that same period focused on compact designs and their expertise was and is the combination of high quality with small footprint. There are limits for a small volume that cannot be surpassed unless one uses very sophisticated manufacturing techniques and extremely careful assembly (from the usual micro scale to the nano scale). This approach is not economical feasible (note the high price for the Apo-Summicron-M 2/50 mm ASPH) and Leica wisely did fall back on the old Zeiss design principle. The new range of lenses for the SL and CL/TL has a number of very large designs (absolutely and especially relatively). Zeiss showed the path to go with the Otus design and now Nikon, with its new Z-line follows suit: the Noct 1.2/58 mm has very large dimensions. The 1.8/50 mm has 12 elements in nine groups and has dimensions: diameter x length of 76 mm and 86.5 mm. The specs indicate that this is a 1.4 design that has been downgraded to improve performance. The number of lens elements is no longer a sign of high quality but an indication that the designer can delegate the correction of aberrations to a large number of elements to ease the load for every element and make production more economical.More lens elements are also a sign that the computer program is in automatic mode to control the tolerances for easy manufacture.
It may be the case that the new Z-mount does indeed free the designer from a number contents that the previous F-mount had. We wait and see.
Leica, once a company that produced workhorse cameras for discerning customers, has become a luxury manufacturer that leaves the main market to be a playing field for Sony and Nikon, and soon Canon.
The Nikon brochures and Nikon marketing will, naturally, stress the fact the the new Z-line will introduce the next stage of digital photography.
Leica copied and improved on the Sony mirrorless designs and Nikon studied very carefully both product lines and improved again. The technological progress is clear. It is also evident that Canon will improve again and the next generation of Sony, Nikon and also Leica will technically enhance their products. Wait for the announcement by Leica that the S-system will have a 50 to 100 Mp sensor. That will be the start of a new product cycle where the whole range of system cameras will get a 40 to 50 Mp sensor.
The technological race will continue for a while and then some manufacturer will realise that the average photographer who really wants to take pictures and does not want to be a techno-erotics freak is not served by ever increasing complexity.
Last but not least: the price of the Z7 with adapter and a 1.8/50 mm lens is in NL € 4528. Body only the Z7 is with adapter € 3849 and the Z6 plus adapter is € 2449 and with adapter and with1.8/50 mm it is € 3128. The Leica SL (body only) is € 5900 and the new M10-P has a price tag (body only) of € 7500 (the 2.4/50 mm and 2/50 mm lenses are € 1600, € 2200 and € 7400 respectively).
The best and critical comment about the media hype and the real position of the Z-line in the Nikon ecosystem can be found here (Only in German!)
https://www.foto-schuhmacher.de/artikel/hardware/der-migrationspfad-der-kamerahersteller-zu-spiegellosen-systemen.html#ndld