Why are Nikon Z lenses better than the old F mount lenses?

f-mount to e mount adapter autofocus

If you want to get simple about it, Nikon Z is better because itu2019s a wider lens mount and shorter flange-focal distance.

In particular, given that itu2019s Nikon talking, itu2019s 1mm wider and 4mm shorter than Canonu2019s RF Mount.

,Inherent AdvantagesNikon didnt introduce their first new professional lens mount in sixty years to not improve the potential.

There are a number of aspects of the Z mount that can enable better lenses by offering more options to lens designers.

,One of the stated advantages of the Nikon Z mount (and all mirrorless mounts) is the short flange focal distance.

The distance from the lens to the sensor is shorter.

The immediate benefit is that it allows lens manufacturers to build smaller, lighter, simpler, and less expensive wider angle lenses.

Basically, if a lens focal length is shorter than the effective flange focal distance of a camera, it canu2019t be a natural wide angle lens.

It must be implemented as a retrofocal lens u2014 a lens with a physical focal length longer than its effective focal length.

Think about looking backward through a telescope u2014 everything looks smaller.

,Nikon has also stated that the shorter flange focal distance makes it easier to design lenses with minimal focus breathing.

The term focus breathing in a lens is the slight change in magnification one can see in many lenses as focus is adjusted.

This is particularly objectionable in video, and one reason cinema lenses are often 5x-10x the price of similar standard lenses.

Nikon claims all of their Z-Mount lenses minimize focus breathing, but they donu2019t claim itu2019s entirely eliminated.

,And as well, the Z-Mount has a wider throat u2014 the width of the opening for light entering from the lens to the sensor, at 55mm, one millimeter wider than Canonu2019s 54mm, which was offered in both EOS EF DSLR and EOS R mirrorless.

Nikon claims this will permit faster lenses.

The fastest Canon lens for the EF mount (or any DSLR) was the Canon 50mm f/1.

0 L USM, which is also the fastest autofocusing lens made.

And Canon offers f/1.

2 lenses in many focal lengths.

Nikonu2019s fastest lens was the 50mm f/1.

2 lens, unfortunately an older manual focus lens, which is another issues u2014 manual focus on a modern DSLR is difficult with the stock focusing screen.

While technically, one could mount a lens of any speed on a Nikon F-Mount camera as long as the correct flange focal distance was observed, the mount could easily mean that the effective aperture (T-stops, as used in cinema lenses) would be much less.

,As well, the camerau2019s throat diameter combined with flange focal distance determines the maximum possible angle of incidence of the marginal rays from the lens, which is important in designing lenses.

In general, according to Nikon, the larger the angle of incidence, the easier it is to make high-performance lenses.

So for the Nikon Z mount, that maximum angle of incidence is around 44.

09u00b0, compared to the Nikon F mount at 12.

1u00b0, the Canon EF mount at 18.


or the Sony mirrorless E mount at 31.


,Fujifilmu2019s taken this one step further in their value angle calculation, which also factors in sensor size.


angle = 2 u00d7 arctan(frac{mount.

diameter u2013 sensor.

diagonal}{2 u00d7 flange.

distance})The value angle of the Z mount is 2 u00d7 arctan ((55mm-43.

3mm) / (2 u00d7 16mm)) = 40.

2, whereas for the F mount itu2019s 2 u00d7 arctan ((45mm-43.

3mm)/((2 u00d7 46.

5mm)) = 2.


In fact, none of the DSLRs rate very well against mirrorless on this metric.

,Physical ImprovementsThere are arguments to be made for other Z-Mount changes than can affect lens design, but mostly just offer small overall performance improvements.

,Physically, Nikon is also claiming that the Z-Mount, with its four-lobed bayonet mount, is more secure and rigid than the three-lobed bayonet of the F-Mount.

Iu2019m not sure I see any merit in that, but that is what they claim.

,Iu2019m guessing the L-Mount Alliance folks would agree, and pretty much no one else.

Either way, they still have the mount and a bunch of other stuff turning the wrong way!,And thereu2019s an electrical improvement.

The Z-Mount has one additional electrical signal between camera and lens, but in reality, there are more changes than that.

When used with a Z-Mount lens (rater than an adapted F-Mount lens), the autofocus communications enters a high-speed mode, 10x faster than F-Mount, which results in a faster autofocus, particular for continuous autofocus.

,This hasnu2019t been as much of a problem on DSLRs.

Sure, the lens has to focus, and if youu2019re in continuous autofocus (CA) mode, the mirror has to be down to focus.

But the time to focus is very fast compared to the time to flip up the mirror, open the shutter, close the shutter, drop the mirror, etc.

So DSLRs have been limited to about 14u201316fps shooting, continuous autofocus or not (okay, some recent ones can go a bit faster if you lock up the mirror).

And of course, the focus is locked in once you press the shutter button.

,For the Z-Mount systems, CA is really continuous, with focus being updated even after you press the shutter, up until time the image is actually being acquired.

The Nikon Z9 can shoot with CA at up to 20fps in raw (high efficiency) or 30fps (JPEG).

The Sony A1 can shoot compressed raw with CA up to 30fps.

The forthcoming OM Systems (Olympus) OM-1 can shoot CA raw at 50fpsu2026 but only with lenses proven fast enough (some of the professional lenses).

DSLRs had pretty much hit their fastest speed around a decade ago, but every year mirrorless goes just a bit faster.

At some point, the old lens interfaces just werenu2019t made for that.

,This high speed interface also greatly reduces AF seeking in video.

Of course, all F-Mount DSLRs are using only contract-detect autofocus in video mode, which is even more prone to visible seeking, which is why many DSLRs donu2019t even offer continuous autofocus in video mode.

,But Why Better Lenses?Now, just because a lens system can permit better lenses, or makes it easier to design a better lens, the company still has to oblige by making better lenses.

Given that each and every F System lens could simply be redesigned with a Z Mount if Nikon wanted to just crank out lenses, they clearly had to have motivation for their changes.

,Now, in comparing lens to lens, u201cbetter usually follows price as much as anything else.

Every lens design is a compromise.

Some wider lenses on Z can be made both better and not necessarily more expensive when its possible to use a natural wide angle lens on the Z but a retrofocal design on the F lens, as I mentioned in the introduction.

But unless Nikon is charging a premium for Z gear, which does not seem likely, if you see a Z lens costing twice that of an F lens, they probably just designed a better, more expensive lens.

,Why do that? For one, Z cameras hit the ground at 45.

6 megapixels, a resolution never considered for lens design in the film days and not even an issue in Nikon DSLRs until the D850 in 2017.

Nikon is also competing in mirrorless full frame with Canon, Sony, Leica, Sigma, and Panasonic.

Take the standard 85mm portrait lens.

Nikons 85mm f/1.

8 Z lens is about twice the price of their 85mm f/1.

8 for F Mount, at around $800.

Sigma is offering an 85mm f/1.

4 for L-Mount at $1200, Zeisss 85mm f/1.

8 Batis for Sony is about the same.

Canons RF 85mm f/1.

2 runs around $2700.

,So every new mirrorless full frame system is upping the ante on lens designs.

Some of its preparing for current and future sensors.

Some of itu2019s their need to put a bit of space between established systems from Fujifilm, OM Digital, and Panasonic with smaller sensors.

But itu2019s also important for drawing professional users to each system.

Canon and Nikon, in particular, released their mirrorless systems in order to stem the tide of customers moving to Sony.

Buy a Z7 to go with your D850 and you feel like youre adding to your existing Nikon system.

Your current lenses work, speedlights, batteries, etc.

But how do you sell customers with complete systems a new lens? You make a better lens than the one they haveu2026 something they cant get for the DSLR.

,The only problem with this today: its making these new mirrorless systems more expensive and often larger and heavier than the DSLRs they replace.

That would seem to deny the original and still one major draw of mirrorless: small systems.

But that was really only ever true about Four-Thirds and APS-C sensor cameras.

Full-frame mirrorless can deliver small bodies, but the same lens would actually get larger.

Nikon lens on Sony A7III

Nikonu2019s APS-C 18u2013140mm lens is a wonderful lens for any kind of photography.

I went from APS-C to full-frame two years ago; my biggest regret at the time was that I had to sell that lens.

My Sony A7iii is far and away the best camera I have ever owned, but the 24u2013240 lens I have on board is a boat anchor compared to the 18u2013140.

The D3300 has as good a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor as money can buy; the D3300/ 18u2013140mm combo would be a great one.

Sigma Nikon to Sony adapter

If I mount a lens such as Sigma 50mm Art on Sony a6300 (via adapter) and Nikon d7200; which camera would give me a sharper photo?This, to me, is an interesting question because both cameras are very high quality pieces of kit, and both probably use the same Sony APS-C 24 meg.


I believe the Nikon would give sharper results, just because adapters donu2019t work as well as fixed mounts, especially when it concerns Nikon mount lenses.

I have heard that Canon EOS lenses adapt to Sony A cameras quite well, and I believe it, but Sigma I donu2019t know about.

One thing in your corner would be that when adapters go wrong, it is usually with wide-angle lenses, and on these two cameras a 50mm would be a short telephoto.

Iu2019m sure the Sony would produce acceptable results, but you might have to manually focus the lens, whereas on the Nikon, the Nikon mounted Sigma would just sing.

Although lens alignment in the mount and internal flare are factors in sharpness, so is accuracy of focus, and there is no way for you to focus as quickly AND accurately by hand as the Nikon would focus automatically.

I have my reasons for preferring Sony to Nikon for now, so if I were choosing between the two cameras I would go Sony, but in answer to your question, Nikon all the way.

Can you use Nikon lenses on Sony

Yes, but if theyre modern lenses with electronic focus and aperture control you will need an expensive adapter with electronic contacts.

Sony E Mount lens to Nikon body

Buy the Sony a7RII full-frame, mirrorless body ($3,200).

(Nikons sensors are made by Sony.

) If Sonys current selection of Zeiss E-mount lenses doesnt meet your needs, buy a Metabones adapter and use any Canon lens your heart desires.