through the F-Mount -  photography by Jürgen Becker
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Nikon Zzzz - a fairy visited me

December 16, 2019

For more than 40 years now I have been shooting mostly through the F-mount. I have a couple of bodies and a lot of lenses and accessories, even for very special projects.

But last night a fairy visited me. She took away my complete F-mount gear. Then she asked for a list of equipment I would like to get instead!

What should I wish for? Nikon? Well, I'm used to use Nikon camera bodies and I could exchange a lens on a Nikon body in my sleep.

Yes, I would like to have these Nikon parts on the list:

The 300mm f/2.8 VRII is the best lens I have ever had in front of any camera body! In conjunction with the teleconverters it is a great tool for my wildlife photography. The D4 is a super fast companion for wildlife photography. I guess the D5 is even better!

Normally you don't see the egg - only about once or twice an hour there is a chance for a quick glance! It takes a lot of patience to take an image of a guillemots egg.

I wanted to capture the moment of the birth of a grey seal. This is the third birth I observed. In the first two, the mother was lying in a bad position at the decisive moment. Overall I needed more than one day for this photo, mostly cowering behind my D4, about 30 metres away from the mother.
Keep in mind: grey seals bear in winter, when battery performance is a bit reduced!

But isn't a mirrorless camera a better alternative? As of 2019 I am sure: no, not for wildlife photography! Here is why:

  1. The battery performance of a DSLR plays in a different league! With the Nikon D4 plus the 300mm f/2.8 you can take several thousand pictures with one battery charge.
  2. The optical viewfinder of the DSLR is overall better for wildlife. If you observe animals - and a wildlife photographer does this most of the time - the camera has to be ready to take pictures. I usually look through the finder with the right eye and at the real scene with the left eye. The images on the right show examples where I had to do that for a long time! With a mirrorless camera, I expect a serious battery problem in such situations. Moreover, it is probably not healthy for your right eye!

To be honest, an EVF also has advantages in some situations. You can magnify the finder image if focusing is critical. Moreover, the EVF allows you to shoot in near darkness. Read Thom Hogan's report about shooting Hyenas in the the very last bit of twilight before nightfall.

Nevertheless, for now my decision is clear! Maybe, in a few years I will have a different opinion...

A pity, as far as I know there is no hybrid DSLR on the market! That would be an optimal solution for wildlife photography. Of course, every modern DSLR is a bit hybrid. The live view lever allows you to switch between DSLR and mirrorless mode. But mirrorless mode only means you can use the display, which is a pain when shooting outside in the bleeding sun. The issue here is the lack of an EVF!

Nikon introduced live view in 2007 (D3 and D300). But they have not been able to build a hybrid DSLR yet, even not in the simple way, with an EVF as an add-on accessory.

And what is my wish-to-have equipment for travel, landscape and macro photography? For sure: that is mirrorless!

Yes, I love the Nikon Df! This tiny little full-frame camera has an exceptional sensor and battery performance and, contrary to expectations, the Df is hardly heavier than a Nikon Z6 with a spare battery! But over the years the F-mount may run out - not a good idea to invest more than necessary here.

Thus, buying Nikon Z-mount gear? As of 2019 my answer is a clear No! Here is why:

  1. After the "1" disaster, the Z series is Nikon's second attempt to establish a mirrorless system. I'm not sure yet if it will be successful this time! Other manufacturers have had great mirrorless systems on the market for many years now!
  2. In order to save weight and space I would like to use an APS-C-sized sensor for everything that isn't wildlife photography. On I currently count six DX DSLR bodies. But apart from kit lenses: how many serious DX F-mount lenses does Nikon offer? You can count them on one hand! And the new Z50? I can not find any serious DX lenses in Nikon's updated Z lens roadmap! All in all, I expect, Nikon will continue to neglect the APS-C format.

Currently, I see two alternatives for serious APS-C mirrorless systems: E-mount and X-mount. The new Sony α6600 with its in-body stabilisation is a good argument for an E-mount APS-C system. But Fujifilm offers a better selection of lenses for the X-mount. I completed the list with this X-mount setup:

BTW: Together with the Z50 Nikon introduced a new type of battery - I think they really like designing new batteries. Fujifilm is less creative here: the X-mount bodies all share the same type of battery!

Will I miss a lens? Yes! The PC-E Nikkor 85mm f/2.8 and the Samyang fisheye 12mm f/2.8

I woke up from my dream. Too bad, the fairy had disappeared! My F-mount gear was still there.

What I liked about the dream was that I had to think in a completely different direction than I normally do. In reality, with all my F-mount equipment in stock, the Nikon Z system has a special position, although the system has not convinced me yet.

These six nikkor lenses of mine do not work with autofocus on the FTZ adapter:
35 f/2D, 35-70 f/2.8D, 28-70 f3.5-f4.5, 80-200 f/2.8D, 70-210 f/4, 180 f/2.8.

When Nikon announced the Z system, I intended to buy a Z6 with the F-mount adapter. That would have been a mirrorless F-mount camera for me. This didn't work out at first, because the F-to-Z "FTZ" adapter is only moderately compatible. The main problem are older AF-Nikkor lenses with a screwdriver AF. I still have some of them in use. With the FTZ adapter they can only be used with manual focusing, which is not acceptable for me!

What can I do? There are two options:

  1. Buying newer AF-S F-mount lenses as a replacement for my older AF lenses. Invest a considerable amount of money in a potentially dying system? In certain cases this can make sense. But in general, it is not a clever idea!
  2. Buying Z-mount lenses as a replacement. A "ZTF" adapter is technically impossible. Thus, such a step means to start changing the system. My F-mount bodies would become obsolete and so on. Moreover, Nikon's Z lenses are not only better than their F-mount counterparts, they are more expensive, too. The amount of money needed for this alternative is higher! Should I invest in a system whose future is still uncertain in my eyes?

For my Greenland trip in 2017 I rented a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E. This lens has an impressive optical performance. Especially at 200mm it is clearly better than my good old 80-200mm f/2.8D. But I don't love the ergonomics of the 2.8E, see my article about it. In 2017 I decided to keep the 2.8D.

For my next trip I need a lens with a top-notch performance at 200mm, especially wide open and at shorter distances (where my 2.8D has serious problems due to a hefty focus shift and spherical abberations). So, again I am thinking about the 2.8E, especially since the price has dropped significantly over the last 3 years! Rental costs have not fallen to the same extent. So I think, currently, buying is the better alternative.

The Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 is a nice lens, too! It is a few hundred grams lighter than the Nikkor. On the other hand, the Nikkor is one stop faster (because it is a full-frame lens). While the current prices for both lenses are about the same in Germany, the Nikkor is about 50% more expensive for rent. But in order to use the Fujinon, I would definitely need an X-mount body in addition.

Overall I tend to buy the Nikkor 2.8E. This in turn would reduce my compatibility problem of the FTZ adapter a bit! Thus, I might try a Z-mount body as an F-mount mirrorless camera in the future.

For the time being, I will observe the situation calmly. I assume that the prices for both, new and used F-mount equipment will decrease. Long live the F-mount!

What Nikon should realise: currently, the Z-mount system is of interest mainly for F-mount users. Without F-mount gear I would not invest in Z-mount equipment. Of course, Nikon is about to expand their lens portfolio for making the Z system more attractive for non-Nikon users. But it will be a few more years before Nikon can compete with Sony or Fuji here. That makes it all the more important to serve the F-mount users! Hey Nikon: how about an additional, extended FTZ adapter with screwdriver-AF support and an AI coupling?

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