What Are We Still Waiting For?

Okay, Nikon’s popped another set of Z products. As I’ve written, I don’t think the Zfc was something that people were clamoring for and it doesn’t fill in a gap in the Z System.

So where are we? What is the specific demands within the Nikon community that still need to be met? In order of importance, I judge these (from reader feedback and observation) to be:

  1. Telephoto lenses. Both the 100-400mm and 200-600mm will literally sell out in minutes, once announced. Pretty much any telephoto will, because the only ways to get to 200mm right now are the expensive 70-200mm f/2.8 S and the consumer 24-200mm f/4-6.3. 
  2. Third party lenses from the major producers. Yep, this is more important than bodies filling product line gaps. Why? Because those still hesitating about the Z System are more concerned about viability than a particular body, and third-party lens offerings would be a clear sign that others in the industry see viability in the Z-mount. It would also mean lens gaps and choices fill in faster.
  3. Z8 and Z9. I’m not sure we’ll see everyone jumping on board with the Z9 when it arrives (due to price) though I think it will sell out due to pent up demand and pros trying to keep up with the A1/R3 competition. Even among those that won’t buy it, a “perfect” Z9 would send signals about Nikon getting back on top of their game and the line being long-term viable. More people would be waiting for a Z8, but a great Z9 will give them confidence that such a camera is coming. 
  4. Z90. Okay Nikon, you've made two DX cameras now, so it’s clear that DX will continue on (but will I be still buzzing?). The trick is to get a Z DX body to the D500 level camera before Canon, Fujifilm, or Sony figure out how to really grab that D300/D500 user. That’s going to require a new image sensor and as much of the Z9 goodness as Nikon’s management can tolerate stuffing into a top DX body. A great new DX image sensor was a long-lead item, so Nikon had better have started on that some time ago.

Sure, some of you are waiting for other things: Z30, Z50 II, Z5 II, Z6 III, Z7 III, DX lenses, PF lenses, FTZ-S adapter, SB-9Z, and more. But these aren’t as necessary as the above four in the near term. 

Now for what some of you will think a shocker: I believe we’ll get all of those things (even the “not as necessary” list). Which means the operative question is this: how long will you have to wait before the item you’re waiting for is available? I can answer that for three items: (1) the 100-400mm will be available before March 2022, and probably in fall 2021; (2) the 200-600mm will be available before March 2022 and probably in fall 2021; and (3) the Z9 will be generally available in November 2021 (if nothing changes). Heck, I’ll even give you a bonus prediction: the 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 will be announced in November 2021.

We might see a third party lens producer or two dip their toes in the Z-mount waters this year, but the supply chain issues probably are postponing those release dates. Everyone’s trying to optimize what they’re currently making for what sells best. With no Z-mount sales experience, it would be risky for Sigma/Tamron/Tokina to devote production to Z-mount lenses with no real knowledge of how they’d sell or be accepted. Still, I expect at least one toe dip this year, probably two. 

Three products on the “not as necessary” list above have a chance to show up in 2021: (1) the Z30, which is done but would probably chew too much into constrained parts supply to release yet; (2) the FTZ-S adapter, which I know has been prototyped, and (3) the SB-9Z, which would be best launched with the Z9 (I haven’t heard a peep about future Speedlights, though). 

Z50 II, Z8? Likely in 2022.

Z5 II, Z6 III, Z7 III? Most likely 2023/2024.

Z90? Complete unknown, though I know Nikon has had a lot of internal discussion about it. I’ve got no sense that the decisions necessary for a Z90 have been made, though.

Other lenses? We’ll get six to eight added to the Road Map before the end of the year, which would imply mid 2022 to early 2023. But what those are I don’t know. Nikon’s keeping new lens ideas a really tight ship (other than what’s known in the Road Map). 

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