Nikon is limiting third party manufacturers from competing on Z Mount lenses, a report
This is a bit of an interesting one and it potentially explains why we’ve seen a handful of autofocus Z mount lenses over the last few years – but not the flurry we’ve come to expect with other systems like Sony E mount. According to a report on Nikon Rumors, Nikon hasn’t gone full-on Canon when it comes to third-party autofocus lenses, but they are being somewhat restrictive.
It seems that Nikon apparently does officially license third-party manufacturers to create autofocus lenses, but it does so on a lens-by-lens basis. This only seems to be the case for autofocus lenses, though. They will approve them, but only if they don’t directly compete with something already in the Nikkor Z lineup but complement the lineup instead.
There’s been no official word from Nikon about this. This is simply what Nikon Rumors says they have been told, but it does explain why we’ve had a bit of a lack of Z mount lenses – particularly from companies like Sigma, for which Z Mount rumours have been around a while. When we look at the list of autofocus lenses for Nikon Z mount, they are overwhelmingly Nikon branded, with very few from competitors. Tamron and TTArtisan have one each, Yongnuo has two and Viltrox has four.
Nikon Rumors says that Nikon only licenses third-party AF lenses for Z mount “if they complement Nikon’s current lens lineup, rather than compete with the existing Nikkor Z lenses”, but when we take a closer look at some of those lenses from 3rd party manufacturers… Well, some of them are competing with Nikkor lenses.
Tamron’s 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 Di III RXD might be reminiscent of Nikon’s 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF from back in the day, but Nikon doesn’t currently offer a 70-300mm Nikkor Z lens. TTArtisan’s 32mm f/2.8 also doesn’t quite compete with Nikon’s offerings, sitting between the 28mm f/2.8 and 35mm f/1.8 S lenses. Viltrox and Yongnuo, however…
Viltrox has four Nikon Z mount lenses. There’s the 24mm f/1.8, 35mm f/1.8 AF, 50mm f/1.8 AF and 85mm f/1.8. It’s a pretty standard set of primes that Nikon also already offers. Nikon has their own 24mm f/1.8, 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses. Yongnuo, too, has the 50mm f/1.8S DF DSM lens, as well as an 85mm f/1.8.
Sure, Nikon’s prices are significantly higher than those of Viltrox and Yongnuo, so maybe Nikon doesn’t see those as being competition due to being targeted towards a different budget of photographer, but there will almost certainly be people who skip over the Nikkor Z lenses in favour of Viltrox and Yongnuo in order to save some money. And a decent chunk of those people would probably keep saving for the Nikon lens if it were the only option.
Whether or not this means the Viltrox and Yongnuo lenses are simply unauthorised – although, given that Canon was able to shut Viltrox down, Nikon could, too – or that Nikon just doesn’t see them as competition is unknown.
It will be interesting to see if this really is what’s happening with lens licensing and why they are so few third-party autofocus lenses available for Nikon Z mount. It’s not quite as bad as Canon, although I think the result may ultimately be the same. What amounts to a total ban by Canon on 3rd party autofocus lenses has definitely put some people off buying into the EOS R system. And it’s for good reason. People want choices.
Nikon might license some lenses to third parties, but if they’re still holding all the cards and blocking third parties from producing competing lenses, then that choice is taken away. Nikon might just find that people choose to go with a different brand/mount entirely.
[via Nikon Rumors]
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.