DPReview Interview with Sigma CEO - Interesting Comments about Z-Mount

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by bgelfand, Apr 11, 2019.

  1. So in essence, unless Sigma designs lenses specifically for the Z-mount (which they most likely won't) then the large diameter and the short flange distance of the Z-mount appear to be designed by Nikon to put third-party lens makers at a bit of an disadvantage. The short flange distance means that one can - in principle - adapt every lens out there - but none of them will be optimized for that short flange distance; everything designed new by those manufacturers will be designed for the largest (mirrorless) flange distance, not the shortest. Ditto with the large mount - since other manufacturer's mounts are smaller, third party lenses will be designed for them - the large diameter of the Z-mount is "wasted" (for anyone but Nikon or those third parties that can afford to design specifically for Nikon (aka, no one). And that from a company that doesn't reveal their mount communication protocol and by its smallness isn't capable of providing more than a handful lenses per year.
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  2. On mirrorless cameras, it should be possible to design a lens where the rear element is close to the sensor regardless of the flange distance. The flange distance is not really relevant as long as the lens physically fits within the camera mount - the same lens could be adapted to Nikon Z, Canon RF, Leica L or even Fuji X and m4/3, just by varying the flange distance. In the same way, the same lens design can be adapted to different SLR lens mounts by varying the flange distance, as long as it clears the reflex mirror. With the Nikon F-mount and its relatively long flange distance this means the rear element often protrudes beyond the lens mount.

    The mount diameter is probably a more important limiting factor, as the larger mount permits lenses with larger rear elements close to the sensor and puts fewer constraints on the lens designer. A smaller mount would restrict the designer to lenses with smaller diameter rear elements.

    What may make things difficult for independent lens makers is the thickness of the sensor cover glass, which varies between mounts. This has to be considered in the optical design, and is why adapted lenses don't always perform well, even if they can be made to fit another camera system. Unless Sigma, Tamron etc find a simple way of optically adjusting a lens to each different mount/cover thickness, they will have a hard time making the same lens for all mounts. One way around this is to make Telecentric lenses, which are less sensitive to the thickness of the cover glass, but that adds a constraint to the lens maker that the native lens does not have to consider (it's worth noting however, that even mirrorless lenses have to be reasonably telecentric because digital sensors don't respond well with oblique ray angles)

    But the designers at Sigma and Tamron know more about this than I do, it will be interesting to see what they come up with...
  3. This is true, the third party manufacturers are likely to design their lenses for Canon RF's flange distance and Sony's narrower mount in the future, while Nikon have given their own lens designers freedoms that third party makers cannot realistically take advantage of. However, the advantage is likely fairly small; basically Nikon may be able to reduce vignetting and perhaps produce lenses that may be slighly sharper in the corners.

    I think this is simply smart planning. Nikon are obviously not obliged to do favours to their competition.
    andylynn likes this.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I too feel that the wider diameter and shorter flange distance will give the Nikon Z mount a very small advantage, but that tiny difference will likely be exaggerated by the marketing folks over and over to convince people to buy Nikon. Canon used to do the same starting since the late 1980's when they introduced a totally new EF mount for EOS AF cameras.

    When Sony introduced the E mount a few years ago, they pretty much had to release their specs to attract third-party lens suppliers such as Sigma and Tamron to make lenses since Sony never had major SLR systems as Canon and Nikon have. Getting help from third-party lenses was a quick way to jump start Sony's new system with a new mount. For mirrorless, both Canon and Nikon are adding new lenses pretty quickly, and they have plenty of SLR lenses that can be adapted for mirrorless usage during the transition. I certainly don't see Nikon releasing mount specs and electronic protocols to help lens competitors such as Sigma and Tamron. In fact, providing a Z-mount lens roadmap last year was very out-of-character for Nikon, but they had to do that since they were starting from scratch for the Z mount. Canon is doing pretty much the same thing for their RF as Nikon for Z.
  5. If I am not mistaken, then both Sigma and Tamron where rather slow to get on board (though I am hazy on what was available for the NEX bodies but recall some Sigma lenses for the APS-C bodies). Zeiss, of course, was the exception - and Voigtlander (but AFAIK, both are just brand names and actually manufactured by Cosina).
    I agree, they won't. Whether or not that is a smart or dumb move on their part is certainly debatable.
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    When you have a new lens mount for a new camera system that is not (yet) selling in large numbers, it shouldn't be surprising that third-party lens manufacturers are not very eager to make lenses for it.

    Nikon introduced Nikon 1 in late 2011. After like 3, 4 years, by 2015 I still saw next to no third-party lenses for Nikon 1 (see Wikipedia's listing Nikon 1-mount - Wikipedia). I was convinced that Nikon 1 wasn't going to fly.
  7. Interestingly, Sony have a very successful compact camera series (RX100, six models already) based on a similar sensor size that Nikon used for their 1 series, and the feature set has some similarities as well - very fast AF and fps rates. I kind of think Nikon made the 1 series to feel the market and develop the technology without risk to their DSLR products. For compact camera users maybe it is a good sensor size, but ILC users typically want the better image quality afforded by a larger sensor size.

    Voigtländer lenses are designed and manufactured by Cosina, whereas Zeiss lenses manufactured by Cosina are designed by Zeiss.

    Nikon are an optics company who also make cameras to use their optics with. Of course they don't want to sell cameras only to be used with third party lenses. The baby would be lost with the bath water. For Sony, the situation is different and they're an electronics company who made the decision to grow their camera business by helping third party lens manufacturers make lenses for their camera system. I don't think Nikon would ever make such a decision. It is neither good or bad - it's just they way they are. Sony had a long collaboration with Zeiss on their video cameras and this probably helped get the Batis and Loxia lens lines started. My guess is that the manual focus Zeiss lenses will be produced eventually also in RF and Z mounts but suspect that Batis might not.
  8. Even with a different mount (and Sigma's pre-announced facility for swapping mounts on their lenses), the various full-frame sensor - and even APS-C sensors - are a fairly similar design target, so I suspect any delay from Sigma/Tamron/Tokina/Zeiss/Samyang/Laowa is mostly a marketing decision. Canon's 1.6x crop is close enough to everyone else's 1.5x that I doubt anyone but Canon has ever optimised a lens for it. DSLRs still have the majority of the market, so it's not surprising that the third parties lean that way, for so long as they get economies of scale by sharing designs across mounts.

    At least some designs for micro 4/3 are shared with larger sensor formats, too, but I think the 1-series had a separate problem - a 2.7x crop is enough that a non-dedicated lens is clearly compromised (in being wastefully large and in not really having a wide-angle option), so any design would have had to be CX-specific. Both the 1 series and the Samsung NX-mini (the only other interchangeable lens system I'm aware of with a 1" sensor) were relatively compromised by their sensor size, and didn't gain enough portability back in return compared with the smallest micro 4/3 bodies (or even APS-C mirrorless); other than a manic desire not to compete with DX dSLRs, I don't know why anyone at Nikon would have thought it a good idea, and the moment Sony (and Canon) started putting 1" sensors in decent compact cameras that, unlike the 1-series, actually did fit in a pocket, it always looked like the wrong answer - other than, admittedly, for some very niche uses. Pentax did even worse with the Q series. At some point, the size overhead of an interchangeable mount wipes out any size benefit.

    I'm projecting my own opinion of what a camera should be somewhat - I gather the 1 series did sell somewhat in Japan, especially to women. Still, the moment you put a big telephoto on it, you're in the portability and price category of a small dSLR; if you're selling it as a "small camera that can fit in a handbag", it fills that role much less well than an RX100 (speaking as someone who regularly has an RX100 in my bag but almost never takes my V1 out). A D3500 isn't that much larger than a V1; a Fuji X-A5 is (in two out of three dimensions) actually smaller.
  9. Forgive me but third party lens makers aren't obliged to make the technical and financial commitments to supply lenses for a system (Nikon Z) when it's yet to prove itself in the market. Seems that's really all that Yamaki-san went to some lengths to explain.
  10. While that is undoubtedly true, unless the World stops, the Nikon Z mount is here to stay.

    The Nikon 1-Series MILC CX mount was a leap in the dark, and went SPLAT.

    The interesting thing to consider, is where do Nikon make the most profit, bodies or lenses?

    I suspect if independents like Sigma don't make Z-Mount lenses, Nikon will sell fewer Z bodies.

    If I was starting out in hi-res pro shooting and had an option of a Nikon D850 with no FX Sigma lenses available or a Canon 5DS with all the Sigma lenses, I'd go buy a Canon.
  11. short flange and large throat diameter allow the use of nearly all lenses via adapter,
  12. Can't wait till people will start to dump their F-mount lenses, I have big wish list.
  13. Up to maybe 200mm I'll go along with that, but I think Nikon is going to take some considerable time to make 400,500 or 600mm in Z mount.

    It makes far more sense for them to keep making those in F mount but with a dedicated tube to suit Z flange distance.

    EVFs will never be real time and some shooters will never buy a Z-Mount cam. I suspect they are also the more 'monied' shooters too. They will be the ones paying the £18000 for a 600mm f4 FL VR III in F-mount.

    Those who want to try their F-Mount 500mm f4 VRII on Z mount, just need an FTZ.

    If you've got a Z-Mount 400mm 2.8, you're going no-where else without a seriously expensive tube with glass in it!
    mag_miksch likes this.
  14. The more interesting things to consider seems to be "how much of the profit stems from products where third party competition actually matters"?
    Or in other words - how much of the profit comes from the sale of consumer-grade cameras and camera kits, and how big is the FX market in comparison? For the high-end DX market the answer might be obvious - the almost total lack of dedicated high-end Nikon DX lenses leaves Nikon with profit from the body sales only and provides third-party lens manufacturers with what certainly must be a lucrative business.
    I don't think I like my Sigmas THAT much o_O

    The future will show - at the moment, Sigma makes a few dedicated E-mount APS-C lenses but nothing for the Z-mount (I expect they will adapt their DSLR Art lenses for Z-mount the same way they have done for the E-mount - by building in the adapter). Sigma isn't competing with Fuji for lens market share; only Zeiss has three AF lenses for Fuji's X-mount. Tamron has one dedicated E-mount lens and one more coming - I expect those to be adapted to work on Z-mount as well.
    mike_halliwell likes this.
  15. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... that's going to be
    a long wait...
  16. It was hypothetical....:D
  17. Nonetheless - the thought alone :eek:
  18. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I would imagine that both Canon and Nikon are making their mounts very difficult to reverse-engineer. Imitating the mechanical mount is probably rather straight forward, but the electronic protocol could be very complicated with encryption, etc. That is why we are seeing low-cost, manual-focus third-party lenses first.

    Meanwhile, it would be difficult for Sigma, Tamron, etc. to design new lenses for just one or two mirrorless mounts. They need to be able to sell to everybody to spread their cost. And it is cheaper to just build a seamless extension tube into current DSLR lenses to fit mirrorless. Designing new optical formulas dedicated to mirrorless and also meet different mount requirements will be a lot more complicated.
  19. One option for third party lens makers is to make lenses for Nikon Z and Canon RF using the existing Nikon F/ Canon EOS mounts and protocols, and rely on the native adaptors to do the conversions to the respective mirrorless mounts. The lenses could have optics which protrude far into the adaptor so they have the same advantages of native Z and RF lenses. Obviously, the diameter of the rear elements would be restricted by the space inside the adapter, and the resulting lens would look a bit ugly. But it could be a useful compromise until Sigma/Tamron etc manage to reverse engineer these new camera systems.
    Andrew Garrard likes this.

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