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Nikon Z Mirrorless Macro Lenses In Depth

Nikon has released two mirrorless Z macro lenses simultaneously and we go in-depth with sample images, 100% crops and discuss the main differences between the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S and Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8.

Nikon Z Mirrorless macro lenses compared

Table of contents:

Introduction

The range of Z-mount lenses has been growing steadily over the years, but macro photographers have had to wait extremely patiently as there has been no close-up lens available for them. Until now that is when Nikon releases two macro primes, not quite like buses arriving at the same time, but two options at once. We do have a number of high magnification telephoto lenses such as the Nikkor Z 70-200mm VR S lens with a maximum reproduction ratio. 0.2x, but this is not the same as a dedicated 1:1 close-up lens.

Nikon Z6 II with Nikkor Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8

Nikon Z6 II with Nikkor Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 coffee beans. Exposure: 1/125 sec. f/16. ISO 100

Similarities between the Z 105mm f/2.8 VR S and Z 50mm f/2.8 lenses

Let’s take a look at which features these two Z mirrorless lenses have in common first of all. It’s not a huge list as these two lenses are aimed at different audiences, but some of the key features are similar to draw out the very best from each lens.

Feature

Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8

Maximum reproduction ratio

1:1

1:1

Aperture diaphragm

f/2.8 with 9 rounded blades

f/2.8 with 9 rounded blades

Aperture system

Automatic aperture with electro magnetic diaphragm mechanism

Automatic aperture with electro magnetic diaphragm mechanism

AF drive motor

STM (stepping motor)

STM (stepping motor)

Focus-mode switch

YES

YES

Compatibility

Full-frame and DX

Full-frame and DX

Fluorine coating

YES

YES

Both are highly capable true life-size macro lenses with 1:1 magnification. This means you can get excellent details filling the frame with your subject. Focus is fast on both lenses and the inclusion of a focus limiter allows the STM motor to hunt a very short distance, keeping AF snappy at close range. Of course manual focusing is often used for macro work where the user might want to choose the precise focal point and both lenses offer manual override.

Nikon Z7 II with Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S macro

Nikon Z7 II with Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S macro with shallow depth of field. Exposure: 1/200 sec. f/4.5. ISO 400

Key differences between these macros

It’s these differences between the two lenses which set them apart for their target audiences. The 105mm is a professional grade mid-telephoto with excellent detail whilst the 50mm is an entry to enthusiast level standard focal width lens. In real world use this may not make a great deal of difference depending on your shooting style and which camera the lens is mounted on. We’ve provided this table outlining the key differences so you can make a judgement based on your specific needs.

100 percent crop of previous image

100% crop of previous image. showing huge level of detail

Feature

Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8

Focal length Full-Frame / DX

105mm / 157.5mm

50mm / 75mm

Optical design lenses/groups

16 / 11 (3 ED and 1 aspherical element)

10 / 7 (1 ED element and 1 aspherical element)

Stabilisation (VR)

Lens based (4.5 stops)

Camera based

Lens coatings

Nano Crystal Coat, ARNEO Coat

N/A

Internal focusing

YES

NO

Video optimised

YES - Focus breathing reduced

N/A

Minimum focus distance

0.29m

0.16m

Filter size

62mm

46mm

Weather sealing

YES

N/A

Focus throw adjustment

YES

N/A

Weight

Approx. 630 g

Approx. 260 g

This table outlines the advanced S-Line optical design in the Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S, which includes 16 lens elements, four special lenses and both of Nikon’s coatings to reduce flare and ghosting. Results really are spectacular on par with the very best professional mirrorless lenses as we can see on these sample images. There are high resolution details, gorgeous colours and the lens easily keeps pace with the 45.8 megapixel sensor in the Z7 and Z7 II cameras.

Gorgeous macro of poppies with Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8

Nikon Z6 II macro poppy with gorgeous details and colours from the Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 lens. Exposure: 1/125 sec. f/3.5. ISO 100

The optical design of the Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is competent in its own right, perfectly able to capture beautiful images, particularly with the 9-bladed aperture and 10 elements. In this case there are two special glass lenses to control aberrations. Check out the 100% crop below!

No complaints about rendering from the Nikkor Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8

No complaints about rendering from the Nikkor Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 as shown in this 100% crop from the previous image

Other key differences lie in the ability to shoot into backlit conditions with less visible flare, a lack of lens-based vibration reduction and not having weather sealing. The mid-telephoto is also optimised for video recording which means Nikon has virtually eliminated focus breathing. This can make a big difference when focusing while shooting video so may be a factor in your buying decision.

The 50mm f/2.8 does have a closer minimum focus distance, which is incredibly close for a 50mm lens and a smaller filter thread with far lower overall weight. So some advantages lie with the nifty 50 along with cost savings if some of the professional features aren’t applicable to your needs. There really are no complaints whatsoever with the detail which the 50mm Z lens achieves.

Nikon Z7 II still life with Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Nikon Z7 II still life with Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S. Exposure: 0.7 sec. f/3. ISO 320

absolute resolutoin with 100% crop

100% crop showing detail and colours from picture above. The Z7 II sensor is a beauty!

What other subjects suit these lenses?

Although both of these Z models are macro-focused they are highly capable of making ‘regular’ photos and videos as well. There’s a cross-over in subjects although the 50mm is definitely more versatile as a general purpose option. Here are some subjects which both traditionally handle well:

  1. Portraits. At 105mm you’re looking at just over double the reach with tighter crops and more compression with the subject, whereas the 50mm has a more natural range for environmental portraits.
  2. Landscapes and cityscapes. Both can be used as a city, landscape or seascape lens with the 50mm more able to get the whole scene in frame whereas the tele will be better at picking out details or more distant subjects on the whole.
  3. Products, food photography and weddings. All of these types of photography (and more) fall within either of these lenses capabilities and users can make the most of their different fields of view.
  4. Street photography is more for the wider lens with its ability to get more into the frame from closer.
  5. You can try just about any subject with either of these, such as pet photography and much more.

Nikon Z6 II dog portrait with Nikkor Z MC 50mm

Nikon Z6 II dog portrait with Nikkor Z MC 50mm. Exposure: 1/640 sec. f/3.5. ISO 100

Summary

There’s no winner between these two Z mirrorless macro lenses, they are both macro capable but for different looks, with different end users in mind. If you’re a professional or serious enthusiast who loves macro then the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S probably appeals to you for its all round excellence. On the other hand having a versatile standard prime which can also capture true 1:1 macro is a real bonus, so long as you don’t need weather sealing and the very best technology which S-Line lenses offer. They are both portable for what they offer and will happily travel in a lightweight kit packed with just the essentials.

Look at the details with each hair showing

100% crop from dog's eye. Look at each hair well resolved from the Z6 II

Read more about Nikon mirrorless gear in our blog with these posts:

Creative macro with eth Z7 II and Z MC 105mm lens

Nikon Z7 II creative macro with Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S. Exposure: 1/8 sec. f/5. ISO 64. Finishing with a 100% crop below:

Full crop look again!

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By Nick Dautlich on 02/06/2021

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