New Nikon Z Macro Lenses Fill Major Gap. And They’re Priced Right

The Nikon MC 105mm f2.8 VR S and Nikon MC 50mm f2.8 lenses are the first Z mount macro optics.

The Nikon Z system is continuing to shape to look more attractive to professional photographers. The latest news furthering their progress is for two new Macro lenses. Today, they’re announcing the Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S and Nikon Z MC 50mm f2.8 macro lenses. The announcement fills in a gap in the young series lens coverage as the first lenses to offer macro capabilities for the Z series bodies without using an F-mount adapter.

Nikon has launched lenses and Z system bodies steadily since the series launched over two years ago. The Z mount family now totals 20 lenses native to the wider Z mount. We’ve reviewed most of these lenses, and you can follow our Nikon Z Mount lens guide. Before today, the series didn’t have any specialty lenses without a macro, fisheye, or tilt-shift lens. The series (and most others) still lacks the latter two. The Z mount also has a noticeable gap in telephoto lenses, with the longest full-frame Z mount lens at 200mm. Right now, the system requires a teleconverter or mount adapter to reach farther. (The DX crop series lenses go up to a 250mm zoom). Maybe Nikon will tackle this next.

Nikon Z Macro Lenses: Nikkor Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S

The much-needed Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S is enticing as a lens that can shoot both macro and portraits. The 105mm is an ideal focal length for portraits. Its F-mount predecessor was a favorite of many Nikon DSLR users. While it’s not the f1.8 or f1.2 of non-macro primes, the ability to use the lens for more than one type of shot could sway some photographers. Wedding photographers — like myself — may be tempted by a lens that can shoot both ring shots and portraits, freeing up space in the camera bag and costing under $1,000.

The 105mm is part of the S series, which means it gets Nikon’s high-end design. Think of this like Canon’s L lineup or Sony’s G Master lineup. The lens uses Nano Crystal Coat and ARNEO coating and is designed for edge-to-edge sharpness, Nikon says. In addition, the lens delivers 4.5 stops of 5-axis stabilization when coupled with in-body systems. 

STOP READING RIGHT HERE AND THINK ABOUT THIS!!! If look at your camera’s light meter, that means that you can shoot at a really slow shutter speed and get up to 4.5 stops of extra shake compensation. Now, apply the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds. You’d basically shoot this lens at 1/100th or 1/125th to compensate. However, with 4.5 stops of vibration compensation, you can go further. In fact, we’re estimating that Nikon is claiming you can shoot at a bit slower than 1/4 of a second. That’s quite a claim with a 105mm lens. If you’re a wedding photographer photograping at a macor range, this could be great. Of course, you have to have a lot of control. And most professionals will probably end up using a flash instead of using ambient light.

The lens houses Nikon’s dual STM motors, which the company says improves both close focusing and improves image quality. As a result, the lens can focus as close as 0.29 meters. As you focus closer, the lens will stop down. At the closest focusing distance, the lens won’t stay at f2.8. Instead, it will become f4.5. Realistically speaking, f4.5 at a macro distance is pretty thin. But if you’re using a flash, you’re of course going to need over an extra stop of power.

As part of the S series, the 105mm also takes on more design features than the more minimalist lenses. The display panel at the top will show the macro reproduction ratio for the current focus — a new for the Z series. It can also show focal distance or aperture just like many of the other lenses with the top panel. In addition, it houses a focus limiter switch, AF to M switch, lens Fn button, and customizable control ring in addition to the manual focus ring.

The lens weighs 638 grams. Paired with the Z6 II or Z7 II, that’s 400g lighter than the equivalent F-mount lens paired with the D850.

But, perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the announcement is the price. At $999.95, it’s one of Nikon’s most reasonably priced lenses for the higher-end S series.

Nikkor Z MC 50mm f2.8

The 105mm was announced alongside the Nikon Z MC 50mm f2.8. (Nikon is deviating a bit from the F-mount naming scheme — MC designates macro). The 50mm is a $649.95 lens that doesn’t have the S-series sharpness or LCD info panel. Instead, it’s designed to be both more affordable and more versatile, with the 50mm focal length that works well for portraits as well as snapshots. Nikon says the lens is made to limit color bleeding and chromatic aberration, but it lacks the Nano Crystal Coat and ARNEO coatings of the 105mm. Immediately, it sounds loads better than Sony’s variant, which we really didn’t enjoy. The Nikon 50mm f2.8 MC Z is going to need to rely on the camera’s image stabilization. This lens completely lacks it.

The design also lacks the extra controls of the S series, but Nikon did manage to sneak in some form of a focal distance scale. The lens is a front focus and not an internal focusing lens. As the length of the lens changes, a chart on the top of the front moving piece shows an approximate focal distance and macro reproduction ratio. The lens weighs 250g, which is 40 percent lighter than the F-mount 50mm macro.

The Z series 50mm also has a mount for the ES-2, a previously announced adapter that allows Z users to digitize film with their digital camera. The lens will work with the film adapter for 35mm film or mounted slides. It’s a feature that’s not included on the 105mm macro.

The Z series needed macro — the lenses are a welcome announcement for Z system users. The lenses aren’t terribly innovative; the only novel features are the addition of the reproduction ratio on that LED info panel and the 50mm film adapter capability. But, my favorite part of the Z system is the lenses, particularly the sharpness and color coming from the S-series. If the 105mm can deliver to those same standards, it could be a great double-duty lens for macro and portraits. Both lenses are also weather-sealed, which means the whole Z series can shoot in the rain.

New Lenses are Coming

Today, Nikon also announced the development of new 28mm and 40mm lenses with compact designs. Nikon didn’t provide further details. But, now that the macro is out of the way, Nikon’s next biggest gap is in telephoto, which is where I’d rather see more announcements than more wide angles. (Even though some of their wide-angle primes feel unnecessarily large). The Z system doesn’t yet have a lens that’s really going to entice wildlife photographers and others relying on the more extreme focal lengths. Shooting beyond 200mm (250mm for DX) requires an F-mount adapter or the Z mount teleconverters.

Both Nikon Z mount macro lenses are expected to ship at the end of June. The Nikkor Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S will retail for $999.95; the Nikkor Z MC 50mm f2.8 will list for $649.95. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t seem like they’re doing anything to push the boundary. Instead, they’re just filling in a gap within the Nikon system.

Additional reporting was done by Chris Gampat.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.