Like Sony, Nikon released a very impressive 10 new products in 2023. The composition of the releases is different, with Sony splitting its debuts evenly between cameras and lenses and Nikon going heavy on glass.
Nikon’s Two New Cameras Are Both Excellent
Nikon launched just two new Z cameras in 2023, but they were both spectacular, with one of them, the Z8, being named PetaPixel‘s Camera of the Year.
Launched in May, the Z8 includes much of what made last year’s Z9, PetaPixel‘s Camera of the Year in 2022, such an excellent mirrorless camera. The 45.7-megapixel full-frame backside-illuminated stacked image sensor, hybrid AI-powered autofocus system, and swift continuous shooting speeds are among the shared features.
The smaller, lighter, and more affordable Z8 is so similar to the Z9 that PetaPixel calls the Z8 “the best camera for most serious photographers.”
Nikon’s other camera of 2023 is the Nikon Zf, which the company released in September. Combining classic, vintage-inspired style with modern technology like a 24.5-megapixel full-frame image sensor and Nikon’s Expeed 7 image processor, the Zf is a beautiful and capable mirrorless camera.
While 2021’s Nikon Zfc delivered some of the same great style, the APS-C camera left a fair bit to be desired in terms of features and performance. Nikon has thoroughly course-corrected with the full-frame Zf, which is much more than a pretty face.
Eight New Nikkor Z Lenses Significantly Enhance Nikon’s Mirrorless Camera System
Nikon’s optical engineers have been extremely busy. The company started 2023 with a pair of new lenses, the Nikon Nikkor Z 26mm f/2.8 and the Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S. The former lens is Nikon’s thinnest and lightest full-frame lens ever, weighing just 125 grams (4.5 ounces). The latter is Nikon’s fastest 85mm lens, an optic built with high-end portraiture in mind.
The next two Nikon lenses arrived in April and May and are both DX lenses designed for APS-C mirrorless cameras, like the Nikon Zfc and Z50. The DX 12-28mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ VR is the widest Z-mount lens designed for content creators and vloggers, as no company is immune from chasing that market. The other DX lens, the Nikkor DX 24mm f/1.7, is a compact prime for APS-C cameras. The lens delivers a 36mm equivalent focal length and promises high-quality bokeh for under $300.
In June, Nikon debuted a pair of new telephoto zoom lenses. The shorter of the two is the Nikkor Z 70-180mm f/2.8, the ideal complement to Nikon’s existing 17-28mm f/2.8 and 28-75mm f/2.8 zoom lenses, which all serve as affordable alternatives to Nikon’s 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8 professional zooms.
The longer lens is Nikon’s answer to the popular Sony 200-600mm telephoto zoom lens, the Nikkor Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR. The 180-600mm is also Nikon’s mirrorless successor to the company’s 200-500mm zoom for DSLR cameras, a very popular zoom among wildlife photographers.
The Nikkor Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 lens is among Nikon’s best lenses for wildlife photography and delivers incredible versatility in a handholdable, affordable package.
Back to portrait photography, the Nikon Nikkor Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena delivers “buckets of beautiful bokeh” and is what happens when Nikon’s talented optical engineers are given free rein. The lens is large, heavy, and expensive. However, it is also spectacular and is destined to become a favorite lens of Nikon Z portrait photographers for years to come.
Nikon’s final lens of 2023 is, unsurprisingly, another winner. The Nikkor Z 600mm f/6.3 VR S is a lightweight, compact super-telephoto lens for the masses. While Nikon’s 600mm f/4 TC VR S is spectacular, it’s also large, heavy, and costs nearly $16,000. The 600mm f/6.3 trades a bit of light-gathering capabilities for an extremely easy-to-use design and a relatively approachable $4,800 price.
Grading Nikon’s Busy 2023
As explained in the Sony and Fujifilm recaps, a company’s grade depends on quantity, quality, and how its new products satisfy customers’ needs. Nikon may not hit a home run with camera quantity in 2023, but it nailed the other two considerations.
The Nikon Z8 and Zf are both spectacular cameras, and they each fill a niche, delivering most of what makes the Z9 amazing in a smaller, lighter, and more accessible package and offering vintage style with a full-frame sensor, respectively. For its cameras in 2023, Nikon earns an impressive A grade.
Nikon’s lenses are even better than the company’s cameras. Nikon’s eight lenses run the gamut from wide-angle DX lenses to super-telephoto full-frame primes. The company also offered portrait photographers two new incredible lenses: the 85mm f/1.2 S and 135mm f/1.8 Plena. Nikon rounded out its affordable zoom range with the 70-180mm f/2.8 and the fantastic new 180-600mm zoom. And the 600mm f/6.3 is one of the most exciting wildlife lenses in recent years.
Nikon’s optical work this year earns an A-plus. The Nikon Z system came into its own in the past two years and, thanks to a prolific 2023 release schedule, stands as one of the biggest strengths of Nikon’s Z system overall.
Overall, Nikon’s 2023 earns an A.
Looking ahead, there is not much the Z system needs, although a true mirrorless successor to Nikon’s excellent D500 sure would go nicely with the company’s lightweight telephoto lenses. Just saying.