Their vision is yours

Making mirrorless lenses is the greatest challenge,
says Nikon’s engineering team

Nikon’s lens-making mission statement is: ‘To realise lenses that balance superior image quality with compact size and light weight; offer superior operability; are reliable; and provide useful functionality with both still-image photography and video recording.’

The overall journey of lens production, which can take several years, begins with a plan, then design, a mass-production prototype, then mass production.

Some users want a sharper and clearer lens, while others a slimmer version. So, at design stage, we are constantly considering a variety of aspects of the optical, mechanical and electrical design; software specifications; and quality objectives. Specs and design are ultimately finalised to achieve the best balance between these aspects.

With the NIKKOR Z lenses we can achieve things with that were not possible with NIKKOR F lenses. We are not just simply inheriting the legacy and assets Nikon has acquired over 100 years in these lenses. With ‘innovation and tradition’ at our core, we thoroughly considered what would be best for our customers, inheriting necessary aspects while not hesitating to change traditions where needed.

When we first started developing NIKKOR Z lenses, specifications were changing almost daily, which was a struggle. Nikon came late to the mirrorless market, and we can’t afford to lose out to our rivals. The word ‘can’t’ disappeared from our lexicon, and we pursued possibilities without compromise. We wanted to try things that weren’t possible with SLRs. Take autofocus: with SLR cameras, an autofocus module is used to detect focus position, but due to the internal layout of the camera, its size cannot be increased. This makes it impossible to realise a module capable of detecting focus position throughout the entire screen. With mirrorless cameras, however, there are no module restrictions because focus position is detected from the image sensor. By manipulating camera and lens design, we have been able to achieve autofocus capability throughout almost the entire frame.

Initially, we thought of making our first Z series a DX-format camera. As discussion of the new system progressed, we came to realise that what was needed was an FX-format camera, and from there we altered course. Changing the underlying sensor size required the re-examination of everything we had done to that point, but our goal was achieving not just optical performance but the ultimate optical performance. As engineers, this was the most challenging and exciting experience we’ve had in our careers.

From left Kunihiko Shimizu, Section Manager, Optical Engineering Division, with NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S; Akihiko Omaba, Section Manager, Optical Engineering Division with Z 7II and NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S; Hiroyuki Ishigami, Section Manager, Imaging Business Division with NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S