I'm an F-Mount Boy, Living in a Z-Mount World

I'm an F-Mount Boy, Living in a Z-Mount World

Between the Nikon F mount, Nikon Z mount, FTZ adapter, Metabones MFT to Nikon F mount, and Nikon TC-14e II, I have a serious amount of adapters and extenders to choose from depending on what camera I'm shooting on. Here's my $0.02 on dealing with the FTZ adapter on my Z50 and adapting glass to other cameras.

When the current generation of mirrorless cameras came out, I monitored closely the ability and the technology that the mirrorless adapters used to be able to mount old lenses on new cameras. While I'm a Nikon guy, I am frustrated that I can't use my meager collection of lenses on that whichever camera is in front of me at the time. I want to put my F mount glass on my Sony a7R III at work — why can't I do that? Am I shooting myself in the foot by using adapted glass all the time? If you don't want to read on, my answer is like my early 2000s Facebook dating status... it's complicated.

First off let me say the Nikon ecosystem has worked pretty flawlessly for me. All my F mount glass works on my Z50, and the Z6/Z7 that I have used and with that you get extremely quick and accurate auto focus on all of those AF-S lenses. This includes using the Z50 with the FTZ adapter and the Nikon TC on a 300mm F/4. While a bit cumbersome, the setup does indeed work and it works well. The latest firmware update for the Z50 allows me to do 3D-tracking style back button focusing which makes me very happy and is almost as good as 3D tracking on the current generation of Nikon DSLR. With center lock on tracking enabled, that focus sticks pretty darned well considering the cameras I'm comparing the Z50 to are much more expensive. Technical progress is apparent here.

So, the only Z-mount lens I own is the Z50 16-50 kit lens. I treat this lens as a body cap that can also take pictures. The lens itself is so small compared to the F-mount glass with the FTZ adapter attached that it is essentially, for me, a lens that gets mounted to store the camera and then the FTZ with my F mount glass gets installed for more serious photo shoots. The quality of the Z mount glass I've used is excellent and eventually I can see myself buying into some specialty glass in that system, but as you'll read — I'm not sure it's necessary.

Quick focus even with multiple levels of adapted glass. Crazy good!

Generally when building out a photo/video kit I recommend spending money on glass versus cameras. My thought is that the half life of a nice lens is much longer than that of a brand new digital camera. Lens technology has progressed, but much less distance than that of a camera body itself. Case in point, Nikon's F mount has been in use for over 60 years and the company has still found a way to make those lenses work on today's current systems. You are going to be much better off investing in lenses instead of the latest and greatest camera body generally speaking.  

To prove my point further think of how many current motion picture cameras use Canon EF lenses in their systems. If someone today asked if buying EF glass was a bad investment, I would probably say it isn't considering Canon DSLR and lenses are still very relevant in terms of usability and utmost quality. Many other cameras including the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 6k go so far as to even use Canon batteries extending the life of existing camera technology. Camera manufacturers are doing this fairly well — and they need to unless they want to alienate their existing customers.

Nikon Z50 with FTZ and Sigma 18-35 F/1.8

While the state of the industry is primed to change, I am very happy to see that the adapter industry has grown, learned, and made advancements that allow us to keep our investments in glass. When mirrorless cameras and new mounts were announced we were pessimistic about how our old glass would hold up. Little did we know that companies like Metabones would release speedboosters that allow us to shoot adapted glass at even wider apertures. My own Z Cam E2 M4 has only ever seen adapted Nikon F mount glass and I'm stoked that I get to keep some of my favorite full frame lenses in action and even enhance their maximum apertures from f/1.4 to f/1.0.

Do you have a good or bad experience with a lens adapter? I'd love to hear about it below.

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jim hughes's picture

Yes the FTZ works just fine. But I don't like switching it around all the time - and I also have a Z6 sharing the single FTZ. I live in terror that I'll go somewhere to get pictures and forget the FTZ. I categorize it as OMDT (One More Dam Thing) that has to be remembered and carried around.

It also adds a fair amount of bulk to the very compact Z50 and/or takes up space in the bag.

Sony E-mount lenses can adapt to Z with just 2mm of added thickness. But the only 'electronic' adapter is the Techart TZE-01 which - sadly - won't fit the Z50 due to some apparently non-critical plastic part that could have been done differently.

Grant Schwingle's picture

Native > Adapted for sure. I'm just glad the damned adapter actually works well. I like that - OMDT.... That's life right?

Matt Williams's picture

The FTZ adapter works great, but I've ended up swapping most of my F-mount lenses for Z lenses, aside from lenses where no replacement exists yet (e.g. 85 PC-E). The Z lenses are so impeccable and in the case of several of the zooms, incredibly compact, it's impossible to resist them. Plus everything balances much more nicely.

Grant Schwingle's picture

If I end up sticking with the system I'll absolutely sell off some of my f mount glass, so far the 24-70 2.8 S has me *tingly*.

Matt Williams's picture

The 50 and 85 1.8 primes are extraordinary. Like near Zeiss Otus level, especially the 85.

I love the 14-30/4 - flat front element designed to take filters and super compact.

I'm working on a review of the new 24-200, which is a pretty stellar lens for what it is.

The only "lackluster" lens in the Z line is the 35/1.8 and it's still better than Sony's 35/1.8, for example. Just isn't up to par with the 50 or 85.

Peter Neale's picture

Who said you can't use F mount lenses on a Sony body? I do. In fact more than I can use on a modern Nikon body. Also M42, FD, OM, M mount, LTM, etc etc. I don't get the modern hang-up with having to have auto everything. Manual focus is easy and often better than auto focus. Give it a try.

Grant Schwingle's picture

Don't be so snobby - I shoot entirely manual on my adapted Z cam. My point is there are limitations and considerations. If you do indeed need auto focus (to say shoot professional sports) with Nikon glass on adapted systems - my experience has been - that it is impossible or restricted in some way. My intent with the article is that adapter manufacturers have overall been doing a fine job and I'm happy that they have innovated. It's just not a perfect system.

Juan Isaias Perez's picture

My experience is with Canon, but I believe still relevant. I decided to go mirrorless with the EOS R. I could have switch to RF lenses or keep my EF or something in between. I decided to spend 1 grand and adapt all my EF lenses. I don’t switch adapters. All my EFs are now RFs. And they work better than ever. I plan to add an R5 to my kit. Will I by RF glass for it? No. The EFs are that good.

Grant Schwingle's picture

That's awesome - and pretty impressive if you ask me. For sure my 300F/4 on a TC and an adapter worked better than native.

J Cortes's picture

I have no issue using the FTZ adapter on my Z6. I leave it attached to my IRIX 15 2.4 most of the time. Still those 1.8 S lenses are outstanding for the Z system.

Dave Palmer's picture

My first serious camera was a Nikon FTn. I lost the camera in a home burglary and didn't touch another one for over forty years. In 2016 I bought into the Sony a7 system and have been happily buying all the old manual focus Nikkor glass I couldn't afford in my youth.

I use the Metabones F to E adapter and stay away from AF lenses to keep it simple. I do have a number of Sony AF zooms but all my primes are Nikkor MF. I find focusing slows me down and makes me work to get the shot just right. The 55mm 1:1.2 on a Sony a7Sii makes for a killer night-time available light setup.

Grant Schwingle's picture

That's dope! Thanks for sharing. I just bought an old AI MF Nikon lens with the intention of using it on my z cam adapted.