Our Lens Testing Survey Results

Tips & Techniques

Last week, I posted a survey asking what lens reviews you most wanted to see at Photography Life. The survey received many more responses than I expected: 657 before I closed it! I’ve tallied up the responses and now have a clear idea what lenses we’re going to review next.

The first question of the survey was: “What one lens are you most interested to see reviewed at Photography Life?”

Here are the responses:

Lens Review Popularity Photography Life

As expected, Nikon – and specifically Nikon Z – was the obvious favorite. It goes to show what I said last week, that Photography Life is mainly known as a Nikon-centric site (even though for our personal work, Nasim actually shoots Fuji medium format and I mostly shoot large format film).

Of the lenses in the survey, the clear #1 was the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S. No contest at all! More than 25% of people who responded to the survey picked it as their top choice for us to review. Consider yourself heard – the Z 24-120mm f/4 S will be the first lens review we publish in the coming weeks. Based on this feedback, I’ve already started testing the 24-120mm f/4 in the lab, and I’m encouraged by the results.

Nikon Z9 Starlight View Star Trails Landscape Photography
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S @ 24mm, ISO 500, 900 seconds, f/4.0

The next most popular lens was the Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. To me, making the best possible review of the 100-400mm means testing the lens with both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters and comparing it head-to-head against lenses like the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S (also with teleconverters). So, I’ve bought three copies of both teleconverters, and I’ll store the sharpest copy of each one permanently in our lens testing lab. Then, for all future lens reviews, I’m going to test the lenses on the same copy of the teleconverters. That should make the playing field completely level.

However, testing all those copies of the teleconverters will take time, so I doubt I can publish the 100-400mm review immediately after the 24-120mm f/4 review. But it’s moved up in my priority list substantially.

Dragonfly taken with Nikon Z9 pre-releast burst 3
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/8000, f/5.6

The Nikon Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S and the Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR Macro were also popular requests. The 400mm f/4.5 is unavailable at the moment (although Libor found a copy in Europe), and anyway, I need to test it with both teleconverters as well. However, the Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR will be one of the first few lenses we review, thanks to the responses to this survey.

There was more interest than I expected for the 40mm f/2. So, I’ve already tested that lens in the lab and intend to publish that review right after the 24-120mm review. (I just need a few more good sample photos first.) The 800mm f/6.3 and Tamron 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 also got a lot of votes. I’ll review both of those as soon as possible – which unfortunately may be a while in the 800mm’s case, since copies of that lens are so hard to find at the moment.

The least popular Nikon Z lens was the 50mm f/2.8 macro, with only four respondents saying it was their top priority for a review. That was bit of a surprise considering the 105mm macro’s popularity in the survey, but so it goes! Even though it won’t be one of my priorities to review, I wouldn’t count out this little lens as a cheap and flexible 50mm option if I were you.

Deer in Yosemite Valley at Sunrise
NIKON Z7 + NIKKOR Z MC 50mm f/2.8 @ 50mm, ISO 90, 1/100, f/2.8

I also asked the following question later in the survey:

“What non-Nikon lenses do you want us to prioritize? You can select more than one answer.”

It turns out that Nikon still reigned supreme:

  • A whopping 70% of respondents said that we should prioritize third-party lenses that fit Nikon Z.
  • The next most popular request was for Sony E lenses, which only 11% of people mentioned.
  • Third-party Nikon F lenses took third place with 10% of people mentioning them.
  • Next in line were:
    • Fuji X with 8%
    • Canon RF with 6%
    • Fuji GF, Micro Four Thirds, and Leica M all tied with 4%
    • Canon DSLR lenses, L-Mount lenses, Pentax lenses, and other lenses all got 1% or less

Yes, that adds up to a bit more than 100%, because respondents could select more than one option. But apparently most people didn’t. For many of you, it seems that third-party Nikon Z lenses are the furthest you want us to branch out. I’ll put it this way – I do want to test other lens brands like Sony and Canon in the future, but I’ll prioritize Nikon Z lenses (including third-party options) any time that it’s a decision of either/or.

The other two questions in the survey were open-ended, and they were very helpful in figuring out the direction of Photography Life’s lens reviews. The most popular request was to make sure that all our lens reviews have numbers that can be compared from review to review. Don’t worry, they do! And they’ll continue to have comparable numbers in the future.

For example, our Nikon F Imatest numbers can be compared head-to-head against our Nikon Z Imatest numbers. (We test Nikon F lenses on the D850 and Nikon Z lenses on the Z7, which as we’ve shown before, are interchangeable for Imatest numbers.) Only a small number of our oldest DSLR lens reviews – the ones that have very different looking sharpness graphs – are not comparable with the rest of our reviews, until we go back and re-test those lenses on a modern camera.

Thanks again to everyone who responded to the survey! I expected to get about 100-200 responses, and we ended up with about five times that, so I was very happy. I’m out gathering sample photos and testing lenses in the lab almost every day now, so our lens reviews will be back before the end of the month. If you sign up for our weekly email, I’ll send you a message the moment the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S review goes live.

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