The saga of lens flange distance and lens adaptability is coming to a head – an AF Sony FE lens to Nikon Z adapter – the ring to rule them all?

Written by Gary on June 21st, 2019

When Micro Four Thirds became the first mirrorless camera system, its very short 20mm sensor to lens mount distance (“lens flange distance”) allowed it to became THE MOST ADAPTABLE camera system out there.

You could get adapters for nearly any lens ever made including those made for Leica M rangefinder cameras which could not be fitted to any dSLR.

Enter Sony NEX system

Then along came Sony with their NEX / E mount cameras with a lens flange distance of 18mm which could match the Micro Four Thirds system for lens adaptability. Sigma produced their Canon EF lens MC-11 adapters with AF capability which was not really realised until the version III Sony a7’s were developed to optimally utilise the AF capabilities with this adapter.

This Canon EF adapter helped Sony in that it made up for its deficient native FE lens mount line up which takes a few years to mature from inception and which is still quite incomplete.

BUT now we have the adapter for Nikon Z system

Last year Canon, Nikon and Panasonic announced their full frame mirrorless systems and whilst Canon, Leica SL and Panasonic went for a 20mm lens flange distance (the same as Micro Four Thirds), Nikon went for an extremely short lens flange distance of 16mm.

While one would expect lens adapters for dSLR lenses to be made for both systems, this week, Techart took a lot of us by surprise in producing an ultra-thin 2mm lens adapter which will allow Sony FE lenses to work on Nikon Z cameras and provide C-AF and Eye AF functionality!

The ramifications of this adapter are considerable, especially for Nikon users who want to get into the Nikon Z system but are frustrated by the lack of native lenses.

Now they can use almost any lens ever made via adapters to the Sony FE mount added onto the new Techart TZE-01 adapter – although using multiple adapters does risk inaccuracies of lens alignment and AF due to slight degrees of mount wobble.

Obviously such an adapter is impossible for the Canon R system – these users will have to rely upon the Canon EF lens adapters which Canon have made available from the start – although there are very few Canon EF lenses optimised for mirrorless cameras.

We can expect a Canon RF lens to Nikon Z camera lens adapter in the near future too which would bring the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 and 85mm f/1.2 lenses to the Nikon Z world. We could also expect a Leica SL / Panasonic S lens to Nikon Z camera adapter.

One could even imagine Nikon making a higher resolution 60-100 megapixel Nikon Z camera and then by using a Micro Four Thirds lens to Nikon Z adapter, it could be used in 1.5-2x crop mode to utilise the superb optics of the Olympus and PanaLeica MFT lenses.

Perhaps Olympus might even consider making a Nikon Z mount style full frame camera to keep compatibility with their Micro Four Thirds lenses.

Who would have thought a year ago that the LEAST adaptable dSLR full frame camera system – the Nikon F, would be replaced by the MOST adaptable full frame mirrorless system – The Nikon Z.

As improvements in photography technology are mainly concentrating on AF performance, especially specific subject tracking and AI tracking technologies, it will be interesting indeed to see how well these will translate across platforms.

We already have cross-platform system-independent flash systems thanks to Godox and Cactus, now perhaps we are heading to a truly cross-platform lens world – and the Nikon Z camera system would be able to take the most advantage of this.

Fascinating times indeed – but it does make choice of camera system and lenses to buy into that much more complex to make sure you get the system that meets your current and future needs.


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