Survey Says

What you told me about your DX lens wishes

Original: 10/28/2012

So here we go. 9096 of you fully participated in this survey. To put that in perspective, that probably represents about .1% of the active DX user base. It certainly reflects a higher percentage of higher end DX users, given the models you claim ownership of.

Before we get started, first a word about the survey. I did not include FX lenses or third party lenses for a reason: my goal here was to get a take solely on Nikon's treatment of DX. From other surveys I already know a fair amount of which lenses DX users are actually using on their cameras. But my focus here is on what Nikon should be doing, not whether or not third parties can rush in and fill gaps or whether you can fill a gap with an FX lens (usually only on the telephoto end, though).

The bottom line should be this: if Nikon produced more DX lenses, what would you buy?

Let's first look at camera ownership first. Some key numbers:

D300 models: 2487
D7000: 2241
D200: 1074
D90: 1372
non-Nikon: 583

Because many of you own multiple Nikon DSLRs, all the other bodies except for the D1 models tended to have a few hundred current owners. But as I was hoping, we had quite a few higher end DX owners in the mix, exactly the folk that want more than kit lenses.

Lenses these users currently own was somewhat revealing. Here's the top 10:

35mm f/1.8: 42.9%
18-200mm (either version): 28.6
16-85mm VR: 20.0
18-70mm: 18.5
18-55mm VR (either version): 16.7
55-200mm VR (either version): 14.5
18-105mm: 13.9
12-24mm: 13.5
18-55mm non-VR: 12.1
17-55mm f/2.8: 10.8

That certainly was an interesting result. That fast, normal prime beats the pack, and by a wide margin. Three serious lenses (12-24mm, 16-85mm, and 17-55mm) do decently, as do previous and current kit zooms. The only other winner was the convenience superzoom, the 18-200mm (the new 18-300mm was at 0.8%). But we're going to see an interesting statistic about that lens in a moment.

Three surprising laggards were the 10-24mm and the two Micro-Nikkors. The zoom managed a 7.6%, the 85mm macro was at 1.8% with the 40mm macro at 1.5%. Those last two figures didn't surprise me, but the 10-24mm number seemed low to me, especially since the 10.5mm fisheye nearly matched it (7.1%).

Note that, other than the 35mm f/1.8, none of the numbers are particularly high. We'll get back to that in a moment.

If those were the lenses you kept, what else did you try and get rid of? Our top ten here were:

18-70mm: 30.8% once owned it, but have since gotten rid of it
18-55mm non-VR: 22.0
18-200mm (either version): 21.0
18-55mm VR (either version): 16.6
55-200mm VR (either version): 12.6
18-105mm VR: 10.7
17-55mm f/2.8: 8.2
12-24mm: 7.4
35mm f/1.8: 7.0
18-135mm: 6.3

Okay, the kit lenses are obvious things that get dumped, but the 18-200mm's high place on this list is interesting. About half the purchasers kept it, half dumped it. This isn't too surprising. Back in the 6-10mp days the lens seemed good, but in the 16-24mp days it definitely shows the optical compromises that were made. I didn't ask anyone about FX lenses or what they moved to, however my In Box was full of additional commentary that was basically: "almost none of the DX lenses satisfied me, so I've got a lot of FX lenses subbing in." In the "other" category, I found a lot of Sigma 10-20mm and quite a few Tamron mid-range zooms also abandoned.

Given the actual DX lens use you report, it seems that a lens that would grab the attention of 10-20% of the serious DX user base should be successful (that first top ten list up above reads like the DX Who's Who). With that in mind, here are the primes you wanted, in descending order (of Likely/Definitely Would Purchase). Curiously, there was virtually no clear winner here (highest Definitely Would Purchase has a *):

10mm f/2.8: 34.2%*
35mm f/1.4: 33.9
58mm f/1.4: 28.6
24mm f/2: 28.3
24mm f/1.4: 28.1
70mm f/2: 26.6
16mm f/2: 26.4
70mm f/1.4: 25.9
16mm f/2.8: 25.4
14mm f/2.8: 25.2
16mm f/1.4: 24.8
12mm f/2.8: 21.9
58mm f/2: 20.6
24mm f/2.8: 16.5
18mm f/2: 14.2
18mm f/1.4: 13.3
18mm f/2.8: 10.3

A few things are clear:

  • There's a group of you who do want primes, and you're relatively consistent across your answers. Most people that were likely to purchase one had several in their purchase lists. There was also a large group that wasn't interested in any prime.
  • You don't want an 18mm prime (28mm equivalent). Message received.
  • Really fast lenses sorted higher than slower lenses for the most part. People are longing after fast primes more than primes would be my general conclusion. Some of you seem to have been thinking about "cost," so the f/2 lenses sometimes do better than the equivalent f/1.4, but this always seems to be relatively close.
  • Look at your top four choices: 15mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm equivalent. The last three make a lot of sense, but where'd that 15mm come from? Apparently more than a few of you are looking for a landscape or architectural lens that's not a zoom compromise.

Overall, demand for primes isn't huge, but there seems to be a strong argument for at least doing the complete 35mm, 50mm, 85mm set. Personally, I was surprised that a 16mm prime fell so far down the list. It's the lens that would best round out my bag (but I'll take that 10mm ;~).

I should point out that one of these lenses exists in another form that those #3 voters might find useful: the 58mm f/1.4 is available as a manual focus Voigtlander lens, and it's actually an exceptionally good lens that's somewhat DX-priced (US$490). To bad about the manual focus, but this is a very good portrait choice for DX users.

We also had 755 write-in choices in primes. A lot of these were for longer focal lengths, but unfortunately DX doesn't work all that great for reducing size, weight, and cost above 100mm. There were quite a few request for a tilt shift DX lens in that group, though.

Which brings us to zooms. Here's how that played out (again highest Definitely Would Purchase has a *):

16-50mm f/2.8: 41.9%
8-16mm f/4: 40.8
50-150mm f/2.8: 40.8*
50-135mm f/2.8: 35.2
16-80mm f/4: 35.0
18-70mm f/2.8: 31.3
10-24mm f/4: 29.9
12-24mm f/2.8: 29.2
50-270mm f/4-5.6: 23.3
16-50mm f/4: 15.0
8-16mm f/4-5.6: 14.5

Well that was somewhat definitive: give the users the 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm equivalents. I happen to know that Nikon is producing one of the lenses in your top ten (very close to it, at least). Unfortunatly, it's not one of the top four vote getters, so it's not equivalent to one of the FX Big Three. Shame. But at least it's not one of the ones at the bottom of the list ;~).

In the 522 write-in votes there was a clear favorite: 16-xx f/2.8, with the xx being anything larger than 50mm and up to 85mm.

So, could Nikon make most of you happy? Yes, by simply producing six DX lenses: 8-16mm, 16-50mm, and 50-150mm zooms, plus 10mm, 24mm, and 58mm primes. It doesn't look like rocket science. In fact, that's pretty much common sense, as it matches a base set that FX has.

So the question is simple: why hasn't Nikon done this in 13 years? Will they get around to doing it before DX DSLRs eventually get replaced by something else? Both unanswerable questions. My advice: get cracking, Nikon, or else see the leakage from DX continue. | Nikon | Gadgets | Writing | imho | Travel | Privacy statement | contact Thom at

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