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Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 Macro Review

John Riley reviews the new Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens for Z-Mount cameras, with 1:1 magnification, how does this new full-frame macro lens perform?

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Nikkor Z Mc 50mm F2,8 On Nikon Z7II

The Nikon Z range of lenses has been pretty spectacular so far, delivering the highest levels of performance. We now have two new macro lenses, the first of which is this 50mm f/2.8. Full frame 50mm macro lenses are universally excellent, so it is with very high expectations that we approach this review. Let's couple the new lens with the Nikon Z7 II 45MP body and put it through its paces to see what it can do.


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Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 Handling and Features

Nikkor Z Mc 50mm F2,8 On Nikon Z7II At Closest Macro Focus Point
At Closest Macro Focus Point

Weighing in at just 260g, it is clear that there is extensive use of plastics, but the overall finish of the lens is excellent and it looks to be well built. It is an odd lens in some ways, borrowing some features from compact camera lens design, such as its motorised macro focusing in the closest range. The inner lens barrel protrudes forwards when focusing closer than 0.19m (0.63 feet), at which point the magnification ratio is 1:2. There are also marked positions for 1:1.4 at 0.17m (0.56 feet) and 1:1 at 0.16m (0.63 feet), which is also the closest focusing point. This central extending section has a standard 46mm filter thread and a very tiny 46mm screw-in lens hood is provided. This is hardly worth describing as a hood as it is so small and could be assigned the description of an oddity. The consequence of the design is that the front element is not as deeply recessed as we find on many macro lenses.

The main body of the lens also has a 62mm thread for the attachment of SY-1-62 adapter rings for use with SB-R200 flash units and 62mm B adapters for use with ES-2 film digitising adapters. Accessories such as 62mm filters should not be attached here as they would stop the lens section from extending and potentially cause damage.

The wide electronic control ring can adjust focus or aperture when in AF mode, depending on the custom setting set in the camera menus. In MF mode it adjusts focus. It is of course totally smooth in operation. Focusing is down to 0.16m, or 0.53 feet, at which point we have a magnification of 1:1, life-size. Of course, the design of the lens is such that a proper distance scale has been left out, as has a depth of field scale.

There are two switches on the lens, the A/M selecting AF or MF and the focus limiter that can restrict the AF range to 0.16-0.3m. The stepping motor is smooth and very precise and locks on reliably and virtually silently. AF speed is fast and the focus limiter does help to speed focus up when working at close range.
Nikkor Z Mc 50mm F2,8 Front Oblique View

Optical construction is 10 elements in 7 groups, including 1 ED (Extra Low Dispersion) and 1 Aspherical. The diaphragm comprises 9 rounded blades to help ensure smoother bokeh. The front element is Fluorine coated to repel moisture, oil and dust and the lens as a whole is weather resistant.

Macro photography is a very precise pursuit that needs good technique and the initial reaction to this lens was that the macro focusing was a bit annoying, especially as by default it kept timing out and shutting down. However, after delving into the camera menus it is possible to switch off this energy-saving system and this then gives time to set up macro shots properly. If a particular magnification ratio is required, then MF can be selected and the appropriate setting selected. Fine focus is then achieved by moving the subject and/or camera backwards and forwards, rather than by focusing the lens. A focus rail would be the best way to achieve this, and it works conveniently.

Once everything is set up to the way of working that is desired, the lens becomes a very enjoyable piece of kit, doing its job efficiently. Handling soon becomes second nature.

Of course, there are very few macro lenses around the 50mm mark, most being longer and, with some exceptions, around 100mm. This gives a little more space for lighting and also to avoid crowding sensitive subjects such as insects. A 50mm lens does have a place though and comes into its own when a shorter working distance is beneficial, such as tabletop macro and the copying of documents and other flat subjects. The lens also is more versatile as a general optic, being the standard lens for full-frame cameras.
Nikkor Z Mc 50mm F2,8 Rear Oblique View

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