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What lenses are the pros using with the new Nikon Z 8?
Recently returned from testing our new Nikon Z 8 in Spain, our experts in stills and video choose their very best in glass
Frøydis Geithus: wedding and fine art photographer
“I always prefer to have my NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S for landscapes. That’s my go-to lens, always. But, of course, I need my primes because they create beautiful bokeh so I always bring my NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S. The bokeh is out of this world. This is important when you’re shooting a couple and you don’t want to have a lot of distracting things in the background. I need f/1.2 or f/1.4 to make the blurry, beautiful background.
“I would also normally bring the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S, NIKKOR AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED, NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S and NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S, depending on where I’m going. If I had to choose only two, it would be the 24-70mm and 85mm. Although Nikon has now made my choice even more difficult because it’s made the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S – I used it with the Z 8 and I am never going to shoot a wedding without this lens again. I’ve never seen anything like it. The 85mm gets the very best out of the camera and the best out of me, too!
“It’s always a struggle if your gear is holding you back and if your lens is not allowing you your ultimate dream of the photo. Every new lens I’ve tried with the Z 8 has been really good, especially the VR stabilisation, which means I don’t have to worry when I’m shooting handheld, and I move around a lot. That’s very important.”
Top tip: balance your bokeh
When you own a lens like the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S with all that dreamy bokeh, it can be all too easy to leave it wide open at f/1.2 all the time. Take the opportunity to stop it down occasionally and you’ll see a whole range of different shots available to you. It’s about finding a balance between softness and sharpness for each individual shot. If you’ve never used an f/1.2 lens before, the extremely thin depth of field can take some getting used to, so make sure you practise using all its amazing capabilities.
Aurelie Gonin: alpine sports specialist
“When I go on a shoot, especially in a mountain environment, I usually take three lenses, all zooms. I would usually take the NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S as a wide angle. Then, I really like the NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S, which is probably the one I use the most, and then a NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. I don’t shoot with a wide aperture because I often have too much light in the snow rather than too little. I’m always looking for the best compromise between quality, size and weight and that’s what I get with the lenses I used with the Z 8.
“Sometimes there’s a snowstorm and you don’t want to change your lens. Or you’re hanging on a rock wall and you just need one lens that provides maximum impact (like the 14-30mm) so it’s important to have one that you know you can trust.”
Top tip: use filters when shooting in the snow
When shooting in snow there are a few things that can help you get the best images. To add colour, try shooting at either blue or golden hour. Snow is very reflective, so shooting at these times can give dramatic effect to a landscape. Filters can be really useful, too. Use a CPL filter to eliminate glare and a VND filter, which will allow you to stop down without changing settings. Finally, get your White Balance right. This Nikon School article has all the info you’ll need.
Keziah Quarcoo and Cara Brown: director and DoP team
“We started off using the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S, which looked great. That’s my preferred lens because it’s flattering and also because it’s wide enough to still capture quite a lot of information. You can go close and it will still be flattering to the subject. To me, it seems a lot more like what the naked eye sees. But we did use the NIKKOR Z 24mm f/1.8 S, which is a different look and was great in a tight space – we had about five metres to work in for the video and that lens was really good for that.”
Top tip: swap to wide-angle for further depth
Not everyone has the luxury of shooting on Hollywood-style sets. Often when shooting there are space limitations – especially at indoor locations. A great wide-angle like the NIKKOR Z 24mm f/1.8 S will give you a sense of depth and space (as well as fantastic imagery!). If space is really tight, ditch the usual lights and experiment with natural light, if available, or even smaller LED lamps for an interesting effect.
Mikko Lagerstedt: night sky landscape photographer
“My go-to lenses when I’m shooting are the NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, which is really wide, and the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. They are both really sharp and I love them. With the Nikon Z 8, I also shot with the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. It’s perfect for shooting the moon because it’s lightweight. You do not have to have it on a tripod all the time, plus it is also sharp. It’s got a great focal length and it’s not too heavy, so I can put it in the camera bag and not worry it’s going to hurt my back. So, I love that lens as well.”
Top tip: shoot the moon at least 1/15s or faster
The moon is moving faster than you’d think through the night sky! You’ll need to shoot at least 1/15s or faster otherwise you might get some blur from the movement. Set focus to infinity and an aperture of around f/11 or f/16. If you’re shooting the moon and a foreground landscape, exposure of both can be tricky to balance. One option is to shoot twice – once with the correct exposure for the moon and again with the correct exposure for the foreground – and then combine the two shots in the edit.
Mous Lamrabat: fashion and fine art photographer
“I usually use the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. I have a camera, a lens and a speedlight – that’s my bag! I had never shot lower than f/1.8 until I tried the Nikon Z 8 but, as there was a treasure chest of lenses to try in Spain, I tested the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S and it was really exciting. I took a test shot of my assistant, and it was a beautiful portrait so I used that lens during my fashion shoot with the camera. The 50mm f/1.2 combined with the eye AF on the Z 8 was so good, and that is the lens I really love now. I love the distortion you can get with the NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, too. Maybe not one for all the time, but nice to have in the bag for something different.”
Top tip: use lenses out of your comfort zone to up your creativity
Seasoned pros like Mous are always trying new things in order to push their creativity. If you usually shoot with ultra-wides, get out with a telephoto. If you shoot with a 24-70mm, try a 70-200mm. Trying a new tool often unlocks new inspirations and new skills.
Pep Bonet: filmmaker, DoP and behind-the-scenes specialist
“I am in love with primes, and the wider the aperture the better! I own a lot of Nikon glass from the past, like the AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4 E ED. I love an f/1.4 or f/1.2 and even have a NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct. I like nice and slow focus with hard stops because you have to understand that filmmaking is not the same as photography. Sometimes I work with focus pullers on cinematic productions and you have to really control the focus. Now, the AF on the Z 8 is amazing, but sometimes there are creative things like a rack focus where you need to focus manually.
“When you start looking through the camera with just one prime lens all the time, you get so used to what it can do that you can almost start framing without even looking through the viewfinder. And I love bokeh and that wide aperture from primes. I tried the new NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S and I think it’s the perfect lens to use for filming on a gimbal.”
Top tip: turn on focus peaking to up your manual focus game
If you’re mostly creating video, take a leaf from Pep’s book and up your manual focus skills. Sure, the AF on Nikon mirrorless cameras is outstanding, but sometimes when filming you want to control changes in focus (and the speed of that change) for dramatic or creative effect. Turn on focus peaking in the menu system, which will help identify what’s in focus for you. And a top tip for using focus peaking is to turn the monitor screen to black and white – that way the coloured focus peaking lines are easier to see!
Find your ‘best in glass’ with the range of NIKKOR Z lenses here.