Two Nikon patents show that the company designed two large aperture zoom lenses, presumably for its mirrorless Z mount camera system. They are a 35-50mm and 50-70mm f/1.2.
The patents were originally discovered by Asibonet and later spotted by Mirrorlessrumors. They describe a variable zoom lens that can maintain a wide-open, f/1.2 zoom across the entire range. Together they would allow a photographer to capture 35mm to 70mm images with amazing light-gathering capabilities and low depth-of-field. Nikon currently produces 25 Z-mount lenses, of which one is an F/1.2: The Nikkor 50mm prime lens f/1.2. The 58mm Noct f/0.95 is also available. This lens is not the fastest Nikon has ever made.
The patent application shows the internal optics. They are large and complex, which is understandable. These lenses are likely to be heavy and costly in order to keep the wide aperture across a wide zoom range. The 35-50mm F/1.2 patent describes a lens measuring 210mm in length, which is approximately 8.3 inches. Although the width of this front element is not shown, it is very likely to be large.
While wide-open apertures of f/1.2 are not common in prime lenses, they are quite rare when it comes zooms. The release of the Sigma 24-35mm F/2 lens in 2015 made waves. It felt almost like three prime lenses, but Nikon seems to be making an even greater effort with a faster zoom lens.
Panasonic and Leica collaborated to create two stunning f/1.7 zoom lenses, the 10-25mm and 25-50mm respectively. However, both optics are compatible with the Micro Four Thirds system. This means that the companies can reduce the size of the optics needed for a sensor this small. According to Nikon’s patent it is likely that the two f/1.2 lenses will be at least for APS-C if they are not for full-frame. Both would require larger elements because Nikon’s lenses are faster and larger than their sensors.
These patents may be exciting but they don’t necessarily mean that Nikon will take the designs into production. There are many things that can go wrong between the patent stage and manufacturing, and Nikon might find these lenses too expensive or too difficult to manufacture at scale. Leica’s 28-75mm F/3.5-5.6 lens was designed in 2012. It proved to be too complicated to make due to the complex optical and mechanical design. The company cancelled the project in 2015. In December 2020, Leica sold one of three examples of this lens for $290,000.
These lenses could still be considered among the best zooms ever made, even if Nikon manages to resolve any problems.