I 3D Printed a Nikon FTZ (F to Z) adaptor so you don’t have to

The old saying in photography is to marry the glass, date the body. Or rather, commit and spend more money to a good camera lens, and update the camera body as they come along. The issue for many Nikon fans is with Nikon seemingly phasing out the F-Mount system for newer Z-Mount cameras and lenses it leaves quite the predicament.

Do you commit to an entirely new camera system, or do you keep using the older glass with Nikons FTZ adaptor, which is actually quite pricey.

For those with newer Z-mount bodies, you’re currently looking at around $246, £213 or €280 for the audacity of using your old lenses. And even then, for many of the older lenses, the FTZ isn’t fully compatible. Essentially meaning your expensive adaptor has the same utility as a passive one – making you do all the fun work with focusing and setting the aperture.

But what if there was a cheaper option?

May I introduce to you the 3D printable FTZ Adaptor, curtesy of Dave Auld.

Image of a 3D file of the FTZ adaptor

David originally made the model to mount his Z50 to his telescope, but from what I’ve seen nobody has tested it for normal use. So lets give it a go!

The print took roughly, three hours and used fifty grams of PLA. And here’s how it looks, and in the end it’s fairly substantial, even for a PLA Print. Which is nice when you’re attaching your fairly new (and expensive) Z6.

So how good is it?

To test, I thought I’d use two very different lenses. One of which would be the perfect use case for this print, and the second being a completely incompatible DX lens, mostly for the fun of it.

With the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF

This lens from 1986 represents nearly a perfect use case for this 3D printed adaptor. Now relatively cheap, excellently sharp, nice bokeh, but does not autofocus on newer Nikon F bodies. For someone who loves playing around with older *but still excellent* lenses, I was actually hoping the adaptor would work for this on my new Z6.

And you know what, it was fine. The photos came out perfectly acceptable – great news! Right? You can compare the image below with that taken on my D5600 (left) which didn’t need the adaptor, and the photo from the Z6 with the adaptor. Both were taken at f5.6. But the D5600 is a DX camera, so there is the crop factor to take into account.

A photo of a plant from the 50m 1.8 Nikon lens on the Nikon D5600
Photo from the 50m 1.8 Nikon lens on the Nikon D5600
A photo of a plant from the 50m 1.8 Nikon lens on the Nikon Z6
Photo from the 50m 1.8 Nikon lens on the Nikon Z6

As you can see, straight out of the camera and no editing, the Z6 with the 3D printed adaptor looks much better when it comes to colours and more detailed too . While we’re comparing apples and oranges here by using two very different cameras, the Z6 coming out on top – as expected – suggested a non-noticeable loss of quality. So all is perfect? An easy win for the 3D printed adaptor? Not quite.

Taken with the Z6 with the 3D printed FTZ – Bokkeh!

First off, while the adaptor clips into the body of the Z6 nicely, the connection with the lens itself isn’t good at all. It’s loose, and you’re left holding the lens in place while taking photos. I wouldn’t take this outside for fear of the lens just popping of mid shot. Likewise, even then you couldn’t have the lens screwed in all the way as the 3D file comes, as there is a tiny plate that would hold the lens wide open. I ended up clipping that off, but worth mentioning. So far, while this might be ok for astrophotography, it’s not so great for anything else.

There was also a slight quirk as you can see with the below image and the noticeable green hue.

In certain circumstances, either light was getting in through the wall of the FTZ, or light was bouncing inside the FTZ and giving images that green colour across the photos. This might have been avoided if I’d printed with a black PLA, or sprayed the inside with black. But actually, I really like the effect it’s giving here. I suspect printing with red, yellow, and blue PLAs would give similarly fun coloured photos. Something I will have to investigate in the future.

Photo from the Z6 demonstrating the green hue caused by the FTZ
Photo from the Z6 demonstrating the green hue caused by the FTZ

In sum, there’s some really great potential here, but a locking mechanism for the lens to the adaptor is a must. If someone is out there and wants to make that happen, please get to it!

With the Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX Telephoto Zoom 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

Ok, before you start, I know that this lens would never work in this situation. The lens itself is designed for DX crop sensors, and there’s not even any manual controls for the aperture. But it’s a great little lens, and one of the cheapest ways to get to 300mm on a F-mount DX system. I thought I’d give it a quick go.

So using a DX lens on a full frame body ends up with the expected and extensive vignetting. Overall, with the prior mentioned issued with the lack of locking mechanism, this lens was a complete nightmare to use with the FTZ. The green hue issue was far more pronounces here as well, for whatever reason.

Photo from the 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G with the FTZ, showing the Vignette AND a green hue
Photo from the 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G with the FTZ. Vignette AND a green hue

Then I had an idea. What about a use case where the vignetting isn’t much of an issue, and scenario where there’s less light for the hue issue… the reason this adaptor was created by Dave to begin with: astrophotography! So I waited for a full moon.

And you know what, it works perfectly fine. That’s a moon. Heavily zoomed in, a bit pixelated, a bit of chromatic aberration, but a moon nevertheless (right). But when compared to a previous photo taken on the D5600 (left) with the same lens, it doesn’t look great at all. Both images where manually focused, but it seems the connectivity issue between the lens and the adaptor strikes again. Having to make sure the lens doesn’t simply fall off probably resulted in a bit of movement an degradation of image quality, which is a shame.

D5600: Photo of the Moon with the 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G & D5600.
Z6: Photo of the Moon with the 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G, FTZ & Z6.

To Conclude

Should you pay someone to print an FTZ adaptor for you? No. Hell no. Don’t do it. Especially if there is no way to lock the lens in.

But if you have a 3D printer and want to play around with one? Go for it, it’s been fun.