Choosing the best lenses for the Nikon Z5 means balancing your expectations and the things you want to shoot with this camera’s affordable appeal. It’s one of the best Nikon cameras you can buy right now, so you need some decent glassware to go with it.
The Nikon Z5 (opens in new tab) is normally sold with the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3 (opens in new tab) retracting kit lens, but it doesn't take long to figure out that while this lens is compact and portable, its 2x zoom range and restricted maximum aperture really limits its usefulness. So we kick off our guide below with two alternative standard zoom upgrades offering much more range and versatility.
We’ve chosen a set of lenses that we think offer great performance and versatility but at a price that reflects the Z5’s value for money. Of course, you might be buying lenses for the future, ready for a potential upgrade to the Nikon Z6 II or Z7 II, so if you are ready to set your sights a bit higher, take a look at our guide to the best Nikon Z lenses.
In the meantime, here’s our list of the best Nikon Z5 lenses based on our own experience with this camera and these lenses. We’ve covered as wide a range of focal lengths and shooting styles as possible, but there is one thing to be aware of. If you want to shoot long-range wildlife or sports subjects with your Nikon, the costs suddenly escalate. Unlike other camera makers, Nikon does not make any affordable telephoto zooms for amateur users, only much more expensive pro level lenses that can cost nearly twice what the Z5 itself costs!
We’ve included one Nikkor Z super-telephoto for wildlife fans, but we’re just giving you advance warning that it’s not cheap – sorry!
Otherwise, the Nikon Z5 is a great camera for travel, portraits, events or any other kind of everyday photography, and here are the lenses which will help you get the best from it.
Best lenses for the Nikon Z5 in 2023
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Less than half the price of Nikon’s top-flight Z 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, this one is much more compact and lightweight. As well as having a retractable design for compact stowage, the glass elements towards the front of the lens naturally have a smaller diameter, the trade-off being that the f/4 aperture rating transmits less light and doesn’t allow for such a tight depth of field. There’s certainly no lack in outright image quality, however. Typical of Z-mount lenses, the control ring serves not only for manual override of autofocus and fully manual focusing but also for a variety of other customizable functions, including step-less aperture adjustment during movie capture. Even if you want a ‘faster’ lens, there’s a lot to be said about sticking with this zoom and supplementing it with an f/1.8 prime or two.
Read more: Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
If you would like even more zoom range than the 24-70mm f/4 lens, this one goes all the way to 120mm with a 5x zoom range. This does make it somewhat heavier and more expensive, but more versatile too. The Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S is a mirrorless version of a somewhat classic 5x standard zoom for F-mount DSLRs. It makes the most of optical enhancements afforded by the Z system’s larger mount circumference and closer proximity to the image sensor. The net result is enhanced sharpness and all-around image quality, across the whole frame and throughout the entire zoom range, along with a reasonably compact and lightweight build.
Read more: Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Other ultra-wide Nikkor zooms have come along since this one, but we think the Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S is still the best match for the Nikon Z5, thanks to its compact retracting design, wider-than-usual angles of view (even for an ultra-wide zoom) and its relatively affordable price for a lens of this type. Like pretty much any S-line lens, it comes bearing a customizable control ring, and a fast and near-silent stepping motor autofocus system. There's no internal stabilization, as the lens relies on the in-body stabilization mechanism of the Z5 and Z7 II, and it also has no physical focus distance scale. Some photographers may dislike this omission; many won't be bothered. Image quality and performance are absolutely excellent. Corner-to-corner sharpness is on point, especially for such a wide-angle lens, and it also comes with a removable hood that makes it easy to attach filters via the 82mm attachment thread. This is important for a wide-angle, as many simply can't take filters due to their bulbous front elements.
Read more: Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The combination of a fast 85mm lens and a full frame camera is perfect for portraits and defocused backgrounds. The focal length is ideal for head-and-shoulders and half-length shots from a natural shooting distance. Even faster 85mm f/1.4 lenses are often preferred for their tighter depth of field, which can blur the background a little more effectively and make the main subject really stand out, but based on our tests the bokeh (the pictorial quality of defocused areas) produced by this lens is easily on par with f/1.4 lenses, and better than some. As with other Z-mount f/1.8 S-line primes, the build quality is very good and features weather seals.
Read more: Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 has a shorter focal length than most macro lenses, but it's also priced to appeal to Nikon Z5 owners and it could also double as a general purpose 'standard' prime lens. There’s a lot to love about this new Nikkor Z macro lens. It’s refreshingly compact and lightweight, making it a good travel companion for a full-frame Z-series body. The only catch is that to enable full 1.0x macro magnification, the closeness of the shooting distance might be a little too extreme, with only 2 inches between the front of the lens and what you’re shooting.
Read more: Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Nikon has yet to produce any affordable telephotos for its full frame Z mount cameras like the Z5, and that's pretty much the only remaining gap in the lens line-up. It does mean that while there are some great Nikkor Z telephotos, they come with a hefty price tag, so they' really only for the keenest wildlife and sports fans. However, this is a fabulous lens that combines rapid autofocus and highly effective 5.5-stop VR with superb image quality. All-round performance is top-drawer, while handling is enhanced by customizable function buttons and an additional ‘de-clicked’ control ring, along with a multi-function OLED display. It’s a weighty lens with a hefty price tag, but a worthy Z-mount successor to the aging Nikon AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens, launched back in 2013 with DSLRs in mind.
Read more: Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S review (opens in new tab)