Best lenses for the Nikon Z5 in 2024

Nikon Z5 with Nikkor Z 24-200mm superzoom
(Image credit: Nikon)

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 is normally sold with the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f4-6.3 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 currently 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 2024

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(Image credit: Nikon)
The first 'kit' lens for the Z range is still one of the best, combining a constant aperture with a retracting design

Specifications

Mount: Z FX
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: No (in-body)
Min focus distance: 0.3m
Max magnification ratio: 0.3x
Filter thread: 72mm
Dimensions (WxL): 78x89mm
Weight: 500g

Reasons to buy

+
Super-sharp image quality
+
Compact, retractable design

Reasons to avoid

-
F/4 maximum aperture

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

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)
It's surprising how often a little extra focal range is worth more than an ultra-fast aperture

Specifications

Mount: Z FX
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: No (in-body)
Min focus distance: 0.35m
Max magnification ratio: 0.39x
Filter thread: 77mm
Dimensions (WxL): 84x118mm
Weight: 630g

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive image quality
+
Versatile 5x zoom range

Reasons to avoid

-
Bigger & heavier than Z 24-70mm f/4 S
-
Slower aperture than Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S

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

Nikon Nikkor Z 28-75mm f/2.8

(Image credit: James Artaius)
A fast standard zoom at an affordable price

Specifications

Mount: Z FX
Autofocus: STM (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: No (in-body)
Min focus distance: 0.15-0.24m
Max magnification ratio: 0.25-0.13x
Filter thread: 67mm
Dimensions (WxL): 73x86mm
Weight: 335g

Reasons to buy

+
f/2.8 maximum aperture
+
Much more affordable than Nikon's 24-70mm f/2.8

Reasons to avoid

-
Short zoom range

The Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 is an absolutely stunning lens – which gives your a fast standard zoom with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout its zoom range. The alternative is the more professional Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 which costs well over twice the price. The extra investment would get you slightly better corner sharpness, but otherwise we'd put the two on a par optically. The zoom range is slightly unusual, and the wide-angle end only stretches out to 28mm, but we were impressed when we tested this lens - and its size makes it a great lens for travel.

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
If you're into travel, architecture and landscapes, this is the lens for you!

Specifications

Mount: Z FX
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: None
Min focus distance: 0.28m
Max magnification: 0.16x
Filter thread: 82mm
Dimensions (WxL): 89x85mm
Weight: 485g

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra-wide maximum viewing angle
+
Great overall quality in a small build

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly pricey
-
As usual, there’s no focus distance scale

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

(Image credit: Future)
This is a classic 'portrait' lens that can give your Z5's people shots a professional look

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z FX
Elements/groups: 12/8
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: None
Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
Maximum magnification: 0.12x
Filter thread: 67mm
Dimensions (WxL): 73x99mm
Weight: 470g

Reasons to buy

+
Super-sharp with beautiful bokeh
+
Works well with in-camera stabilization

Reasons to avoid

-
Depth of field isn’t quite as tight as with an 85mm f/1.4 lens

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

(Image credit: Future)
The cheaper of Nikon's two macro lenses is a good match for the Nikon Z5

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Elements/groups: 10/7
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Stepping motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.16m
Maximum magnification: 1.0x
Filter thread: 46mm
Dimensions (WxL): 75x66mm
Weight: 260g

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive image quality
+
Very precise manual focusing

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 2-inch working distance at 1.0x magnification
-
No optical VR

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

Gear of the Year 2020: Nikon Z 24- 200mm f/4-6.3 VR

(Image credit: Future)
A superzoom lens that covers all the angles

Specifications

Mount: Z FX
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: Yes
Min focus distance: 0.75-0.98m
Max magnification ratio: 0.38x
Filter thread: 77mm
Dimensions (WxL): 98x222mm
Weight: 1,355g

Reasons to buy

+
8x zoom range
+
Ideal for travel or for use in dusty environments
+
4.5-stop optical stabilizer

Reasons to avoid

-
Aperture shrinks to f/6.3 at the long end

The 24-200mm is the answer if you want every shooting eventuality covered in the one lens. With a range from 24mm wide-angle through to a 200mm telephoto, this is a zoom that can cover everything from landscapes to candid portraiture, and a lot in between. Such superzoom lense are particularly popular for travel - so you just have the one lens to pack, and you don't need to change lenses whilst on the move. In our tests, we noted it gave excellent image quality, similar to what you’d expect from a pair of seriously good standard and telephoto zoom lenses. It’s refreshingly compact and lightweight, too,  and has a highly effective 4.5-stop optical stabilizer. A great choice for both stills and video.

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)
Nikon's full frame telephotos are expensive, so this is a great lens but specialized too

Specifications

Mount: Z FX
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: Yes
Min focus distance: 0.75-0.98m
Max magnification ratio: 0.38x
Filter thread: 77mm
Dimensions (WxL): 98x222mm
Weight: 1,355g

Reasons to buy

+
Superb image quality
+
Compatible with Z tele-converters

Reasons to avoid

-
Large, weighty construction
-
Pricey to buy

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

How we test lenses 

We test lenses using both real-world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-world testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.

Rod Lawton
Contributor

Rod is an independent photography journalist and editor, and a long-standing Digital Camera World contributor, having previously worked as DCW's Group Reviews editor. Before that he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar, as well as contributing to many other publications. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more. Rod has his own camera gear blog at fotovolo.com but also writes about photo-editing applications and techniques at lifeafterphotoshop.com