Best lenses for Nikon Z9 and Z8 in 2024

Nikon Z9 with Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S lens
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Choosing the best lenses for the Nikon Z9 and Z8 sounds an easy job. You just pick the most expensive S-line version of every lens, right? Well it's not that straightforward, since Nikon now offers different choices within a specific focal range and for different user types, so we need to steer a path through these different options.

The Nikon Z9 and Nikon Z8 are the best Nikon cameras so far, and true that the best Nikon Z lenses are obvious candidates to go with them, but these can get VERY expensive, so if we can think of more affordable alternatives, we'll mention them. It all depends on what you use your camera for. 

For social and wedding photographers, for example, the best constant-aperture 'S' lenses are must-haves, while longer-range telephotos or ultra-wide lenses might be needed only occasionally, so you maybe don't need to spend quite as much!

And if you're a pro wildlife or sports photographer, you'll probably going to be looking at Nikon's top-flight super-telephoto primes, including the NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S, NIKKOR Z 600mm f/4 TC VR S and NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S, which are highly expensive and just a little outside the scope of our list. 

Otherwise, these are the lenses we would pick out for general travel, landscape, commercial and other photography. Be ready for some fairly stiff prices, but then if you're looking for the best lenses for the Nikon Z9 and Z8, you'll know you've already entered a new price bracket, and that 45.7-megapixel sensor common to both cameras is going to test even the best lenses.

So let's get on with the list! 

Best lenses for the Nikon Z9 and Z8 in 2024

Why you can trust Digital Camera World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out how we test.

(Image credit: Future)
It's the go-to pro standard zoom for any Z9 or Z8 user, and it's a stunning lens

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: No
Min focus distance: 0.38m
Max magnification: 0.22x
Filter size: 82mm
Dimensions: 89 x 126mm, 805g

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional optical performance
+
Customisable controls
+
Data display panel

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t focus as close as the f/4 lens
-
Size and weight

This is one of three 'trinity' lenses any Nikon Z9 or Z8 owner will have on their shopping list. A constant-aperture f/2.8 24-70mm has become a standard fixture in any premium camera manufacturer's lens range. But while the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S might look the obvious choice, it's not the only one. Nikon's Z-mount cameras first arrived with the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S, which is a lot smaller, around half the price and a lens we still rate very highly. And if you don't need such a wide angle of view, the NIKKOR Z 28-75mm f/2.8 offers the same constant maximum aperture but in a lighter, cheaper package. But for outright optical performance, the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S still reigns supreme, and that's likely to matter most to Z9 and Z8 users.

(Image credit: Future)
Every pro needs a 70-200mm f/2.8, and this Nikon S-line version is simply the best there is

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: VR, 5.5 stops
Min focus distance: 0.5-1m
Max magnification: 0.2x
Filter size: 77mm
Dimensions: 89 x 220mm, 1440g

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning image quality
+
Superb handling characteristics
+
Super-fast AF, effective stabilization

Reasons to avoid

-
Very big
-
Very expensive

Every pro needs not just a 24-70mm f/2.8 standard zoom, of course, but a 70-200mm f/2.8 too. These constant aperture telephotos are incredibly useful for short-range sports, some wildlife, social photography and even portraits, where they can deliver beautiful background separation. As we've come to expect from Nikon's S-line lenses, the NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is superb in every way. If it's just a bit TOO big and heavy for a lens you don't use often enough to justify the cost, take a look at the NIKKOR Z 70-180mm f/2.8 instead. It only goes to 180mm not 200mm, but it's half the price and still gives you a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture – and you still get VR, too.

(Image credit: Future)
This superb ultra-wide zoom completes Nikon's 'trinity' pro S-lens line-up

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: No
Min focus distance: 0.28m
Max magnification: 0.13x
Filter size: 112mm
Dimensions: 88.5 x 124.5mm, 650g

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning image quality
+
Excellent build and handling
+
Screw-in filter attachment via hood

Reasons to avoid

-
Size and weight
-
Expensive own-brand filters

A constant f/2.8 ultra-wide zoom is the third 'trinity' lens in any pro line-up, and Nikon pulls it off again with the superb NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S. Anyone who remembers. the AF-S 14-24mm DSLR lens and its bulbous front element will be pleased to learn that this lens actually supports front filters too, though at 112mm they're probably going to cost as much as a budget lens on their own. If you want to travel light, though, take a look at the older NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens. You lose a little on the maximum aperture, but you lose a lot in weight and cost too, and this could be a telling factor for landscape photographers or those who need an ultra-wide zoom now and again rather than all of the time. And if you must have a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, there's always the NIKKOR Z 17-28mm f/2.8, which is a little longer in focal length than the S-line 14-24mm, but a good deal cheaper.

(Image credit: Future)
This amazing lens takes the idea of the nifty-fifty to new extremes (and dimensions)

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: No
Min focus distance: 0.45m
Max magnification: 0.15x
Filter size: 82mm
Dimensions: 89.5 x 150mm, 1090g

Reasons to buy

+
F/1.2 aperture rating
+
Premium build and handling
+
Mostly gorgeous image quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Huge and expensive vs the Z 50mm f/1.8
-
Bokeh shape when stopping down

We've included the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S in our list because it is the ultimate 50mm prime in the Nikon Z line-up. The f/1.2 maximum aperture is not so far behind the somewhat crazy 58mm f/0.95 Noct and produces wonderful background blur, not to mention superb center sharpness even wide open. But we're in two minds. For a 50mm, this is a seriously massive lens, and as you stop down the bokeh shape starts to get visibly 9-sided rather than perfectly round. The edge sharpness doesn't really catch up with the center performance until you stop down to around f/4, either. Much as we love this lens, for everyday usability, we also rate the far more humble and MUCH cheaper and lighter NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S, which we feel is pretty much a match for the f/1.2 lens optically.

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)
F/1.2 is the new f/1.4 for portrait lenses, thanks to this spectacular S-line prime

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: No
Min focus distance: 0.85m
Max magnification: 0.11x
Filter size: 82mm
Dimensions: 102.5 x 141.5mm, 1160g

Reasons to buy

+
Super-fast aperture
+
Gorgeous image quality
+
Fast, consistently accurate AF

Reasons to avoid

-
Very big, very expensive
-
No OLED info display

Not so long ago, we all thought the classic 85mm f/1.4 was the ultimate 'portrait' lens – but the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S takes it that step further, with a maximum aperture that offers hairs-width depth of field wide open – but it has the fast and accurate autofocus needed to make that work, to produce quite superb image quality. This does make for a very big lens, though, not to mention an expensive one (wait, weren't mirrorless systems mean to be SMALLER?). If the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S is a step too far, consider the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S instead. It's a much smaller lens and WAY less expensive, and although it doesn't offer the bigger lens's razor-thin depth of field, it still delivers strong background blur and great optical performance for occasional portrait shooters.

(Image credit: Future)
Nikon's professional-spec macro lens even has optical image stabilization

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: VR, 4.5 stops
Min focus distance: 0.29m
Max magnification: 1x
Filter size: 62mm
Dimensions: 85 x 140 mm, 630g

Reasons to buy

+
Spectacular all-round performance
+
Pro-grade build and handling
+
4.5-stop optical VR

Reasons to avoid

-
Nikkor Z MC 50mm is smaller and cheaper

Nikon's flagship macro lens is interesting for several reasons. One is the f/2.8 maximum aperture, which makes this lens handy not just for extreme close-ups but also as a general-purpose short telephoto, even a portrait lens, where the longer 105mm focal length vs an 85mm lens will help with background blur, despite the smaller aperture. The other notable feature is Nikon's VR image stabilization – Nikon's full frame Z-mount cameras all have IBIS, but lens VR, where availabe, adds to the stabilizatiion effect. The 105mm focal length helps maintain usable shooting distances too, which is where the admittedly cheaper NIKKOR Z MC 50mm f/2.8 falls down somewhat. What's perhaps most impressive, though, is the price. The NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S does look pretty good value for a professional S-line macro lens.

(Image credit: Nikon)

7. Nikon NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR

Nikon's new supertelephoto zoom offers both versatiliity and extreme range

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: VR, 5.5 stops
Min focus distance: 1.3-2.4m
Max magnification: 0.25x
Filter size: 95mm
Dimensions: 110 x 315.5mm, 2140g

Reasons to buy

+
Supertelephoto range
+
Can handle nearer subjects too
+
Pretty affordable for its type

Reasons to avoid

-
Variable maximum aperture
-
Not an S-line lens

Nikon's new supertelephoto zoom is so new we haven't yet had time to test it properly, but it could be the perfect lens for occasional sports and wildlife photography, where one of Nikon's S-line lenses would just be overkill. The 180-600mm focal length is unusual – just a tad longer than the best 150-600mm lenses, but with this lens type it's arguably the longest zoo setting that counts, and they don't come any longer than this without a big step up in price bracket. The NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR does have a variable maximum aperture, but we're not going to hold that against it because it's only a small drop of just 1/3EV. We think this could be one of Nikon's most important telephotos for the consumer market, and even though many Nikon pros might gravitate towards the S-line lenses instead, we think they'll be taking a long, hard look at this one too.

Nikon's powerful S-line zoom is a worthy successor to the classic 80-400mm DSLR lens

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z
Stabilization: VR, 5.5 stops
Min focus distance: 0.75-0.98m
Max magnification: 0.38x
Filter size: 77mm
Dimensions: 98 x 222 mm, 1435g

Reasons to buy

+
Superb image quality
+
Fast autofocus and 5.5-stop VR
+
Compatible with Z teleconverters

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive and heavy
-
New NIKKOR Z 180-600mm is cheaper

If the 70-200mm or 70-180mm Nikkor Z telephotos don't quite have the reach you need, and you're not quite ready for the astronomical cost of Nikon's supertelephoto primes, then the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S is not just the best choice from the Nikon stable, it's the ONLY choice. That will change once the new NIKKOR Z 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR becomes more widely available, but even then it's worth pointing out that the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S is a professional S-line lens, while the 180-600mm is more of a consumer optic. The NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S does have a variable maximum aperture, but it's only a short shift from f/4.5-5.6, and it is compatible with Nikon's Z teleconverters, so you can extend its reach far beyond its regular 400mm maximum.

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