The list of the best Nikon Z lenses keeps getting bigger. We've just tested the new Nikkor Z 400mm f/2.8 and we were particularly excited by the even newer Nikkor Z 800mm f/6.3, which is half the weight and one-third the price of the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 DSLR version! However, if those lenses are either too big for your needs, or not in your budget don't worry, we have tested every Nikon Z lens that deserves to be titled the best Nikon Z lens you can buy right now. And we should know because we have reviewed and tested them all!
The Nikon Z mount has a lens flange that's considerably larger than that of the stalwart F-mount for the DSLR range. The fact that the Z cameras have no mirror assembly means that the lens can be positioned much closer to the sensor than it would be in a DSLR, and the upshot of this is that lenses can be designed smaller, lighter, faster, and better.
Nikon is continuing to update the lens range to ensure that it covers every focal length photographers and videographers are likely to use, and taking full advantage of the fact that they can be built light.
Nikon's most recent full-frame Z lenses include the Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S and Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. They come hot on the heels of lenses like the Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 SE, Nikkor Z 18-140mm f3.5-6.3 DX VR and Nikkor Z 40mm f/2, proving that Nikon certainly isn't lifting off the gas pedal when it comes to releasing new Z lenses.
And don't forget the existing healthy line of S-line f/1.8 primes in a variety of focal lengths, including 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Whatever you like to shoot, the Z-mount has something for you. And if it doesn't now, it will soon!
Nikon has also added two macro lenses – an affordable Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 and a high-powered Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S. We have also been impressed by the performance (though not so much the sheer size) of the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S.
We were a bit puzzled by the new Nikkor Z 28-75mm f/2.8 standard zoom since there are already two in the range, but it's a really attractive, smaller, and more affordable alternative to the 'S' lens.
There are plenty of third-party alternatives to native Nikkor Z-mount lenses, from the likes of Tamron, Laowa, and others, and many of these represent considerable savings on the own-brand versions. For this guide, we're sticking with Nikon's own lenses
Read more: Nikon Z50 vs D7500 (opens in new tab)
Best Nikon Z lenses in 2023
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Nikkor Z zooms
Pro and enthusiast photographers aspire to owning zooms with fast, constant f/2.8 maximum apertures - but these come at a price and with bulk. The Nikon Z 17-28mm is a beautiful compromise to creating a fast wide-angle zoom - by providing a lens with less wide-angle range than the more traditional 14-28mm f/2.8, it has made a lens that is easier to carry and more affordable for users. As such it follows on from, and becomes the perfect partner to, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 (opens in new tab) standard zoom.
The autofocus system is very snappy for stills, while also delivering smooth transitions for video capture, along with negligible focus breathing and virtually silent operation. There’s no optical VR (Vibration Reduction) but the lens takes full advantage of in-body stabilization, featured in all of Nikon’s full-frame Z system cameras.
Overall, this delivers excellent image quality and all-round performance – at a bargain price!
Read more: Nikkor Z 17-28mm f/2.8 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is the widest member of a holy trinity of S-line zooms with f/2.8 constant apertures. A very obvious attempt to lure pros to the Z mount, it has to provide exceptional image quality to meet these exacting standards, and it does deliver on that front. The 16-element construction includes 3 aspherical elements, as well as Nikon's Nano Crystal and ARNEO Coat that reduce ghosting and flare. The front element also has a smear-resistant fluorine coating. The lens is fully weather sealed, and like the 14-30mm, it comes with an included lens hood that enabled filters to be used, though they do need to be huge 112mm filters. Nikon offers its own Neutral Colour and Circular Polarizer filters in this size if you're struggling to find any.
Read more: Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S review
This S-line ultra-wide lens is the perfect companion for exaggerating perspectives and getting as much of the scene into the frame as you can. Like pretty much any S-line lens you'd care to name, 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 mechanisms of high-end Nikon Z cameras like 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.
It almost goes without saying that image quality and performance are absolutely excellent, but we'll still say it. 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)
Amazingly light and compact for full-frame, the Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 makes for a wonderful complement to Nikon Z cameras. If you're a traveling photographer or just someone who likes to keep their setup minimal, it's a terrific lens to take along with you and is available for a very reasonable price.
However, there are a few considerable drawbacks. The lens is so light means that it covers a pretty miserly focal range. The 2x zoom range is so minimal that one could argue you'd be better off using a prime for the optical quality and just moving your feet when you need to. Second, there's the f/4-6.3 maximum aperture, which pretty seriously curtails the low-light performance.
Nikon has undoubtedly done an amazing job of making a full-frame lens that's this slim and portable, but it's worth being aware of exactly what you're getting before taking the plunge on this one.
Read more: Nikkor Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3 (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Less than half the price of Nikon’s top-flight Z 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (below), 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, this lens is being sold not only in its own right but as a ‘kit’ lens with the Z6 and range-topping Z7 cameras. On the latter, it makes full use of the high megapixel count to retain ultra-fine levels of detail and texture.
Read more: Nikon Z6 or Z7: which should you buy?
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)
We’d still recommend the Nikkor 24-70mm f/4 lens (above) for enthusiasts and travel photographers purely for its size and affordability, but for professionals and experts, the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is a no-brainer. It’s a top-quality professional lens at the leading edge of optical performance. The smaller lens is already so well corrected for color fringing and distortion that it left little room for improvement, but the 24-70mm f/2.8 is even sharper in the centre, far sharper at the edges, and delivers not just higher levels of resolution overall, but amazing consistency across the focal length and aperture range. The only thing is if you want the best you have to pay for it, both in financial cost and weight.
Read more: Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Building on bygone popularity, 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. However, the lack of VR makes it less ideal for DX-format mirrorless cameras like the Z 50 and Z fc.
Read more: Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Ideal for the long or short haul, this ‘superzoom’ lens gives you everything from great wide-angle coverage to powerful telephoto reach, at the flick of a wrist. It’s impressively compact and lightweight for a full-frame compatible superzoom, measuring 114mm in length and tipping the scales at just 570g. That’s pretty remarkable, considering it can replace separate dual 24-70mm and 70-200mm zoom lenses, albeit with a more restrictive aperture rating of f/6.3 at the longest setting. Travel-friendly credentials include weather seals and a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and grease, as well as an anti-glare ARNEO Coat for when (or if) the sun comes out. It also boasts a 4.5-stop optical stabilizer which works in conjunction with the in-body stabilizers of the Z5, Z6, and Z7, and is even more desirable in the Z50 which has no IBIS. On the latter, you gain in telephoto reach what you lose in wide-angle ability, the ‘effective’ zoom range equating to 36-300mm in full-frame terms.
Read more: Nikkor Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR review (opens in new tab)
Nikon’s top quality f/2.8 telephoto zoom for its full-frame mirrorless cameras sets new standards for image quality and all-around performance. It’s a fabulous lens that delivers spectacular performance in every respect. The autofocus system is super-fast and unerringly accurate, while lens-shift VR delivers 5-stop effectiveness right out to the longest focal length. Throughout most of the zoom range, levels of sharpness are absolutely stunning, right across the entire image frame and into the extreme corners, even when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. Of course, all this doesn't come cheap, but the price is certainly justified.
Read more: Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
It’s been a long wait, but the Z 100-400mm VR S finally brings a super-telephoto lens to Nikon’s Z-mount stable. And it’s certainly been worth the wait. 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)
Nikon Z primes(opens in new tab)
When you want a wider viewing angle than your 24-70mm zoom can deliver, this is the ideal prime lens for Z5, Z6, and Z7 cameras. Image quality is up to the typically terrific standard of Z-mount Nikkor S-line lenses, and you can enjoy similarly refined handling, virtually silent autofocus, and negligible focus breathing. Overall, it’s a superb lens that’s equally capable of stills and movie capture, and it’s also a delight for astrophotography. The wide viewing angle and fast aperture combine to give great versatility for everything from cramped interiors to rolling landscapes and beyond, taking in heavenly skies at night. It’s pretty pricey, costing about the same as Nikon’s Z 14-30mm f/4 S zoom, but the sheer quality and performance make the 20mm well worth the money.
Read more: Nikkor Z 20mm f/1.8 S review (opens in new tab)
Nikon’s brace of Z-mount 24-70mm zoom lenses for its full-frame mirrorless cameras perform so well that you’d be forgiven for wondering why there’s a need for a 24mm prime as well. Naturally, any prime lens is good if you like composing shots with your feet and totting up your count of Fitbit steps, but the Z 24mm is also faster than its zoom siblings, with an f/1.8 aperture rating. What’s more, it delivers drop-dead gorgeous image quality even when shooting wide-open. First-class optics are wrapped up in a compact and lightweight yet robust package, making this lens an absolute joy to use and a Nikkor lens to treasure.
Read more: Nikkor Z 24mm f/1.8 S review (opens in new tab)
It’s quite a lot to pay for a humble 35mm f/1.8, but the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S’s optical performance immediately shows where the money’s been spent. Like the rest of the Nikon Z prime lenses, this one is optically excellent, which helps make up for the relatively modest f/1.8 maximum aperture, when many rival 35mm lenses are f/1.4s. You don't get a distance scale either, or any depth of field markings, but is the same across Nikon's Z mount f/1.8 prime lens range. This sounds like a lot of negatives, but the optical performance of the Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S, its smooth and silent operation, and its light weight make up for all of that.
Read more: Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S review (opens in new tab)
50mm f/1.8 lenses are often regarded as the poor relations of f/1.4 standard primes. But despite its modest aperture rating, this Z-mount lens delivers sumptuous image quality, with amazing levels of sharpness across the whole image frame and negligible distortion or color fringing. The f/1.8 aperture also enables a reasonably compact and lightweight build, in keeping with slim-line mirrorless camera bodies. Even more impressively, the quality of the bokeh is remarkably good for a 50mm f/1.8 lens, with a particularly smooth rendition of defocused areas. Autofocus is very fast and virtually silent, and the lens is well-built with a weather-sealed construction. It’s pretty pricey for a 50mm f/1.8 prime but well worth the money.
Read more: Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Only a little larger and heavier than Nikon’s Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens, this 85mm optic is better suited to portraiture on full-frame cameras. The focal length is ideal for head-and-shoulders and half-length shots from a natural shooting distance. 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. Based on our tests, however, the bokeh (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. A drawback of unstabilized 85mm telephoto lenses is that camera shake can degrade sharpness in handheld shooting, but the in-body stabilization of Z5, Z6, and Z7 cameras helps to deliver consistently sharp shots.
Read more: Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Up to now, if you wanted a Nikon Z-mount prime faster than f/1.8, you'd have to remortgage your house and fork out for a Nikkor 58mm f/0.95 Noct. When compared to that lens, this 50mm f/1.2 S could almost be called cheap. However, there's no getting around the fact that at 150mm long and over 1kg in weight, this is one hefty 50mm prime. Nikon is promising the best possible image quality from this 17-element pro lens, and it incorporates advanced coatings like anti-reflection ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coat, along with a 9-blade rounded diaphragm which is said to offer cinematic levels of bokeh. The exterior is fully weather-sealed and features a video-friendly silent control ring, along with a customizable Fn button and OLED info panel that displays important data.
Read more: Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
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, while also working really well as a short telephoto prime for DX-format (APS-C) Z-series cameras, where it has an effective focal length of 75mm. It’s entirely capable as a 50mm standard prime for general shooting but really comes into its own for extreme close-ups. 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)
The Nikkor Z MC 105mm is something special. Sublime image quality for both general shooting and extreme close-ups is backed up by a super-fast and highly accurate autofocus system, along with highly effective optical VR (Vibration Reduction) that can work in tandem with the in-body stabilizers of Nikon’s full-frame Z-series cameras. Handling exotica includes a multi-function OLED display, a customizable Lens-function button and control ring, plus an autofocus range limiter, along with an electronically coupled focus ring that enables ultra-fine adjustments. Everything’s wrapped up in a tough, weather-sealed construction. Image quality, all-round performance, and handling are simply sensational.
Read more: Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Not many of us would dream of spending around $14,000 / £13,500 on a lens. But we’re still curious, in the same way, that car buffs like to check out a Ferrari. The million-dollar question, so to speak, is whether this Nikkor justifies its price tag. In one word… Absolutely. With its built-in 1.4x teleconverter, it’s like two lenses in one – a 400mm f/2.8 and a 560mm f/4. It delivers spectacular overall performance and stunning image quality in both configurations has all the handling extras you could wish for and is built to last a lifetime.
Read more: Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
This lens gives you telephoto superpowers in a relatively lightweight package. The downsized build comes courtesy of a modest f/6.3 aperture rating and a Phase Fresnel optical element, a technology that’s commonly used to focus the beam in a lighthouse. The addition of highly effective optical VR that works in tandem with IBIS in Z system full-frame cameras, plus a useful range of handling extras, ensure top-quality results time after time, with excellent consistency even in handheld shooting. When you need to nail the definitive moment in action, sports, and wildlife photography, this is a lens you can count on, and for less than half the price of the Nikon Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S.
Read more: Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S review (opens in new tab)
Nikon Z DX lenses(opens in new tab)
Tipping the scales at just 135g, this DX (APS-C) format standard zoom for the Z50 pretty much qualifies as a ‘pancake lens’, measuring a mere 32mm in length when retracted. The flip side is that, compared with weightier FX (full-frame format) Z-mount lenses, it feels a bit less solid and has a plastic rather than a metal mounting plate. Even so, it’s certainly robust enough for daily shooting. Like most similarly priced APS-C format cameras, the Z50 lacks IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) but the lens comes to the rescue with 4.5-stop optical VR (Vibration Reduction). Although small in size, the little Nikkor punches above its weight, delivering great sharpness and contrast even when shooting wide-open, which is just as well considering that the widest available aperture shrinks to f/.6.3 at the long end of the zoom range. A silver version of this lens is now available, to match the retro styling of the Nikon Z fc.
Read more: Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Designed for Nikon’s DX-format Z50, this telephoto lens has an ‘effective’ zoom range of 75-375mm in full-frame terms, edging into the super-telephoto territory. Even so, it’s remarkably small and lightweight, partly thanks to a retractable design and plastic mounting plate. Handling is very good, with a really nice balance on the slinky Z50 body, and smooth action to its zoom ring and multi-function control ring. The latter also acts as a focus ring, being electronically coupled to a rapid stepping motor autofocus system. Compared with the impressive autofocus speed, the aperture rating is less ‘fast’, shrinking to f/6.3 at the long end of the zoom range. However, that particular issue is minimized by excellent sharpness and contrast even when shooting wide-open, along with a 5-stop optical VR system that lives up to its claims.
Read more: Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR (opens in new tab)
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.
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Looking to turn pro? We check out the best cameras for professionals (opens in new tab)
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