The best Nikon Z lenses is a list that's always expanding. This is where the manufacturer is doing the bulk of its technological development, and taking full advantage of the sophisticated nature of the Z mount to produce some of the finest optics in imaging right now. Z-mount users are spoiled for choice, and this is a situation that's only going to continue!
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. We recently saw the announcement of a 40mm f/2 standard prime for Z-mount that, while not quite being a pancake lens, is considerably smaller and lighter than most Z-mount prime. It'll be on its way for review soon, and thereafter will no doubt find its way onto this list!
We've recently had on our review bench two new macro lenses for Z-mount, the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S and the more affordable Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8. These prime lenses join a 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!
"S-line" is a term you'll see banded about when referring to Nikkor Z lenses. Nikon refers to it as a "badge of honour", and it simply means that these are the lenses that offer the highest level of optical performance. Similar to Canon's "L" designation, or Sony's "G Master", these are the lenses for the pros and the serious enthusiasts who need the best of the best, and they come with price tags to match.
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
Best Nikon Z lenses in 2021
Nikkor Z zooms
The range of zoom lenses for Nikon Z-mount is still growing, but has the basic key lenses anyone needs to get started, amateur or professional. There's an excellent 24-70mm f/4 that will suit most starting photographers, while pros can instead select the 24-70mm f/2.8. Nikon has also taken advantage of the aforementioned ability of Z lenses to be small, with the super-compact 24-50mm f/4-6.3.
For those looking at telephotos, Nikon Z offers once again a 70-200mm f/4 for most users, and a 70-200mm f/2.8 for the pros who need it. If you're looking for an all-in-one lens for travel, there's also the 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR lens, which covers a considerable focal range. At the other end of the scale, Nikon Z users can take advantage of the retracting ultra-wide 14-30mm f/4, as well as the high-end Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S.
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 customisable control ring, a fast and near-silent stepping motor autofocus system.
There's no internal stabilisation, as the lens relies on the in-body stabilisation 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
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 with these exacting standards, and its does deliver on that front. The 16-elemetn 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
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 travelling 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 being 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
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 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 for 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
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 colour 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
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.
Nikon’s top quality f/2.8 telephoto zoom for its full-frame mirrorless cameras sets new standards for image quality and all-round 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
Nikon Z primes
Nikon has been quite conservative with its Nikkor Z prime lenses so far, sticking to 'classic' focal lengths from 20mm to 85mm and an f/1.8 maximum aperture (we won't count the crazy 58mm f/0.95 Noct!). These primes may look relatively staid, but they are fast, silent and optically brilliant – and for people who like to collect sets, these lenses all share the same signature family 'look'. However, it has just launched two new Nikkor Z macro lenses, included in our list below, which plugs an imporant gap in the Nikkor Z range!
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 for 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 makes the 20mm well worth the money.
Read more: Nikkor Z 20mm f/1.8 S review
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
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 lens 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 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
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 colour 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 bokeh is remarkably good for a 50mm f/1.8 lens, with 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
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 a par with f/1.4 lenses, and better than some. As with other Z-mount f/1.8 S-line primes, 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
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 customisable Fn button and OLED info panel that displays important data.
Read more Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S review
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
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
Nikon Z DX lenses
The APS-C format Nikon Z range is still very new, but the two lenses released so far are very good. The Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm lens has a super-slim retracting design and performs very well for a kit lens, while the Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR is extremely good for a low-cost telephoto. The Nikon Z50 and Nikon Z fc can also take regular full frame Nikon Z lenses, of course, and also regular Nikon DSLR lenses, via the Nikon FTZ adaptor.
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 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.
Designed for Nikon’s DX-format Z50, this telephoto lens has an ‘effective’ zoom range of 75-375mm in full-frame terms, edging into 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 a smooth action to its zoom ring and multi-function control ring. The latter also acts as a focus ring, being electronically coupled to 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.
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