The Best Lenses for Nikon Z-Mount

Nikon has done a great job providing a robust full-frame lens lineup for the Z-mount. There are so many choices that we thought it necessary to help narrow the field for you to this list of our favorite options across different focal lengths.

Nikon also has a good range of both professional lenses and more affordable, but still capable, entry-level choices. We didn’t always pick the most expensive path either. In each section, I’ll name my favorite lens and Jordan Drake will chime in with his favorite, too so you have a couple of options to select from depending on what is important to you (photo, video, or both).

At a Glance

Let’s start with the widest lenses in the range which are ideal for your landscape and architectural needs. Nikon has made a real effort to give its users 14mm coverage on many of its zooms which only adds to the versatility of those lenses.

The Best Ultra-Wide Lenses for Nikon Z-Mount

I love slower lenses. Sometimes light gathering isn’t as important as compactness and price, and a zoom with an f/4 aperture often hits that sweet spot. Nikon’s Nikkor 14-30mm f/4 S and it is an excellent combination of size, weight, and optical performance, while still allowing for screen-in filters. It’s not my top pick but it is definitely worth looking at.

A close-up view of intricate, twisted branches of a tree covered in green moss. The surrounding foliage displays vibrant autumn colors, primarily reds and oranges, creating a warm and vivid backdrop. The image captures the complex beauty of the natural structure.
I used the ultra-wide angle range of the 14-24mm f/2.8 to create depth in this image from the leaves in front to the tree behind.

Jordan’s favorite wide-angle lens is the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8 S. This is an insanely sharp lens with a wide enough aperture to tackle concert, event photography, and even the occasional astral-photo project. The 20mm focal length is also very versatile because you can always crop in a little bit if you want a less extreme look.

A black camera lens with a wide aperture of 20 mm and an f/1.8S mark. The lens features a ribbed texture for grip and a switch for automatic/manual focus mode (A/M). It has a sleek, cylindrical design typically used with DSLR or mirrorless cameras.
The Nikkor 20mm f/1.8 is a versatile lens that sits right in the middle of the wide angle range.

But I’m gonna go with the professional choice when it comes to ultra-wide angle lenses: Nikon makes a 14-24mm f/2.8 S which, although expensive and large, can cover so many photographic situations. It is sharp, consistent, and rugged. One downside with lenses that start at the 14mm mark is a loss of the capability to attach filters. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 has a unique hood attachment which allows for 112mm filters. Granted, these filters are rare and expensive but it means that the 14-24mm can still make use of polarizers and ND filters without resorting to gel cut-outs.

A male athlete with an afro hairstyle leaps over a hurdle on a track, wearing an orange tank top, black headband, and black athletic pants with white and pink shoes. Trees and a clear blue sky are visible in the background.
The Nikkor 14-24mm lenses give that extra bit of wide-angle coverage to really push the background far away.

The Best Normal Primes for Nikon Z-Mount

Everyone needs a good 50mm lens and Nikon makes a wide range of options. Some are quite impractical such as the 58mm f/0.95 Noct, which seems to be more of an optical performance showcase rather than a commonly used tool.

A man wearing a red cap, sunglasses, and a green shirt smiles while holding a fish he caught. He is standing on a boat with a body of water visible in the background under a clear sky.
A 50mm lens like the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 S is ideal for creating natural-looking scenes and can work in almost any situation.

The 50mm f/1.2 S lens is an option which provides a healthy dose of light when you need it and yet is a more reasonable purchase compared to the Noct, not only cost-wise but carry-wise as well. Regardless, it is a more specialized tool that will push a photographer’s budget to the max and should only be considered if the extra light is essential.

Both Jordan and I chose the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 S. To me, a 50mm should be bright but also portable. I want something unassuming on the street and easy to travel with. Often, 50mm f/1.8 lenses are ultra-affordable entry-level pieces of kit. But what I like about the Nikon Z-mount version is that it provides better optical performance at f/1.8 which sets it apart from the common crowd, even though it is more expensive.

A black NIKKOR S camera lens with a sleek, cylindrical design is shown. The lens features a prominently ribbed focus ring and a switch for manual (M) and autofocus (A) modes. The lens has a smooth, matte finish with engraved detailing.
We picked the f/1.8 version of the 50mm because it is compact and very sharp, even though it is a little pricier than usual.

The Best Standard Zooms for Nikon Z-Mount

The standard zoom lens will be most photographers’ bread-and-butter optic. These lenses are the go-to if you can only choose one and Nikon has a lot of options vying to be that one. The Nikkor 28-75mm f/2.8 is an affordable choice that still gives good light gathering potential but Tamron makes a newer version which is optically superior and still affordable.

A black Tamron camera lens is displayed against a white background. The lens features focal length markings from 35mm to 150mm and has various control switches and buttons along the side. The lettering "3.5-5.6 Di III VXD" is visible on the lens barrel.
It isn’t just Nikon that makes great glass for Z-mount. Tamron has some excellent options available.

Tamron also makes a unique 35-150mm f/2-2.8 zoom which is Jordan’s top pick. This lens mates perfectly with an ultra-wide zoom and yet gives the user a much further push into a longer telephoto range. It also happens to be bright, and in optical terms, gets a chef’s kiss every time.

A man in a leather jacket with a red flower pin stands against a graffiti-covered wall. The graffiti includes the word "FOE" in large, stylized letters, with smaller text "family" and "over" visible below it. The man gazes off to the right, hands in his pockets.
The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 is a killer optic and covers a range unlike any of the competition.

The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S may be the professional choice and is worth the high cost if you shoot a lot of demanding work. But I have to say that the more affordable 24-120mm f/4 S just seems to impress me every time I use it. The extra telephoto range and wide-angle coverage make it the most versatile choice and the lens consistently delivers way more optical performance than it has any right to. I would happily give up an f/2.8 aperture to get the results that this lens delivers whenever I take it out.

A black-and-white photo of two people walking along a beach, with a large rock formation rising from the sea in the background. A piece of driftwood lies in the sand in the foreground, and the sky appears overcast.
The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 is a do anything and take anywhere kind of lens. I’m always amazed by how good it is.

The Best Portrait Lenses for Nikon Z-Mount

I usually prefer an 85mm focal length for portraiture because of the convenience it provides for both full-body compositions as well as head-and-shoulders shots. Nikon makes an optical gem with its 85mm f/1.2 S which gives that silky-smooth shallow depth-of-field look when you want the background to fade into a soft blur. However, it is a hefty chunk of glass and is pricey to boot, and a similar look can be achieved by going a different way.

A black-and-white close-up photograph of a man smiling. He has short, tousled hair, light facial hair, and is wearing a zip-up jacket. The background is dark and blurred, drawing focus to his face.
The 85mm f/1.2 is a high-end optic that delivers super-shallow depth-of-field.

Jordan and I both agree that the best portrait lens is the 135mm f/1.8 S Plena.

The stark compression that can be achieved with a 135mm lens is gorgeous, especially for full-body compositions. Due to the longer telephoto range, shallow depth-of-field is still easy to achieve and the Plena is excellent optically no matter what aperture you choose. You might need more physical distance to work with the Plena but you won’t ever regret the results it provides.

A person with short dark hair and a beard is smiling while looking away from the camera. They are wearing a blue polka-dotted shirt. The background features blurred historic buildings and a cloudy sky.
The Nikkor 135mm f/1.8 Plena is our choice for the best portrait lens. It keeps the background close while also blurring it perfectly.

The Best Telephoto Zoom Lenses for Nikon Z-Mount

When we looked at our favorite telephoto zoom lenses, we went in two different directions. Jordan chose the Nikkor 180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VR which covers such an immense range and became an instant success for Nikon. So many photographers who wanted an affordable wildlife lens went with the 180-600mm and it became the default choice for most birding and safari applications. It strikes a great balance between having enough reach and being easy enough to travel with.

A black NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with zoom and focus rings, various control switches, and a tripod collar, designed for use with Nikon cameras. The lens has an adjustable focal length and a stabilizing mount at the bottom for attaching to tripods.
When we first tested the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 it beat out the competition as the best lens optically.
A dragonfly with transparent wings perches on a thin branch. The dragonfly has a patterned body with shades of brown and yellow. Blurry green foliage and a grey background are visible in the distance, adding to the natural setting.
The Nikkor 180-600mm has a remarkably close focusing distance without sacrificing image quality.

I went with a more predictable option. The Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is Nikon’s version of the most often-used lens around. A good 70-200mm can tackle portraits, low-light event photography, and indoor sports. You can even get a 1.4 or 2 times teleconverter and use it for some wildlife shots or for distant sports. Obviously, the 70-200mm f/2.8 is an expensive choice but you also know that it will be optically excellent throughout its range. Indeed, when we tested the Nikon against its peers we found the lens to be the sharpest of the bunch.

A person with sunglasses, an orange sleeveless top, and black leggings sits on a blue track field, smiling and gesturing with one hand. The individual is wearing white athletic shoes and appears to be enjoying a sunny day outdoors. Trees and field lines are visible in the background.
A good 70-200mm lens is infinitely versatile. It is the epitome of a workhorse lens for events and journalism.

The Best Telephoto Primes for Nikon Z-Mount

Nikon truly excels when it comes to high-end telephoto primes. These pricey lenses are the brightest and sharpest options for professional sports and wildlife photography. Nikon makes a stellar 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S and a 600mm f/4 TC VR S lens which has built-in teleconverters and the only reason we didn’t pick them is that the price is extremely prohibitive for most people.

A Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S telephoto lens is shown against a white background. The lens is black with the model information and other specifications in white text. It features a large front element, and multiple adjustment rings.
The Nikkor 400mm f/4.5 is bright and light. It feels like carrying around a 70-200mm lens but has far more reach.
A gray wolf stands alert in a lush green field, surrounded by tall grass. The wolf's fur appears thick and slightly damp, and it gazes directly at the camera with focused, intense eyes under the dappled sunlight.
The 400mm f/4.5 is perfect for wildlife when you can get a little closer in.

Jordan instead prefers the 400mm f/4.5 VR S which is relatively compact and incredibly sharp. For any situation where subjects are a little closer the 400mm is ideal and it gathers enough light to be used in dark forests and fading dusk light.

Close-up of a tiger with its mouth open, showing a fierce expression. It has its tongue slightly out and its eyes narrowed, standing next to a tree trunk. The tiger's fur is a vibrant mix of orange, black, and white, with clear, defined stripes.
My favorite fixed telephoto is the Nikkor 600mm f/6.3. It is light enough to shoot handheld and captures so much detail.

I like to have a little more reach myself so I prefer the slightly longer 600mm f/6.3 VR S. Either way, these two lenses are optically near-perfect and bright enough for most situations. Although still expensive, they are also more attainable and a little easier to carry than the TC versions.

These are our picks for the lenses that we feel stand out in the Nikkor lens lineup. However, if you are a Nikon user you have the advantage of a very fleshed-out full-frame ecosystem which has many options across many prices. We also feel that Nikon has put a lot of effort into creating a system of lenses that excel optically. Right now, being a part of the Nikon family is a good place to be.