7 Best Lenses For The Nikon Z5 (…and 2 to avoid)

The Nikon Z5 is a camera that will be the entry point into full-frame shooting for many of you. So most of you are probably hobbyists that care about image quality but want to stay within a reasonable budget when choosing a lens.

If that sounds like you then my top pick, the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2, will be perfect for you. Keep reading to see more options depending on the type of photography you plan on using your Z5 for the most.

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Top Pick

1. Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8

This lens is an affordable version of the pro-level 24-70mm f/2.8 and gives you nearly the same image quality in a much smaller and lighter body at less than half the cost which makes it the perfect Z5 companion.

The 28-75mm f/2.8 lens in the Z mount lineup is quite impressive. It packs a wide max aperture and a good mid-range focal length into a compact body while still delivering exceptional image quality.

While it does lag behind the much more expensive and larger 24-70mm f/2.8 Z lens in terms of pure sharpness and image quality, it’s the size and cost that makes this lens the top pick and also makes it a great option for Z5 shooters.

If you are familiar with the Tamron 28–75mm f/2.8 for Sony cameras, this is basically the same lens. It seems likely that Nikon collaborated with Tamron to adapt the lens to its Z-mount lineup while maintaining the Nikon branding. However, it happened, it’s a great option for Z5 shooters.

If you add the 17-28mm f/2.8 lens below then you have the perfect combo of lenses for the Z5 that covers a huge focal range with an f/2.8 max aperture. This makes for a perfect small and lightweight kit for the Z5 that covers 90% of the focal ranges you would use for most shooting.

Compact Option

2. Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8

This compact 28mm lens has a nice wide f/2.8 max aperture and its size pairs nicely with the compact Z5 for a great walk-around combo.

This might be my personal favorite lens to carry around with me on a regular basis.

It’s small and lightweight enough that pairing it with the Z5 makes for a very small kit that is perfect for everyday shooting.

If I am taking a Nikon Z5 to a party, a family get-together, or just out with friends, this is the lens I would probably put on the camera. The 28mm focal length is wide enough that you don’t have to back up to get photos of the people around you and is also a great option for getting photos of the area around you.

But 28mm isn’t so wide that photos of people will be distorted.

In addition, the f/2.8 max aperture makes it easier to get shots in low light, especially compared to the kit lenses often found bundled with cameras that have max apertures in the f/4-6.3 range.

However, if the compact size isn’t as important to you and you want a similar focal length with a wider max aperture then this next option will be perfect for you…

Best Prime

3. Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S

The 35mm prime is an often overlooked but extremely useful and versatile prime lens that is small and compact but gives you excellent image quality.

The 35mm f/1.8 is the lens I recommend for many photographers as the next one to get after they get frustrated with their kit lens. It’s inexpensive and compact, and the f/1.8 aperture opens up an entire world of possibilities compared to most kit lenses.

The big factors for choosing this as a great next step are the aperture and cost. Of course, the Z-mount version is more expensive than most 35mm f/1.8 lenses but still on the lower cost end.

The f/1.8 aperture is often a massive difference for anyone that’s never used a lens with a wide maximum aperture like that before. It will allow you to experiment with shallow depth of field as well as shoot in low light.

If you plan to use your Z5 for everyday photography like photographing your kids or get-togethers with friends and family, you’ll be thankful to have the option to use f/1.8, especially in indoor situations. You’ll find that indoor lighting is often far darker than you perceive it with your eyes.

So if you want a little more low light capability than the two options above, then I highly recommend checking out this 35mm lens.

Versatile All-Around

4. Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4

The f/4 version of the 24-70 has excellent image quality and comes in over $1000 less expensive than its f/2.8 counterpart.

I put this lens on the list because it’s a versatile all-around lens, similar to the 28-75mm above. It has a smaller max aperture at f/4 but better sharpness across the frame and optical performance in general. It’s also around the same price as that lens but comes in slightly lighter in weight, but not by much.

This is a good option if you don’t see yourself needing the f/2.8 aperture very much and want improved image quality. For instance, if you plan on using this zoom lens for landscape photography, then the image quality is far more important than the wide max aperture.

The extra 4mm at the wide end is also beneficial for landscape shooting.

I would also recommend this lens over the 28-75mm for shooting landscapes or any other scenes where sharpness across the entire frame is critical. This lens has better sharpness and less chromatic aberration around the edges which will show up more on full-frame than the crop-sensor Z50.

Best For Landscapes

5. Nikon Z 17-28mm f/2.8

This lens is a great companion to the 28-75mm above and shares the same great quality in a small and compact package.

This lens is the wide-angle companion to the top pick above. It’s lighter, more compact, and less expensive than the other wide-angle Z mount options. These things all make it a solid option for your Z5.

The reasons it works well with the Z5 are the same as the top pick, just with a wider angle of view that is perfect for the landscape shooter.

While this lens is quite sharp overall, the place where it falls short of the other wide-angle Z-mount options is around the edges but depending on what you shoot, it may be worth saving a lot of money.

If you’re looking to build out the perfect Z5 kit…I highly recommend combining this lens with the 28-75mm f/2.8 lens above to cover a large focal range without adding much weight to your bag. This combo may be one of the best travel kits you can put together.

Telephoto Pick

6. Nikon Z 70-180mm f/2.8

Just like the 28-75 f/2.8 above, this is a less expensive version of the classic 70-200 that still delivers excellent image quality.

Nikon made a really great decision in creating this lower cost “trinity” of lenses for those of you that don’t want to spend the $2,399.95 MSRP for the 70-200 f/2.8 or use an FTZ Adapter with an older F-mount lens.

This lens has some slight loss of sharpness around the edges compared to its much more expensive cousin. But for most photographers with a Z5 camera, the difference is negligible and saving over $1000 means you could get a second lens.

But if you’re not comparing it to the 70-200 (which might be one of the most optically impressive lenses I’ve ever used) then this lens really does deliver pretty excellent image quality.

The autofocus is fast enough to use for fast moving sports or wildlife and the lighter more compact design means you won’t fatigue as easily when you’re out in the field shooting.

This, like some of the other f/2.8 options above are probably the best value in photography right now.

Best For Portraits

7. Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

The Z version of the popular 85mm f/1.8 is a lens that should be in the bag of every photographer that likes to photograph people.

The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 has all of the same benefits as the 50mm version, but if you are shooting a lot of portrait photography, then the 85mm is a perfect focal length for portraits.

By using a longer focal length, you’ll be able to stand farther away from your subject while still filling the frame. This adds something called compression in photography, which helps to give a more flattering look to people.

Of course, the longer focal length also can be somewhat limiting for everyday use. So keep that in mind. This lens is great as a second or third option for the Z5 while the ones at the top of this list are more versatile and good for everyday use.

Lenses To Avoid

The truth is that there really aren’t any bad Z-mount lenses. Nikon hasn’t opened up the specs to third-party manufacturers to create their own lenses and they’ve done a great job at making high-quality lenses even at the lower price ranges.

You can also use the adapter to put F-mount lenses on this camera so be sure to check out my complete guide to the best Nikon lenses.

But there are a couple I wouldn’t recommend for the Z5…

Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S

This is an exceptional lens when it comes to image quality, sharpness, and contrast. But I’m not listing it here because it’s bad, I’m actually listing it here because it’s a little too good.

The reality is that you can get almost the same performance for half the price with the 14-30mm f/4 listed above.

The f/2.8 maximum aperture is less useful on a wide-angle lens like this than it is on mid-range and telephoto lenses. At a 14mm field of view, you aren’t going to get much bokeh even when shooting at f/2.8.

If you want a lens for shooting wide-angle portraiture or need the wide maximum aperture for astrophotography, you would probably be better off with either the Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 or the Nikon Z 24mm f/1.8, both of which are prime lenses with a wider max aperture and excellent image quality.

You will also need 112mm screw-in lens filters if you use them in your photography, compared to the 14-30mm f/4 that will take 82mm filters that you can use on all your lenses.

Overall, it is admittedly a great lens but wildly overkill for a 24.3-megapixel camera like the Z5.

Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR

I am not a fan of “super-zooms” like this that cover a huge focal length range.

Yes, you can get a “do everything” lens but you’re making sacrifices on the image quality and the aperture to get such a huge focal length range.

In general, I think you will get better results and open up more creativity if you instead get lenses without such a wide focal range but with a wide constant aperture, like the Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8 I recommend above.

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