7 Best Lenses For The Nikon Z9 (…and 3 to avoid)

The Nikon Z9 is a professional-level high-resolution and high frame rate camera and you’ll need high-quality lenses to get the full performance out of the 45.7-megapixel sensor.

That is why my top pick is the exceptional Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. It covers a very versatile focal range and delivers the best in sharpness and color. It also made my list of the best Nikon lenses overall.

Keep reading to see more options specific to the type of photography you plan on using your Z9 for the most.

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Top Pick

1. Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S

This lens is the Nikon Z mount version of the popular 24-70 f/2.8 lens. This is Nikon’s sharpest version to date and comes in lighter and smaller than its predecessors.

The 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens in the Z mount lineup matches the professional build and image quality of the Z9. It packs a wide max aperture and a good mid-range focal length and delivers industry-leading image quality.

The 24-70mm focal length is one of the most versatile ranges you can get so if you only get one lens with your Z9 for general-purpose photography, this is the one to go with.

There’s a reason that the 24-70 f/2.8 lens can be found in almost any professional photographer’s bag. You can shoot anything from wide-angle landscapes to longer focal-length portraits with this lens. Plus the f/2.8 max aperture means you’ll have a lot of control over depth of field and have the ability to shoot in low light.

It is also one of the sharpest 24-70mm lenses that you’ll find in any camera system. This lens takes full advantage of the Nikon Z mount to create exceptional image quality.

The autofocus performance is top-notch as well. It uses two AF drive units synchronized to deliver extremely fast and accurate autofocus. A lens like this is essential to keep up with the 20 frames per second RAW shooting and extremely fast autofocus of the Z9

Versatile All-Around

2. Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4

The f/4 version of the Nikon Z 24-70mm is very close in sharpness and color and if you don’t need the s/2.8 max aperture then you can save over $1000 with this lens.

I put this lens on the list because it’s a versatile all-around lens, similar to the 24-70mm above. It has a smaller max aperture at f/4 but still has excellent sharpness across the frame and optical performance in general. It’s also around about $1100 cheaper than the f/2.8 version that made the top slot.

This is a good option if you don’t see yourself needing the f/2.8 aperture very much and value sharpness and image quality over low-light performance.

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.

Best Prime

3. Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S

The 50mm lens should be a staple in every photographer’s bag and this upgrade to the nifty-fifty is the ultimate prime lens that is perfect for your Z9.

As a Z9 owner, you’re looking to level up your photo quality and a high-end prime can do just that. Prime lenses generally outperform zoom lenses in all aspects of image quality. The 50mm f/1.2 is one of the best in the Z mount lineup.

Sure, you could go for the old classic, 50mm f/1.8, but that’s not all that exciting. The f/1.2 aperture can give you a focal plane of only 10″ from 10 feet away. This means the ability to shoot with beautiful bokeh in many more situations.

The f/1.2 aperture also means beautiful low-light photography without having to increase the ISO. So your night photos will be cleaner and sharper. Combined with the excellent low-light performance of the Z9, you’ll open up a lot more opportunities for low-light shooting.

Any wide-aperture lens like this can make a massive difference in your shooting…even compared to an f/1.8 lens. It will allow you to experiment with shallow depth of field as well as shoot in low light much better than any kit lens.

If you plan to use your Z9 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/1.2, especially in indoor situations.

Best For Landscapes

4. Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S

If you can live with needing special filters for it, this lens is the ultimate in wide-angle sharpness and image quality.

This is the second piece in the Nikon Z mount version of what photographers call the “holy trinity” of lenses (the next one on this list will complete the set).

Like the other f/2.8 zoom lenses above, this is one of the sharpest zoom lenses at this focal length that I have tried. In terms of wide-angle shooting, it may be the best full-frame lens on the market. The image quality is more impressive given the very wide 14mm end. At 14mm, this lens covers 115° of view.

There are some small compromises though.

If you want to use filters for your landscape photography, you’ll need 112mm filters. It can be hard to find companies that offer this size so your options are limited if you have your favorite filters to work with.

If you don’t need the f/2.8 maximum aperture then you may also want to look at the Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S lens. It is less expensive, lighter, and will allow you to use standard 82mm filters. In terms of sharpness and color, it is quite close to the 14-24mm f/2.8, so depending on what kind of landscape photography you typically shoot, you may be able to save over $1000.

Telephoto Pick

5. Nikon Z 70-200mm f/4.5-6.3 VR

Possibly the best telephoto zoom lens on the market today. This updated version of the classic 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is even better than the previous one.

This is simply an excellent lens with really no negatives I found.

That being said, it can be used for a wide variety of shooting situations. Whether you’re shooting portraits, sports, wildlife, weddings, or even as a companion to a wide-angle lens for shooting landscape images…this lens delivers.

It delivers class-leading sharpness at all apertures and the out-of-focus areas of bokeh at f.2.8 are quite soft and pleasing for shallow depth-of-field photos.

Also, there really aren’t many other telephoto options in this range in the Z-mount lineup. So your choices are to pay the $2,399.95 MSRP or use an FTZ Adapter with an older F-mount lens.

But, I think you get a lot more value for your money by investing in the Z mount version. You won’t need to use an adapter and the autofocus speed and image quality are second to none. This is especially true with a high-end camera like the Z9.

Best For Portraits

6. Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 S

The newly announced 85mm f/1.2 looks to be very impressive on initial testing. This is a classic focal length for portraits and the f/1.2 max aperture will give you stunning bokeh.

If you are shooting a lot of portrait photography, then 85mm is a perfect focal length for you.

While you may not always want to go all the way to the maximum f/1.2 aperture, the ability to stop down a little and still shoot at f/1.4 or f/1.8 combined with the impeccable Z mount optics means unrivaled sharpness for your portraits plus beautiful out of focus backgrounds.

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 Z9 while the ones at the top of this list are more versatile and good for everyday use.

Best For Sports/Wildlife

7. Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 S

This lens is one of the most impressive lenses I’ve tried and a great example of how the Nikon Z mount opened up technological advances in lens building.

The Nikon Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 is an excellent lens for shooting action and sports. It has a great combination of optic performance and a relatively compact and light size that makes it easier to shoot for longer without a tripod.

Coming in at just over 3lbs. (50.6  oz./1435 g) this lens is pretty light for providing such a great focal range. 100-400mm is a great range for shooting most sports from the sidelines whether it’s your kid’s soccer game or a professional sporting event, you’ll miss fewer shots with such a huge focal range.

On full-frame Nikon Z cameras like the Z9 this lens works in tandem with the in-body image stabilization to give you 5.5 stops of compensation. While this won’t help you get faster shutter speeds to freeze action, it does allow you to shoot non-moving subjects in lower light.

Image from Nikon.com

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 Z9…

Nikon Z 28-75mm f/2.8

This lens (and its counterpart below) aren’t listed here because they are bad lenses. They’re actually great lenses for the money and I recommend them for other Nikon Z cameras, just not a high-resolution camera like the Z9.

If you are going to make the investment in a high-resolution camera, then lenses that are a “good value” really just won’t cut it. This lens is a little soft around the edges compared to the 24-70mm lenses on this list and that really becomes more apparent when you are shooting at a higher resolution.

Nikon Z 17-28 f/2.8

Just like the lens above (which is a great companion to this one IF you have a lower-resolution camera), this lens just doesn’t cut it on the Z9.

The compromises that were made to make it a more compact lens and retain the f/2.8 max aperture mean that your image quality just isn’t quite as good as the larger, more expensive 24-70mm f/2.8.

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 which is a prime lens with an even 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 Z9.

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.

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