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The Best Nikon Z Mirrorless Lenses for 2021


Nikon is likely one of the first brands you think of when you think of SLRs. Its F series was the darling of photojournalists and artists in the film era, and the its high-resolution D850 is still one of the best SLRs available today.

But SLRs have had their time in the sun. Today’s best tech is in mirrorless systems. In general, you’ll enjoy quicker, more precise autofocus, better video features, and a real-time preview of your image in the viewfinder by going mirrorless.

A Growing System

Nikon’s mirrorless system uses the Z mount, but is compatible with F-mount SLR lenses using an adapter. That’s important for photographers who have been working with Nikon cameras and lenses for years and don’t want to buy all new lenses.

Nikon Z 6 II with 14-24mm

Nikon Z 6 II with 14-24mm

And it’s important to fill in some gaps. The Z system has many of the basics covered, but a few important lenses aren’t on sale yet. If you’re after a macro, an extreme telephoto prime, or a fish-eye, you’ll need to rely on the adapter, at least for now.

Most of the available lenses are for full-frame format sensors—Nikon refers to this 24-by-36mm format as FX. It’s also released one DX model so far—Nikon’s branding for the 18-by-24mm APS-C format. If you own a full-frame Z, you should skip shopping for these DX lenses.

S Line

You’ll know a lens is protected from dust and splashes if it has an S designation at the end of its name. The S Line includes the best construction and optics.

S Line Lens

S Line Lens

It’s not an exclusive club, as all but one of the full-frame lenses for the system are included so far. Nikon promises to change that, though—it has a few non-S primes on its development roadmap, including a pair of compact primes and a macro.

We expect Nikon to fill in missing pieces in the system. It’s certainly been a little slower to build things out when compared with Canon, which launched its EOS R mirrorless system at the same time, though both lag behind Sony and its much longer running mirrorless E system in terms of sheer volume of available lenses.

The major third parties—Sigma and Tamron—haven’t jumped on board yet, either. We’ve seen a spattering of Z glass from 7artisans, Venus Optics, and others, but most are manual focus.

Nikon Z 7 II with 24-70mm F4

Nikon Z 7 II with 24-70mm F4

In the meantime, you can supplement native lenses using the FTZ adapter. It works with AF-S Nikkor SLR lenses, the type with internal focus motors, with full functionality. Any lenses that rely on an in-camera motor for focus will work, but without autofocus.

If you’re happy with manual focus, you can reach to other adapters, too. You can use pretty much any vintage, mechanical lens with the right adapter; we have a guide if you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole.

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