The lenses I regularly use on my Nikon Z6
Whenever photographers of any skill level get together, discussion often turns to favorite lenses. That makes sense because, even more than the camera body itself, our choice of a lens plays a large role in the way a scene is captured.
As a hobbyist photographer, I’ve never had a large collection of lenses. But my choices have changed as I moved from an entry-level DSLR to a more sophisticated mirrorless camera.
Today, I rely primarily on two lenses for the types of photos I take – a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm. I also have two additional lenses for more general usage. Because my camera, a Nikon Z6, uses the new Z lens mount which is larger than the traditional Nikon F-mount, my goal was to get native Z lenses. The Nikon Z cameras (Z5, Z6, Z7, and Z50) will all work with older Nikon F-mount lenses using an adapter. Until recently, I used this method successfully.
Z 24-70mm f/4
This is the ‘kit’ lens that comes with new Z6 or Z7 cameras. It is a Z mount lens with a popular range of capabilities. While at 24mm on the low end, it isn’t quite a ‘wide-angle’ lens, it still performs well as a landscape lens.
Nikon also makes an f/2.8 version of this lens, but as with all lenses, the lower the available aperture setting (meaning a larger opening for light to enter the camera) the more expensive the lens. As with many such lenses, the cost of the f/2.8 version is more than twice that of the f/4 version. I haven’t seen a real need to make that expenditure for the range that this lens covers.
Z 70-200mm f/2.8
The 70-200mm lens is the darling of most sports photographers, except perhaps those who shoot football and need a longer ‘reach’. For some time, I had an F-mount 70-200mm f/4 and it performed adequately using the adapter for my Z6. However, while I don’t normally photograph college or professional sports, I take a lot of pictures of my grandson’s sports activities.
One thing I noticed was that, with baseball in particular, while the zoom range of the 70-200mm lens was more than adequate for baseball, the f/4 aperture didn’t allow enough bokah at higher telescopic ranges. The result was that, while the player was in sharp focus, spectators or other players behind him were also well focused. That means the player action was not visually isolated as much as I would like it to be.
So I decided to take the plunge to the f/2.8 version of this longer reach lens. While I certainly could have purchased the F-mount version and it would work with my adapter, I went with the Z mount for two reasons. First, the optics of the glass are a little better – although certainly, Nikon’s F-mount 70-200mm is one of the better lenses on the market. Second, there really wasn’t much price difference between the Z-mount version and the F-mount. In general, Z-mount lenses are much more expensive than their F-mount counterparts, but that wasn’t true in this case.
Finally, I was able to save considerable money by purchasing the lens used from KEH, a reliable used camera dealer in Atlanta. Also, by selling my F-mount 70-200 f/4 and another F-mount lens that I didn’t use much (50mm), I reduced the purchase price significantly. I also decided to sell my adapter since, with the acquisition of the f/2.8 lens, I would be fully committed to the Z-mount architecture.
Z 40mm f/2
While I don’t use this lens a great deal, I bought it for two specific purposes. First, it is close to the ‘nifty fifty’, a lens that most replicates the view that the human eye sees, and was much cheaper than Nikon’s actual Z 50mm lens. The 40mm is a very small and light lens.
Second, I have also long used an F-mount 50mm lens with glass filters for macro photography (most of the macro shots on this site were photographed with the 50mm). The filters I have fit the 40mm. I also sold the 50mm, so a replacement was in order.
Of course, it also helped that the 40mm was quite inexpensive, particularly as Z-mount lenses go. While it is largely made of plastic, and thus not as durable as my other aluminum lenses, it is well suited for the purposes for which I bought it.
Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3
For a recent trip, I rented the new Z-mount 24-200mm zoom lens. While not of the build quality of my other main lenses, the fact that one lens covers the entire range of both of my main lenses is a plus for one use – travel photography. One of the banes of the travel photographer is that no matter what lens is on your camera, you probably need a different lens for that shot that’s right in front of you. By having one lens that covers the entire range, I didn’t have to worry about that issue on my recent trip.
Additionally, the 24-200mm is lighter than my other lenses, particularly my very well-built but also very heavy, 70-200mm f/2.8. While the lens speed isn’t as good as my others – f/4 at wider apertures but quickly moving to f/6.3 after only a short-range increase – the numbers are more than adequate for most travel photography.
I found that the lens performs very well for the specific use – travel. Because of some of my encounters during my photo walks, it occurred to me that the lens would also be a great general-purpose lens – the standard ‘walk-around’ lens. While its performance certainly doesn’t match my other lenses, I felt it was more than adequate for that purpose, primarily because in such general situations, I’m usually looking for a wider range of the photo to be in focus than with sports photos.
I was fortunate to be able to purchase the lens that I had rented at a sizable discount. I was happy with that option because I already knew that the lens, despite a couple of cosmetic blemishes on the surface, performed as expected. It is now the lens I leave on my camera most of the time.
I don’t really intend to purchase any more lenses at this point. With these Z-mount lenses, I have a more than adequate range of coverage for the types of photography I do.
That may change, of course. Photographers are always open to new gear. But for my purposes, I’m happy with my lens collection now.