Nikon macro Z lenses - Full guide
This article is about the best Nikon Z macro lenses. After scrutinizing Sony camera equipment, I have started giving you details about lenses for the Nikon Z mount. The above link will lead you to the regularly updated page about all Nikon and third-party lenses available for the Z-mount.
As of yet, I haven’t written all the posts I want to on the Z-mount, but I’m getting there, slowly. If you’re currently thinking about switching to the Z-mount, you can also check out our page with all full frame Nikon Z cameras, as well as the few available Nikon Z APS-C hybrid cameras.
The Z-mount was a late addition as Nikon came into the game at a much later date then Sony which entered the mirrorless world a long time ago. As the mount is relatively new, there are still precious few lenses available and even less so in the niche area that is macro photography. But things are moving fast…
Indeed, macro photography remains a world that fascinates a lot of people and I must say that the “microscopic” world is the stuff of dreams when you become interested in it. At the time of writing, the choice of macro lenses for Nikon Z mount is extremely limited with only two Nikon macro lenses available for your full frame cameras. No Nikon Z macro lens is currently available for photographers with Nikon Z APS-C cameras. But who knows, one may come out soon.
Third party lenses for the Nikon Z mount are still in the early stages, and only manual focus lenses are available should you not be considering a Nikon Z macro lens. It’s a matter of choice (and of budget too). Let’s hope that, in the near future, Sigma or Tamron will come up with other lenses for macro shooting.
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Let’s cut to the chase. But on a side note, should you be interested in this mount, I invite you to read our comprehensive guide to the best current Nikon Z wide angle lenses.
Nikon Z macro lenses for full frame cameras
Should you be wondering about this, the answer is short and sweet. To my knowledge there are no macro zoom lenses available. You will only find prime lenses.
Nikon Z macro lenses with autofocus
As I was saying in the introduction, there are only two lenses (with autofocus) to choose from. The table below shows the main characteristics you should know about these two Nikon Z macro lenses.
|Visual||Nikon Z macro lens||Features||Best prices|
|Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8 S MC VR||B&H Amazon|
|Nikon Z MC 50 mm f/2.8||B&H Amazon|
Let us now turn to describing the two Nikon Z macro lenses. You can click on the links below to go directly to the details for each lens.
1 – Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8 S MC VR
2 – Nikon Z MC 50 mm f/2.8
The physical characteristics of these lenses are detailed in the table hereunder.
1 - Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8 S MC VR
This 105mm macro lens is the first one released by Nikon in June 2021. The success of the 105mm DSLR version was well-established, and Nikon decided to follow suit with a slightly longer (2.4cm longer) yet lighter lens (630g vs 790g). Generally speaking, Nikon has always been very good at building macro lenses. There are no reasons for it to change. This is a superb macro lens (1:1 magnification ratio and 62mm filter) which can also be used for outdoor portraits, for example.
This 105mm macro lens, tropicalized and stabilized (“VR”), is of an exemplary high level build quality, with 16 lenses divided into 11 groups. Nikon mentions the use of 3 ED glass lenses and of an aspherical lens at the back, to limit chromatic aberrations as much as possible. Several coatings (anti-reflection and Nano Crystal) have been applied to limit the appearance of flare. Finally, a fluorine coating on the front lens makes it easier to clean the lens and prevents dirt marks.
Positioned within the Nikon’s “S” range (the top of the range), it offers two rings on its barrel. The first one is a very well-designed focus ring which offers good resistance and fluidity. The second ring (not clickable) is adjustable and controls aperture by default. However, you can also set exposure, ISO, and other parameters with it. The barrel is equipped with an AF/MF switch and a button to limit focus range (full or between 29 and 50 cm). Finally, an OLED screen located on the top displays the magnification ratio or the minimum focusing distance. Note that it is not possible to use this lens with the brand’s teleconverter. Focusing distance is 29 cm. The autofocus is said to be quite good.
The lens reaches excellence in image quality. From full aperture (limited to f/4.5 at 1:1 ratio), images are superb at their center and very good on the edges. Closing to f/4, then f/5.6 improves the image’s overall sharpness. You will have to close to f/8 to get the best homogeneity over the whole image (which is not a problem in macro photography since you almost never shoot at full aperture because of focusing distance). Optical defects are very well managed. Distortion and chromatic aberrations are almost non-existent. Vignetting is the “weak point” of this lens. It is indeed very marked at f/2.8, but not visible at f/4.5 with a 1:1 ratio. In macro use, it will not be a problem. For portrait use, it will be necessary to either activate the camera’s corrections or correct it through post-processing software.
2 - Nikon Z MC 50 mm f/2.8
Released at the same time as its sibling, the Z 105mm f/2.8 S MC VR lens, this Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is a more standard macro lens. There was no equivalent for DSLR cameras but for the old Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 G ED. Nikon already offers several 50mm lenses (f/1.8, f/1.2 and f/0.95), but this is the only one with macro capabilities. The lens is very light (260 g) and only 6.6 cm long. Compared to the 105mm, this lens is not part of Nikon’s top of the range “S” series. The lens does offer, however, a 1:1 magnification ratio. Although advertised as a macro lens, it can also be used for portraits or more standard shots. Note that the lens does not have optical stabilization.
Build quality is still very good but lower than that of the 105mm. This macro lens gets 11 lenses divided into 7 groups. Use of both an ED glass and an aspherical lens limit chromatic aberrations. The front lens has a fluorine coating to both limit smudging and make cleaning easier.
The matte black tropicalized (splash/dust proof) lens has two buttons on its left side: the first one to switch from AF to MF and the second as a focus limiter (full or between 16 and 30cm), which will prevent the lens from trying to focus in an area we are not interested in. On the barrel, there is only one large focusing ring. The specificity of this lens is that it extends when in “macro mode”. There are markings on the extending part: magnification factor used and focus distance (the equivalent of the info found on the OLED screen of the 105mm macro). The focusing distance is only 0.16m.
While not bad at all, image quality is definitely a step down from the 105mm. The image at the center is already very good at full aperture (limited to f/5.6 at a ratio of 1:1), but not so good on the edges and even less so on the corners. Ultimately, the difference with the 105mm seats with the lack of image homogeneity. The overall sharpness is not as good either. It is at f/5.6 that it will become the best overall performer. For a good, homogeneous image, you will have to close at f/8 or f/11. As is the case with the 105mm lens, chromatic aberrations and distortion are almost invisible. However, while vignetting is very noticeable at full aperture, it will only be slightly visible at 1:1 (at f/5.6). Autofocus is not the quietest one, but it does the job.
Finally, Nikon offers a nice macro lens which is cheaper than the 105mm version. However, the lens is not stabilized, and its performance is a bit lower than that of its sibling. Having said that, It still is a light and compact lens that can also be used for wide portraits.
The table below shows the main physical characteristics of the Nikon Z macro lenses mentioned above.
|Macro Z lenses||Focal length||Max. aperture||Filter||D/L||Stab.||Min. focus. dist.||Autofocus||Check prices|
|Nikon Z 105mm f/2.8 S MC VR||105mm||f/2.8||62mm||85x140mm||YES||29cm||YES||B&H Amazon|
|Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8||50mm||f/2.8||46mm||74,5x66mm||NO||16cm||YES||B&H Amazon|
Nikon Z macro lenses with manual focus
Aside from the two Nikon Z macro lenses mentioned above, here are some interesting options with manual focus to consider.
The table below compares the main characteristics of these lenses.
The 5 lenses with details below are:
1 – Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO Z
2 – Laowa 90m f/2.8 2X Ultra-Macro APO Z
3 – Laowa 85mm f/5.6 2x Ultra Macro APO Z
4 – Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Z
5 – Voigtlander MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f/2 ASPH Z
1 - Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO Z
This is the most interesting option, in my opinion, should you want a 100mm (multi-purpose) focal length lens without having the budget for a Nikon 105mm. This Laowa lens has an excellent build quality, a non-clickable aperture ring, but no EXIF transmission.
The lens’s overall image quality is very good and there are few optical defects. In my opinion, unless you absolutely want an autofocus, this is a solid choice for a Z-mount macro lens.
2 - Laowa 90mm f/2.8 2X Ultra-Macro APO Z
This is another Z-mount macro lens from Laowa. It offers an almost similar focal length but a 2:1 magnification ratio. Like the 100mm, the all-metal build quality is very good, and the lens has a clickable aperture ring. There is no EXIF transmission and no stabilization. However, the lens barrel has a nice distance/ magnification ratio scale.
The image quality is remarkable from full aperture and with f/8, you can get a very sharp and homogeneous image. Optical defects (distortions and chromatic aberrations) are well managed. Vignetting will only be a problem at full aperture but not in “macro mode”, where one tends to close the diaphragm, anyway.
This is a nice lens, at a very reasonable price, which will delight people wanting to shoot the tiny little things of this world.
3 - Laowa 85mm f/5.6 2x Ultra Macro APO Z
Laowa offers this very light and compact lens at an even lower price. As for Laowa’s 90 and 100mm lenses, this 85mm lens is very well built. The lens has a clickable aperture ring on the front and a distance/magnification ratio scale on the barrel. Laowa made a smart choice in limiting its maximum aperture to f/5.6 since it ensured a small/light construction as it is not so much of a concern with macro photography where you don’t shoot at full aperture.
Although a little behind the 90 and 100mm lenses, image quality is very good. It even becomes excellent at f/8. Optical defects are generally very well managed and will not be a problem at all. The lens has no EXIF transmission.
4 - Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Z
A few quick words about this very special lens from Laowa, which also offers a 2:1 magnification ratio. This lens is 40cm long, allowing it to take pictures in unimaginable conditions, as well as under water since it is waterproof to 20cm. A LED light is also integrated on the front of the lens.
The lens comes with a metal case for easy transport. The overall image quality is very good. I have personally seen some crazy photos and videos made with this lens which offers so many possibilities!
5 - Voigtlander MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f/2 ASPH Z
I ended up adding a few words on this lens from Voigtlander, a lesser-known brand which still offers high-end manual focus lenses. This 65mm lens offers a superb build quality with two rings: a very wide and reinforced focus ring and a very thin aperture ring on the front. Note that this lens is limited to a 1:2 ratio.
Image quality is exceptional with this lens and optical defects will not be a problem. Built like a tank, this 65mm lens is quite heavy with 625g!
The table below summarizes key features of the Z macro manual focus lenses discussed above.
|Manual focus Nikon Z macro lens||Focal length||Max. aperture||Filter||D/L||Stab.||Min. focus distance||Autofocus||Check prices|
|Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO Z||100mm||f/2.8||67mm||72x155mm||NO||24,7cm||NO||B&H Amazon|
|Laowa 90mm f/2.8 2X Ultra-Macro APO Z||90mm||f/2.8||67mm||74x120mm||NO||20,5cm||NO||B&H Amazon|
|Laowa 85mm f/5.6 2x Ultra Macro APO Z||85mm||f/5.6||46mm||53x78mm||NO||16,3cm||NO||B&H Amazon|
|Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Z||24mm||f/14||-||38x400 mm||NO||17,3cm (5x) – 23,4cm (2,5x)||NO||B&H Amazon|
|Voigtlander MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f/2 ASPH Z||65mm||f/2||67mm||78x91mm||NO||31cm||NO||B&H|
Here ends the description of the best full-frame Nikon Z-mount macro lenses. Whenever a new lens is released, I will add it to this page if it proves an interesting choice.
APS-C Nikon Z macro lenses
At the time of writing, Nikon is still not offering a Z macro lens for its APS-C hybrid cameras with only third-party brands offering lenses with manual focus. However, you can still use the lenses mentioned below and designed for Full Frame sensors, on Nikon Z APS-C cameras provided you apply a crop factor to obtain the equivalent focal length.
Here are the 3 macro lenses I recommend for Nikon Z APS-C cameras:
1 – 7Artisans 60mm f/2.8 II V2 Macro APS-C Z
2 – Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2X Macro Z
3 – TTArtisan APS-C 40mm f/2.8 Macro Z
The physical characteristics of these lenses are compared in the table below.
1 - 7Artisans 60mm f/2.8 II V2 Macro APS-C Z
7Artisans is a Chinese brand well known for offering inexpensive lenses of mostly average quality. A rather uninteresting first release is already available but 7Artisans decided to renew this 60mm macro lens by offering a much better-quality lens. Much lighter than the first release (350g vs 550g), it offers good image quality at full aperture, but closed at f/5.6, it will get you a more homogeneous image.
The results at longer distances, in portrait photography for example, are not as good. It is a lens best used for macro photography. For less than 200€, this lens is almost a risk-free buy and proves to be a good first choice if focusing manually is not a problem for you. Note it doesn’t do EXIF transmission.
2 - Laowa CF 65mm f/2.8 CA – Dreamer Macro 2X Z
From the feedback I get, this is probably the best lens to consider if you are looking for a Nikon Z macro lens for APS-C cameras. The lens is very light (322g) and offers a 2:1 magnification ratio. Build quality, as usual with Laowa, is very good. Central image quality is excellent at full aperture and closing at f/5.6 will give sharp and homogeneous results on the whole of the image. Few optical defects are visible with this lens and it perfectly manages chromatic aberrations (hence the name “CA”).
Sharpness is far superior to the 7Artisans’ one, but hey, we are not in the same price range with the Laowa being 2.5 times more expensive than the 7Artisans. Build quality is also much better here. Portrait shots are very good. All in all, Laowa managed to produce a very nice lens.
3 - TTArtisan APS-C 40mm f/2.8 Macro Z
Let me quickly present this last lens from TTArtisan. This is a fully manual 40mm macro lens with no EXIF transmission. The all-metal build quality is excellent. The lens extends during macro shooting which reveals scales on the lens barrel: focusing distance and magnification. Note that, alongside Laowa’s 60mm lens, it offers a 2:1 magnification ratio. Image quality is reported as very good at the center at full aperture and improving up to f/5.6. To maximize depth of field, image quality will still be very good at f/11, where it will become more homogeneous.
Optical defects are few and far between for a lens of this price, even if some sensitivity to flare may sometimes become noticeable. Considering its bargain-basement price (at around 120€), it is a perfect choice to try macro photography on a budget.
Find below a comparative of the macro lenses for your APS-C Nikon Z hybrid.
|Manual focus Z macro lens (APS-C)||Focal length||Max. Aperture||Filter||D/L||Stab.||Min. focusing dist.||Autofocus||Check prices|
|7Artisans 60mm f/2.8 II V2 Macro APS-C Z||60mm||f/2.8||49mm||60x74.5mm||NO||17,5cm||NO||B&H Amazon|
|Laowa CF 65mm f/2.8 CA – Dreamer Macro 2X Z||65mm||f/2.8||49mm||57x100mm||NO||17cm||NO||B&H Amazon|
|TTArtisan APS-C 40mm f/2.8 Macro Z||40mm||f/2.8||52mm||62x76mm||NO||17cm||NO||B&H Amazon|
Reminders - How to go about choosing a macro lens?
I already wrote a full post if you want to know about all the parameters to consider when choosing a macro lens.
Here are a few words on the 3 key parameters when choosing a macro lens:
- Magnification ratio: also known as the reproduction ratio, this is the ratio between the actual size of a subject and its projected size on your sensor. True macro lenses offer a 1:1 ratio. Others (such as Laowa) offer much higher ratios (2:1 to 5:1) but require practice and a tripod. Here is an article that tells you everything you need to know about sensor size impact.
- Minimum focusing distance: this is simply the minimum distance between your sensor and your subject. Please note that this distance does not start at the front of your lens and, of course, the length of the lens must be taken into account. While some lenses offer shorter minimum distances, they also generally are physically shorter,
- Focal length: you can choose between short focal lengths (between 35 and 65mm) which also offer very short focusing distances, standard focal lengths (from 70 to 100mm) which offer a longer working range (longer minimum focusing distance), and finally, long focal lengths (> 150mm – telephoto), which are heavier, more demanding, and require more practice. However, the latter can both offer a more pronounced background blur and prove useful for photographing fearful subjects.
Of course, other factors will come into play when choosing a lens, but as is the case when buying any classic lens, build construction, image quality, optical defects, maximum aperture – although there is little point in shooting with a large aperture in macro photography – and of course, your budget, are the most important factors On the other hand, a bright lens can be useful in darker conditions.
That’s it, I’m stopping here. I hope I have been clear and concise enough for you to now be able to choose your Nikon Z macro lens. I’ll see you soon for another article on the Z-mount which should come out shortly.
See you soon,