Best Travel Lenses for Nikon Mirrorless Cameras

Best travel lenses for Nikon cameras

Whether you are an experienced photographer or a novice, choosing the right lens setup for travel is always a challenge. Should you bring single all-round lens, two lenses or perhaps even more?

If you are an owner of a Nikon mirrorless camera (APS-C or full-frame), this article will help you pick the best lenses for travel photography.

We separated lenses designed for full-frame cameras from the APS-C ones, however, full-frame lenses are still compatible with APS-C cameras.

Table of Contents

P.S. If you don’t have a time to go through the whole article, below you will find quick overview of our favorite lenses for Nikon mirrorless cameras:

All-Round Lenses

For Full-Frame Cameras (Z Mount - FX)

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

Image source: Nikon

Overview

It’s one of the most versatile all-round zoom lenses for Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras with FX mounts. The focal length range is 24-200 mm. This lens is very travel-friendly considering it’s not too big and too heavy

The length is 4.49 in (11.4 cm) and the weight is 1.26 lb (570 g). The filter diameter is 67 mm. The minimum focus distance is 19.69 in (50 cm).

One more thing that adds a lot of value for travelers, especially those who like outdoor activities, is that the lens is weather sealed.

Autofocus is fast and precise, so it performs excellent. In video creation, this lens is also very good because it’s pretty quiet and resistant to focus breathing. Considering that the focusing system’s internal front elements stay fixed (no extend, no rotation) you can be worry-free that dust and moisture can get inside. We also like that you can override autofocus whenever, but there is no focus distance meter nor hard stops on ends. 

The 5-axis image stabilization system is excellent and it provides 4.5 f-stops of compensation. If you have a camera with in-body stabilization they will work in conjunction.

This lens is not made for low light conditions but in the wide-end, it will provide you with solid performance with a maximum aperture of f/4. On longer lengths, it becomes too narrow and the maximum aperture drops to f/6.3. Use of image stabilization and higher ISO values will definitely be necessary.

Bokeh is very good especially when you take close-up photos at longer focal lengths (between 150-200 mm). 

We like that the lens is very sharp on most of its range. At 24 mm center parts of the image are razor-sharp, while corners are a bit soft. For maximum quality try to keep the aperture somewhere around f/11. The same is on mid-ranges, while at 200 mm the image is a bit softer.

The lens handles distortions very well (both barrel and pincushion), plus if you shoot in JPEG your camera has probably already activated in-camera correction, so you will see distortion only if you shoot NEF (raw) files. However, even without in-camera correction the amount of distortion is low. The same is with chromatic aberration and it is also avoidable with in-camera correction.

The amount of vignetting is low and you can attach filters without additional vignetting on most lengths and apertures. Nikon does a perfect job with a ghost and flare handling (using ARNEO coatings).

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Sample video
Another sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Travel-friendly size and weight;
  • Extremely useful zoom range for travelers (replaces 2 or 3 lenses);
  • Sharp images in most of the range;
  • Fast and silent autofocus with low breathing which is fantastic for video creators;
  • Weather sealed;
  • Very effective image stabilization in both photo and video modes.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Sharpness significantly drops at telephoto lengths;
  • Not particularly good in low light because of the narrow maximum aperture.

Wide Zoom Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (Z Mount - DX)

Nikon NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

The chance is high that your Nikkon Z camera comes with this lens in a KIT. But don’t let that small lens fool you that it’s not worth carrying while traveling because it can be a great starter KIT which covers wider lengths in a 2-lens setup.

This lens covers 16-50 mm which is actually 24-75 mm at a DX camera. The lens is really compact and lightweight with a length of 1.26 in (3.2 cm) and a weight of 0.3 lb (135 g). Filter diameter is 46 m and minimum focus distance is 7.87 in (20 cm). The lens is built mainly with plastic to be so compact and lightweight and you should pay attention to accidental drops and keep in mind that it’s also not weather sealed.

The lens uses an STM motor for autofocus which means that it’s an electronic autofocus system. The good side of this technology is that focus is fast, accurate, and quiet, but the bad side is that when you turn the camera off and then turn it on focus will reset. At low light at long-end AF is much slower and you will notice breathing especially if you try focusing on low-contrast objects.

Image stabilization is very effective and capable of compensating for 4.5 f-stops. In low light, this lens will perform ok just at the wide-end (when the maximum aperture is f/3.5). But low light capability quickly drops when you zoom in even to 24 mm. At long-end (50 mm) it’s pretty poor with f/6.3. So, you need to count on using higher ISOs if you want to get solid low light photos or a tripod if you want to use lower ISOs and take photos of static subjects. Good image stabilization will also help in these circumstances for static subjects if you don’t have (or don’t want to use) a tripod.

Bokeh quality is good for a KIT lens. Of course, the lens is not intended for portrait shooting, but if you want to isolate the subject and get some blur on longer lengths. 

At 16 mm the image is sharp in almost all apertures, but corner sharpness can be improved a bit if you stop down the aperture to f/8-f/10. We can say that sharpness is good up to 35 mm, but between 35 and 50 mm you will notice some softness.

Barrel and pincushion distortions are very slight at wide and long ends. However your Z camera will probably automatically correct it, but even if you use NEF (raw) format, the lens is pretty good in distortion control. We can say the same for vignetting. The truth is that some vignetting is noticeable at wide-end when you set the aperture to f/3.5 but it’s minor. Chromatic aberration is also well-controlled. The lens is also pretty resistant to flare and ghosts.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Sample video
Another sample video (handheld)

Pros for travel photography:

  • Pretty compact and lightweight;
  • Good sharpness throughout most of the range;
  • Very capable image stabilization system;
  • Great for close-ups due to very short minimum focus distance.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Plastic mount so it’s vulnerable to accidental drops;
  • The soft image at longer lengths especially in corners;
  • Narrow maximum aperture at long-end;
  • Not weather sealed.

For Full-Frame Cameras (Z Mount - FX)

Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S

Image source: Nikon

Overview

It is like a “16-50 for full-frame cameras.” This lens covers 24-50 mm on full-frame Nikon Z cameras (on APS-C 36-75 mm). 

It’s not so common for lenses intended for full-frame cameras, but this lens is really compact and lightweight. With a length of 2.01 in (5 cm) and 0.43 lb (195 g) in weight, it’s definitely a pretty travel-friendly lens. It’s so compact and lightweight due to composite materials used in building.

The filter diameter is 52 mm and the minimum focus distance is 13.78 in (35 cm) so you almost can use it as an alternative for a macro lens. It’s a weather sealed lens but not fully, like some other lenses, however, it’s sealed against dust and moisture

We can say that the trade-off of the compactness is that this lens doesn’t have image stabilization, but if you use a camera with an in-body stabilization system, it won’t bother you.

Autofocus is excellent in terms of speed. Also, it’s a good choice for video creators because it is very silent considering it uses a stepping motor. There is no focus breathing in almost all lighting conditions, which is also a good side. Also, we like how smooth refocusing works in video mode. If you want to override autofocus without switching to manual focus mode you can do so without worrying about a possible broken autofocus motor. Considering narrow maximum aperture size it’s clear that the lens is not so good for low light conditions, and you need to rely on higher ISOs.

The lens has 7 blades diaphragm, but considering that at 50 mm maximum aperture is limited to f/6.3 the bokeh is worse than on lenses with wider maximum apertures. So, it’s not a lens intended for great portraits or close-ups, but in all other uses, it will perform excellently. 

At the wide-end, the lens is sharp in the center but slightly less in corners, but try to avoid open aperture to f/4 because the image will be softer even in the center. At 50 mm the image is a bit softer and you should keep the aperture between f/8 and f/12 for best results. Considering that Nikon Z cameras automatically correct all distortions they are not visible, but if you shoot NEF (RAW) images barrel distortion at 24 mm and a bit of pincushion distortion on longer ranges are visible. However, with the help of Lightroom, they are easily corrected.

Vignetting and chromatic aberrations are well-controlled with this lens. The same is for lens flare, especially if you avoid shooting directly into light sources (the Sun or artificial strong light source), and the lens hood is cheap.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog

Pros for travel photography:

  • Compact and very lightweight;
  • Fast and silent autofocus, almost without breathing;
  • Weather sealed body (but not fully);
  • Great sharpness.

Cons for travel photography:

  • No image stabilization;
  • Slow lens due to narrow maximum aperture.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3

Image source: Nikon

Overview

It’s another wide-zoom lens that is a pretty good choice for a 2-lens setup. The range is a bit longer and this lens covers 24-70 mm on full-frame cameras (on APS-C 36-105 mm). 

The lens is also bigger and heavier than Nikkor 25-50. The length is 3.5 in (8.9 cm) and it’s 1.1 lb (500 g) in weight. The filter diameter is 72 mm, the minimum focus distance is 11.81 in (30 cm). It’s built with very good materials mainly with magnesium alloy and the lens is fully weather sealed and also has a water repellent front element.

Autofocus relies on a stepper motor and there is no external movement so this ensures that dust doesn’t have a way to get inside. It’s fast pretty same as other Nikkor lenses in this price range and also quiet so video creators also will like it

This lens as Nikkor 24-50 also doesn’t have image stabilization and it relies on in-body stabilization in-camera. The maximum aperture is f/4 throughout the whole range. It’s not the best option if you want to take low light photos with low ISOs, but it is definitely better than lenses that offer f/4 just on wide-end while it becomes too narrow at longer lengths (as on Nikkor 24-50).

Bokeh is good and if you take close-up photos at 70 mm with a fully open aperture, you will get a blurred background (bokeh quality ensures 7 blades diaphragm). 

Sharpness is a good point for this lens. At the wide-end center, sharpening is excellent on all apertures. At mid ranges (35-50 mm) sharpness is also excellent even at f/4, but for best results, you should step it down to f/5.6-f/8, especially in corners. At long-end sharpness is still very good, but for maximum, you should keep aperture around f.6.3 and f/8.

Barrel and pincushion distortions are barely visible if you shoot in NEF (RAW), but if you shoot at JPEG Nikon Z cameras will successfully correct all distortion. Vignetting can be visible at the wide-end when you use wide apertures, but if you stop it down to f/6.3-f/8 you will get rid of any corner shading. Chromatic aberration is well-controlled and you will barely notice it. On this lens, Nikon uses nanocrystal coating which reduces flare to the minimum level.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Sample video
Another sample video
Low light video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fully weather sealed + water-repelling on front lens elements;
  • Fantastic optical performance;
  • Constant maximum aperture (f/4) through the whole range;
  • Excellent flare resistance;
  • Built with very good materials.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Not excellent in low light (maximum aperture is a limitation);
  • No image stabilization.

Telephoto Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (Z Mount - DX)

Nikon NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

If you want a compact & lightweight but powerful telephoto lens, this should be one of your favorites. It covers a range from 50 to 250 mm which is actually 75-375 mm DX mount cameras. 

When you compare it with advanced (and more expensive) telephoto lenses, it seems pretty compact and lightweight. Of course, you shouldn’t get dimensions and weight of 16-50 in a 50-250 lens, but with a length of 4.33 in (11 cm) and 0.89 lb (405 g) in weight, it’s compact and very travel-friendly in terms of weight. The filter diameter is 62 mm and the minimum focus distance is 19.69 in (50 cm). However, for some travelers, it is good to know that this lens is not weather sealed.

Autofocus relies on a stepping motor which ensures it’s quiet and fast. However in bad lighting conditions and low contrast scenes you can see some light focus breathing. Image stabilization works excellent and offers 5 f-stops of compensation. Low light performance is not so good because the lens is simply not fast. Even at 50 mm, the maximum aperture is f/4.5 which is not enough. When you use longer ranges it quickly drops to f/5 (at 80 mm) and on the long end, it’s f/6.3.

Bokeh is solid, meaning that you will get a blurred background in close-ups, but you are limited to good lighting conditions because of slow aperture. 

The good side of this lens is that it’s sharper than you may expect for an entry-level telephoto lens. At 50 mm sharpness is great even if you set the aperture to be fully open (f/4.5). When you are at mid-ranges (135-150 mm) the overall sharpness is still very good, especially if you step the aperture down to f/8. For longer ranges (200-250 mm) sharpness will drop especially in corners. Also considering the nature of this lens, you shouldn’t worry about distortion too much, especially considering that Nikon Z cameras have set by default automatic distortion correction to be on.

Vignetting is almost not noticeable and you don’t need to worry about it even if you use filters. Also, you need to know that vignetting is automatically corrected with Nikon Z cameras (if you shoot JPEGs of course, but for NEF (RAW) photos you will easily remove it through post-processing software like Lightroom). Chromatic aberration is well controlled, but even if you notice them in RAW, Lightroom will remove it when you import photos.

For this lens, Nikon applied a super integrated coat to reduce lens flare and ghosting artifacts, and this works solidly in usual lighting conditions. Of course, if you point a camera to a bright light source (for example, the Sun) you won’t be able to avoid it. However, in most cases, you won’t notice them if you pay attention to how the light source is positioned.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Sample handheld video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Compact & lightweight, perfect to combine it with 16-50;
  • Excellent image stabilization in both photo and video modes;
  • Sharpness is one of the strongest points (especially in central parts of the frame).

Cons for travel photography:

  • Not good in low light because of narrow aperture;
  • Not weather sealed.

For Full-Frame Cameras (Z Mount - FX)

Nikon NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S

Image source: Nikon

Overview

This lens will be a great companion for your Nikon Z camera alongside some of the wide-zoom lenses we overviewed. The full-frame cameras are 70-200 mm, but if you mount it on an APS-C camera you will get 105-300 mm effectively. 

However, you need to be comfortable with the size of the lens. The length is 8.66 in (22 cm) and the weight is 3.17 lb (1440 g). The filter diameter is 77 mm and the minimum focus distance is 19.69 in (50 cm). The lens is built mainly with magnesium alloy, and when you use it you will have a premium feel. Also, it’s weather sealed.

Autofocus is using an STM system and ensures that it works fast and silently. Image stabilization is excellent and it’s capable of compensating 5 f-stops. Also, it’s a fantastic lens for low light considering that maximum aperture (f/2.8) is constant throughout the whole range.

The lens is equipped with 9 diaphragms rounded bladed and the quality of the bokeh is fantastic

The optical performance of this lens is excellent. The image is pretty sharp throughout the whole rangeAt 70 mm even if you open the aperture at maximum (f/2.8) center of the frame is very sharp, while corners are a bit softer, but the level of sharpness in corners will increase when you step down the aperture to f/4-f/6.3. At mid ranges and at long-end sharpness stays on a very high level, especially if you keep aperture between f/8 and f/10, but the image is also sharp even when the aperture is fully open.

Barrel and pincushion distortion are invisible when you use automatic correction on your Nikon Z camera, but also if you take photos in NEF/RAW distortion is barely noticeable. Vignetting is a bit visible when the aperture is fully opened, but chromatic aberration is well-controlled. Flare and ghosting are visible when you point the camera directly to the light source, but you can control it with the lens hood.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Excellent optical performance;
  • Premium materials;
  • Fast & silent autofocus;
  • Weather sealed body;
  • Superb image stabilization;
  • Bright throughout the whole range.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Bulky & heavy.

Prime Lenses

For Full-Frame Cameras (Z Mount - FX)

Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S

Image source: Nikon

Overview

This prime lens is a great option no matter if you have a full-frame or APS-C mirrorless camera because of its useful focal length. It’s 50 mm on full-frame cameras and 75 mm on APS-C. It’s not a pancake type of lens, we can’t say it’s too big, but if you see some cheaper prime lenses it could appear to you as bigger than you expect. The lens is 3.43 in (8.7 cm) in length and weighs 0.91 lb (415 g). 

Building materials are very good – Nikon mainly used magnesium alloy so when you use this lens you won’t have a “plastic/cheap” feeling as with cheaper lenses. Furthermore, it’s fully weather sealed. In the end, the filter diameter is 62 mm and the minimum focus distance is 15.75 in (40 cm) which is a pretty usable distance for close-ups.

The Autofocus system is quick, precious, and silent as on other Z lenses. Considering that this lens uses a focus-by-wire motor manual focus is electronic, not mechanical, and there are no external moves when you are focusing so the lens is resistant to dust. It’s worth mentioning that this lens is not covered by an image stabilization system, so you will rely on in-body stabilization on your camera. Low light performance is perfect considering the maximum aperture of f/1.8.

A pretty wide maximum aperture combined with 9 bladed diaphragms ensures that you will get a decent bokeh quality. So for all situations when you want to separate the subject from the background and make the background blurry this lens will excel.

Also, this lens excels in sharpness. Even when you open the aperture fully (f/1.8) the image is very sharp, but for maximum performance, you can keep the aperture between f/2.8 and f/8. There is also no difference between the center and edge sharpness, so you will get amazing results. Any distortion (barrel & pincushion) is practically not visible even if you turn off automatic distortion correction. 

Vignetting is visible when you shoot at a fully open aperture but if you stop it down to f/2.8 it will disappear. In any case, you can easily correct it in any post-processing software (usually in 1 click). Chromatic aberration is minimal as well. For this lens, Nikon uses Nano + Super integrated coating so the flare and ghosts are minimal.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Excellent sharpness throughout the whole frame in all apertures;
  • Weather sealed;
  • Fast, accurate, and silent autofocus motor;
  • The superior optical performance in all aspects;
  • Superb build quality.

Cons for travel photography:

  • It’s bigger and heavier if you compare it with most other 50 mm lenses.

Ultra-Wide Zoom Lenses

For Full-Frame Cameras (Z Mount - FX)

Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S

Image source: Nikon

Overview

This lens will offer you an ultra-wide angle on full-frame cameras considering it covers a range from 14 to 30 mm. On APS-C cameras it isn’t an ultra-wide lens (20 mm at the wide-end is not ultra-wide) so we won’t evaluate this lens with an APS-C standpoint and will focus on using full-frame cameras. 

The lens is reasonably compact with a length of 3.35 in (8.5 cm) and 1.07 lb (485 g) in weight. Filter diameter is 82 mm while the minimum focus distance is 11.02 in (28 cm). Nikkor Z 14-30 mm f/4 S is built mainly with magnesium alloy and it’s weather sealed.

Autofocus is fast and silent and it relies on the STM system so it’s pretty friendly for travel video creators. The lens is not equipped with image stabilization and it relies on in-camera stabilization only. We can’t say that it’s a particularly good lens for low light with a constant f/4 maximum aperture will enable you to make some solid low light shots with higher ISO. Certainly, it would be better if there is a constant f/2.8 aperture, but in that case, the lens would be probably bigger and heavier and less travel-friendly than it is now.

It’s clear that an ultra-wide lens is not intended to make close-ups and portraits where you want to be able to separate the subject from the background, so you shouldn’t expect to get some great bokeh and nice background blurring. 

The optical performance is excellent and the lens is very sharp. At 14 mm lens is sharp even when you open the aperture to f/4. The center of the image is a bit sharper on the edges while the edges become sharper when you stop the aperture down to f/6.3-f/8. At mid-ranges center and edges are sharp, the whale at 30 mm sharpens slightly drop at f/4, but will increase when you stop the aperture down to f/5.6-f/8. 

Barrel distortion is usual on ultra-wide lenses so they are visible at the wide-end. At wide-end vignetting is also pretty visible especially when you open aperture at f/4. When you zoom above 20 mm and step down aperture vignetting will disappear. Chromatic aberration is also visible, but lens flare and ghost effect are pretty well-controlled.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Sample video
Another sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fast and quiet autofocus;
  • Very sharp;
  • Premium materials used in building;
  • Weather sealed case.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Vignetting is pretty visible.

Conclusion

If you were in doubt about an ideal travel-friendly lens setup for your Nikon mirrorless camera, we are pretty sure that now things are clear.

The first thing is setting out the priorities. So, if you prioritize having a lightweight set you should choose a single lens that is a jack of all trades but not excel in anything particular except to make your travel camera set compact and lightweight while at the same time cover long-range and virtually replace 2 or 3 lenses.

If you want the balance between the size of your set and the quality, you should think about packing 2 lenses. With this setup, you might cover pretty much the same range but also get fantastic quality in wide to mid-range in the first lens and combine it with a second lens for telephoto, great portraits, and background blurring options.

In the end, if you are looking for a travel lens setup without any compromises, you will probably pack more than 2 lenses in your bag. In this case, it all depends on your personal choice.

What’s your choice for the best travel lenses? Do you travel with a single lens, 2 lenses, or even more? Is there anything else we haven’t covered? Let us know!

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