Z-Mount Travel Lens Combos (2022 Edition)

We're over three years into the Z-mount, and we now have many more lens options for travel with the Z cameras than we used to, so it's time to update my suggestion for travel. By "travel lens options" I tend to mean a lens or combination of two lenses that minimize what you have to carry but provide you great flexibility in what you can do. 

My earliest travel lens combo suggestion was made back in 2018 when we didn't have much lens choice. Back then I suggested this kit:

  • 24-70mm f/4 S
  • 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E AF-P on an FTZ adapter

That combo is relatively light and small, and provides you a very usable 24-300mm in just two lenses. There's still nothing particularly wrong with that combo, though I tend to avoid using an FTZ adapter these days if I can. However, you can get 24-200mm in a single lens now (24-200mm f/4-6.3), so I think that really becomes the most simple choice here in 2022: one lens, reasonably small and light, and adequate for pretty much anything other than really low light.

So, from simple, small, light, and adequate to more complex and more capable but bigger and heavier, here are my new travel kit lens suggestions for the full-frame Z user:

  1. 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR. Probably Nikon's best-ever superzoom. It doesn't net a "Recommended" in my review, but that was a very close call complicated by how good the other lens choices are. As a one-lens solution, I'm willing to put up with some compromises to keep from carrying extra lenses and the lens changing that ensues. Curiously, this lens sort of works for DX users, too, though you end up with 36-300mm effective and forgo the true wide angle for more telephoto reach (I prefer the 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 VR DX lens on the DX bodies, though). If you're worried about low light, I'd consider also carrying the 40mm f/2 with you, which nets you a two-stop gain in the mid-range while remaining compact enough to be negligible in carrying.
  2. 14-30mm f/4 S and 28-75mm f/2.8. This is the two-lens set that most satisfies the common travel needs (e.g. city-based travel), though it comes up somewhat short on the telephoto end. In two good lenses you have the 14-75mm range well covered, and with reasonable aperture speed that should help you deal with low light. Both lenses are lighter and smaller than the alternative combo that covers about the same range (14-24mm f/2.8 S and 24-70mm f/2.8 S). If you really need more telephoto, then substitute the 24-120mm f/4 for the 28-75mm f/2.8. You'll gain 75-120mm at the expense of one stop of light in the mid-range as well as a bit of  extra weight (2 ounces [57g]). That combo—14-30mm and 24-120mm—is my personal travel kit these days. But I can see times when I'd prefer f/2.8 in the mid-range.
  3. 24-120mm f/4 S and 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. This two-lens set nets you an impressive 24-400mm range that's actually really, really good. The bad news is that both lenses are on the chunky side: you're sacrificing light weight and small size for extreme competence and a really wide focal length range. What you're really doing here is minimizing the number of lenses you carry, not making your kit small and light. You also don't have a "fast" lens. The thing I like about this kit is the crossover point: you can easily photograph into the moderate telephoto end without changing lenses (e.g. up to 120mm). If you need more reach, then it's obvious you want the telephoto zoom on the camera, but it can still handle down to the portrait focal lengths. I find it rare that I need, say, 28mm for one image and then 280mm for the next one. Most of the time the 24-120mm stays on the camera, but if I'm photographing small, distant subjects, out comes the 100-400mm. Both lenses focus somewhat closer than other options, not quite into macro range, but close enough to pull out detail. If you need wider, I suggest adding a third lens, either the 20mm f/1.8 S or the 14-30mm f/4 S. However, three lenses starts the "juggling" situation that you should probably be avoiding when traveling.

As you can see from my suggestions, Nikon still has some missing lenses for true travel optimization. The key missing lens is a smaller, lighter telephoto zoom, either a 70-200mm f/4 or a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6. That's particularly true because the 24-70mm f/4 S is such a good lens that's small and light, but it doesn't pair up with anything well natively in the Z-mount for a two-lens kit. I'd tend to say that if you find yourself in this category, my original 2018 recommendation still stands: use the 24-70mm f/4 with the 70-300mm AF-P on an FTZ adapter.

Okay, but what about "best possible FX travel kit"? Well, Nikon's got that covered in three (+) lenses: the 14-24mm f/2.8 S, the 24-70mm f/2.8 S, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 S (coupled with a 1.4x teleconverter). But these lenses start to tally up the size and weight, which makes you less likely to travel with them. Moreover, juggling three lenses starts to work against the notion of a simple travel kit where you're not constantly in your bag to get something else out to use.

And what about DX? The Z50 two-lens kit that Nikon sells is tough to top: 16-250mm in two highly competent lenses. They're just not fast aperture at their long ends. And the Zfc? I don't find its grip-less, VR-less nature conducive to a full travel kit that reaches into the telephoto realm. If you decide to go there with the Zfc, do yourself a favor and get the SmallRig plate/grip, or else you're going to find it tough to handhold things out beyond 50mm. 

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