Nikon Infrared Lens Performance Chart

Which Nikon lenses work well for infrared photography?

Japanese Gardens, Denver, CO
Nikon Z6 (converted to 720nm infrared) with 14-30mm f/4 S Nikkor Z lens

I have recently started using a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera for infrared photography along with my colleague and Image Doctors podcast co-hos, Rick Walker. We tested our collection of Nikon lenses to see how they perform on infrared cameras. Primarily, we looked to see if there were significant hotspots (discrete, bright areas) produced by our lenses, which typically would render a lens unusable for infrared photography. Our combined results are shown below.

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IR Performance: Nikon Z-Mount Lenses

We tested the following native Nikon Z-mount lenses with a Nikon Z6 converted to capture 720nm “standard” infrared images. Results with other wavelengths may vary.

LensRatingNotes
14-24mm f/2.8SPoorHotspots throughout the zoom range, especially above f/5.6
14-30mm f/4 S Very GoodMild brightness in image center at f/11 and higher; excellent corner sharpness. Performance is very good at longer focal lengths.
17-28mm f/2.8Very GoodVery mild center brightness when stopped down to f/11 at the wide end; excellent performance at the long end through f/11
20mm f/1.8 SGoodVery good through f/8; mild hotspot at f/11 and above. Thanks to reader Mick Klass for the review!
24-200mm f/4-6.3 PoorHotspots throughout the zoom range regardless of aperture.
24-50mm f/4-6.3FairAreas of diffuse brightness in center of frame when stopped down
24-70 f/2.8 SPoorSignificant center brightness and hotspots at f/8 and above.
24-70mm f/4 SGoodMild brightness in center at f/11 and higher; more pronounced at 24mm
24-120mm f/4 SVariableSignificant hotspot at focal lengths less than 50mm, good performance at the longer focal lengths.
24mm f/1.8 SExcellent No discernible  hotspots
26mm f/2.8Excellent**Rear element protrudes into lens mount, making it impossible to use with clip-in/rear mounted filters.
28mm f/2.8FairNoticeable hotspot starting at f/5.6; loss of sharpness at image edges
28-75mm f/2.8ExcellentExcellent performance through f/11 (720nm)
35mm f/1.8 SVery Good Mild center brightness with IR reflective subjects (720nm)
40mm f/2Very GoodMild center brightness with IR reflective subjects
50mm f/1.8 SExcellent No discernible  hotspots
50mm f/1.2 SPoorStrong hotspots at all apertures above f/1.2
50mm MC f/2.8 MacroFairSignificant hotspot at f/8 and above
105mm MC f/2.8 VR S FairSignificant hotspot at f/8 and above
70-200mm f/2.8 SPoorHotspots throughout the zoom range
85mm f/1.8 SPoorSignificant hotspots at f/4 and higher
100-400 f/4.5-5.6 VR SVery GoodNo noticeable hotspots detected
180-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VRVery GoodNo noticeable hotspots detected
16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 (DX format)PoorSignificant hotspots at f/8 and higher
18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 VR (DX format)GoodDiffuse center brightening at times, but manageable
50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 (DX format)GoodGood performance across the focal range through f/11
Samyang 14mm f/2.8FairExtreme loss of corner sharpness even when stopped down
TTArtisan 11mm f/2.8 fisheyePoorSignificant hotspots at any aperture
Venus Optics Laowa 10mm f/2.8ExcellentNo significant hotspots reported below f/9
Performance of Nikon Z-mount lenses with infrared cameras.

Conclusions: Z-mount Nikon lenses

If you are using a Nikon mirrorless body for infrared capture, the 24/35/50mm prime lenses deliver excellent performance. The 14-30mm f/4 is an excellent choice for wide-angle work, as it is very sharp in the corners of the frame, but it does exhibit some mild brightening when stopped down past f/11.

The 24-70mm f/4 is also a good all-around zoom lens, although it weaker than the 14-30mm f/4 when shooting wide. Given that this is the “kit” lens for the Nikon Z6/Z7 cameras, it’s nice to know that it works well with infrared photography.

My current “go-to” Nikon lens for infrared photography is the 28-75mm f/2.8 Z Nikkor. It delivers excellent performance and offers a fast f/2.8 aperture. It’s slightly better than the 24-70mm f/4, but if you already have that lens it’s probably not worth switching it out.

Avoid the 85mm f/1.8 S, 24-200 f/4-6.3, and 24-70 f/2.8 S lenses, as they produce pronounced hotspots at any aperture. For longer focal lengths, you’ll probably want to consider an F-mount lens and the Nikon FTZ mount adapter.

I really wanted the new 24-120mm f/4S Z lens to work for infrared; it’s the perfect range for most IR shooting. Unfortunately, it has a terrible hotspot problem at the wide end (<50mm). You can use it without issue at its longer focal lengths, but you’ll need to pair it with something wider to complete your kit.

The Nikon Z50 is a DX format mirrorless camera, so we tested both of the native Z-mount DX lenses. The 16-50mm Z-mount lens was disappointing as it produced very nasty hotspots across the entire zoom range. The 50-250mm telephoto zoom, on the other hand, performed well. If you’re considering converting a Nikon Z50 to infrared, you’ll need to use F-mount lenses with the FTZ adapter if you want a “standard” zoom lens.

IR Performance: Nikon F-Mount Lenses via FTZ Adapter

You can easily mount Nikon F-mount lenses on a Nikon Z camera by using Nikon’s FTZ mount adapter. With AFS/G type Nikkor lenses, autofocus is retained. For AF-D Nikkor lenses, you will have to use manual focus. With the Nikon Z6 & Z7, you’ll gain the advantage of in-body image stabilization with non-VR Nikkor lenses.

LensRatingNotes
10-20mm F/4.5-5.6 AF-P DXGoodGood at all focal lengths through f/11 (DX format)
16mm f/2.8 AFD FisheyeExcellentNo discernible hotspots through f/11; requires manual focus
14-24mm f/2.8 AFS GExcellentNo discernible hotspots across the zoom range at any aperture
20mm f/1.8 GGoodHotspot at f/11 and higher
35mm f/1.8 GExcellentNo discernible  hotspots
50mm f/1.8 GGoodMild hotspot above f/8
85mm f/1.8 GGoodHotspot at f/11 and higher
24-70 f/2.8 VRPoorHotspots at all apertures
24-70mm f/2.8 GPoorHotspots at all apertures
24-120mm f/4 G VRGoodSlight brightness in center at f/11 and higher
24-85 f/3.5-4.5 G VR FairMild bright area in center of the frame above f/8, significant hue shift compared to other lenses
70-200 f/4 G VRExellentGood performance across the focal range at any aperture
70-200mm f/2.8 FL-E AFSPoorHotspots at all focal lengths at f/5.6 and up
70-300mm f/4-5.6 AF-PExcellentGood performance across the focal range through f/11
80-400mm f/4.5-5.6ExcellentGood performance across the zoom range
300mm f/4E PF VRGoodMild hotspot above f/8
500mm f/5.6E PF VRExcellentNo hotspots at any aperture
F-mount Nikon lens performance on an infrared converted Nikon Z6 camera using Nikon’s FTZ mount adapter

Conclusions: F-mount Nikon lenses

Most of the F-mount Nikkor lenses we tried worked very well with infrared, especially the 14-24mm f/2.8 G zoom and the 35mm f/1.8G prime. The 24-120mm f/4 G VR is a good choice for all-purpose infrared shooting as both of the 24-70mm zooms produced pronounced hotspots. If you need a telephoto zoom lens, choose the 70-200mm f/4 AFS G VR or the newer 70-300mm f/4-5.6 AF-P Nikkor. Both of those lenses work well with infrared cameras.

The 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 DX Nikkor is an excellent performer, and should work well on an infrared converted Nikon Z50 as a 14-30mm equivalent. The size advantage of the Nikon Z50 would be negated somewhat by the need to use the FTZ mount adapter.