by Alex W.
You may have got your hands on your first ever Nikon DSLR camera, possibly off our entry-level DSLR guide, but eventually you'll start to outgrow the18-55mm kit lens it arrived with. You'll start to crave a bit more creative freedom, and the best way to expand your horizons is by going on the hunt for some of the best Nikon lenses.
This is where the magic of photography happens. Lenses are much more important than the camera body they're mounted on, and with all Nikon lenses dating back to the late 1950s being compatible with all their modern bodies the selection is vast.
Unsurprisingly, some of these lenses are better than others. The best Nikon lenses may rival that of any camera manufacturer, but they've still produced some pretty atrocious glass in the past.
That's where we come in! Here we'll guide you through the best Nikon lenses to add to your collection today!
The 'DX' and 'FX' abbreviations at the end refer to the camera sensor being either cropped (DX) of full-frame (FX.) DX lenses are not fully compatible with FX bodies, but all FX lenses are compatible with DX bodies. You can find more on Nikon's lens abbreviations at the bottom of this post.
You can also read more about cropped and full frame sensors in our Best Cameras for Landscape Photography guide
I recommend a cheap, fast prime lens to every beginner photographer I meet, and this is one of the best of the bunch, a must-buy one by all mean. The 'nifty-fifty' used to be sold as an all rounder lens with old film SLRs due to them being easy and cheap to manufacture.
It's this combination of affordability, excellent image quality and low-light performance that makes it one of the absolute must-buy lenses for Nikon.
Of course, nowadays Nikon (and most other manufacturers) have opted for the convenience of an 18-55mm zoom, but the 50mm lens remains a staple in every professional's camera bag.
In fact, we love it so much that we've dedicated an entire article to the famous nifty fifty lens here!
A 50mm is also a perfect option when assembling the perfect travel photography setup!
This one is the perfect blend of affordability and quality. It comes in at less than the cost of most below-par zooms, and because the camera makers have been perfecting the 50mm focal length for so long the quality is almost unmatchable. In fact, this bargain lens outperforms legendary (and expensive) lenses such as the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED and the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII across the board in technical specifications, and both of those lenses cost over £1,000!
If you're a beginner to photography you might be wondering why exactly you should give up the convenience of a zoom lens. It's a fair question, but once you mount a prime lens to your camera body you soon become acquainted. The sharpness of these is leagues ahead of any zoom lenses in the same price bracket, and the lightning fast f/1.8 maximum aperture of this means it's a beast in low light situations.
On a DX camera body this becomes a beautiful focal length for portraits and street photography, and can even be used for landscapes and woodland photography. An absolute must for every photographer!
Superzoom lenses get a bad rap from professional photographers, and some will actually be offended by me recommending it here. True, their optical performance isn't as good as a monster like the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 mentioned below, but they do offer a few priceless benefits that other lenses can't match.
The biggest pros of these superzoom lenses is the sheer convenience of them and the amount of time and effort you can save when using them.
You don't want to be scrambling around in your camera bag when you're out for a walk with your family, or lugging eight different lenses around when you're on vacation. With superzoom lenses, you don't have to. You can capture anything from a wide-angle landscape to a distant mountain with such a wide focal range.
The Tamron 18-200mm takes the top spot in superzooms simply because of it's price. It's comes in at substantially cheaper than it's nearest rival but in no way inferior. Not only that but it weighs just 400g and isn't as inconspicuous as a top of the range telephoto lens.
At such a low price I'd recommend getting one of these just for family days out and holidays. Sure, opt for the high-end gear when you're out and about by yourself and able to take your time, but throw this in the bag on holidays and you won't regret it. It saves having to lug around 15kg of camera equipment every time you leave the house too!
True macro capability is one of the things that separates more serious camera systems apart from the consumer packages, and for that you need a dedicated macro lens. If you're interested in shooting the world according to ants, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 is one of the best macro lenses out there.
It comes in at a very respectable price and offers 1:1 magnification ratio (this is true macro,) fantastic image quality, and a host of technical features to make your life easier.
This includes image stabilisation for those lower shutter speeds and a silent autofocus motor to avoid scaring off any small animals you may be photographing.
I'd recommend every photographer trying out macro photography, as it opens up a whole new appreciation for things like depth of field, distractions, and composition. This is a great place to start as well, with the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 [insert jumble of letters here] being at an affordable price point but offering a ton of high-end features and excellent image quality.
What's more, if you decide macro photography isn't for you you're still left with a beautiful lens for portrait and forest photography.
This is about as good as it gets for landscape photographers. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G offers a super wide angle view on full frame cameras and a still acceptably wide perspective on cropped sensors. Simply put, it's one of the best lenses for landscape photography around.
As far as image quality goes it's the market leader in wide-angle zoom lenses, offering excellent sharpness throughout the frame and across almost all apertures. In addition, the wide maximum aperture of f/2.8 makes this an ideal astrophotography lens as well. In fact, it's the best astrophotography zoom lens around, only bettered by the super wide-angle primes that were built almost specifically with astrophotography in mind.
As you would expect from such a high-end lens it comes with some extra features, such as the Extra-low Dispersion glass and the Silent Wave Motor autofocus system. It's also weather sealed and constructed as professionally as any lens on the market. It really is a work of art.
But, that work of art does come with the price tag to match. It costs a fair chunk of change, but if you're serious about your wide-angle photography it's a purchase you won't regret.
The trusty 70-200mm lens is a staple in every professional photographers bag. It offers a hugely versatile focal range that can cover everything from portraits, candid wedding shots, wildlife, and distant landscapes.
In addition, the wide f/2.8 maximum aperture gives it great low light potential, not to mention the selective focus when used in wildlife and wedding photography. Of course, these lenses are fairly bulky and heavy, but they are optically excellent and useful in every photography situation.
In the past the first-party Canon and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 were the market leaders thanks to superior quality, but in recent years the third-party manufacturers have really upped their game. Tamron now boast image quality on par with Nikon and Canon, and the Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD G2 is the best 70-200mm that money can buy.
It beats out the Canon and Nikon equivalents across the board and is close to half the price of them. There really is no reason not to buy the Tamron over any of it's competitors!
If you've been around photography for longer than a couple of minutes, you'll have noticed that almost every product comes with an adornment of seemingly meaningless letters.
Confused about your AF-Ps and PC-Es? We'll give you a quick rundown here:
AF - Simply stands for autofocus
AF-S - Nikon's most recent lenses, with the "S" standing for their Silent Wave Motor which makes autofocusing quieter.
AF-D - Released in 1992. Autofocus with distance information but no integrated focusing motor. If you want to autofocus with these lenses, you need a camera with a built-in focusing motor.
AF-P - One of Nikon's more recent advancements, the AF-P lenses include a stepping motor for ultra fast and quiet autofocus.
IF - Internal Focusing, which means that the lens can focus completely inside the barrel. No extending lens barrel or rotating front element required.
SWM - Nikon's new Silent Wave Motor which allows for even quieter focusing than the AF-S.
G - This means the lens doesn't have an aperture ring (unlike the "D' lenses). Example being the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G above.
FX - Lens designed for Nikon's full-frame cameras.
DX - Lens designed for Nikon's cropped sensor cameras.
Z - New Nikon lens mount to be used with their flagship mirrorless range such as the Z6, Z7, and upcoming releases.
VR - Nikon's version of image stabilization, labelled Vibration Reduction. Allows for slower shutter speeds when hand holding, with VR II being their upgraded version of the technology.
ASP - This means the lens as an aspherical element and helps to control various optical phenomena such as coma and chromatic aberration.
ED - Extra low Dispersion glass, which results in generally higher image quality.
SIC - Super Integrated Coating, which results in better color reproduction and a reduction in ghosting and lens flare.
N - Nikon's Nano coating on their glass, which eliminates reflections inside the lens and improves image quality.
Micro - Nikon's range of macro lenses.
PC-E - Nikon's tilt-shift lenses. You can find more about these terms here.
There! That's not all of them, but it's most of the more common terms Nikon use. For example, the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED mentioned above has a noise reducing autofocus motor (AF-S), doesn't have an aperture ring (G), and is made from extra low dispersion glass to improve image quality (ED).
The Nikon SLR camera was first introduced in 1959 by the Nippon Kogaku K.K. company, or Nikon Corporation as it's now called, and has grown to become one of the best-known brands in photographic history. The company put out their first 35mm SLR for professionals, followed quickly by an amateur level camera that featured through-the-lens (TTL) metering.
The Nikon F SLR was on the market for nearly 20 years before its replacement, the Nikon F2, arrived in the mid-1970s - and that camera had only minor changes over a run of more than two decades. The current top of the line Nikon professional DSLR is the Nikon D3.
Nikon Professional DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras use what's called a lens mount, which is also the design of the mirror box inside. But it's not much to look at; in fact, you can't see it at all unless you disassemble one or break open its plastic case. It's the type of lens mount that allows for interchangeable lenses. But there are other, non-Nikon brands of interchangeable lenses you can use on Nikon cameras with varying results.
A camera lens has three main parts: an exterior barrel or casing, an iris and a means of auto-focusing. The better, more expensive lenses also have a manual focus ring and a focusing motor. This is where the lens mount comes into play: It's the end of the lens that attaches to the camera body.
Lens mounts came in three basic types originally: bayonet, screwmount and breech lock. Nikon cameras use a bayonet mount; most other cameras use either a screwmount or breech lock.
The Nikon lens mount is known as the Nikon F-mount, and it has withstood the test of time better than any other type of lens/body combination. It's remained almost unchanged since its introduction in 1959, tweaked only to support autofocus lenses. The Nikon F-mount is a durable design that has been able to support the world's most popular SLR cameras, from the Nikon F through today's professional Nikon D3.
A Nikon lens mount requires an expensive machine shop tool called a staking machine, which irons flat any of seven pins on its inner circle that might have been accidentally bent. This prevents them from protruding and causing a misalignment of the lens and body.
You can use lenses made for other brands with your Nikon SLR, on the condition that they have a lens mount compatible with your camera's. A lens manufactured for another brand will fit physically on any Nikon or compatible brand camera body, but it won't operate properly.
Nikon F-mount SLR cameras can be fitted with a number of other brands' lenses, but the reverse is not true: Nikon lenses (with their electromagnetic diaphragms) will mount and meter on other types of camera bodies, but those other brands' lenses won't work on Nikon DSLRs. You can get an inexpensive, generic adapter to make a non-Nikon lens work on a Nikon camera, but the lens won't meter using that method.
Aperture control, TTL metering and other functions are handled by internal electronics inside the lens. The only way to get this is to use lenses designed for your brand of camera body. For example, Nikon lenses use an electromagnetic diaphragm for aperture control, while third-party lenses typically rely on a mechanical one.
- Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
- Number of Lenses: 6 (including the 50mm f/1.4D AF lens)
The Nikon 1 Series cameras have a different type of lens mount called Nikon 1 Mount.
Non-Nikon lens mounts compatible with Nikon DSLRs:
- F-mount lenses can be used on other Nikon DSLRs, except for the Nikon D40, D40x and D60 cameras.
- Non-CPU AI lenses can be used on older film SLRs.
- DX lenses can be used on Nikon film SLRs by setting the camera to use its 1.5x "crop factor". The lens must also be set to DX mode, or it will not meter properly.
See Also: Nikon Lens Compatibility Chart
The technology for all current Nikon lenses are very advanced. They have VR, AF-S and other technologies built in so they are futureproof to at least the next 10 years. You need not worry about your Nikon lens purchase being obsolete anytime soon.
Except for entry level DSLRs where you only get the kit lens with camera body, buying a 3rd party lens is usually not a good idea. If you have enough budget, always buy the Nikon brand lenses since they are designed specifically to work with your camera body and has latest technology built-in so you do not have to upgrade again. It is usually more value for money as well if comparing between 3rd party lenses.
Always check the physical size of the lenses you wish to buy before buying. For example, if you own a Nikon D5100, the maximum focal length of your lens is 55mm and it makes sense for you to buy a shorter 35mm prime lens or anything below instead of buying a 50mm one which cannot be take advantage due to the 1.5x crop factor.
As you may have already found out there are dozens, if not hundreds of lenses compatible with your new Nikon. Most of them are good, some of them are excellent, a few are terrible. It's always best to do your research before buying, or in this case let somebody else do it for you!
And remember, you often get what you pay for in photography. Apart from in the case of the fast standard primes such as 35mm and 50mm f/1.8s, if it looks too cheap to be true, it probably has something wrong with it.
Nikon Lenses are just like other lenses. The word lens comes from Latin, "lentil" (which was because early lenses looked like little lentils). A camera lens isn't really shaped like a lentil though; it's usually more like a magnifying glass.
A lens is an optical piece of equipment which you put on the front of a camera and that allows more light to pass through into the camera, which then lets you take higher quality images.
A lens has at least two elements inside it (there can be more), these elements are called lenses as well, but they're usually referred to as "elements". More elements allow for better image quality, but they also make the lens more expensive.
Aperture is one of the main things which defines a lens. Aperture controls how much light passes through the lens into the camera, allowing you to take photos in darker or lighter conditions. Lenses with larger maximum apertures are referred to as "fast lenses" because they allow more light to pass through, which in turn allows you to take photos faster.
For example, if you were taking a photo of your friend indoors using only the available light in the room, and it was very dark then you would need a fast lens because it lets more light into the camera than a slow lens does.
If you were taking a photo of your friend outside on a sunny day, then you would need the opposite; something like an f/22 slow lens. The more light that passes through the lens (i.e., less light blocked by the aperture) means that your image will end up brighter.
Lens speed (aperture) is affected by both focal length and the maximum aperture of your lens. As you know, focal length describes the angle of view (wide vs. zoom) while the size of maximum aperture describes how much light can pass through to camera (bigger number means more light).
Fast lenses are defined as lenses that let in more light than slow lenses; consequently, slow lenses have smaller maximum apertures than fast lenses do. Aperture is measured in f-stops. This means that the larger the aperture number, the less light passes through to camera, and vice versa. For example:
-f/1.2 lets in a lot of light
-f/22 lets in a little light
You may be asking yourself why we even bother to have lenses that let in less than or more than a lot of light. The reason is because photos are affected by exposure, and aperture controls exposure. A large aperture (f/1.2) will let in so much light that the camera doesn't have time to gather it all, and your photo will be overexposed (too bright). A small aperture (f/22) will let in so little light that the camera doesn't have time to record it all, and your photo will be underexposed (too dark).
The different types of Nikon lenses can be broken down into two main categories: Primes and Zooms. There are also many other types of lenses, such as macro and fisheye lenses. The article below covers the basic categories.
Prime Lenses Prime lenses are also called "fixed" or "non-zoom" lenses. This means that the physical length of the lens does not change (the lens does not extend or collapse). Prime lenses are generally "faster" (larger aperture openings), must-have and have lower image quality at a given price point. They also tend to be smaller, lighter, and faster to focus. The main reason that many people choose a prime lens over a zoom is because of low light photography. The larger aperture opening allows for more light in the same amount of time as a narrower opening. This makes it easier to take photos in dark conditions without using flash or very slow shutter speeds which can lead to blurred images from camera shake. In addition, there is less surface area inside the lens barrel which means less possibility for external factors such as dust, moisture, or temperature changes affecting image quality while taking pictures.
Zoom lenses are also called "variable" lenses because the physical length of the lens changes (there is more or less distance between glass elements inside the lens barrel when zooming). The zoom ring on a zoom lens is simply a mechanical device that moves internal lens elements in order to change magnification. Zoom lenses generally have lower image quality at any given price point, but they also tend to be larger, heavier, and slower to focus than prime lenses. This is because there are more lens elements inside which all need to move with respect to each other in order for the focal length to change. Zoom lenses are very convenient though because you can adjust them while taking photos without physically handling your camera. This makes it easy to capture different types of photographs without switching out lenses.
The third type of Nikon lens is the Macro Lens, which does not actually fit into either category. This lens has both a zoom ring and a focus ring, but it is still considered to be a prime because the physical magnification doesn't change while zooming or focusing (the distance between glass elements inside stays constant). Macro lenses are special purpose lenses that are only used for taking close-up photographs of small objects such as insects and flowers.
Lens Information is displayed in the Information Display (Info) Button by default. If you want to change this, press the i button on your camera or click "Custom Setting Menu" -> "Controls" -> f2 Assign FUNC. Button -> "Info Display Format" -> Info Button (the default) -> Ok.
This action shows an example of what lens information looks like in the Information Display window when you press your camera's info button. At a glance, you can see how many more pictures will fit on your memory card at the current zoom setting and how much battery life you have left.
Lens Manufacturers are the companies that design and build lenses for Nikon cameras. Nikon itself does not create lenses, but it does have its own brand of lenses known as Nikon "AF-S". The main difference between Nikon "AF-S" lenses and other manufacturers' lenses is that Nikon's are fully automatic. This means that they will switch between autofocus and manual focus automatically depending on what you are doing with the lens. All Nikon lenses have a white dot next to them somewhere. Here's an example from Wikipedia :
Lens features are either "internal" or "external". Internal features of a lens do not change length while using your lens, whereas external ones do. Examples of internal features are the lens coating (which helps to reduce reflections) and the number of glass elements in the lens barrel. Examples of external features that change length while using your lens include autofocus motors, aperture rings, and focus limiters.
Lens terminology is a set of words used to describe the behavior of light as it travels from a light source inside your camera to an image captured on your digital sensor. Understanding lens terminology is helpful for understanding why lenses behave the way they do and what features on a lens will affect images in one way or another.
SLR lenses are prime lenses, meaning that they are not zoom lenses. The "SLR" refers to single-lens reflex, which means that the image is seen through the lens via a mirror system in the camera body rather than directly through an eyepiece or an electronic viewfinder. This allows the viewfinder to show what will actually be in the final photo.
The benefits of lenses are their ability to control light, give a unique perspective, make creating bokeh possible, and create different "flavors" of images depending on what lens is used. Without an SLR lens it would be impossible for the camera to determine the focusing distance precisely. It would be impossible to make the small adjustments necessary for taking a photo of an object at varying distances.
As long as the lens accepts the F-mount, it is compatible with your camera body. The AFS and AFD lenses are designed to work with the most current cameras, whereas G lenses will work on many older bodies that pre-date autofocus. Older manual focus AI lenses can be used on many camera bodies, but may not operate with all exposure modes of the most current models.
A lens that is not properly aligned in its mount will be unable to focus on an object. Misaligned lenses can also cause a blurry spots to appear in photos taken with the camera.
A dirty image sensor will cause photos to appear out of focus or contain spots in them. You can purchase special equipment that uses compressed air to blast dust off the image sensor.
If you do not take proper care of your camera and lenses, it may become dirty inside. If a lens has internal dust/dirt particles on the optical elements, their performance will be affected.
If the shutter is not properly aligned with its sensors, photos will be out of focus or contain incorrectly exposed areas. How to fix it: Use a lens-alignment kit or have a repair shop do it for you
What causes it: Improperly mounted shutters, dropping the camera
How to prevent it: Strongly consider purchasing a lens-alignment kit and use when you first mount a shutter on your camera. You can also purchase one of these kits if you drop your SLR camera.
A dirty aperture can affect the sharpness and brightness of a photo or cause difficulty in focusing at certain apertures. How to fix it: Operate a blower brush before taking photos, use UV/IR cut filters on your lenses, clean the lens yourself or get it professionally cleaned
What causes it: Dust/dirt particles, touching your lenses
How to prevent it: You can purchase special equipment that uses compressed air to blast dust off the image sensor. Use a blower brush before taking photos and be very careful not to touch your lenses when changing aperture settings. If you want to, you can also use UV/IR cut filters on all of your lenses. Also consider keeping the camera stored in a clean environment or purchasing an air purifier for storage purposes.
If left untouched, dust particles inside the lens barrel may become visible when taking photos. How to fix it: You can try blowing air into the lens, use a blower brush >>>>>>>>
What causes it: Dust from the air, touching your lenses
How to prevent it: Try blowing air into the lens to remove dust particles before taking photos. If that doesn't work, consider purchasing a blower brush. Also consider keeping the camera stored in a clean environment or purchasing an air purifier for storage purposes.
NIKON NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S Ultra-Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
TAMRON exchange lens 10-24mm F3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD (Model B023) [Nikon F-mount (for - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens (White Box) - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras (576955) USA Warranty, - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Nikon F - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Nikon standard zoom lens af-s DX NIKKOR 16-80 mm f/2.8-4E ED VR - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR Ultra-Compact Long Telephoto Zoom Lens with Image - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Fixed Zoom Digital Slr Camera Lens, Black - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Nikon - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1：1 VC USD (Model F017) /Nikon(Japan Import-No Warranty) - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Tamron AFF004N700 SP 90MM F/2.8 DI MACRO 1:1 VC USD For Nikon 90mm IS Macro Lens for - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1：1 VC USD (Model F017)/Sony A mount(Japan Import-No - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Close-up Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
NIKON NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S Portrait Fast Prime Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S Standard Fast Prime Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Tamron AF 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC All-in-One Zoom for - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sigma 258306 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Nikon - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Nikon F - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
If you're a photographer, it's worth considering investing in a Nikon SLR lens. They are typically more expensive than other brands of lenses and offer high-quality results with many different kinds of photography styles. The next time you need to take pictures for your blog post or business needs, consider what type of camera lens will give the best quality photographs possible!
About Alex W.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.