One of the main reasons many people take the plunge and buy a dedicated camera system is because most point-and-shoot or smartphone offerings simply don’t offer enough reach when it comes to zooming.
Some, such as professional-level wildlife photography lenses, can be extremely expensive. Others are on the more affordable end of the spectrum, though, and if you’re looking for the best budget telephoto lens for Nikon you’re in exactly the right place!
Best budget telephoto lenses for Nikon
Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Di VC USD – Top Nikon telephoto lens pick
- This version is originally intended for sale outside the US and may contain adapters, manuals, and warranties not compatible with US standards.
- Model: A005NII
- Good autofocus and VC performance
- Very cheap
Available for both Nikon and Canon, the Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Di VC USD packs an awful lot into a very cheap package.
Image quality is generally good throughout the zoom range, although as with many lenses in this bracket it does start to drop off towards the longer end. It comes with some fairly high-end features, too, including ultrasonic autofocus (with manual override) and a relatively sturdy construction.
There isn’t any weather sealing but that’s generally not something you would expect on a zoom lens in this price bracket.
Overall it’s a very solid and well-built telephoto lens which covers an attractive focal range at a very affordable price.
Nikon AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
- F-mount lens/DX formatfilter-attachment size: 58mm, (p = 075 mm)
- Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.22x. 105-450Mm (35mm equivalent)
- Good VR performance (up to four-stops)
- Stepping motor autofocus
Nikon’s new range of AF-P – the ‘P’ stands for Pulse and refers to the autofocus system – lenses have been generally well received and their DX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR is no exception.
Image quality is very good throughout the range and the price point is hard to beat, but it does get let down by a few quality of life issues.
For example, due to the new autofocus system it is incompatible with some older Nikon DSLRs. It’s also a fairly big and heavy lens and, if you want to switch VR off for tripod shooting, you have to access that via a menu rather than the much easier switch on the side of the lens.
A solid lens all round at a very good price, but the little niggles take away from the enjoyment of using it.
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED DX VR II
- Compact telephoto zoom that's great for action, people and travel. Metering - Full aperture
- Focal Length Range : 55 -200 mm, Minimum Focus Distance : 3.7 ft. ( 1.1 m). Maximum angle of view (DX-format): 28°50', Minimum angle of view (DX-format): 8°
- Focal range a perfect complement to a kit lens
- Good image quality
The Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED DX VR II was actually the first ever Nikon telephoto lens I owned and despite its age it still holds up well in today’s landscape.
It’s cheap, offers good image quality and the focal range of 55-200mm makes it a perfect companion to the 18-55mm kit lenses many photographers shoot with.
The main issues taking away from an otherwise excellent budget telephoto lens all relate to the autofocus, which is slow and, because it’s not an internal autofocus, causes the length of the lens to change and the filter thread to rotate.
Basically, using accessories like polarizing filters and graduated neutral density filters with this lens is a challenge, as is shooting anything that moves fast and erratically due to the slow nature of the autofocus.
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM
- 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM / C
- Minimum focusing distance : 280 cm/110.2 inches, focal length :150-600mm. Diaphragm blades: 9
- Huge zoom reach perfect for wildlife and bird photography
- Phenomenal value for money
Another one compatible with both Nikon and Canon, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM is a huge leap towards affordable and high-quality wildlife photography.
This sort of focal range was previously only accessible to the very wealthy so, while this isn’t exactly a ‘cheap’ lens it’s incredibly good value for money compared to the alternatives, apart from the similar offering by Tamron.
Image quality is excellent through most of the range, with it finally starting to drop off significantly at around 550mm. Meanwhile, the Contemporary package of this lens not only makes this cheaper than the Sport version, but also offers a lighter and more portable package, albeit without the weather sealing.
It’s very difficult to pick any holes in this lens. If you want that extra range but don’t want to spend upwards of $4,000, look no further.
Nikon Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR
- 50-250mm zoom range equivalent to a 75-375mm lens in 35mm format
- Built-in VR image stabilization up to 5 stops
- Excellent price for usually expensive Z range
- Compact and lightweight
If you’re a Nikon Z-series photographer you may have noticed that the range of budget lenses is lacking somewhat at the moment due to how young the ecosystem is.
The Nikon Z 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR is one of the few truly budget offerings and it packs a lot of punch into its small price tag, offering excellent sharpness throughout the range and coming in pleasantly lightweight and compact.
Build quality and overall ease of use can’t be faulted at this price, although as with all lenses in this bracket it does lack weather sealing.
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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.