Best Nikon Lenses


With Nikon’s recent 100th anniversary, I thought it fitting to write a post on what I consider to be the best Nikon lenses for most photographers. I’ve been a happy Nikon user from my first ever dSLR – a D40, purchased while I was living in Tokyo.

There are so many great Nikon DSLR lenses available here in 2019, not to mention 3rd party lens manufacturers who produce excellent lenses, which are compatible with Nikon dSLR cameras.

To keep things simple, I decided to stick to Nikon branded lenses for this camera lens comparison and include both cropped sensor (DX) and full frame (FX) options.

shk-fs-table__imageNikon 50mm f/1.8Own a Nikon DSLR camera? You need this lens! Razor sharp, lightning fast auto-focus, feather-light, super compact, great value for money... it's a real bargain of a lens.View Price

(If you’re a Canon, Sony or Fujifilm shooter and have found yourself on the wrong side of the fence, check out these best Canon lenses, best Sony lenses and best Fujifilm lenses articles!)

You can see my other criteria below. Think of this review as a list I would give to any Nikon shooter and say with confidence, “pick a Nikon lens from this list and you’ll be very happy!”

Let’s have a quick look at my top picks – make sure you check if they’re for DX or FX – the FX lenses can all be used on a DX camera, but not vice versa.

Best Nikon Lenses for All-Round Use

Image Product Features
shk2-table__imageNikon 35mm f/1.8G EDBEST VALUE FX PRIME
  • Fast to Focus
  • Great Value
  • Versatile Focal Length
  • Great Walkaround
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 35mm f/1.8G DXBEST DX PRIME
  • Razor Sharp
  • Small & Light
  • Versatile Focal Length
  • Great Build Quality
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 50mm f/1.8D AFBEST BUDGET FX PRIME
  • Amazing Value for Money
  • Featherlight
  • Lightning Fast AF
  • Razor Sharp
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 24mm f/1.8G EDBEST VALUE WIDE-ANGLE
  • Incredibly Sharp
  • Small & Light
  • Great Contrast
  • Great Build Quality
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 24-70mm f/2.8G EDBEST PRO ZOOM
  • Razor Sharp
  • Lightning Fast AF
  • Versatile Zoom Range
  • Great Build Quality
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VRBEST VALUE DX ZOOM
  • Ultimate Freedom Lens
  • Good Bokeh
  • Huge Zoom Range
  • Great Price vs Performance
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 85mm f/1.4GBEST VALUE FX PORTRAIT
  • Amazing Bokeh
  • Flattering for Portraits
  • Extremely Sharp
  • Rock Solid Build
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 85mm f/1.8GBEST VALUE PORTRAIT
  • Great Value for Money
  • Lightweight
  • Lightning Fast AF
  • Beautiful Bokeh
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX IIBEST ALLROUND DX ZOOM
  • Extra Close Focus
  • Lightweight
  • Vibration Reduction
  • Versatile Zoom Range
View Price →


Best Nikon Lenses for specific uses

I’ve kept the focus of this article on the 9 best Nikon camera lenses for all-round usage.

They all excel in numerous ways, and there’s something on here for every Nikon dSLR camera owner.

If you look at any of the Nikon users on Shotkit, you’ll see they all own at least one of these lenses. I’m guilty of owning more than half of them too!

I’ve also included the best Nikon lenses for specialty usage too – these are the ones that excel in certain niches, including the Best Nikon Lenses for Macro Photography, the Best Nikon Lens for Architecture Photography, the Best Nikon Lens for Bokeh and the Best Nikon Medium-Long Range Zoom Lens.

One thing I should mention – aside from investing in your gear, I’m also a big advocate of investing in education. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend you invest in some of these books on photography, so you can learn something new and get inspired by the masters of our craft.

So without further ado, let’s look at my selection of the best Nikon lenses (listed in no particular order).

1. Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF


Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Specifications

Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.5 ft. ( 0.45 m)
Filter Size: 52mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 2.5 in. (63.5 mm) x 1.5 in. (39 mm)
Weight: 5.5 oz. (155 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Review

This humble ‘nifty-fifty’ is at the top of my list of the best Nikon lenses for good reason – the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D is the first Nikon lens for an FX camera I ever bought, and as such has a special place in my heart :-)

Not only is it as cheap as chips (the cheapest Nikon lens, in fact), it’s also super light-weight and compact too. Check out all the raving reviews on Amazon for this lens!

Those who’ve recently upgraded to a Nikon dSLR from a smaller compact camera are sometimes a bit anxious about the weight of their new camera. As such, the feather-light Nikon 50mm f/1.8D is the perfect complement.

The image quality out of this impressive Nikon lens is nothing short of incredible, especially when you consider its price.

It’s the sharpest lens I own (sharper than lenses 15x the price in fact!), and its focus speed is also the fastest.

Nikon 50mm 1.8D sample image
I had a lot of fun shooting my friends with my Nikon D700 + Nikon 50mm F/1.8D during a 50 photos in 50 days project in 2011.

Due in part to its small size/weight, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D focuses almost instantly. For that reason, I use it on the dance-floor at weddings when I need to capture fast-moving subjects in less than desirable light.

The 50mm focal length is also perfect to give dancers a bit of room, but still make the viewer feel ‘involved’ in the final photograph.

The beauty of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D is that it can be used on both a full frame (FX) and cropped sensor (DX) Nikon dSLR.

On a Nikon DX camera, the focal length will be approximately 75mm, meaning the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D becomes a flattering portrait lens. Whilst I wouldn’t call it one of the best Nikon lenses for portraits, it can still trade punches with the big boys.

If you have a Nikon DX camera and are considering a prime lens, get the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D and don’t even think twice. For under $140 you’ll have a super sharp, super fast, lightweight, dependable lens which you’ll be able to use on your FX camera if you ever decide to upgrade.

Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens for dancefloor
As it’s such a light and fast-focusing lens, the Nikon f/1.8D is a pleasure to use on the dance-floor at the end of a long wedding day! | f/7 @ 0.4s

On a lens this cheap, you can’t expect tank-like build quality such as found on some of the other Nikon lenses in this list. However, I’ve had my Nikon 50mm f/1.8D for over 7 years now and it’s still as good as the day I bought it… and I’ve even dropped it a couple of times!

A few of other things to be aware of – focus sound isn’t silent; the outer focus ring moves during AF; AF can’t be used on any of the cheapest Nikon DX dSLRs (those without an inbuilt lens motor, like the Nikon D40 series).

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – this lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, making it the cheapest entry pass to the blurred background club, not to mention the I-can-see-in-the-dark club. ;-)


2. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED


Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED Specifications

Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.82 ft. ( 0.25 m)
Filter Size: 58mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 2.83 in. (72 mm) x 2.81 in. (71.5 mm)
Weight: 10.7 oz. (305 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED Review

This is another lens that I absolutely love, and is in fact the most recent Nikon lens that I’ve bought. I wanted something that I could pair with my Nikon D750 for traveling, but the more I used it, the more it became the most used lens I own.

I’ve shot many professional photo sessions with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED, and can’t recommend it highly enough to Nikon FX dSLR owner who’ll listen!

The whole Nikon f/1.8G lens range (28, 50 and 85mm) provides incredible value for money when you consider the image quality. If you’re looking to invest in some affordable (or backup) wedding photography gear, these impressive lenses are perfect.

The 35mm focal length is a favourite for all kinds of photographer due to its versatility – wide enough to tell a story, but equally adept for a portrait.

The Aspherical lens and Extra-low Dispersion glass elements in the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G virtually eliminate ghosting and flare, giving you exceptional contrast and definition even in strongly back-lit situations such as this.

I love using the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED on my FX Nikon dSLRs, and often grab it over the heavier and slower-to-focus Nikon 35mm f/1.4G – I love that lens too, but it’s not fun to use due to its size, plus is costs almost 4x as much!

On a DX Nikon dSLR, 35mm is roughly 52mm – a versatile focal length, and a favourite of many street photographers.

Invest in the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED for your cropped sensor Nikon dSLR (the field of view would be approx. 50mm) and you’ll hit the ground running if you ever decide to upgrade to full frame.

Read my full review of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G for a more in depth look at this lens, but in short, you can expect stellar image quality, impressive sharpness and creamy bokeh. Auto-focus is fast and smooth, and the size/weight is perfect – it’s just a really fun lens to use!

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G for weddings
The lightweight and sharp Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is so fun in fact that I used it to photograph my own wedding!

Things to keep in mind: slight barrel distortion (as with most 35mm lenses); adequate build quality (remember, lightweight still means lots of plastic!); AF can’t be used on any of the cheapest Nikon DX dSLRs.

If you’re looking for an affordable prime lens with great image quality at the most versatile focal length available, look no further than the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED.

Unless you’re shooting regularly in very dark venues and need an f/1.4 aperture, I’d recommend this f/1.8 variant every time – pocket the difference or go and buy another lens ;-)


3. Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED


Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Specifications

Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.75 ft. ( 0.23 m)
Filter Size: 72mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.1 in. (77.5 mm) x 3.3 in. (83.0 mm)
Weight: 12.6 oz. (355 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Review

On several other sites that release their best Nikon lenses lists, it’s the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G that often appears under the title of the best wide angle lens for Nikon. However, I think it’s this f/1.8 version that should hold that title – here’s why.

It’s a sad truth for those who are brand loyal, but the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 ART is widely considered as better than the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G, not to mention being much cheaper (read this review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 ART).

Another reason is that, unless you absolutely need an f/1.4 for low-light photography, the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is good enough. Don’t be concerned about the depth-of-field differences of f/1.4 vs f/1.8 – with wide angle lenses you have to be up really close to the subject to take advantage of any slight variance in subject separation between f/1.4 and f/1.8.

Now we’ve got that out the way, here’s why I think the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is the best wide angle lens for Nikon FX cameras.

Nikon 24mm f:1.8G sample
Nikon 24mm f/1.8G | f/11 @ 1/50s | Copyright Alex Soh

First off, it’s lightweight and small, especially when compared to its big brother or the Sigma. For landscape photographers who already lug around travel tripods, filters and other gear, having a lighter lens on the end of their camera really is a bonus.

Lens weight is really an over-looked consideration when buying a lens for many camera owners. Having a heavy lens will tire you out much faster than having a heavy body, which is why I never recommend zooms for lightweight mirrorless cameras.

Secondly, the image quality and sharpness of the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is really quite amazing. DxOMark ranked it even higher than the 1.4 version, and actually even better than the Sigma too! When comparing it to other wide angle lenses, they said:

The Nikon 24mm f/1.8G achieves the best sharpness and chromatic aberration scores… At f/2, the f/1.8G version is slightly sharper in the center of the frame compared to the f/1.4G version…at f/11, the 24mm f/1.8G is the sharpest overall… chromatic aberration is improved at all aperture settings compared to the f/1.4G version.

The Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is quite simply one of the best Nikon lenses for landscape photography, architecture photography, and, well, any genre of photography that requires a wide angle lens!

…and we haven’t even spoken of the price yet ;-) At under $800 (check the latest price here), the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is great value for money. Yes, it’s still a decent chunk of change, but if you consider that this lens is actually better than those that cost twice the price, it’s a bargain.

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G | f/11 @ 3s | Copyright Alex Soh

If you needed another reason why the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is my pick as the best Nikon wide angle lens, you can stick it on any DX format Nikon dSLR and it’ll work fine. With the 1.5x crop-factor of the DX sensor, the focal length is a very versatile 36mm.

It’s on a full frame Nikon dSLR that this lens really sings though. 24mm is such a popular focal length, allowing you to tell multiple stories at once, or just ‘fit everything in’.

Things to consider about the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G: minor barrel distortion (as with all the other best wide angle lenses)…err… and that’s it!

There are several other wide angle Nikon lenses that I consider great (most notably the zooms), but the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is the lens I’d recommend to you over any of them. Prime lenses help you improve at photography, and limit your options, which encourages you to be more creative. Plus they’re faster and smaller than zooms ;-)


4. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX


Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX Specifications

Compatible Format: DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.98 ft. ( 0.29 m)
Filter Size: 72mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 2.8 in. (70 mm) x 2.1 in. (52.5 mm)
Weight: 7 oz. (200 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX Review

Here’s another very nostalgic Nikon lens for me, it being the first lens I ever bought. Way back in 2007 when I first got my hands on a Nikon D40, I skipped the kit lens and invested in a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX and it quite literally changed my life.

Even though I’d bought the cheapest Nikon dSLR at the time, by pairing it with one of the best Nikon DX lenses, I was producing images similar to a much more expensive camera. I remember doing a 35 day photo-a-day project using just this one lens, posting it to Facebook, amassing a small following, then charging for my photography a few months later.

I honestly don’t believe I would have got into professional photography had it not been for this one lens. It opened my eyes to the advantages of a fixed focal length, and what is possible when you invest in your lenses.

So back to the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX – let’s look at why many believe it’s the best Nikon DX lens for 35mm shooters.

Nikon 35mm 1.8 DX lens
The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX is ncredibly sharp with beautiful out of focus areas | f4 @ 1/200

First of all, this is a great lens to use on Nikon’s lightest (and cheapest) dSLRs because of its small size, light weight and AF-S auto focusing abilities (it has a built-in motor).

You can also override the AF by just grabbing the ring – there’s no switch, which is a functionality I wish was present on all lenses.

The build quality on the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX is excellent for a lens of this price. All the focusing movements are internal (and thus, protected), and it features a metal mount with a dust seal.

Focus is fast and accurateway better than any kit lens that comes bundled with cheap dSLR. Wide open at f/1.8 the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX is sharp and contrasty. It gets slightly better when stopped down, with its optimum aperture between f/2.8-f/5.6.

While we’re talking about aperture, getting a high-quality, fast f/1.8 prime Nikon lens at this price point really is unique. Even with cameras under $500 you’ll be able to shoot in dark situations without resorting to flash or high ISOs, which is typically where cheaper cameras struggle.

Here’s a short Nikon promo video showing the lens in action during low light:

As for negatives of this lens: bokeh isn’t the smoothest; barrel distortion is evident (but fixable with one click in Lightroom); it’s only for DX cameras (not really a negative, but if you plan to upgrade to FX, it’s something to consider).

I immediately recommend the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX to anyone who buys a Nikon DX camera, and you should too. If a DX Nikon dSLR is sold ‘body-only’, it makes much more sense to save some money on the ‘kit lens’, and use it towards this 35mm prime lens.

Not only is the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX much better than any kit lens for a Nikon DX cameras, but you’ll also get better at photography faster by using a fixed focal length too. It really is a bargain of a lens, and definitely one of the best Nikon DX lenses ever made.


5. Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED


Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Specifications

Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.2 ft. ( 0.38 m)
Filter Size: 77mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.3 in. (83 mm) x 5.2 in. (133 mm)
Weight: 31.7 oz. (900 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Review

We’re moving away from the Nikon prime lenses now and taking a bit of a jump up in price too, but stick with me, as we’re now talking about one of the best Nikon FX lenses ever made.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED was the first FX zoom lens I ever bought. Paired with my Nikon D700, I could confidently shoot absolutely any paid job with it, and never need another lens.

From architectural photography to events, weddings, portraits and everything in between, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED is an incredibly versatile lens.

There’s no hiding from the fact that this Nikon FX zoom is pricey, but if you consider that it could be the only lens you ever need, it could work out to the same cost as buying several other lenses.

It’s also cheaper, lighter and smaller than the newer Nikon 24-70mm VR model, which may be sharper and feature vibration reduction, but for the price increase, I don’t believe it’s worth it.

24-70mm-Nikon-lens for architecture
The Nikon 24-70mm is extremely versatile, equally at home shooting interiors as it is portraits.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED is incredibly sharp. Any photographer who still believes prime lenses are sharper than zooms obviously hasn’t used this one!

I look back on my architecture photography shot with this lens (see above) and marvel at how crisp and sharp the results are. Not only this but the auto focus is lightning fast and much more accurate than any of my f/1.4 prime lenses.

I know many wedding photographers who insist on using 100% prime lenses, except for the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED which they sneakily hide in their dslr camera bags! Sam Hurd uses his 24-70 for Indian weddings during the family portraits since group sizes change so quickly, and Ross Harvey uses his on the dance-floor for versatility and fast focus.

If you’re a Nikon zoom lens wedding photographer, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be using the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED. Paired with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, it’s an unstoppable combination and used the world over.

Whilst it can be used on a DX camera with stellar results, the zoom range would be converted to 36-105mm which is rather unusual. I’ll come to the best Nikon DX zoom lenses later…

On an FX camera, 24-70mm is just such a useful and versatile zoom range. You can go from shooting a wide landscape vista, then with one twist of the barrel, you can be shooting a flattering portrait with beautiful, creamy bokeh.

Using the a 24-70mm zoom range for wedding photography means you can take a group shot, then with a twist of the lens, focus on one element in the group.

You can actually use the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED for a cheeky macro shot in a pinch too, with it zoomed to 70mm and stopped down. Cropping into the file later is not a problem since the images are so sharp.

As with all Nikon pro zooms, the build quality is excellent. This is one lens that will last you a lifetime. I dropped it several times, and aside from the filter ring taking a battering, it still functions perfectly.

Things to consider: heavy distortion at 24mm (corrected with one click in Lightroom); weight (it’s a pro zoom after all); plastic filter ring can break if banged.

If you’re charging for your photography and want one zoom lens for any type of work, don’t even think about it – an investment into the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED will be the best decision you can make. It’s seriously worth every penny.


6. Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR


Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR Specifications

Compatible Format: DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.6 ft. ( 0.48 m)
Filter Size: 67mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3 in. (78.5 mm) x 3.8 in. (99 mm)
Weight: 19.4 oz. (550 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR Review

Remember when I said I’d tell you about the best Nikon DX lenses for zoom shooters? Well this one’s at the top of the pack…

The Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR may not be the optically best Nikon DX lens out there, but for what it exhibits in distortion, it makes up for in versatility and value for money.

If you own a DX format camera and want one lens to cover a ridiculously wide focal range, this is it! The Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR can replace the combination of an 18-55mm (the most common ‘bundled lens’) and the 55-300mm lens.

N.B. There’s a more expensive, heavier and older version with a very similar name which makes lens purchases rather confusing – click here to see them both side by side so you don’t buy the wrong one – make sure you opt for the cheaper of the two!

In this round up of the best Nikon lenses, I’ve tried to select only those lenses that I deem the best all-rounders. I’m not including long range zooms (70-200mm etc) since they’re not useful for the majority of people. However, to be able to go from 18mm all the way up to 300mm is incredibly useful.

If you’ve never shot as wide as 18mm, it’s quite an eye-opener. You should expect a fair amount of distortion, but it’s easily correctable in post using Lightroom or Photoshop. 18mm gives an immersive 76 degree field of view, which is great for landscape photography.

Incidentally, if this is your genre, you may be interested in these landscape photography tips.

Nikon 18-300mm lens review
Shooting at 18mm really immerses the viewer into the shot | f/8 @ 1/320 @ 18mm

At 300mm, the angle of view is just 5 degrees, and can be used for flattering portraits or wildlife photography. The Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR is usually the most common lens you’ll see on Nikon DX cameras if you go on a safari tour!

The variable aperture of f/3.5-6.3 means this lens isn’t suitable for night photography, but if it isn’t too dark (at sunset for example), you can use the 4 stops of vibration reduction to shoot at slower shutter speeds and keep the ISO down to get a sharp, noise free shot.

Nikon 18-300mm lens review
By shooting at 300mm, you can focus in on one element of the landscape, or compress areas together | f/8 @ 1/640 @ 300mm

As for bokeh, the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR has 9 rounded aperture blades that actually produce very pleasant out of focus areas. When combined with the longer focal lengths, you can easily separate the subject from the background by blurring everything not in focus.

Sharpness is good wide open at f/3.5, but best at f/5.6. Corners are rather soft and dark at f/3.5 but sharpen up when stopping down.

Here’s what Ken Rockwell had to say about the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 ED VR:

This is the new freedom lens. It does everything you’d ever need, from family to landscapes to portraits to sports to African safaris. It does it all.

I like the term ‘freedom lens‘. This versatile Nikon lens for DX cameras really does free you up from the worry of ever having to carry or change another lens. Simply nothing else out there covers this huge focal range in such a lightweight package, with vibration reduction to boot.


7. Nikon 85mm f/1.4G


Nikon 85mm f/1.4G Specifications

Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Minimum Focus Distance: 3.0 ft. (0.85m)
Filter Size: 77mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.4 in. (86.2 mm) x 3.3 in. (84 mm)
Weight: 21.0 oz. (595 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G Review

We’re back on to prime lenses again (ones with fixed focal lengths), and this Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is one of the best Nikon lenses for portraits money can buy… if not the absolute best ever.

I was tempted to recommend the cheaper alternative to this lens (see below), but those who want the fastest f/1.4 lens with the best image quality, and sublime bokeh, simply must choose this f/1.4 version.

I’ve owned the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G for several years now for my wedding photography work. Whilst I only use it for about 30% of the day (ceremony & speeches), I’m always so thankful I have it in my camera bag.

Before I start lamenting about this incredible Nikon portrait lens, here’s what Ken Rockwell had to say about it:

The Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S G is simply astonishing. It is the first lens I have ever used in over 40 years of photography that excels at both the scientific aspects (sharpness and lack of coma, especially at f/1.4 in the corners), and the artistic aspects of defocus, all at the same time. Every other lens I’ve used is either super-sharp, but renders distracting backgrounds (most aspherical lenses), or others may may have pleasant bokeh, but aren’t always that sharp…

No matter what you think of Ken, it’s hard to deny that he really knows his stuff. So for someone like Ken to say that it’s the best lens he’s used in over 40 years of photography… well, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is clearly something special.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens
Look at the subtle and creamy fall-off in focus from the girl’s face to the guy’s, and this isn’t even shot wide open! | f/2.5 @ 1/100

The first reason photographers the world over have fallen in love with this lens is the bokeh. Shooting the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G wide open will obliterate any background into a sea of creaminess.

Being able to blur the background in this way is an extremely useful trick, especially when you’re caught in a situation where something behind the subject is distracting.

As a real world example, there are often times as a wedding photographer where the bride is standing in front of something distracting. By using the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, that background element can melt away into blurred colours, bringing the bride to the forefront of any scene.

Even at smaller apertures, the background falls away from the foreground. This kind of power allows you to create a three-dimensional image where subjects almost pop out of the screen.

The build quality as you’d expect at this price point is excellent. An additional plus is that there’s no fiddly manual focus switch – you can just grab the focus ring and twist it to override the camera’s auto-focus.

The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is impressively sharp at f/1.4, and gets even sharper up to f/4. When it’s too sunny outside to shoot this lens wide open, I stop down and am blown away by the results. It’s just so sharp, and the colour rendition and contrast are simply incomparable.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens review
I love shooting the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 wide open, but even more when stopped down – the colours and sharpness are mind blowing | f/4.5 @ 1/2500

I wanted to bring you the best all-rounders in this best Nikon lenses roundup, and I did hesitate to recommend an 85mm prime lens. On an FX Nikon dSLR, the angle of view is 28.5° and 18.8° on DX (more like a 130mm lens).

On an FX body, 85mm isn’t the most versatile focal length, but as long as you have a bit of room to step back, it’s equally at home shooting landscapes and groups as it is single subjects. It’s simply the best Nikon portrait lens.

One mistake beginners make is thinking they need a wide angle lens to shoot a large group of people. If you can step back to accommodate them in the frame, shooting a group with an 85mm lens is actually the best option. You’ll be able to throw the background out of focus, whilst have everyone pin sharp from a very flattering perspective.

Another thing I like about the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is its size and weight. It’s not a light lens by any means, but compared to the Canon 85mm f/1.2L, it feels dainty! (Canon doesn’t have an 85mm f/1.4 yet).

Let’s face it, though – if you’re a professional or an enthusiast photographer who knows the value of good glass, you’ll either already own the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G or will be saving up for it. It’s just that good.

All pro grade lenses hold their retail price well if you ever decide to sell them on, but trust me on this one – if you can get your hands on one of these lenses (they’re often out of stock!), you’ll never want to sell it…


8. Nikon 85mm f/1.8G


Nikon 85mm f/1.8G Specifications

Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 3.0 ft. (0.85m)
Filter Size: 67mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.1 in. (80 mm) x 2.9 in. (73 mm)
Weight: 12.4 oz. (350 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G Review

No, it’s not a mistake. I’m recommending two different Nikon 85mm prime lenses in the same post. The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is simply too good value for money to leave out.

If you’ve read this roundup of the best Nikon lenses in order, you’ll notice that above I’ve just been gushing about how good the big brother of this lens (the f/1.4 version) is, and how it’s the best Nikon portrait lens. So why would I write about something so similar?

Well to be absolutely honest, the only similarity between the f/1.8 and f/1.4 variants of the Nikon 85mm prime lenses is the focal length. They’re entirely different lenses, and I feel that both of them deserve their place here.

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is absolutely incredible value for money. At around $480 (click here for the latest price), you simply can’t get a better Nikon portrait lens.

Nikon 85mm f:1.8G
The bokeh from the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is simply unbeatable at this price | f/2.8 @ 1/125

The difference between f/1.8 and f/1.4 when shot at 85mm is negligible, so you’ll be able to easily knock any background out of focus with this lens. It’s the quality of the bokeh that differs, but that’s only for pixel peepers – your clients will never notice.

Unless you absolutely need the fastest possible Nikon 85mm lens (those who shoot in the dark, like wedding photographers), the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G will be more than adequate for your needs.

I even know wedding photogs who have one of these lenses as a backup for their f/1.4, and admit to using it much more during the day in good light as it’s much lighter than its 1.4 counterpart.

At only 350g, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G makes a great pairing on both an FX or a DX body. It has to be said though that the 130mm focal length on a DX body isn’t the most versatile.

Where the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G trumps its big brother is in the sharpness stakes. I said before that the f/1.4 version is razor sharp. Well this f/1.8 lens is even sharper, edge-to-edge at every aperture – its optics are simply astounding at this price point.

Auto-focus speeds are excellent too, and marginally faster than the f/1.4 lens, mostly due to the reduced weight. The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G also features manual focus override, a very useful and often-overlooked feature on a lens.

If you want a walk-around 85mm lens with stellar optics and the ability to reduce any background to a sea of blurred colours, this is the lens to get.

You’ll know if you’re a pro who needs to spend 3 times the price for the f/1.4 version, but the vast majority of photographers won’t.

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is excellent value for money, and as long as you have enough space behind you (or the subject is far enough away), 85mm is a great focal length for a wide range of subjects.


9. Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II


Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II Specifications

Compatible Format: DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.92 ft. ( 0.28 m)
Filter Size: 52mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3 in. (59.5 mm) x 2.6 in. (66 mm)
Weight: 6.9 oz. (195 g)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II Review

I’m going to end this line up of the best all round Nikon lenses with what most Nikon DX camera owners consider to be the best ‘walk-around’ lens in the line up.

18-55mm is such a versatile (and hence popular) zoom range that Nikon has produced 3 previous DX versions, improving on every one until this, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II. With a name this long, it has to be the best of the bunch ;-)

If you want one lightweight and affordable zoom lens for your Nikon DX dSLR that can be used in almost every situation, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II is the lens for you. At less than $250 (get the latest price here), you simply can’t buy a more versatile Nikon lens with this good image quality.

In general, the best quality zoom lenses tend to be very heavy. However, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II is a massive 25% smaller and lighter than its predecessors, and even manages to squeeze in vibration reduction.

Nikon 18-55mm
Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 | Copyright: Fernando Rueda

Having an extra 4 stops of blur-free handheld shooting means that you can use faster shutter speeds, lower ISOs and smaller apertures to capture even low light shots.

The ‘kit lens’ that comes bundled with some Nikon DX cameras is usually an 18-55mm zoom lens too, but without VR, you can only really use it in daylight or with a flash.

As an added bonus, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II focuses so close that it can replace the need for a macro lens!

The optics in this lens are very impressive. Whilst you’ll have to fix some distortion at 18mm using your Lightroom or Photoshop shortcuts, colour, contrast and sharpness are all excellent.

If you have one of the higher mega pixel Nikon DX dSLRs, you’ll be amazed at how sharp details are, even when you zoom in during editing.

Nikon lens 18-55mm review
Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G | f/8 @ 1/250

I decided to end this roundup of the best Nikon lenses with the most affordable, lightweight and well-rounded lens.

If you own a DX format Nikon camera and have been umming and erring about which lens to buy, just get the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II.

It’s got the best bang for the buck, and is built like a much more expensive lens. The only problem is finding it in stock as it’s so popular – good luck!


The Best Nikon Lenses for Specific Usage


Now it’s time to introduce you to the Nikon lenses that I wanted to include in this roundup, but felt they were a little too specific to be considered good all-rounders.

I’ll make this section short and sweet – just click through the links if you’d like to read real user reviews of the different lenses.

Amazon’s a great place to make a buying decision, since its reviews are by those who’ve actually bought and used the lens. You’ll notice that all the lenses I recommend here have numerous 5 star reviews.

Best Nikon Lenses for Macro Photography

The Nikon 85mm f/3.5G ED VR AF-S DX Micro is a lens with a huge name for shooting small things ;-) It also happens to be the best macro lens for Nikon DX format dSLRs.

Sharp with built in image stabilization, the Nikon 85mm f/3.5G Micro is good value for money and gets the job done.

For those who’ve ever tried macro photography before, you’ll know you either need a lot of light and/or a tripod. To be able to get the entire object in focus, you’ll usually need to use smaller apertures, meaning slower shutter speeds or higher ISOs (unless you can add more light).

Having the vibration reduction built into the Nikon 85mm f/3.5G Micro is a great help in this regard.

If you own a Nikon FX camera, the best Nikon macro lens is the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR. It’s built like a tank, has an f/2.8 aperture for low light and in-built vibration reduction.

Best Nikon Lens for Architecture Photography

Architecture photography requires lines to be straight and not converging (buildings with 90 degree sides). This usually requires specialty lenses known as tilt-shift lenses.

The best Nikon lens for architecture photography is widely regarded as the Nikon 24mm f/3.5 PC-E. It’s a wide angle lens with very little distortion and incredible sharpness.

If you’re not bothered about keeping lines straight, and instead perhaps want to exaggerate the size of your rooms (AirBnb, anyone?!), just choose from one of these best wide angle lenses.

Best Nikon Lens for Bokeh

This is a bit of an arbitrary choice since so many of the Nikon lenses can produce pleasing bokeh, but there’s one lens that is widely viewed to be the king of bokeh in the Nikon line up.

The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is a love/hate lens, but one that produces the creamiest, most incredible bokeh out of all the Nikon lenses. It has the unusual ability to create three-dimensionality to an image, by knocking the background so much out of focus that the foreground element seems to leap away towards you.

Amongst all the Nikon full frame lenses, 58mm is one of the more unusual focal lengths. This lens is light weight, and fast to focus, but not especially sharp wide open and over-priced. However, if you simply must have a lens that produces an image like no other, the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G should be in your camera bag.

If you’re interested to learn more about this bokeh-monster of a lens, check out the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 review.

Best Nikon Medium-Long Range Zoom Lens

The new Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL is what many claim to be the world’s best 70-200mm lens. It’s the sharpest, best made, lightest and closest focusing f/2.8 70-200 lens ever made.

You’ll be blown away at how fast this incredible lens can focus, and how accurate it is, even in low light. The FL is a fluorite element that delivers even better optical performance than its predecessors.

Being able to focus at only 3.6 ft. ( 1.1 m) is an impressive feat for a 70-200, making this one very versatile zoom lens.

The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL can also be used on DX cameras giving you even more reach (105-300), and combined with a camera such as the Nikon D500, would make a great pro sports photography combo.

If you can afford the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL, you simply can’t get anything better in this zoom range.

I hope you enjoyed my roundup of the best Nikon lenses available in 2019. Remember, even though camera gear won’t make you a better photographer, if you want to get the most out of your camera, you’ll need great lenses.

Keeping a cheap kit lens on your fancy Nikon dSLR is like driving a car with the handbrake on.

Invest in one of the Nikon lenses in this camera lens comparison and you’ll be using your camera to its full potential.

Now get out there and shoot!

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post contain affiliate links which help support Shotkit.



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