Best Nikon Lenses

The 9 best Nikon lenses available in 2023 + great, affordable 3rd party dx and x lenses. If you own a Nikon dSLR, stick these on the front of it!

By Mark Condon

With the release of more great Nikon DSLR cameras, I thought it fitting to write a post on what I consider to be the best Nikon lenses for most photographers.

At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Best Nikon Lenses

There are so many great Nikon DSLR lenses available here in 2023, that it can be rather overwhelming to know where to start.

One thing’s for sure, though – whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there’s a great piece of Nikon glass for you ;-)

In this lens comparison, I’ve included both Nikon crop sensor (DX or APS-C) and full frame (FX) options, as well as relevant lenses made by 3rd party manufacturers, who produce excellent lenses compatible with the Nikon mount.

Think of this review as something you could give to any Nikon camera owner and say with confidence, “Pick a lens from this list and you’ll be happy!”

Best Nikon Lenses in 2023

Image Product Features
shk2-table__imageNikon 50mm f/1.8BEST VALUE PRIME (FX or DX)
  • Great Value
  • Razor Sharp
  • Fast Auto-Focus
  • Small & Light
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 35mm f/1.8 BEST VALUE PRIME (DX)
  • Versatile focal length
  • Great Bokeh
  • Great Value
  • Small & Light
View Price →
shk2-table__imageTamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5BEST VALUE WIDE ANGLE ZOOM (FX or DX)
  • Great Value
  • Useful Vibration Control
  • Great Image Quality
  • Great Build Quality
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6BEST VALUE WIDE ANGLE ZOOM (DX)
  • Great Value
  • Useful Vibration Control
  • Small & Lightweight
  • Low Distortion
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 24-70mm f/2.8BEST ALL ROUND ZOOM (FX or DX)
  • Razor Sharp
  • Super Fast AutoFocus
  • Amazing Image Quality
  • Useful Focal Range
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 BEST ALL-ROUND ZOOM (DX)
  • Convenient Focal Range
  • Great Value
  • Small & Light
  • Useful Vibration Control
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 70-200mm f/4BEST VALUE MID-RANGE ZOOM (FX or DX)
  • Great Value
  • Razor Sharp
  • Super Fast AutoFocus
  • Amazing Image Quality
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 200-500mm f/5.6BEST VALUE LONG RANGE ZOOM (FX or DX)
  • Great Image Quality
  • Great Bokeh
  • Great Build Quality
  • Useful Vibration Control
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 24mm f/1.4BEST WIDE ANGLE (FX or DX)
  • Razor Sharp
  • Beautiful Bokeh
  • Low Distortion
  • Versatile Focal Length
View Price →
shk2-table__imageNikon 85mm f/1.8BEST VALUE PORTRAIT (FX or DX)
  • Razor Sharp
  • Great Value
  • Beautiful Bokeh
  • Small & Light
View Price →


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

What are the top Nikon lenses right now?

Top 12 Nikon Lenses in 2023

1. Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF

good option for full frame and crop sensor size

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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)

This humble ‘nifty-fifty’ is at the top of my list 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 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 it’s not the top lens 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. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s one of the best lenses for Nikon at this price point.

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 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. ;-)

A must for every FX shooter’s camera bag – affordable enough to be there just as a backup, but sharp enough to be used for much more than that. Highly recommended.

For under $140 you’ll have a super sharp, super fast, lightweight, dependable lens that you’ll be able to use on your FX camera if you ever decide to upgrade.

Check Latest Price →

2. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED


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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)

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 the 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 photographers due to its versatility – wide enough to tell a story, but equally adept for a portrait. It’s up there with the 50mm in terms of popularity, but when choosing 35mm vs 50mm, the former is a lot more versatile.

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 (see review) 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 it 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 ;-)

An affordable prime lens with great image quality at the most versatile focal length available.

Check Latest Price →

3. Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5

Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5

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Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 7
Minimum Focus Distance: .79 ft (0.24 m)
Filter Size: 77 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.29 in (83.6 mm) x 3.2 in (82.1 mm)
Weight: 5.5 oz (155 g)

Every kit needs a wide angle zoom lens, especially if you love shooting landscapes or architecture. When I’m traveling, my wide angle is often the lens I use the most.

Back in the day when I was shooting on a Nikon D40, I found that I preferred the first-generation Tamron 10-24mm to its Sigma equivalent. Now, in its third generation, the Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 really out-performs everything else in its price range.

The biggest change? It’s the first DX wide-angle lens to bring image stabilisation to Nikon users. You gain a whopping four stops when shooting handheld! That’s really handy if you’re on the go or find yourself in a situation where you can’t use a tripod.

Another big change that sets the Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 apart from other lenses in this price range is its weather sealing and fluorine-coated front element. This means that you’re that much more protected when shooting in the elements, near waterfalls, or shooting over long periods of time (i.e. time lapses).

The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 is compatible with FX or DX Nikon camera bodies. On a DX, 10-24mm is the 35mm equivalent of 15-36mm in APS-C terms and allows you to capture more of a scene in a single frame than something like the 18-55mm Nikkor kit lens. It makes the scene so much more expansive.

The Tamron 10-24mm on a backpacking trip

At 10mm this forest trail shot looks much more expansive than it would otherwise.

Performance-wise the Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 is quite exceptional for the price. The HLD (High/Low torque-modulated Drive) autofocus is pretty much instantaneous and almost always accurate. It’s also virtually silent (except for being slightly audible when shooting video).

Construction-wise it feels solid, even though it’s compact and relatively light-weight. The zoom ring feels good in the hand, and though the manual focus ring is small, its action is smooth and easy.

One cool thing about the manual focus on this lens is that it comes with a full-time override, that allows you to make fine adjustments without having to disengage your auto-focus – super useful!

Also, for those of you who really like using Tamron’s Tap-In Console, there’s good news. This lens is fully compatible with it. (I like it for updating the lens firmware, but it can also be used for fine-tuning just about anything lens-related you can imagine.)

Using the Tamron 10-24mm

Auto-focus is quick and accurate, even with the focal point far away. | Nikon D7000 | 10mm.

The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 does lag a bit in sharpness when wide open in low light conditions but considering it’s only an f/3.5-4.5, this isn’t that much of a surprise. I haven’t yet found a wide angle lens in this price range that doesn’t have that issue.

Also, there is some distortion when shooting wide open, as well as vignetting. Luckily both of these are easily corrected in post-processing – especially if you’re shooting in Raw.

Another possible issue is that if you’re using a Nikon DSLR that predates 2007, the electromagnetic diaphragm won’t work with it. (E.g. the D2-series, D1-series, D200, D100, D90, D80, D70-series, D60, D50, D40-series, and D3000.)

The tamron 10-24mm wide angle lens

The Tamron 10-24mm performs well both at 10mm and 24mm and everything in between | Nikon D7000 | 24mm

This lens packs a world of performance into a lightweight, compact body. It handles beautifully, has amazing Vibration Control, and won’t break the bank.

Sure, there are cheaper wide angles for DX Nikons out there, but quality-wise it’s probably not worth the bother. To get much better performance you’d need to go much higher in cost.

In terms of value for money, this 3rd party Nikon mount lens really does offer some serious bang for the buck. If you’re looking for an affordable all-round wide angle zoom for your DX body, this is definitely the lens for you.

It packs a world of performance into a lightweight, compact body. It handles beautifully, has amazing Vibration Control, and won’t break the bank.

Check Latest Price →

4. Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6

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Compatible Format: DX
Diaphragm Blades:
Minimum Focus Distance:
0.22 m ( .8 ft)
Filter Size:
72 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length):
3.0 in (77 mm) x 2.8 in (73 mm)
8.2 oz (230 g)

If the Tamron 10-24mm is too expensive for you, or you’re looking for a lighter wide angle for your DX camera, the Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 is an amazing deal.

It didn’t really get much attention when it first came out in 2017, but it’s a sweet little lens. It’s one of only three Nikon DX lenses with the new AF-P technology (a pulsing/stepping focusing motor), costs next to nothing, and pumps out decent images.

The AF-P focus is fast, accurate and silent. The impressive continuous auto-focus performance is more like that of a mirrorless camera, but where you’ll really see the difference is when using Live View. It’s much quicker than AF-S lenses.

The design of the Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 is super light and compact. In fact, it’s so light it hardly feels like you’ve got a lens on your camera at all. That’s a big difference to the aforementioned Tamron 10-24mm, which is a bit of a beast. I also prefer the ergonomics of this little Nikon more than the Tamron.

For an entry-level wide angle DX lens, you really can’t go wrong with this little guy, even though there are a few downsides, as you might expect at this affordable price point.

Nikon 10-20mm f:4.5-5.6

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 | © Matthew Saville

When compared to the Tamron, you’re losing a full 4mm of zooming range. Still, since most kits will also have the 18-55mm Nikkor kit lens or something in a similar range, this shouldn’t really be a problem.

Another thing is that to make the Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 this light-weight, Nikon had to strip it of all switches. That means you have to set the VR ON/OFF and AF/MF in your camera’s menu. This can be particularly bothersome if these are settings you change often.

That being said, the result of all this stripping down is a compact, lightweight design that’s extremely easy and fun to tote around. In fact, it’ll easily fit in most jacket pockets! (Not that I’m recommended you carry it that way…)

The VR gives you only about 3.5 stops, which is quite a bit less than most recent Nikon lenses. Still, it’s better than no VR at all, and what’s there works admirably. Just don’t trust its “tripod detection” – it’s better to just turn off the VR at that point.

Also, the maximum aperture of f/4.5 won’t win any contests, but as long as you’re using it in primarily well-lit conditions and not for things like astrophotography or indoor sports, this probably won’t be a deal breaker.

Of course, you’re not going to get the sharpness more expensive wide angles will get you, and there’s definitely some distortion you’ll need to fix in post, but the overall image quality is far better than the price tag would lead you to expect.

Nikon 10-20mm f:4.5-5.6

Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 | © Matthew Saville

In fact, at f/8 the Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 creates really nice-looking images, especially when paired with 20/24mp bodies.

Before you buy though, make sure your camera is compatible. The fully compatible models are the D7500, D5600, D5500, D5300, D3400, D3300, D500 and later models.

[Related: Lenses for Nikon D3400 | Lenses for Nikon D3300]

Models that need a firmware update to work properly include the D5, D810 series, Df, D750, D7200, D7100, D5200, and Nikon 1 series with the FT1.

(Sorry D7000 and other older Nikon camera users. The focusing on the Nikon 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 is entirely electronic, so you can’t even use the manual focus ring with it. Stay away from all AF-P lenses if you don’t plan to upgrade.)

Still, if you have anything from a D3xxx to a D500 and are looking for an inexpensive wide angle lens to add to your kit, this should be on your shortlist.

Its quality far outweighs its reasonable price (around $300!) and while it’s not perfect, it will definitely get you started in the world of wide-angle photography.

Offers ultra-wide-angle view that surpasses any kit lens and lets you get creative with composition.

Check Latest Price →

5. Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED


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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)

On several other sites that release their lens roundups , it’s the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G that often appears under the title of the #1 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 a great wide angle lens for Nikon FX cameras.

Nikon 24mm f:1.8G sample

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G | f/11 @ 1/50s | © 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 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 like these ones.

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 top 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 most impressive 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 | © Alex Soh

If you needed another reason why the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is my pick as the number one 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! See a full review of this amazing lens here.

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 ;-)

Quite simply one of the top lenses for landscape photography, architecture photography, and any genre of photography that requires a wide angle lens.

Check Latest Price →

6. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX


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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)

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 top Nikon DX lens for 35mm shooters.

Nikon 35mm 1.8 DX lens

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX is incredibly 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, lightweight 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 cheaper cameras, 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 most impressive Nikon DX lenses ever made.

Not only is it much better than any kit lens for a Nikon DX camera, but you’ll also get better at photography faster by using a fixed focal length too.

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


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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)

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 top 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!

(For a more affordable alternative 3rd party option, check out the excellent Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8.)

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 recommended 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 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. Also if you have a Nikon Z mirrorless camera, you’ll need the Z version of this lens which is even more pricey.

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 most valuable decision you can make. It’s seriously worth every penny.

From architectural photography to events, weddings, portraits and everything in between, it is an incredibly versatile lens.

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


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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)

Remember when I said I’d tell you about the top 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 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, I’ve tried to select only those lenses that I deem the top 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.

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!

(If you’re looking for something slightly more affordable and you aren’t brand loyal, the Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II is a decent alternative, with 2mm more at the wide end.)

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 better 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.

This versatile Nikon lens for DX cameras frees you up from the worry of ever having to carry or change another lens.

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9. Nikon 85mm f/1.4G


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Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Minimum Focus Distance: 3.0 ft. (0.85m)
Filter Size: 77mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 4.2 in. (108 mm) x 10.5 in. (267.5 mm)
Weight: 81.2 oz. (2300 g)

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

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 most impressive 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 number one 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! | Nikon D750 | Nikon 85mm f/1.4G | 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.

(If you’re looking for something slightly more affordable, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a great choice – I’d be lying if I said I thought the $400+ difference in price was totally worth it!)

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 this lens wide open, but even more when stopped down – the colours and sharpness are mind blowing Nikon D750 | Nikon 85mm f/1.4G | f/4.5 @ 1/2500

I wanted to bring you the top all-rounders in this list, 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 better 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…

nikon af-s option
Those who want the fastest f/1.4 lens with the top image quality, and sublime bokeh, simply must choose this f/1.4 version.

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10. Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

nikon af-s example

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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)

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 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 most impressive 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, you simply can’t get a better Nikon portrait lens.

 85mm f:1.8G no stabilization but wide maximum aperture

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.

suitable for any sensor size. no stabilization but good maximum aperture
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.

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

telephoto zoom with no stabilization but good for aps-c

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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)

I’m going to end this review with what most Nikon DX camera owners consider to be the top ‘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 special ;-)

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, you simply can’t buy a more versatile Nikon lens with this good image quality.

In general, the top 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.

18-55mm midrange telephoto zoom

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 | © 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 during post production, 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.

lens 18-55mm review for aps-c

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

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

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

It’s got the most 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!

If you want one lightweight and affordable zoom lens for your Nikon DX dSLR that can be used in almost every situation, this is the lens for you.

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12. Nikon 70-200mm f/4

Nikon 70-200mm f/4

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Compatible Format: FX, DX
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Minimum Focus Distance: 3.28 ft (1 m)
Filter Size: 67mm
Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 3.1 in (78.0 mm) x 7.0 in (178.5 mm)
Weight: 30 oz (850 g)

This is another one of those lenses whose price and versatility make it a much wiser purchase over its faster cousin, in this case the f/2.8 VRII.

In fact, I think most will find the f/4 better suited to their needs. Why?

First and most obvious, it’s around $1,000 less!

Secondly, it weighs less than half of what the f/2.8 weighs. Seriously, the lighter weight makes shooting handheld with the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 a real joy. The balance is more like a 70-300 than a 70-200, and with most cameras, you won’t even need to use a tripod collar.

Thirdly, the VR (Vibration Reduction) is out of this world! You can take razor sharp photos at 1/30 handheld with this lens…even at full 200mm zoom. This is really useful when shooting in lower light, when when you might prefer a slower shutter speed to raising the ISO.

Performance-wise, the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 gets full marks. The manual focus on this lens is a dream. Whether you’re working in live view or looking through the viewfinder, the manual action is smooth as butter and helps you hit your target every time.

The auto-focus is as expected: fast, precise, and virtually silent. Like most of the other lenses reviewed in this post, there’s also a full-time manual focus override.

The lack of focus breathing, close focus, and easy zoom action make taking closeup photography a pleasure too.

If you need more reach than 200mm, the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 also works really well with teleconverters. With a 1.4x TC, sharpness doesn’t drop noticeably at all.

70-200 f/4 | can be used on aps-c too with maximum stabilization

Nikon 70-200mm f/4 | © Alex Nirta

On a DX lens with the 1.5x crop factor multiplication, the 70-200 is transformed into a 105-300mm, which should be long enough for most applications. The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 also pairs really well with even the lightest DX camera bodies.

As far as image quality is concerned, this lens excels across the board. Does it perform better than the f/2.8? Some say yes; some say they see no difference. It probably depends on what camera you’re shooting on.

For my part, the image quality is pretty comparable, except that the f/2.8 has somewhat better performance in corner-to-corner sharpness. The Nikon 70-200mm f/4, on the hand, has better contrast and colour… which is incredible when considering the difference in price.

A few things to look out for:

If you’re a filter user you might be annoyed by the 67mm filter size, especially if you already have a full filter set sized at 77mm. (If this is an issue, you could always use a step-up ring.)

Also, at f/4, this lens is a full stop slower than the f/2.8. Still, in this day and age, this shouldn’t really be a problem. Bumping up the ISO a stop won’t really make a difference in your image quality with modern cameras. If you need a shallower DOF, though, you better go with the f/2.8… or stand further back and shoot at a longer focal length.

70-200 f/4 | can be used on aps-c too, with maximum stabilization

Nikon 70-200mm f/4 | © Alex Nirta

That being said, I found that the background blur (bokeh) is nice on the Nikon 70-200mm f/4. Super shallow DOF isn’t all that necessary for many photographers, especially for those who don’t shoot portraits, and f/4 at 200mm (or 300mm on a DX) looks great.

In the end, the lower weight + lower price + excellent performance make this popular telephoto Nikon lens an easy winner.

Even if you already own the 70-200 2.8 VRII, I’d recommend you try this one out too. It might just convince you to sell the f/2.8 and go with a lighter set up.

can be used on aps-c too. includes maximum stabilization
If you want a lower weight, lower price and excellent performance telephoto, this is the lens for you.

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Recommended Nikon Lenses for Specific Usage

for any sensor size - various depth of field options

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.

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 number one 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.

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 top 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 wide angle lenses.


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.

Medium-Long Range Zoom Lens

The new Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL is what many claim to be the world’s number one 70-200mm lens. It’s the sharpest, very well 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, which 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.

Buyer’s Guide

aps-c and full frame options to blur backgrounds with depth of field

I’ve kept the focus of this article on the 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 featured photographers on Shotkit who use Nikon, you’ll see they all own at least one of these lenses – I’m guilty of owning more than half of them too!

If you want to know what Nikon lenses to buy first, this summary should help:

If you’re fortunate enough to own a Nikon FX (full frame) camera, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF is a fantastic all round lens. Used on a DX body, you’ll get an 85mm field of view, which is great for portraits, but rather restrictive to be used as a walkaround lens.

Instead, if you own a Nikon DX (crop sensor) camera, your first lens should really be the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX – this was the first prime lens I ever owned, and it changed everything for the better.

Honestly, if you do one thing to massively improve the quality of your photos and your skills as a photographer, invest in a fixed (prime) lens such as this one.

As for all-round zoom recommendations, if you’re an FX shooter you’re probably in the market for a 24-70mm lens, which offers an incredibly versatile focal range – this could be the only zoom lens you ever need, so invest wisely…

If you’ve got the budget, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED is simply the best FX medium telephoto zoom money can buy. Can’t quite stretch to that? The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is a decent alternative at an attractive price.

For DX shooters, you can’t go wrong with the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, a lens that offers a useful focal range for a fraction of the price, the size and the weight of a 24-70mm.

As for Nikon wide angle lens recommendations, the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G is great value for money for FX shooters (full review here), but if you need better low-light capabilities, the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G is the stuff of legends… especially among wedding photographers.

It’s hard to get super-wide angle out of a DX body, but the aforementioned Nikon 18-55mm zoom will get you fairly wide, and the Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 even wider (for a great price).

If you’re looking for long-range zooms, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is unbeatable for FX, although the excellent Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO is much better value for money.

On an APS-C (DX) camera, the Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II with its enormous focal range is quite possibly the only zoom lens you’ll ever need.

How to Read a Nikon Lens

Before we dive head first into the Nikon lens reviews, it’s important to understand what all the letters in the lens name mean.

Here’s an example of a lens that’s quite a mouthful:

How to read Nikon Lens - various sensor size

Nikon lens naming conventions can be a little confusing…

The above lens is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S. Let’s break down all these confusing abbreviations:

  1. 70-200mm – the focal range
  2. f/2.8 – the maximum aperture
  3. ED – Extra-low Dispersion of the light as it enters the lens, leading to better image quality
  4. VR – Vibration Reduction, to allow the use of slower shutter speeds while shooting handheld
  5. II – a second generation lens
  6. AF-S – Auto-Focus with built-in Silent Wave Motor – these lenses even work on cameras without built-in motors.

Other common Nikon lens abbreviations you may see are:

  • FL – Flouorite Lens elements, also improving image quality
  • G – does not include an aperture ring. Most modern lenses are ‘G’ lenses
  • IF – Internal Focusing, which allows the lens to focus quicker
  • N – Nanon Crystal Coating, usually displayed n the side of a lens as a gold badge
  • FX – lens designed for a full frame (35mm equivalent) camera sensor
  • DX – lens designed for a crop sensor (APS-C) camera sensor

In these Nikon lens reviews, I’ve removed the superfluous lettering after the main elements of each lens name in the interests of simplicity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best all-around lens for Nikon?

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is a top choice for an all-around prime lens. It’s razor-sharp and has fast autofocus, as well as being small and light. For an all-around zoom from Nikon, try the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 – it’s one that any photographer will find to be a useful addition to their kit.

What is the best Nikon lens for landscape photography?

If you’re into landscape photography, check out the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G. The image quality and sharpness are amazing, and it’s lightweight and small for a wide angle lens.

What’s the best Nikon lens for portraits?

For shooting portraits, our top pick for a Nikon lens is the Nikon 85mm f/1.8. It’s small and light produces beautiful bokeh, and is great value for money.

Can I use FX lens on DX body?

In the Nikon system, any FX lens can be used on a DX camera. On the contrary, DX lenses aren’t compatible with FX camera bodies. So do be sure to check which one is right for you before you buy.

Mark Condon
Shotkit Founder, Editor, Writer & Reviewer

Mark Condon is a British wedding photographer and editor of Shotkit. When he’s not taking photos or reviewing the latest camera gear and software, Mark can be found cycling around the northern rivers.

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