Best Nikon Lenses

Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Best Value Prime
  • Great Value
  • Razor Sharp
  • Fast Auto-Focus
  • Small & Light
Nikon 35mm f/1.8
Best Value Prime
  • Versatile focal length
  • Great Bokeh
  • Great Value
  • Small & Light
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5
Best Value Wide Angle Zoom
  • Useful Vibration Control
  • Great Value
  • Great Image Quality
  • Great Build Quality

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 2020, 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 2020

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 2020

1. Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF

good option for full frame and crop sensor size

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)

Click here for the latest price

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 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 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 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. ;-)

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 which 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


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)

Click here for the latest price

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 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 ;-)

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

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)

Click here for the latest price

Every kit needs a wide angle 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 time (i.e. time lapses).

The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 is compatible on 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 a 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

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)

Click here for the latest price

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


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)

Click here for the latest price

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


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)

Click here for the latest price

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 cameras, but you’ll also get better at photography faster by using a fixed focal length too.

Check Latest Price →

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


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)

Click here for the latest price

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 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 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.

Check Latest Price →

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


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)

Click here for the latest price

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 16-300mm 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


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)

Click here for the latest price

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

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)

Click here for the latest price

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 (click here for the latest price), 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

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)

Click here for the latest price

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 (get the latest price here), 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.

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 ahing 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

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)

Click here for the latest price

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! (See latest price here.)

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 to 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.

Check Latest Price →

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, 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 a 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.

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

Mark Condon is a British wedding photographer based in Australia and the founder of Shotkit.


  1. rakesh on March 16, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    good review.!! this is very helpfull

  2. Holly on January 27, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I would like to buy a prime lens for my Nikon D7000 (crop sensor) for the purpose of photographing my young children – in the house, playing outside, portraits, etc. Would you recommend the 35mm? Right now I have a 18 – 55mm / 3.5 -5.6 and I think I would enjoy the 1.8 aperature. Some online reviews mentioned that I would have to be too far away from them to get the shot when indoors?

    • Mark Condon on January 27, 2020 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks Holly for the kind words. The 35mm would be great for those purposes (I used it on a crop sensor D40 to photograph kids playing too), but in tight indoor spaces, you may struggle a little – depends really how small the room is. I’d still recommend it though, as it’s such a big step up from your 18-55mm, at a really reasonable price. Let me know how you get on with it!

      • Holly on January 29, 2020 at 4:12 am

        Thank you for the response! You have no idea how many articles I had to read through before I found yours. My head was spinning but the you were able to explain everything so much more clearly. I finally learned how to use manual mode last winter so I am going to buy the 35mm and hopefully have the best pics yet this year!

        • Mark Condon on January 29, 2020 at 5:36 am

          Great to head that, Holly! Please share this post with a photographer friend ;-)

  3. Andre on November 2, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    Amazing review! Thanks. I’ve just bought my first FX camera (before I was using Nikon 5500 DX) and the first lens I’ve got is 24-70. I’ve compared my old 50mm 1.8 nikon lens with new 2.8 24-70, and this one is … even sharper!! The only and biggst minus is weight )))) You can check some photos i made on I think next lens will be 1.4 50mm and 105mm Micro (it is also very nice to use this micro lens for face portrait by the way!!)

    Thanks again for nice review.

    • Mark Condon on November 4, 2019 at 5:04 am

      Thanks Andre! Good luck with Auto Lady ;-)

  4. Dan on October 22, 2019 at 6:33 am

    I never leave comments

    But I came across this article you wrote on Nikon Lenses and just wanted to say THANK YOU

    Highly informative and well written.

    Also your lil guide on how to read nikon lenses names was truly helpful.

    so…in short……I just had to reach out and say that your efforts are much appreciated by this random stranger from the internet

    Have a great day!

    • Mark Condon on October 22, 2019 at 7:52 pm

      Hey Dan, I really appreciate that! These guides take a lot of effort and time to put together, so comments like yours really make my day. Cheers!

  5. Simon on September 12, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I will be snapping outdoor portrait ,wedding event and night portrait. I own a Nikon D90 camera. Can u pls suggest which prime lens to buy?

    • Mark Condon on September 13, 2019 at 9:25 am

      Depends on your budget and the other lenses you already own, Simon. I recommend you join the Shotkit FB group and ask there with some more information surrounding your question – we’ll be happy to help.

  6. Michael on September 2, 2019 at 10:40 am

    I found a lot of value in your article, thank you!
    I know you can’t recommend every Nikkor lens, but I really like the 14-24 zoom and the 20mm f1.8.
    I love the 20mm f1.8 and use it for quite a number of shots, primarily in landscapes, architecture and street photography.

    • Mark Condon on September 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks Michael. I love the 20mm f/1.8 too, and will eventually evaluate it to include on this list. All the Nikon f/1.8 lenses are great value and nice and sharp too ;-)

  7. Avin CP on August 19, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    I am planning to buy Sigma 18-250mm lens for my Nikon D7200. Please give me a review about this lens. I am very confused.

    • Mark Condon on August 20, 2019 at 5:27 am

      Will try and get to a review of that one soon, Avin.

  8. PlanetLove on July 29, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Sony and Panasonic’s researchers have become a quarterback because they know the market very well. However, because the employees, experts and professionals do this work with the logic of money and company, the bosses should listen to the artists and the users of the expert photographers. Because no strategy will tell about the lack of the market without thinking about the event, thinking about personal interest, for example:

    Nikon does not have a DX small built single focus lens. There’s a lot of demand, actually. I’m talking about prime lenses between 20 and 25 mm. The landscape lens is more suited to the dx logic production strategy, but there are only zoomers.

    Dx lenses are more cost-effective but do not look at apertures such as 1.8, 1.4, are made of glass at 1.4, so if Zeiss produces a high quality wide-angle prime lens for the dx, it wipes out the more expensive counterparts on the market. If the dx lens is slightly larger and of zeiss quality, very solid ratio, clear images will be produced.

    They need to do their best with the sensor, of course, 30% of what the lens detects is wasted. They need to expand their sensor research and spread it all over the world, giving them prizes. Personally, the mirrorless or crop machine is just an investment for me because of its small size, the more favorable price is the nice part. I never use a full-scale, large-scale machine, including a photo, 99% of the users don’t use it like me. dx need to upgrade the quality thoroughly, as soon as the d7500 has passed over some tiny flaws in the sensor and lens, this is over, the market for mirrorless and crop sensors, the most important customers of companies, that is, they should pay more attention.

  9. Abhinav on May 14, 2019 at 11:35 pm


    I have a very unique problem and would like your assistance on the same.

    I own a D5100 with
    1. Nikon 18-55 f3.5/5.6 DX
    2. Nikon 35 f1.8 DX
    3. Nikon 55-200 f3.5-5.6 DX

    Now, I am planning to shift to D750(Full frame) as I need the depth of field of the full frame with high ISO capabilities. I don’t shoot sports/ wildlife and
    don’t need the extra reach that Dx cameras provide.

    I shoot weddings, portraits, birthday parties, family events, toddlers and pets. I am not sure what lenses to buy to justify the move to D750.

    I would need something wide for the events/ weddings so was planning to buy nikon 24-120 f4(kit lens with D750). Along with it, I would love to own a
    Nikon 85mm f1.8 for the portraits.

    I plan to retain the D5100(and shift to D7200 in about 6 months) and shoot with it as a secondary camera so not planning to do away with the Dx lenses.
    Question is – will the 24-120 and 85mm be a good buy and would it cover all the scenarios?
    I ask this becuase I am thinking of the below scenarios and wanted to check if I am missing something:

    1a. D750 + 85 mm = would cover the portraits part in events/ weddings
    1b. D5100 + 24-120 = This would give me a 36-180 mm view which can be tight for small spaces.

    2a. D750 + 24-120 = This would cover the wide angle
    2b. D5100 + 85 = this would give me close to 130 mm view which should be okay for portraits.

    3a. D750 + 85 = good for portraits
    3b. D5100 + 35 = this would give me close to 50 mm view and Would be used as general purpose nifty fifty.

    • Mark Condon on May 15, 2019 at 5:48 am

      Hey Abhinav, that’s a rather involved question – I’m not sure if I understand it completely, but I’d recommend one fast lens around the 35mm mark, and one zoom or longer lens for wedding photography, such as the 85mm you mention (this one in particular is great value). I’d recommend you join the Shotkit Facebook Group if you want to continue the discussion – there are plenty of experienced Nikon photographers there who’ll chime in ;-)

  10. Scott Straatmann on March 8, 2019 at 1:33 am

    Hello Mark,

    I am surprised there isn’t a mention of the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens for all around usage and travel. It’s a great “kit” lens that Nikon offers with their D750.

    Great article sir!

    • Mark Condon on March 9, 2019 at 5:04 am

      Thanks Scott. The 24-120 is a great lens, I agree, and can be picked up for a great bargain refurbished too (example). I recommended 2 other zooms in a similar focal range, so decided to leave it out, although I agree that it is an excellent addition to the D750 as a one-lens solution.

  11. Vg E Liquid Kaufen | Tech Superb Blog on October 3, 2018 at 3:17 am

    […] The 9 Best Nikon Lenses | Your Nikon dSLR needs these! – The 9 best Nikon lenses available in 2018 + 5 Specialty lenses. If you own a Nikon dSLR, you absolutely MUST try these Nikon lenses. […]

  12. Marlene Koslowsky on September 5, 2018 at 6:31 am

    I’m surprised to see the 18-300 in this list. I have it and hate it. Well, that’s a bit harsh. It has given me a good shot or two, but not many. Focus is not great. I will use it when I must and don’t need perfection, when I need the versatility it gives when switching lenses isn’t desired. I am a hobbiest and I found your site while looking for a better lens than this one. I use the af-s 200-500 for wildlife and find it fabulous. I am looking for something as good but in a shorter reach but still a zoom. The 18-300 is a great idea, but this lens is a fail. I can’t always have my heavy and limiting 200-500 on. Suggestions?

    • Mark on September 6, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks for the insight Marlene. Are you shooting it in low light? The f/3.5-6.3 tends to mean it struggles when there’s not sufficient light in the scene

  13. Rudolphio on March 16, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    You lost me at “here’s what Ken Rockwell had to say about it”. I do not respect Ken Rockwell as a photographer.

    • Mark on March 18, 2018 at 6:57 am

      Neither do I – his photos suck. But I do respect him as a reviewer of camera gear, and that’s why I quote him here.

      • Angelia on March 30, 2019 at 4:46 am

        Honestly, a lot of people slam Ken Rockwell, love him or hate him, he knows gear. I have not followed his work, but if I want a technical, right to the point review, i hear him out. He is a engineer and holds several patents. His no holds barred style doesn’t suit everyone. You have to give it up when he talks Pro’s and Con’s. He has saved me money as a starting photographer.

        • Mark Condon on April 2, 2019 at 11:14 am

          Oh for sure, I agree Angelia, and hats off to anyone who can stay that consistent with his reviews for so many years – he’s definitely an authority, and won’t change for anyone, which I respect.

  14. Alex on January 31, 2018 at 6:37 am

    So im planning to buy a new camera, Nikon D5600 if to be exactly, but when I started to search for a first prime lens I’ve got a little bit confused
    Since D5600 has a crop sensor, it means that 35mm DX lens should work just like 35mm since it’s a DX lens, and 35mm FX lens will work like 52.5 mm right ? Or I don’t understand)
    I’m planning to do landscape, portraits and architecture
    And since there is no any 50mm DX lens, I can just buy 35mm FX lens, and get pretty the same result ?
    It will be kinda dumb 2 x 35mm lenses)
    Or as I know I can buy a 35mm DX lens for all around one, and buy 50mm FX that will be like

    • Mark on February 1, 2018 at 6:22 am

      A 35mm DX lens on a DX format camera is equivalent to a 50mm field of view – bit confusing, I know. The ’35mm’ is a measurable physical property of the lens

  15. Bob on January 21, 2018 at 10:49 am

    For xmas i received a very nice present the d850 with 2 lens 50mm1.4g and 85mm1.8g..I was wondering do inam better buyng the 20mm1.8g and35mm1.8g or the 24-70 2.8 vr?

    • Mark on January 21, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      It really depends on a few factors, Bob. Personally I’d choose the primes overs a heavy zoom, but if you only want one lens to shoot everything, that 24-70 is excellent.

  16. Jason on January 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Hey Mark! I’m a hobbyist and I do have 35mm 1.8G and a 18-55mm G II lenses for my D5500. I shoot portraiture, landscape, street and also I’ve tried wedding photography. Any thoughts about what kind of lens do i need in order for me to enhance my photography?

    • Mark on January 16, 2018 at 6:10 am

      Hey Jason, it sounds like you’ve got all you need right there! The next big step up would be to a full frame camera, and the 35mm f/1.8G (FX version) so you can experience a ‘true’ 35mm field of view, and the other advantages that a full frame sensor brings with it.

      • Jacquie on November 24, 2018 at 3:53 am

        Hi Mark – sorry to jump in on this comment, but I think you can help me make a Christmas dream come true :)
        My partner has a Nikon DX and several lenses (a zoom one from an older model, but the AF doesnt work on his current model; a wide angle one which cost about £350 and most recently the 35mm f1/8)… I desperately want to surprise him with an FX camera for Christmas, as he doesnt believe he could ever justify such an expense… but I want to be sure he can use the lens. From my extremely limited knowledge and extremely deep research, I believe that the DX lenses will work on the FX camera… but only in the DX style, is that right? I also think (hope!) that the currently-non-AF zoom lens will work on the D750 model as it is motor driven… this will give this a new lease of life (although he manually zooms often too). I want the gift to be perfect.. should I also buy a solely FX lens, and if so, which…? I think the 35mm f/1.4 or 1.8, but are there different “DX and FX styles of this? Is it a huge difference… ie will, he notice the difference of the FX even with no new lenses immediately…? Thank you so very much for your help, it is hugely appreciated! Jacquie

        • Mark Condon on November 25, 2018 at 6:53 am

          Hi Jacqui! I’ll email you with a more detailed response, but to answer your question concisely here first – whilst DX lenses can be used on FX bodies in ‘crop mode’, I don’t recommend it. As for a lens recommendation, check this review out. I’ll be in touch today with an email that should help further ;-)

  17. Pierre on January 13, 2018 at 12:58 am

    Instead of having both the 85mm f/1.8 and f/1.4 lenses in this list, you could have chosen the 85mm f/1.8 and the 105mm f/1.4. In my opinion, the 105mm f/1.4 is even better than the nonetheless excellent 85mm f/1.4, and its use pattern is similar.

    • Mark on January 13, 2018 at 5:08 am

      Hey Pierre, thanks for your comment. I shot with the 105mm f/1.4 last season and loved the results but hated the size/weight. It’s a bit of a speciality lens (hence not including it here).

      • Pierre on January 14, 2018 at 8:35 pm

        Thank you to you, Mark, your article is a pleasure to read. Your story about your beloved 50mm f/1.8 D is funny. Being quite a few years older than you, my own pet lens is the 50mm f/1.2.

  18. Tim on January 6, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Nicely written. Thanks for sharing. I’m an ex wedding pro (film 30 years ago)(Nikon F4 and 800)
    Picked up a Sony A300 wtohen the bug bit again a few years ago. Now considering one of the newer Nikons. Hugely difficult choice. D500, D7500, D7300, D7200, D5600, D5500, D5300.Thinking of going body only to get the best body I can afford now and add lenses later.
    I noticed that you say avoid the kit lenses, they are useless, but most cameras offer a lense similar to 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II that you recommend as a good all round lense. What am I missing. Failing that which lense would you recommend if you only had one. General family photos, closeups of my animals, flowers semi macro, incredible sunsets and sunrises.
    Your comments greatly appreciated.

    • Mark on January 6, 2018 at 7:39 pm

      I have a lot of respect for ex-wedding film ‘togs! It’s a lot easier nowadays :-) I would’t say the kit lenses are useless, but rather, you’re limiting what your camera is capable of if you stick to them. I’d highly recommend a fast prime – any of the camera bodies you mentioned would work well with the 35mm f/1.8 for example.

  19. Sibby on January 5, 2018 at 10:07 am

    I have a Nikon D3300 and it came with a 55-200mm 1.4-5.6 and a 18-55mm 3.5-5.6.
    I would like to purchase a zoom lens that will do a better job at my daughter’s swim meets and that I can use for wildlife beach photos. So still and action shots – any recommendations?

  20. Thomas on December 27, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Dear Mark, Thanks for this detailed post. I am using Canon PowerShot G7 for my blogging use. It solves the purpose for me till date. I will surely give Nikon a try in future.

    • Mark on December 27, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Stick with your G7 if it’s doing the job, Thomas ;-) Thanks for the comment.

  21. Katrina on November 28, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Mark! I bought the 35mm f/1.8G DX . I love the idea of 35 mm photos, not too wide and not too narrow. However, this lens will be taking 52 mm photos on my d7200. Can I use a 24 mm lens to actually achieve 35 mm photos on my crop sensor camera? I’m considering the Nikkor 24 mm f/1.8g ED, and I read somewhere that the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 is a cheaper alternative.

    • Mark on November 28, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Hi Katrina, yes that’s right – a 24mm lens will be more like a 35mm on your crop sensor body. The Sigma zoom is also excellent and great for the flexibility, but you’ll notice better image quality in the two prime lenses in my opinion. Hope that helps!

      • Katrina on November 29, 2017 at 1:05 am

        Absolutely helpful! Thank you for responding. Last question. Are there any drawbacks to using the 24mm on my crop? Would the photos inevitably have some features of a wide angle lens? Like distortion, especially on people’s faces? On the same note, when shooting, would I need to have 24mm or 35 mm considerations in mind?

        • Mark on November 29, 2017 at 7:29 pm

          There would only be the slight distortion which exists at a 35mm focal length. I use 35mm for portraits all the time, and I even know many photographers who use 24mm for portraits – it all depends on how far you are from the subject, and placement in the viewfinder. I don’t think you’ll have any issues, Katrina ;-)

          • Katrina Shakarian on November 30, 2017 at 12:32 am

            Got it! Thanks again for sharing your insights.

  22. Katrina Shakarian on November 23, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I’m travelling to India for the first time in December. I’m interested in taking photos of buildings and architecture, markets and street scenes. I’m going to purchase the d7200 and 2 lenses. Given the kinds of pictures I’d like to take, which 2 lenses are a must have for this trip? 35mm f/1.8G DX? 50mm f/1.8D AF? 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX II?

    • Mark on November 24, 2017 at 6:04 am

      I’d go with the 35mm f/1.8G DX and nothing else – it’s a very versatile focal length and great in low light.

      • Katrina on November 28, 2017 at 4:27 am

        Thank you for responding! I got the 35mm.

  23. Warren Jones on November 23, 2017 at 7:39 am

    You’ve duplicated focal lengths in your best lenses which is strange in a short list. Most people wont duplicate lens focal lengths differing by 1 stop of light In addition I feel you have missed one of the best Nikon lenses ever made the 14-24mm f/2.8

    • Mark on November 24, 2017 at 6:06 am

      Duplicated focal lengths – for different budgets. 14-24 – wayyy too specialized usage for this list. Great lens but only really necessary for a very small percentage of shooters.

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  25. Vic Zubakin on May 2, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Good list but I would make one change.
    The best Nikon lens for architectural photography is the new Nikkor 19mm f4 Tilt-Shift ED lens.
    It smokes the old 24mm T/S lens though it is pretty expensive.

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