The 10 Best Nikon Lenses

Updated September 29, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Nikon Lenses
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Ideal for everything from close-up macro to long-range telephoto shots, these Nikon lenses will deliver outstanding image quality. We've included models in our selection that are priced for everyone from amateur photographers outfitting their first kits through to professional shooters looking to round out their arsenals. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best nikon lens on Amazon.

10. Tamron 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 XR DiII

The Tamron 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 XR DiII has been engineered specifically for Nikon DSLR cameras, and it comes with a full 6-year warranty. It has extra refractive index glass that enhances imaging performance by minimizing optical aberrations.
  • compact and durable housing
  • has a zoom lock feature
  • can blur at long focal lengths
Brand Tamron
Model A14-N
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

9. Sigma 150-600mm ƒ/5-6.3 DG

The Sigma 150-600mm ƒ/5-6.3 DG is ideal for sports, wildlife, and landscape photography due to its unparalleled focal range. It includes front and rear lens caps, as well as a lens hood to reduce glare in high light situations.
  • stabilizer allows slow shutter speed
  • crisp throughout the zoom
  • bulky to carry around
Brand Sigma
Model 745306
Weight 6.6 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Nikon Micro Nikkor 105mm ƒ/2.8G

The Nikon Micro Nikkor 105mm ƒ/2.8G is designed for close-up and macro photography, but it's lauded among photographers for its use as a portrait lens. It has an internal autofocus mechanism that operates quickly and quietly.
  • nano crystal coat reduces flares
  • focus from infinity to life-size
  • focal length prohibits wide photos
Brand Nikon
Model 2160
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Nikon Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8

The Nikon Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 is the company's top-of-the-line wide angle zoom for its lineup of full-frame cameras. It has an extremely large, permanently guarded front element to capture an immense amount of light from a broad scene.
  • produces rectilinear images
  • focus is whisper quiet
  • heavy at the front
Brand Nikon
Model 2163
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Nikon Nikkor 18-300mm

The Nikon Nikkor 18-300mm is one of Nikon's most powerful all-in-one zoom lenses. It has a 16.7x focal range, so it can take long-range shots without blurring the image, as well as close-up shots with a short minimal focusing distance.
  • features vibration reduction
  • super silent wave focus motor
  • slow at its widest point
Brand Nikon
Model 2196
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. Nikon Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8G

The Nikon Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8G is a medium telephoto lens designed to work with Nikon’s FX format DSLR cameras. It offers performance and portability in one package, making it a good choice for those who don't want to carry large lenses.
  • clear images at all apertures
  • great for portraits
  • focus ring feels poorly made
Brand Nikon
Model 2201
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Nikon Nikkor 35mm ƒ/1.4

For photographers who prefer a single prime lens, there is nothing more well-balanced than the Nikon Nikkor 35mm ƒ/1.4. It is one of the fastest, sharpest lenses in the company's diverse lineup, and its aspherical lens element makes coma and other aberrations disappear.
  • super-integrated transmission
  • 9-blade diaphragm
  • pricey for a fixed length
Brand Nikon
Model 2198
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Nikon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8E

The Nikon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8E is the upgraded version of the the company's most highly regarded telephoto zoom. Its focal range makes it ideal for sports and action photography, and its new, non-stick fluorine lens coat actively resists dirt, smudges, and fingerprints.
  • dust and moisture sealing
  • good quality on dx and fx bodies
  • extra-low dispersion elements
Brand Nikon
Model 20063
Weight 5.3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Nikon Nikkor 18-200mm

The Nikon Nikkor 18-200mm has long been the go-to superzoom for the brand's dedicated DX shooters. Its focal range allows you to shoot all day in any environment without ever needing to swap lenses. Its only downfall is slower performance at the long end.
  • minimal vignetting
  • focuses to 20 inches
  • zoom lock switch prevents lens creep
Brand Nikon
Model 2192
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Nikon Nikkor 24-70mm ƒ/2.8E

For the vast majority of shooters, most of whom shoot a variety of subjects in a slew of changing environments, the Nikon Nikkor 24-70mm ƒ/2.8E will be the most useful lens they could possibly purchase. Its constant, lightning fast aperture works like a charm in low light.
  • sweet spot focal range
  • soft but realistic skin tones
  • built to last decades
Brand Nikon
Model 20052
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Pinpoint Focus From A Handful Of Sand

While the image of glass manufactured from sand is a nice pastoral memory, it's not entirely accurate when discussing the creation of camera lenses, or even the windows on your house for that matter, most of which are made from laboratory-fabricated crystals.

For Nikon shooters, there are about a dozen pieces of glass on the market that are truly drool-worthy. Their resolution and speed make them among the finest examples of professional-grade glass in the world. And, in the case of about half of our selections, the prices won't cost you a second mortgage.

When light gets in through the multiple elements in these lenses, it's more than just a vague transmission of waves. Those elements work in precise concert with one another to bend those waves into a stark uniformity. Otherwise, there would be vicious distortion to your image.

Digital camera sensors are flat rectangles, and light coming in through a single lens would refract and hit the sensor at ever-so-slightly different times. As the wavelength of light coming in at a diagonal through the right side of the lens and hitting the sensor on the left side would be microscopically longer than the light coming in on the left and hitting on the left.

The phenomenon is called field curvature, and these Nikon lenses reorganize that light into a uniform image by stacking concave and convex lens elements against one another, elements that are polished and hewn to the micron.

Some of the lenses here also employ a number of image stabilizers inside the lens body, which counteract perceived hand shake and mirror vibrations, so your handheld pictures look as sharp as they might on a tripod.

Don't Forget To Factor In The Crop

When digital cameras first made contact with consumers, the best among them boasted APS-C sized sensors, which are smaller than a traditional piece of 35mm film. Camera manufacturers were smart enough to keep the design of the lens mounts the same, so that shooters could jump to digital without having to buy new lenses, but the difference between an APS-C sized sensor and what we now call a full frame sensor caused a change in the lens' focal lengths.

On an APS-C sized sensor, a 50mm lens shoots roughly 75mm. A 20mm lens shoots roughly 30mm. That's because the crop factor between the two formats is about 1.5x. You can divide the focal length of any FX lens (FX is Nikon's full frame lens shorthand specification) and add that to the original focal length to get the crop factor figured out.

Over time, Nikon produced better and better lenses designed specifically for their APS-C sensors with DX as the specification, so that new photographers or shooters jumping to Nikon from other brands wouldn't have to do that extra little bit of math.

If you already own a Nikon body, or if you're shopping for Nikon glass to use with an adapter on another body, it's best for you to double-check that sensor size. There are simple charts across the internet that break down each sensor size and its corresponding crop factor for you to investigate. After that, the big question becomes whether you're a zoom person or a prime person.

Zoom lenses allow you to achieve different focal lengths with a single lens, so you can do more diverse shooting without running all around a space or changing lenses over and over again. They're great for sports and event photography, or anything that requires lightning-like reflexes from a photographer.

Primes are a little better suited for art photography, fashion photography, portraiture, and videography. They tend to be a little sharper because they require fewer elements and they don't need to balance sharpness across any more than their single focal length the way that zooms do.

Figure out what sensor size you're working with, and what kind of shooting you want to do, and you'll be well on your way to finding the perfect lens.

Multiplying Glass

Early camera lenses–the ones that accompanied the earliest cameras in the early years of the 19th century–were a single piece of glass, coarsely ground and wildly inconsistent by today's standards. Photographers in those days had little control over focus, and their only options for focal length depended on the placement of camera and subject.

In 1839, Charles Chevalier introduced the first lens with combined glass elements–one convex lens fitted into another concave lens–that increased the image's sharpness and helped battle field curvature.

In the century and a half to follow, leading up to the digital revolution, lens makers and professional manufacturers added more and more lens elements to their better lenses, discovering more effective means of grinding, shaping, and polishing the glass along the way.

Even before digital photography came about, companies like Nikon incorporated computer precision into their assembly process, measuring their glass elements to incredible specificity and fitting them into equally well-designed housings.

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Last updated on September 29, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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