The 10 Best Nikon Lenses

Updated December 16, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Nikon Lenses
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Ideal for everything from wide-angle and 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 upgrading their 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. Nikkor 18-300mm DX ƒ/3.5–5.6G

The Nikkor 18-300mm DX ƒ/3.5–5.6G is one of the brand's most powerful all-in-one zooms. It has a 16.7x focal range, which is useful in a wide variety of situations, but it isn't sharp enough at any point for it to be considered professional quality.
  • effective vibration reduction
  • three aspherical elements
  • slow at its widest angle
Brand Nikon
Model 2196
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

9. 200–500mm ƒ/5.6

Anyone venturing on a wildlife safari who doesn't want to get too up-close and personal with a lion or a rhino would do well to consider the 200–500mm ƒ/5.6. Its extreme telephoto reach also comes in handy at sporting events.
  • tripod mount included
  • seven-foot minimum focusing distance
  • enormous to carry around
Brand Nikon
Model 20058
Weight 6.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. PC 19mm f/4E ED

The tilt-shift mechanisms on the PC 19mm f/4E ED allow you to maneuver the elements to completely eliminate the effects of wide-angle distortion. You can also manipulate the perspective to create a litany of strange scenes and unique images.
  • nonstick fluorine coating
  • up to a 90-degree rotation
  • a little slow in low light
Brand Nikon
Model 20065
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. 105mm ƒ/1.4E ED

The 105mm ƒ/1.4E ED trades in the macro capabilities of the company's other popular option at this focal length for an uptick in aperture speed that can make a tremendous amount of difference to shooters working in suboptimal lighting conditions.
  • rounded aperture for pleasant bokeh
  • little to no chromatic aberration
  • pricey for an all-plastic barrel
Brand Nikon
Model 20064
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. 28mm ƒ/1.4E

If you find that a 35mm is just a little too tight for your most common applications, then the 28mm ƒ/1.4E would make an ideal option. Its field of view and impressive sharpness are particularly well-suited to landscape photography.
  • great for full-body portraits
  • smart choice for filmmakers
  • minimum aperture is a bit fast at 16
Brand Nikon
Model AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.4E
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. 14–24mm ƒ/2.8

The 14–24mm ƒ/2.8 is the widest model in the company's so-called "holy trinity" of top-tier zooms. The other two units in the trio have been updated since their initial release over a decade ago, and this one is due for a reboot, despite its undisputed excellence.
  • produces rectilinear images
  • two extra-low-dispersion elements
  • a little heavy at the front
Brand Nikon
Model 2163
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. 70–200mm ƒ/2.8E

The 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, nonstick fluorine coating actively resists dirt, smudges, and fingerprints.
  • sealed against dust and moisture
  • good quality on dx and fx bodies
  • well-suited for event work
Brand Nikon
Model 20063
Weight 5.3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

3. 18–200mm ƒ/3.5–5.6

The 18–200mm ƒ/3.5–5.6 has long been the go-to superzoom for the brand's dedicated DX shooters. Its focal range, extending from a 24 to a 400 mm equivalent, allows you to shoot all day in any environment without ever needing to swap glass.
  • minimal vignetting
  • silent wave focusing motor
  • lock switch prevents creeping
Brand Nikon
Model 2192
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. 35mm ƒ/1.4

For photographers who prefer a single prime, there is nothing more well-balanced than the 35mm ƒ/1.4. It is one of the fastest, sharpest options in the company's diverse lineup, and its aspherical element makes coma and other aberrations disappear.
  • nano crystal coating
  • nine-blade diaphragm
  • short minimum focusing distance
Brand Nikon
Model 2198
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. 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 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 December 16, 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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