Zoom, prime, wide-angle, or telephoto–what are the best Nikon DX lenses?
If you have just purchased a Nikon SLR and you want to experiment, or if you are an expert and want to expand your lens range, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of gear available.
Nikon is currently selling about 90 different lenses, which can cover virtually every photographic need. On top of this, you have third party brands such as Sigma or Tamron, that also offer exceptional glass.
Finding your way around specifications, prices, and acronyms is far from simple. We are here to make the job easier.
We have collected the 10 best Nikon DX lenses out there, so you can spend less time shopping and more time shooting.
Here is a summary of hours of research and field tests. Scroll below to read the reviews of each DX lens.
1. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f1.8G
A great all-round lens for beginners and professionals
Autofocus: Silent Wave Motor | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Maximum magnification: 0.16x | Filter size: 58mm | Dimensions (WxL): 70 x 52.5mm | Weight: 305g
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f1.8G is a great all-round lens for both beginners and professionals.
Despite its low cost, the build is high quality. It has rubber gaskets that seal the lens from dust, dirt, and flying fibers. It also boasts 7 diaphragm blades, which make images sharp and crisp. However, some spherical distortion is possible and sometimes images may be too sharp.
2. Tamron 10-24mm f3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD
An ultra-wide-angle staple great for landscape photographers
Autofocus: HLD Autofocus Motor | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Maximum magnification: 0.19x | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 84 x 85mm | Weight: 440g
The lens also features vibration reduction (VR) technology, to reduce the shakiness when shooting with ultra-wide apertures.
Bad weather is not a problem with this lens: you can take your camera outside during drizzle or fog, as it is moisture-proof. While not as lightweight as the previous lens, this one has an ultra-wide angle, allowing you to experiment with architecture or landscape photography. However, this lens lacks a depth of field scale. Plus, because it is wide-angle, it is susceptible to flare and distortion.
Compared to the previous version of this lens, the new version is miles ahead in terms of overall quality.
3. Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art DC HSM
High-quality, smooth and fast zoom, great for the serious photographer
Autofocus: Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.28m | Maximum magnification: 0.233x | Filter size: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 78 x 121.3mm | Weight: 810g
Unlike the previous entries, the Sigma 18-35 f1.8 Art DC HSM is big and heavy. It comes with 9 diagphrame blades that make a perfect round aperture for stunning bokeh effects.
It produces high-quality images, with fast and accurate autofocus with the possibility of full-time manual focus override. Due to its wide nature, it is prone to chromatic aberrations and flare. It does come with a USB dock that allows you to adjust the focus settings and update the firmware direct from your PC.
And yet, it has a very fast aperture speed that operates silently, so you won’t bother anyone with clicky sounds. As for design, it has comfortable focus rings and a smooth and fast zoom–in fact, the fastest on the market, which makes it great for any serious photographer.
4. Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD
A feature-packed, quiet zoom
Autofocus: Hyper Sonic Motor | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.28m | Maximum magnification: 0.2x | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 83.5 x 91.8mm | Weight: 565g
The Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD has many features and covers a lot of photographic ground, from wide-angle to portraits.
The optical elements of the lens work to reduce all kinds of chromatic aberration in high-contrast images, as well as increase the sharpness of details.
What’s more, it has a super multi-layer coating that counteracts flare and ghosting, so you can enjoy great street and nature photography.
The optical stabilizer reduces the risk of camera shake. Plus, this lens has a sleek and comfortable design, making it perfect for everyday shoots. However, beware of humidity, as the lens is not moisture-proof.
5. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f1.8G
A versatile option, great for everyday photography
Autofocus: Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.45m | Maximum magnification: 0.15x | Filter size: 58mm | Dimensions (WxL): 72 x 52mm | Weight: 185g
The Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f1.8G is a very versatile lens thanks to its 50mm natural field of view and large aperture. The lens features an aspherical element, which suppresses aberrations and distortions.
Plus, the Super Integrated Coating reduces flare and ghosting for more detailed photos. This makes it one of the best Nikon DX lenses at a very reasonable price.
The f1.8 aperture works great in low-light conditions and provides a lot of control over the depth of field and the background bokeh. Usually, bokeh is circular, but this lens creates beautiful heptagonal shapes. However, there is no vibration reduction and the bokeh can be sharp.
6. Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f2.8-4E ED VR
A capable zoom option, great for low-light situations
Autofocus: Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.35m | Maximum magnification: 0.22x | Filter size: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 80 x 86mm | Weight: 498g
One of the most capable lenses on this list, the Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f2.8-4E ED VR packs a whole lot of features to ease the lives of both amateurs and professionals.
It boasts aspherical elements and various coatings to suppress chromatic aberration, distortion, and flare. Its f2.8-4 aperture range performs well in low light and gives control over depth of field and selective focus.
All this is great for landscape photography as well as portraits. However, while the image quality is impressive, you may get vignetting and inconsistent sharpness. However, the focal range of 16-80mm makes up for that with versatility, letting you take wide-angle, macro, and telephoto shots. It really is one of the best Nikon DX lenses.
7. Tamron SP 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro
A specialist lens great for macro and portrait photography
Autofocus: Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Maximum magnification: 1.0x | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions (WxL): 79 x 117mm | Weight: 607g
As the name suggests, the Tamron SP 90mm f2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro is more specialized than the other lenses on this list.
It is designed for close-ups and shooting small objects: great if you shoot macro photography. It is equipped with optics that reduce color fringing and coatings that suppress glare and ghosting.
If you shoot portraiture, this lens has something to offer you as well. Its 9 aperture blades create a soft and spherical bokeh background, perfect for making your model stand out.
You can also venture outside and not fear spring showers, as it is moisture-resistant. However, it is heavy and vignetting occurs when you’re shooting at wide apertures.
8. Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC HSM Art
Bulky but quality option for landscapes and portraits
Autofocus: Hyper Sonic Motor | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.95m | Maximum magnification: 0.15x | Filter size: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 93.5 x 170.7mm | Weight: 1,492g
The Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC HSM Art boasts an advanced optical design that eliminates distortion and chromatic aberration.
And while it shuns light flare, it welcomes artistic flair. The coating enriches colors and the 9-blade aperture produces smooth bokeh for a creative background.
It also has an internal autofocus system that offers fast and accurate focus. Added to that is an f1.8 aperture that works well in low-light conditions and create beautiful bokeh perfect for subject isolation.
The lens also features a tripod collar for greater stability when shooting with a tripod, which is a welcome bonus as this lens is heavy. However, there is no image stabilization and it is not weather-proof.
9. Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f4G ED VR
A lightweight telephoto option, great for low-light shooting
Autofocus: Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 5-stops | Minimum focus distance: 1m | Maximum magnification: 0.274x | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 78 x 178.5mm | Weight: 848g
This Nikon 70-200mm f4G lens is more compact and lightweight than its fellow f2.8-4 from this list.
It boasts features that reduce flare, ghosting, chromatic aberration, and distortion. Plus it still offers the VR image stabilization system and a silent motor.
What has changed is the fixed aperture and zoom that can reach up to 200mm. This means that you can experiment with shooting in low light, as well as shooting macro and telephoto scenes.
If your interest or expertise lies in portraits, this lens can serve you very well. Its aperture has 9 blades, which results in smooth shallow depth of field and soft bokeh.
10. Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR
Specialist telephoto lens with image stabilization
Autofocus: Ultrasonic | Stabilizer: 4-stops | Minimum focus distance: 1.5m | Maximum magnification: 0.25x | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 80 x 144mm | Weight: 745g
Yet another specialized lens, the Nikkor 70–300mm f4.5–5.6G IF ED has a zoom range dedicated to telephoto shots.
The vibration reduction (VR) feature of this lens is extremely useful for a lens this heavy and long. Chromatic aberration is not a problem thanks to Nikon’s special optical design that corrects colors. Better yet, the autofocus is silent and accurate, so you can take photos of moving wildlife from afar.
The 9-blade diaphragm produces soft bokeh for a beautiful shot. However, the autofocus can become slow at higher zooms and during our tests, we found the telephoto images (past 250mm) lacked a bit of sharpness.
How to Choose the Best Nikon DX Lens?
The sheer variety of lenses, specifications available, and prices, can make choosing between the best Nikon DX Lenses a bit nerve-racking.
Here are some key features you should keep in mind to better understand how they could benefit your photography.
What Type of Photography Will You Shoot?
The most important question is what type of photography are you interested in, or how specifically, how will you use your camera?
Photographers with an on-the-go style for traveling or photojournalism are usually minimalists when it comes to gear: they prefer a few portable lenses alongside lightweight kit. On the other hand, studio photographers may require prime lenses, fast apertures, a zoom, and lots of gear.
Wide-angle lenses are more suitable for landscapes, while telephoto lenses are ideal for wildlife. Based on what your subject is, a specific lens can work wonders–there is no need to have a full collection covering every focal length.
Prime vs Zoom
The argument of prime vs zoom lenses is not a new one.
Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths with no zoom capability. Whereas, a zoom lens has variable focal lengths.
The most prominent benefit of prime lenses is that the lack of zoom allows them to have wider, faster apertures for crisp and detailed photos. This also results in better low-light performance thanks to the sensor taking in more light. Great for portrait photographers, prime lenses create a shallower depth of field that makes your subjects stand out.
Zoom lenses, on the other hand, have the versatility of letting you change the framing at will. They let you experiment more with the type of photography that you do, such as landscape or macro. Of course, this versatility will cost you in low-light performance, as the aperture is usually not as wide as in fixed lenses (with some expensive exceptions).
Wide-Angle vs Telephoto Lenses
The line between wide-angle and telephoto is drawn at the 50mm threshold. This is because 50mm is what the human eye sees–our field of view. Lower focal lengths are known as ‘wide-angle’, while higher focal lengths are referred to as ‘telephoto’.
Focal lengths of 8-35mm are most common in wide-angle lenses. Focal lengths wider than 24mm are known as ‘ultra-wide-angle‘. This category of lenses is used for interiors, landscapes, and architecture.
As for telephoto lenses, they turn you into an eagle. Not literally, but they allow you to photograph subjects further away, such as sports players or animals.
Long telephoto lenses with focal lengths up to 500mm need a tripod to support them. They are also called ‘superzoom’ lenses. Lenses with focal lengths around 200mm are considered short or medium and are still fairly portable.
All-round lenses with a range of 18-200mm are great starting lenses. They cover lots of ground, from landscape to macro. But something has to be compromised for such versatility, and that is usually image quality.
What If I Upgrade to a Full-Frame Nikon Body?
This is not a big deal, as Nikon DX lenses for crop-sensor cameras are also compatible with full-frame camera bodies, or FX.
However, beware, as crop-sensor lenses take in and project a smaller image, so your photos with a full-frame body will have a black circle around the edges, similar to vignetting. This can be avoided by using the ‘automatic DX crop’ feature present in all modern FX cameras.
Nikon vs Third-Party Lenses
Nikon lenses and camera bodies are perfectly compatible, as they are made by the same manufacturer. They are created to fit together.
However, the market is bigger than that. Some third-party lenses from Sigma and Tamron are just as good used with Nikon cameras and are both reliable and affordable.
When choosing a third-party lens, make sure it is produced by a reliable manufacturer specifically for Nikon cameras, or you may find issues with focusing, zooming or simply connecting the camera to the body.
Which Nikon DX Lens Should You Choose?
Whether you shoot portraits, landscapes, sports, or commercial photography, there is the perfect Nikon DX lens for you. By understanding your needs and goals, you’ll be able to make the right choice.
In this article, we have selected the best selection of current lenses produced by both Nikon and third-party manufacturers, the final decision on which to buy is up to you.
Disclaimer: Our reviews are based on personal experience and extensive research by qualified photographers. We pride in keeping these reviews unbiased. Products may contain affiliate links from which we earn a small commission without any additional cost to you. Your support funds our research as well as PhotoBlog.com platform.
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