Which Nikon DX lens to buy?
Do you own a Nikon SLR camera and are you looking for a lens? You’ve come to the right place.
Buying the ideal lens for your new camera may seem quite difficult because Nikon offers more than 50 lenses, not to mention those sold by third-party lens manufacturers such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.
Here you will find a selection of the best lenses compatible with Nikon’s DX series (or APS-C) cameras:
- Nikon D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D3400, D3500
- Nikon D5000, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600
- Nikon D7000, D7100, D7200, D7500
- Nikon D500
If you have a full-format Nikon DSLR (FX), I invite you to read this article dedicated to the best lenses for this type of camera.
With this guide, you will know which Nikon lens to buy according to your budget and the type of photo you want to take, whether it’s for travel photography, portrait or wildlife. I selected them according to their price and performance.
Note: Product links in this article lead to Amazon.com
- How to choose your Nikon DX lens?
- Best standard lens
- Best wide angle
- Best Macro lens
- Best portrait lens
- Best all around lens (travel lens)
- Best Zoom lens
- Top 5 best Nikon DX lenses
- Comparative table
- Useful accessories
Points to consider:
- Your budget: be careful, prices rise quickly for a quality objective and they can represent a significant budget.
- The type of photo you want to take: portrait, landscape, animals, sport…… choose a lens adapted to the situation.
- Bulkiness: the more bulky a lens is, the less you will want to take it with you and therefore to take pictures. I’ve therefore indicated the weight of each lens. Some of this list are very heavy!
- Image stabilizer (or VR for Vibration Reduction): not included on each lens, it allows to correct the camera movements and thus avoid blurry pictures.
- Aperture: it’s indicated by the letter “f” followed by a number: f/1.8, f/2 etc…. concretely, the lower the number, the more beautiful you can take pictures when the light is low.
- To choose your Nikon camera lens correctly, take the time to compare examples of images taken with the lens you are interested in on Flickr.com. You will see what it’s capable of and what kind of image you can make with it.
- Take the time to read all the reviews on the net, including (especially!) negative reviews on Amazon to see if the objective poses any significant problems to use.
Finally, if you buy a lens from a third party brand such as Sigma or Tamron, make sure it ‘s labelled ‘Nikon mount’ so that it’s compatible with your camera.
This lens is considered as one of the best of the DX range. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is very versatile, it offers extremely sharp pictures, much more than the 18-55mm lens supplied as a kit with each Nikon SLR. The autofocus is fast and quiet, it’s excellent in low light (no need for flash), its weight is very light and its price very cheap given its capabilities.
As it’s a fixed lens you’ll have to move around your subject and it’s not as versatile as a Nikon 16-80 mm or the Nikon 18-200 mm for example, but it’s the perfect lens for street photography, portraits or traveling. For the disadvantages: it’s made of plastic, but it’s the compromise to be made to have a compact and lightweight lens. It does not include an optical stabilization system. If you’re looking for a first Nikon DX lens to buy, just get this one!
- F mount lens/DX format. Picture angle with Nikon DX format 44 degree
- 52.5 millimeter (35-millimeter equivalent). Rear focusing; Manual focus override
- Aperture range: F/1.8 to 22; Dimensions(approx.) 70 x 52.5 millimeter
An ideal lens for landscape or architectural photography, which requires a large field of view. Its design is compact, its construction is good, the autofocus is fast and it’s able to make very sharp images.
Not one of the cheapest lenses, but its price is correct in view of the performance you get with it. Ultra-wide-angle lenses generally have a lot of distortion but the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 is reasonable at this level. It’s more noticeable at 10mm, especially when shooting a monument, but it’s almost absent at 15mm. The constant aperture of 3.5 allows you to take pictures with little light. You can attach a filter but filters with a diameter of 82mm are quite expensive.
- Ultra wide-angle of view with large maximum aperture of F3.5
- Sharp images with high contrast and superior peripheral brightness
- Super multi-layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting
An interesting alternative to the above Sigma 10-20mm, in the same price range, with a good construction quality and which offers very sharp images. However, it’s a little heavier than Sigma and the distortion is visible up to 16mm (although reasonable). It’s possible to fix this problem by using image editing software such as Lightroom, for example.
Its constant aperture of f/2.8 is brighter than Sigma and will be more suitable in low-light situations. You can even use it to take a picture of a starry sky!
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
- Designed for Cameras with APS-C Sensors
- Internal Focusing AF Motor
One of the lightest lenses in this selection, at an affordable price and with a good quality of construction, equipped with a silent autofocus system. In addition, it’s tropicalized with a metal frame with a gasket. It’s great for macro photography but can also be used to take portraits thanks to its 40mm focal length.
Images are very sharp even in low light conditions thanks to its maximum brightness of f/2.8, which also makes it possible to make beautiful background blurred images. Its minimum focus of 16.3 cm allows to capture complex details on flowers, jewellery or insects but unfortunately it does not have integrated stabilization, unlike the Micro Nikkor 85 mm f/3.5 model below (but which costs almost twice as much).
- Compact and lightweight DX-format close-up lens. Lens Construction (Elements/Groups) - 9 elements in 7 groups
- Maximum reproduction ratio is 1.0x. Focal length is 40 mm
- Sharp images from infinity to life-size (1x), autofocus to 64 inches
Heavier, more expensive and less bright than 40mm, which is not so bad if you use it in macro mode. On the other hand, it’s stabilized thanks to the VR II system (vibration reduction). It also offers very sharp images and focuses very quickly.
Too bad its price is so high compared to the 40mm but at least you get more distance from the subject because its minimum focusing distance is 0.286 m. and it offers very beautiful results.
- 85mm lens ideal for close-up, nature, portrait and general photography
- Close focusing to 0.9 feet
- Nikon VR II (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization
The best lens for close-up enthusiasts, but its price can slow down a lot and it’s one of the heaviest lenses of this selection. Its manufacturing quality is excellent and has seals. The integrated optical stabilization is effective, the autofocus is silent, and the sharpness is impeccable.
Note that it also gives excellent results in portrait photography thanks to a superb bokeh, and it’s compatible with Nikon full-format cameras. If you have the budget and you absolutely want to focus on the macro, don’t hesitate and take this model.
- Designed for close-up and macro photography; versatile enough for virtually any photographic situation
- Maximum Angle of View (FX-format): 23°20'.Features new VR II vibration reduction technology, Focal Length : 105 mm, Minimum Focus Distance : 1.03 feet ( 0314 m)
- Nano-Crystal coat and ED glass elements that enhance overall image quality by further reducing flare and chromatic aberrations
Technically, this is a lens dedicated to the FX full-format camera, but it’s compatible with DX and will give the equivalent in focal length of 75mm. Its look is quite similar to the 35mm f/1.8, with one of the lightest weights in this selection and one of the cheapest in this list.
As indicated, it will be used more for taking portraits with a very nice bokeh (background blur) and will give a professional look to your images. Perfect in low light situations. It’s also the lightest objective of all this selection.
- Fast, upgraded f/1.8, compact FX format prime lens. The picture angle with 35 millimeter (135) format is 47 degree and the maximum reproduction ratio is 0.15X
- Focal length 50 millimeter, minimum focus distance 1.48 feet (0.45 meter)
- Newly developed optical system with aspherical lens element, exclusive Nikon silent wave motor (SWM)
Yet another lens optimized for FX cameras but which can be used on a DX camera. Thanks to its slightly longer focal length, it can be used for portraits but also for sports events or concerts. In short, it offers very good results in low-light areas.
It costs twice as much as the 50mm above and it’s also twice as heavy, data to take into account when buying… but if you decide to switch to full format later, it may be a good choice.
- Fast aperture medium telephoto lens
- Internal focus, focal length: 85 millimeter, minimum focus range: 0.80 meter
- Silent wave motor (SWM). Number of diaphragm blades: 7 (rounded diaphragm opening)
The ideal solution for those who don’t want to carry several lenses when travelling, but it will require a big compromise on image quality. Don’t expect to have a bokeh or sharpness worthy of fixed focal lengths like 35mm, the idea is above all to have a lens that you won’t have to change all the time and that will cover a wide focal range that is practical in many situations, from wide angle to telezoom.
Another important point: all-in-one lenses labelled ‘Macro’ are not really good for macro photography: you can take pictures closer to the subject than other lenses, but they are not made for macro photography, it’s just a marketing argument.
Very expensive, but it has many advantages: rather light, compact, a well studied focal length, a large aperture and high overall performance. Just look at the pictures taken with it on Flickr: the sharpness and contrast are remarkable, and of all the transstandards it’s the one that offers the images with the most fishing. However, the distortions are quite marked according to several tests read on the net.
Too bad its price is rather high.
- World's lightest 5x zoom with an f/2.8-4 maximum aperture
- Inspiring image quality; ideal for daily life, travel, blogging, HD video and more
- Versatile zoom range that covers wide angle to portrait views. Minimum Focus Distance : 1.15 feet.(0.35 meter)
One of the best all-round lenses, stabilized, with a precise and fast autofocus, silent, with an interesting amplitude. As compact as an 18-55mm lens supplied as a kit. Very good image quality over the entire focal range. It opens relatively quickly.
The only negative point is a lower image quality at 17mm, with low dive angles and quite noticeable distortion. The title’s Macro name is not as incredible as it sounds, but the results are correct if you want to take pictures of insects. The minimum focusing distance is 22 cm.
- 17-70mm focal length
- F2.8-4 maximum aperture; F22-22 minimum. Image stabilization
- 72mm filters. 0.22m/8.66" minimum focus
For those who don’t want to worry about taking multiple lenses on a trip, this is the lens with the highest focal length range on this list, allowing you to do almost anything. It has a very useful image stabilizer to compensate for the lack of light.
Some weak points: its high weight, the limited and non-homogeneous dive, significant distortions at wide angles, a slow autofocus for sports or animal photography, but if you are looking for the travel lens with the widest angle, it can be an interesting option. On the other hand, as with all transstandards, do not expect the same image quality as with two separate lenses.
- 16-300mm zoom range for the perfect all around lens
- Lens hood included
- Piezo Drive autofocusing
Very good choice for anyone who wants a versatile lens and quality results. Be careful, its weight is significant even if it’s quite compact in size. It has a large focal length, and for this budget it’s one of the best trans-standards. It will be suitable for those who do not want to change lenses several times during the trip (always the risk of dust on the sensor).
It offers beautiful images, with natural colors and a correct sharpness. In low light conditions, the VR system helps a lot by reducing the risk of blurry pictures. In short, a good all-round zoom, which makes it possible to make beautiful images.
- One-lens solution adept in a wide variety of situations
- Focal length range: 18 -200 millimeter, minimum focus distance: 1.6 feet.
- Two extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements; Three aspherical lens elements
A tip to remember if you decide to buy a zoom in addition to your basic kit: make sure it has the VR! It’s better to spend a little more to benefit from integrated optical stabilization.
A good complement for the 18-55mm basic lens. Made of plastic, it’s surprisingly light and compact and very cheap. I used it on a trip to Nepal where I was able to shoot animals in a national park. However, I was not at all convinced by the video mode, it has trouble focusing and is very noisy.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the photos, certainly it’s not from National Geographic but it gave very good results for this price, sharp images, with a nice bokeh.
- 55-200mm zoom Nikon lens with f/4-5.6 maximum aperture for Nikon digital SLR cameras
- 2 extra-low-dispersion (ED) glass elements for minimized chromatic aberration and superior optics
- Silent Wave Motor produces quick and quiet high-speed autofocusing; weighs 9 ounces
Check also the Nikon AF-S DX 55-300 mm f/4,5-5,6, heavier, more expensive but with a longer focal length.
Full-frame compatible, it’s also the most expensive and heaviest on this list. It offers better performance compared to cheaper zooms even if it’s not at the level of professional lenses.
Its weak points: its focusing speed in low light, and a decrease in sharpness from 250mm. Optical stabilization works excellently well according to the various tests on the net. In short, it’s more expensive than the others but offers beautiful images.
- Capture sports, wildlife, concerts, landmarks and more with phenomenal clarity and precision
- Maximum angle of view (DX-format): 22°50', minimum angle of view (DX-format): 5°20', maximum angle of view (FX-format): 34°20', minimum angle of view (FX-format): 8°10'.Advanced optics and...
- Ultra-fast, near silent autofocus powered by a stepping motor (AF-P)
NOTE: A word about the Tamron AF 70-300mm and the Sigma 70-300 mm: they are among the best selling Amazon products and are the cheapest lenses BUT they do not have an integrated optical stabilizer and it will be necessary to use a tripod beyond 100 mm, not to mention the image quality which is far from being great (they have many negative opinions). They should be avoided, therefore, unless you have money to throw away.
NOTE 2: the MUST, if you win the lottery, which will allow you to take pictures when the brightness is lower, is the Nikon AF- S NIKKOR 70-200 mm f/2.8G ED VR II. For a longer focal length, try the Nikon 200-500 mm / F 5.6 AF-S NIKKOR E ED VR (for birds, wildlife…).
Here is the top 5 of the best Nikon DX lenses. Please leave a message if you do not agree and explain why!
If you only need one and have a small budget, choose the 50 mm f/1.8. For less than 200$ it’s one of the best value for money of this ranking. This is the best prime lens to get if you own the basic 18-55mm and want to see a great increase in your picture quality.
If you want a good travel lens that you can take on a trip and that will be better than the 18-55mm supplied as a kit, the 16-80mm f/2.8-4E is the one for you.
If you want to enjoy yourself with a great zoom lens and if you have the money, choose the 70-200 mm f/2.8.
If you want to take pictures of landscapes or monuments in a wide angle, choose the Sigma 10-20 mm.
Finally, if you are interested in photographing flowers, insects or to make close-ups on small objects, choose the 105mm f/2.8G._
In this table you will find all the objectives mentioned on this page classified by price. I’ve put the prices as an indication, but remember to check on Amazon to see if they have decreased or increased.
Note: Product links in this article lead to Amazon.com
|35 mm f/1.8G||$$$$$||200 g||f/1.8||portrait, street photography, travel||no|
|Nikon AF-S 50 mm f/1.8G||$$$$$||187 g||f/1.8||portrait||no|
|Nikon AF-S DX VR 55-200 mm f/4-5.6 G IF ED Zoom||$$$$$||335 g||f/4-5.6||zoom||yes|
|Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor f/2.8G 40 mm||$$$$$||235 g||f/2.8||macro||no|
|Nikon AF-S DX 55-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR série G||$$$$$||580 g||f/4.5-5.6||zoom||yes|
|Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM||$$$$$||465 g||f/2.8-4||all-in-one||yes|
|Sigma 10-20 mm F3.5 EX DC HSM||$$$$$||520 g||f/3.5||wide angle||no|
|Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR II||$$$$$||355 g||f/3.5||macro||yes|
|Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX II 11-16 mm f/2.8||$$$$$||550 g||f/2.8||wide angle||no|
|Nikon 18-200 mm AF-S f/3.5-5.6G IF ED VR II||$$$$$||570 g||f/3.5-6.3||all-in-one||yes|
|Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO||$$$$$||540 g||f/3.5-6.3||all-in-one||yes|
|Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85 mm f/1.8G||$$$$$||350 g||f/1.8||portrait||no|
|Nikon AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF ED Zoom||$$$$$||750 g||f/4.5-5.6||zoom||yes|
|AF-S VR Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G||$$$$$||750 g||f/2.8||macro||yes|
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor VR 16-80 mm f/2,8-4E||$$$$$||481 g||f/2.8||all-in-one||yes|