For my list of the Top Nikon lenses I am going to cover the best 10 lenses for both DX and FX cameras at different price points. Some lenses, like telephoto ones, are fine for both DX and FX use. DX lenses are for cameras such as the D3100, D5100, D7000, D300, etc. FX lenses are for full-frame sensor cameras like the D700, D800, D3, D4, etc.
Let’s get started…
1. Best all-around DX lens
The 18-300mm VR is the successor to the very popular 18-200mm VR lens. The 18-200VR was so popular that years after its release it was still on backorder at popular photography stores most of the time. One of the biggest complaints some DSLR users have is swapping lenses and an all-in-one like the 18-300mm solves this problem. This lens is equivalent to 16.6x zoom compared to 11x zoom from the old 18-200mm VR. A lens like this is the ultimate walk-around or vacation lens. You’ll also be cleaning your sensor a lot less by not swapping lenses as often. There are of course downsides to all-in-one lenses like this. To get such a great zoom range some sharpness will be sacrificed, and there will be oodles of distortion on both the wide and telephoto ends. The good thing is software like Nikon’s own Capture NX or Adobe’s Lightroom can easily take care of the distortion and chromatic aberration in raw files.
2. Best all-around FX lens
This is the ultimate walk-around/vacation lens for FX cameras. Not quite as popular as the DX equivalent since people who use FX cameras tend to spend a lot more money on fast 2.8 lenses. The downside to that is it takes them 3 lenses to cover a similar zoom range. This lens is surprisingly sharp for such a large zoom, especially when you stop it down a few stops. There is a fair amount of vignetting at the 28mm mark at f/3.5 though. It mostly disappears by f/5.6 and again is very easy to fix in post production. Below I have posted a couple of shots I personally took with this lens (on a D700 camera).
3. Best DX Ultra Wide lens
This is about as wide as you can get for a DX camera without going fisheye. At 10mm you get an impressive 109 degree field of view with this lens. What are the best uses for a lens like this? Most people will immediately think landscape and while that is true, simply making your landscape shots wider is not going to make them better. In a lot of cases it could do the opposite if there’s nothing for the eye to focus on. The biggest benefit to a ultra wide lens like this is the ability to take pictures from a more unique perspective which usually means getting as close as you can. You can have something or someone completely fill the foreground while still getting a huge background view. The background is no longer isolated from the subject but more a part of it. You need to be careful to avoid having too many points of interest in a picture like this or else the eye gets confused and it’s not pleasing to look at. This lens is very sharp and a must-have for a DX user wanting to go W-I-D-E.
4. Best FX Ultra Wide lens
The Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 is the first lens in Nikon’s “holy trinity” of lenses which include the 14-24mm 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8 VRII. This lens is even wider than the 10-24mm DX lens, giving you a whopping 114 degree field of view. It’s sharp, it’s fast; there’s a reason it’s part of the Nikon holy trinity. If you have an FX camera (or own a DX camera and plan on going FX in the future) and you have the money, these lenses are as good as it gets.
5. Best Normal Range Zoom DX lens
If you bought a DX camera kit you probably got one of the standard kit lenses like the 18-55mm or 18-105mm. I don’t believe it’s worthwhile replacing that lens with something like the 16-85VR but if you are buying just a body and looking for a normal or mid-range zoom then the 16-85mm is an excellent choice. It gives you a little bit of extra reach on both ends compared to a standard 18-55mm kit lens and it’s also better built (with a metal mount instead of plastic). I used one of these for a long time when I shot DX and thought it did a great job. Below is a few samples taken with this lens by myself.