Jul 042012

6. Best Normal Range Zoom FX lens

Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8
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The second lens in the Nikon holy trinity is the 24-70mm f/2.8. The lens earns its reputation by being sharp at all focal lengths and its quality construction. You can definitely use the lens on a DX camera if you want, it would provide an equivalent to 36-105mm on DX which is a nice range, plus you will be all set to go if you ever upgrade to a FX camera.

7. Best low-cost telephoto zoom lens

Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR
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This lens is suitable for both DX and FX cameras. On DX it will give you the equivalent of up to 450mm focal length. The vibration reduction will allow you to more easily shoot handheld at the long focal lengths. The lens has excellent sharpness when you stop it down a couple of stops but can still produce some nice results wide open that will respond well to some moderate sharpening during editing. The zoom action is very smooth and there is no lens creep when pointing the lens straight up or down. This lens is good for stationary subjects or wildlife that doesn’t move too fast. While shots of say birds in flight is possible, you will have a lot more throw-aways than keepers compared to a fast telephoto lens with a bigger aperture and faster focusing. I have included some photos I took with this lens below.

70-300mm VR sample images. Click to enlarge.

8. Best high cost telephoto zoom lens

Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
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Aside from telephoto prime lenses that cost as much as your car, the 70-200mm 2.8 VR is about as good as it gets. It is the third and final lens of the Nikon holy trinity. This is the type of lens where you can use it wide open without hesitation. The focusing is lightning fast and reliable, it is the ultimate sports and wildlife lens.  To get more reach you can use 1.4x, 1.7x or 2.0x teleconverters. With a 1.4x TC (280mm) the lens still performs like a dream and you can sacrifice some speed and use the 1.7x and 2.0x TCs as well.  On a DX camera you get an equivalent range of 105-300mm. This lens is on the wish list of every single Nikon user that doesn’t already have it.

9. Best low-cost portrait lens

Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
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The 50mm prime lens is a lens that should be in every photographer’s arsenal. Prime lenses force you to get more creative rather than just rotate the zoom ring. And for subjects where you want the background to disappear, such as portraits, there is nothing better. Another option for DX users is the 35mm 1.8G which will give similar field of view that the 50mm does on FX cameras. If you are not happy with your photos and think your technique needs improving, my advice is to slap a 50mm prime onto your camera and leave it on there until you’re happier with your photos. Being forced to move to your subject instead of zooming will in most cases give you more intersting angles and composition. Don’t get me wrong, zoom lenses are great and have their uses but I don’t think it’s the best thing for a beginner.

10. Best high-cost portrait lens

Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G
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This is another lens for your wishlist. It will produce pictures with a three-dimensional quality to them because of how liquid smooth the out of focus background becomes and how much your subject pops out of the frame because of it. The lens is technically perfect; incredibly sharp even at f/1.4 and the bokeh (bokeh is the term for the way a lens displays out of focus areas) is world-class. Good bokeh doesn’t distract you at all and that is exactly what the bokeh on this lens does (or doesn’t actually). Simply one of the best portrait lenses in the world.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed my list of top Nikon lenses. I personally shoot Nikon most of the time which is why I created a Nikon list first but I hope to do some research and create a Canon list soon as well. For someone on a budget, I think the absolute best combo you can get is an all-in-one lens like the 18-300 or 28-300 plus a 50mm 1.8 or 1.4 prime lens. The zoom will give you the versatility and the prime will give you the low light performance and spark your creativity a bit more. If money is no object, I would buy the holy trinity and the 85mm 1.4. I didn’t cover macro lenses in this article but if you are looking for one, I have experience with the 105mm Sigma 2.8 macro and it performs well at a much lower cost than the Nikon counterpart. There are so many other cool Nikon lenses out there too but I tried to keep the list short. Good luck in selecting your lenses!

  3 Responses to “Top Nikon Lenses: The Best 10 Nikon DSLR Lenses”

  1. Where is the 135mm f/2 DC? That lens is better than the 85mm f/1.4 in terms of optics. I would love if Nikon will replace it with a new generation but to preserve the same construction…

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