If you’re an amateur photographer, whether you’ve just started or have been doing it for a while, you may find yourself lacking something. You will have this feeling that you’re missing one thing to take the picture you had in mind. In many cases, a lens is that element that would allow you to capture the photo you wanted.
Today, we’ll be delving deeper into Nikon lenses, marketed by the Japanese manufacturer under the Nikkor brand. These products have always stood out for their compatibility and the quality of their optics. And if you prefer another brand like Canon, keep reading; you can still use them with a simple adapter. Let’s get started!
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Our Selection: The Best Nikon Lenses on the U.S. Market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Nikon Lenses
- 4 Buyer’s Guide
- 5 Summary
- We want to focus on Nikon lenses for reflex (DSLR) cameras, which are still the most commonly used by amateurs and professionals alike. While many believe the future of photography lies in mirrorless cameras, DSLR models are still the most affordable and give us the widest range of options in terms of lenses and accessories.
- Other brands also manufacture lenses that are compatible with Nikon cameras, such as Tamron, Sigma, Tokina or Samyang, in addition to the cost-prohibitive Zeiss. However, only a Nikon lens can ensure full compatibility with all your photographic accessories and the best possible image quality.
- You should always consider your needs when choosing a new lens, and this according to the type of photo you want to take and the camera you have. Other parameters should also come into play a part in your decision: the size of the sensor, the focal length, or whether you want a fixed focal length or a zoom.
Our Selection: The Best Nikon Lenses on the U.S. Market
We’ve selected three Nikon lenses for you. They have been chosen with the needs of all amateur photographers in mind – beginners or advanced users alike. From all-round zoom lenses useful in virtually any situation to bright lenses designed to help you explore your photographic creativity, there’s truly something for everyone.
Best Nikon Lens Overall
This 35-mm fixed focal lens has an aperture of f/1.8. Ideal for event, landscape, street, and documentary photography, it has high-quality optics and is light enough to carry anywhere with you. This Nikon lens is also designed for APS-C cameras. While it doesn’t feature an image stabilizer, this is not necessary for 35-mm fixed focal lenses. It offers exceptional image quality, high sharpness, high contrast, and fantastic resolution.
Best All-Round Nikon Lens
This AF-S FX Nikkor lens is quite simply one of the most versatile models on the market, so it’s not a surprise that it has become Amazon’s Choice in the category. With the latest image stabilization out there, it allows you to shoot at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than regular lenses. Its wide-range 10.7x zoom is one of its most attractive features, giving you the possibility to take quality pictures in various types of photography.
Best Nikon Telephoto Lens
This model is for you if you’re looking for a telephoto lens to get closer to the action – whether you’re at a sports game or exploring nature in search of wildlife to immortalize. Its fast f/5.6 aperture allows you to snap photos with out-of-focus backgrounds anytime you like, and the VR image stabilizer is essential to keep all your long-range pictures sharp and steady. This Nikkor lens is expensive and mostly tailored to professionals.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Nikon Lenses
You may be looking to complement your existing equipment, or simply want a lens for a specific type of photography. Regardless of this, you should be familiar with various important aspects of lenses before buying your own. A Nikon lens is an investment, so make sure you resolve all doubts and feel confident with your purchase.
What is a Nikkor lens exactly?
Nikkor is quite simply Nikon’s optical division. Nikon optics are manufactured and marketed under this brand, which means that the name Nikkor will appear on all lenses from the Japanese multinational. In short, don’t go and think that you bought an imitation; this is the name Nikon gives to all its lenses.
Why should I buy a Nikon lens?
It’s simple: they offer sharpness, definition, focus precision, reliability, and overall performance. Nikkor lenses are designed to optimize the performance of your Nikon camera and ensure its smooth operation – in terms of your camera’s technical features and its accessories such as the flash. It allows you to make use of its most advanced functions.
The compatibility is key, too. Even the most advanced Nikkor lenses are designed with Nikon’s F-mount, which has been in production since the late 1960s. This mount is the most compatible of any camera brand and allows you to use older lenses from analog cameras with your DSLR model.
Advantages: The optical quality of their sharpness and definition are excellent. They are very reliable and accurate, and offer top performance. These lenses guarantee the flawless operation of your Nikon camera, of its most advanced features, and of its accessories.
Nikon’s F-mount is the most widely compatible on the market, which means that you have access to an incredible variety of old and new lenses. All you need is a simple and affordable adapter to use them with other camera brands.
Disadvantages: They are more expensive than other brands that manufacture lenses for Nikon cameras such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina or Samyang. While their compatibility is the very best in the business, certain Nikon cameras may not work with specific lenses.
How can I understand Nikon lenses?
You will notice that each lens presents a series of values and acronyms indicating its characteristics. Knowing what each of these means is fundamental in order to make the best possible purchase. Without delving too deep into the technical terms to which they refer, we’ve prepared a quick guide for you:
- Focal distance or length: Expressed in mm, it can either be fixed (single number) or variable (numerical range). This will give you an idea of the viewing angle that you can have with a specific lens. Simply put, a shorter focal length means that you will have a larger viewing angle. On the contrary, a longer focal length leads to a smaller angle and you will be closer to the subject of your photo.
- Aperture (F or f): You can find the maximum lens aperture on all models. The smaller it is, the more you can open the diaphragm and the brighter the lens is. In variable focal lenses, the first F number shows the maximum aperture with the shortest focal length, while the second indicates that with the longest focal length.
- Sensor size (DX or FX): The acronym DX means that the lens is designed for cameras that are not full-frame, otherwise known as APS-C. Lenses for full-frame cameras are actually not specified as FX and bear no acronym.
- Autofocus: Signaled by the letters AF, it informs you that the lens features automatic focusing. Nikon’s current lenses are generally AF-S or AF-P, where the focus motor is integrated into the lens itself. However, you can still find certain models without a focus motor (AF or AF-D) that require a camera with autofocus.
- Image stabilizer: Any lens featuring the acronym VR has an image stabilizer. There are two types: VR or VR II. The former allows you to snap photos up to 3 times slower than models without it. The second-generation VR II gives you the possibility to take pictures up to 4 times slower.
- Other logos: The letter G indicates that the diaphragm aperture is controlled from the camera and cannot be done manually from the lens itself. The acronym ED (Extra Low Dispersion) means that your lens has an optical coating to correct chromatic aberrations, most common on telephoto lenses and zooms.
What are the different types of Nikon lenses?
Various criteria can be used to classify lens types, but we want to look at the most frequently used aspect: the focal length. This very general and simple classification should give you an idea of the main lens types and their uses, as well as some of their key characteristics:
|Lens type by focal length||Characteristics||Uses and types of photography|
|Wide-angle (35 mm)|| Large viewing angle (generally between 60° and 180°).
They move the subject further away from the camera.
The distance between the objects is increased.
They separate the planes.
| They offer amplitude and a more complete vision of the scene.
For landscapes, interior design, and architecture.
|Normal (35-50 mm)|| Typical viewing angle (around 45°).
Their name comes from the fact that they most resemble the vision of the human eye.
| They offer a vision that is very similar to ours.
Street and documentary photography.
|Telephoto (70 mm or more)|| Closed viewing angle (30° or less).
They bring the subject closer.
The distance between the objects is reduced.
They compress planes together.
| Their partial vision allows us to get closer to the details from a distance.
Sports, nature: wildlife and birds.
The type of photography you dedicate yourself to is always a fundamental criterion when buying any new accessory. The compatibility and suitability are also key in a lens, so you will want to focus on the characteristics of your own camera. In the following section, we’ll look at some of the most important aspects to remember:
- Sensor Size
- Focal Length
- Diaphragm Aperture
- Type of Photography
First of all, you should consider the size of your camera’s sensor; it will either be full-frame (FX in Nikon) or APS-C (DX in Nikon). The latter is the most common among amateur photographers and the Nikon DX lenses are ideal for it.
- FX lenses: Designed for the full-frame sensors, they can be used with DX cameras – remember to take into account the multiplying factor. If you don’t have a full-frame sensor, the focal length of an FX lens will be multiplied by 1.5. This means that a 50-mm FX lens mounted on a DX camera will have a real focal length of 75 mm.
- DX lenses: They can also be used with full-frame cameras, although they’re not the most suitable as they will create darkening in the edges (vignetting effect). DX lenses tend to be more affordable than FX lenses, which are intended for the professional sector, as are full-frame cameras.
Nikkor variable focal lenses offer versatility, allowing you to zoom in and out of what you’re photographing without having to move – hence the name ‘zoom’. They also allow you to adapt the viewing angle and perspective more easily. Their main drawbacks are that they offer less brightness, a smaller aperture, and inferior image quality.
If you’ve been using a zoom model and now want a lens with greater image quality and brightness, a fixed focal lens is your best bet. To find out if it’s worth it, go through your favorite photos and see if a focal length is repeated. If that’s the case, opt for a fixed focal lens with a similar distance.
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The aperture of the diaphragm is linked to the brightness. A smaller aperture means that the diaphragm is more open and captures more light, which has a great impact on creativity. The smaller the aperture, the less depth of field, the smaller the area of focus; this leads to a greater blur effect or bokeh. This is particularly interesting for portrait photography, for instance.
Three types of autofocus can currently be identified on Nikon lenses:
- AF-S: Accurate and quiet, their motor focus is located on the lens and they are compatible with all Nikon cameras. This is the most common type today.
- AF-P: They are the latest generation of autofocus and are ideal for recording video. However, certain entry-level or intermediate-range cameras are not compatible with them. You can use these autofocus with the D3300, D5500 and D7500, and all newer models in these series. The D5200, D5300, D7100, and D7200 require the latest update of the camera’s firmware. Check your camera’s manual for compatibility.
- AF or AF-D: These older models have no focus motor on the lens, so your camera will need to have one. Again, check your manual to find out if that’s the case.
Type of Photography
In the table below, you can find the most suitable lenses for the most common types of photography among amateurs. We’ve designed this list based on the average photography lover with a DX camera. It should give you a rough idea of what to opt for depending on your personal needs.
|Type of photography||General recommendations||Recommended Nikon lens|
|For traveling||Look for an all-round zoom lens that can cover a wide focal range.|| Nikon AF-S DX 18-200 mm or 18-300 mm.
Nikon AF-S DX 18-55 mm + Nikon AF-S DX 55-200 mm.
|For sports and nature (wildlife and birds)||Opt for a powerful telephoto lens that allows you to get closer to your subject.|| Nikon AF-S DX 55-200.
Nikon AF-P DX 70 – 300.
Otherwise, the following are also suitable:
Nikon AF-S DX 18-200.
Nikon AF-S DX 18-300 mm.
|For portraits||Prefer a luminous fixed focal lens or a short telephoto lens.|| Nikon AF-S 85 mm.
Nikon AF-S 50 mm.
|For events||A zoom with a telephoto range will allow you to take photos without being too close.|| Nikon AF-S DX 55-200 mm.
Nikon AF-S 85 mm.
|For documentary and street photography||Look for a normal bright fixed focal lens.|| Nikon AF-S DX 35 mm.
Nikon AF-S 50 mm.
|For landscape, architecture, and interior design||Go for a wide-angle lens or a bright zoom lens.||Nikon AF-P DX 10-20 mm|
Called Nikkors, Nikon lenses are the ideal choice if you use a camera from the Japanese manufacturer. They offer great image quality and unparalleled reliability while guaranteeing optimal use of your camera’s functions and accessories. Remember that you can also use them with another camera brand as long as you have an adapter.
The Nikon lens range is very wide and has the biggest compatibility in the market. Make sure you feel comfortable with how you plan on using your lens before making your purchase. You should also consider the type of photography you prefer, as well as the technical specs and characteristics of your camera.
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