Whether you’ve just bought your first Nikon DSLR or you want to add something new to your kit bag, the wealth of choice available can be a little bit daunting. Fear not though, as we’re here to help ensure you find the very best Nikon lens for your DSLR.
The guide has been split into two different sections. First off, there’s the best Nikon lenses for DX (APS-C) format DSLRs. These are lenses which are well suited – and in some cases specifically designed for – crop sensor DSLRs like the D3500, D5600 and D7500. After that, we’ll be looking at lenses which are best for Nikon FX format (full-frame) DSLRs, such as the D850.
You’ll usually find that Nikon DX format DSLRs are typically sold as part of a kit which comes complete with a standard zoom lens. These will often provide sufficient to get you started with, but you might soon find that you outgrow them if you want to do something a little bit more specialized.
For example, you don’t get a super wide angle for landscape and interior shots, while creating those super shallow depth of field effects can only really be achieved with a lens which has a very wide aperture. Macro lenses are very helpful for close-up shooting too.
While there are dedicated DX format lenses designed to be used with APS-C sensor cameras, sometimes FX format lenses are actually a better option, especially if you’re thinking of upgrading to full-frame at a later date.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that it makes most sense to use Nikon lenses if you have a Nikon DSLR. But, think twice about independently manufactured lenses from companies such as Sigma and Tamron – they often have similar, or even better, performance than proprietary optics – but usually at cheaper prices.
After some rigorous testing – both in the lab and out in the real world, here you’ll find the best DX lenses you’ll find for your Nikon APS-C camera. We’ve included both our favourite picks, as well as close-contenders which suit those on a tighter budget.
Best Nikon lenses for DX format DSLRs in 2019
Wide-angle zoom: Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD
A lens that lets you get a broader perspective
Type: Zoom | Sensor size: DX | Focal length: 10-24mm | Maximum aperture: f/3.5-4.5 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Filter size: 77mm | Dimensions: 84 x 85mm | Weight: 440g
Good image quality and construction
Pricier than some competitors
This ‘VC HLD’ lens includes optical stabilization alongside a new autofocus system which is quick and quiet. Handling is great, while the high-quality build includes weather sealing and a fluorine coating for the front element. Image quality is beautifully sharp, while contrast is high. Distortions are kept under control, while there’s also fairly minimal color fringing.
Great-value option: Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM
For about the same cash outlay as Nikon’s budget AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR lens, this Sigma is a more refined option. It’s got better build quality and delivers greater image quality, but on the downside, lacks stabilization – something which is not too problematic at this focal length.
Wide-angle prime: Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS
A wide angle prime that stands alone in the market
Type: Prime | Sensor size: DX | Focal length: 10mm | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilizer: No | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.24m | Filter size: None | Dimensions: 87 x 104mm | Weight: 580g
Good build quality
Fast aperture rating
No optical stabilization
When you’re pretty much reliant on autofocus, stepping back to manual focus can feel like going backwards. However, lenses like this which promise a huge depth of field thanks to a short focal length make accurate focusing less of a critical issue. To help you out, you also get a handy distance scale to try traditional focus methods for landscape and street photography – you can try setting the hyperfocal distance and ‘zone focusing’. There’s also high-quality glass which helps ensure the best possible image quality, with minimal ghosting and flare.
Great-value option: N/A
Wide-angle prime lenses for DX format cameras are practically non-existent. That means that the Samyang 10mm is not only the best choice, it’s also the best value.
Standard zoom: Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
Need a step up from the standard kit lens? This is it
Type: Zoom | Sensor size: DX | Focal length: 16-80mm | Maximum aperture: f/2.8-4 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.35m | Filter size: 72mm | Dimensions: 80 x 86mm | Weight: 480g
Pro-grade build quality
Image quality could be better
Typically bundled with higher-end cameras, such as the Nikon D500, this is the best DX format standard zoom lens. It’s a great walkaround option with a flexible range and a wide maximum aperture that sees it well suited to a lot of different subjects. It’s also beautifully built, with no less than four ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements, plus nano-structure coatings along with fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements. Focusing is swift and accurate thanks to ring-type ultrasonic autofocusing, while the VR (Vibration Reduction) stabilization system is very effective. Sharpness drops off a little at the long end of the zoom range, while you can see some barrel distortion at the short end of the lens, but otherwise it’s a great option.
Great-value option: Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM | C
Relatively compact and lightweight, this Sigma has a variable yet fairly fast aperture rating and delivers impressive image quality, all at a bargain price.
Standard prime: Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD
It’s a cracking prime lens with the bonus of stabilization
Type: Prime | Sensor size: FX | Focal length: 35mm | Maximum aperture: f/1.8 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.2m | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 80 x 81mm | Weight: 480g
Excellent build and image quality
Great handling characteristics
Heavy for this class of lens
Nikon 35mm f/1.8 cheaper
Take into account the 1.5x multiplier (or ‘crop factor’) of Nikon’s APS-C models and with this lens you get an effective focal length of 52.5mm, which makes it pretty much perfect as a standard prime. This lens is also FX (full-frame) compatible, so should you find you upgrade later down the line, you can use it as a wide-angle prime, without being limited only to ‘crop mode’. As for usability and image quality, you’ve got fast ultrasonic autofocusing system, plus a Tamron’s VC optical stabilization system which is highly effective.
Great-value option: Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
It’s less expensive to buy than the Tamron, matches it for aperture rating and delivers very pleasing image quality, but it’s not as well built and lacks stabilization.
Superzoom: Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro
Ultra-wide to super-zoom – this is a lens that’s primed for everything
Type: Zoom | Sensor size: DX | Focal length: 16-300mm | Maximum aperture: f/3.5-5.6 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.39m | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 75 x 100mm | Weight: 540g
Wider maximum viewing angle
Extra-large zoom range
Image quality is a little compromised
Sharpness drops off at long end
Available at a competitive price when compared with Nikon’s own brand superzoom lens, this Tamron starts at 16mm, rather than the usual 18mm at the short end of its range. It might not sound like a lot, but that extra-wide-angle potential is actually very noticeable in practice. At the other end of the range, there’s 300mm, which will get you nice and close to the action, too. Of course there’s a compromise to be made here – that comes in the form of a little softness at the long end of the zoom range, while you’ll notice some obvious barrel distortion at the short end too.
Great-value option: Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
Remarkably compact and lightweight for a superzoom, Tamron 18-200mm makes an excellent ‘travel lens’ and is unbeatable value at the price.
Portrait prime: Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD
Super sharp and with attractive blur – what’s not to like?
Type: Prime | Sensor size: FX | Focal length: 45mm | Maximum aperture: f/1.8 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.29m | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 80 x 92mm | Weight: 540g
Fast aperture with OS
Premium build and image quality
Can’t quite match f/1.4 lenses
Expensive to buy
This lens is a tad (a lot) more expensive than cheap options like the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G. However, it is extremely nicely made and boasts an optical stabilizer that you won’t always find in standard fast prime lenses. It’s full-frame compatible, but on your DX format camera, it gives a focal length of 67.5mm, which makes it well-suited for portraiture. Bokeh (out of focus areas) is nicely rendered, being deliciously smooth and creamy while also keeping the subject nice and sharp.
Great-value option: Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
If you’re willing to sacrifice a little in terms of build and image quality, and can do without optical stabilization, this budget Nikon lens only costs about a third of the price of the Tamron.
Macro prime: Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
A full-frame lens that performs just as well on DX bodies
Type: Prime | Sensor size: FX | Focal length: 90mm | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions: 79 x 117mm | Weight: 610g
Hybrid optical stabilization
Pricier than some competing lenses
No lens pouch or soft case supplied
This 90mm macro lens provides a number of excellent specifications, including high-grade glass, nano-structure coating and high-quality weather sealing and fluorine coatings. The autofocus system has been optimized for close-up shooting, while the ‘hybrid’ optical stabilizer counteracts for axial shift (up-down or side-to-side movement) as well as the usual angular vibration (wobble). All that means that this is the best lens in its class for consistently sharp close-ups – you’ll want to use a tripod though.
Great-value option: Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro
It lacks the Tamron’s hybrid stabilization system and weather seals, but offers refined handling and delivers superb image quality.
Budget telephoto zoom: Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD
Another Tamron delivering well for the money
Type: Zoom | Sensor size: FX | Focal length: 70-300mm | Maximum aperture: f/4-5.6 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 1.5m | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions: 82 x 143mm | Weight: 765g
Effective optical stabilizer
Good build quality
Typically ‘slow’ aperture rating
Drop in sharpness at long end
This Tamron option offers better build quality than Nikon’s own DX format 70-200mm lens, while being much cheaper than Nikon’s FX format 70-300mm lens – it hits the sweet spot. Here, the ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system is fast and quiet, while sharpness and contrast are well rendered throughout the zoom range. Sharpness is a little softer at the full reach of the lens, but Tamron’s own optical stabilization system works well to keep your handheld shots free of blur.
Great-value option: Nikon AF-S DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II
This DX format lens is significantly cheaper to buy than the FX format Tamron, and, while it doesn’t offer as much telephoto reach, its retractable design makes it remarkably compact for stowing away.
Fast telephoto zoom: Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
For DX format, go for a slower maximum aperture for better balance
Type: Zoom | Sensor size: FX | Focal length: 70-200mm | Maximum aperture: f/4 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 1m | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 78 x 179mm | Weight: 850g
Fabulous image quality
Easy handheld shooting
Slower than competing f/2.8 lenses
No tripod collar supplied
This is a lens that makes a heck of a lot of sense with DX format cameras. Try pairing a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with even something like the Nikon D7500 and you’ll end up with something bulky and unbalanced. By contrast, the 70-200mm f/4 option is about half the weight (and half the price) for much more comfortable shooting. This is still an FX format lens, so you’ll be able to use it on either kind of body, which is good news for potential upgraders. Image quality is stunning, with excellent sharpness helped along by very effective stabilization.
Great-value option: Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM
A great bargain buy, the Sigma has the faster, often favored f/2.8 aperture rating and is a very good performer, although it lacks weather seals.
Super-telephoto zoom: Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
Extreme telephoto reach doesn’t have to cost a fortune
Type: Zoom | Sensor size: FX | Focal length: 200-500mm | Maximum aperture: f/5.6 | Image stabilizer: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 2.2m | Filter size: 95mm | Dimensions: 108 x 268mm | Weight: 2,300g
Amazing telephoto power
Smart stabilizer with ‘Sport’ mode
It’s a weighty proposition
If you’re a wildlife, sports or action photographer – this is one of the most versatile lenses you can pick up. It’s fairly unusual in that it has a constant aperture throughout the range, which at f/5.6 is not too bad for the type of lens. On your DX body, the far end of the lens will give you 750mm, which may not be quite as much as using either a Sigma or Tamron 150-600mm zoom, but it’s not too far behind. Another fantastic benefit is a ‘Sport’ mode, which makes it easier to track fast and erratically moving subjects through the viewfinder.
Great-value option: Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C
The maximum focal length is comparatively modest, but Sigma’s Contemporary class super-telephoto zoom is wonderfully compact and lightweight, making prolonged handheld shooting less of a strain.