The best thing about DSLR cameras is that you can use different lenses for different situations. With dozens of lenses to choose from, however, which ones do you buy? Let’s have a look at some of the best Nikon lenses for different situations.
Lenses are pretty expensive—and the best lenses are incredibly expensive—so don’t view this as a “must have” list. Instead, you should work out what kinds of things you like to photograph, and then invest in the lenses that will help you the most. You need something totally different if you prefer to shoot portraits to landscapes, for example.
This article is aimed at beginner and intermediate photographers, so we’re going to be exploring cheaper options rather than the best, most expensive lenses. I’ll also be including some DX lenses—Nikon’s crop sensor lenses—which are perfect for entry level DSLRs, but won’t work as well on FX full frame cameras. For more on Nikon’s different lens mounts, check out our guide.
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If You Want to Shoot Portraits
A great portrait lens generally has a focal length of between 50mm and 100mm, and as wide an aperture as possible. The Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G fits the bill perfectly.
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With a 50mm lens, you get very natural looking portraits and can easily do both close ups and full length portraits without having to stand too far away from your subject. Similarly, an aperture of f/1.8 is fast enough to blur almost any background.
At around $220 dollars, the NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8 is very affordable and an incredible lens for the price. If you want something a little better and are prepared to pay more, the $475 NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G is a great step up.
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If You Want to Shoot Sports or Wildlife
Sports and wildlife photography have a lot in common. In both, you need to zoom in close on a far off and often fast moving subject.
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The $400 Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR is the cheapest powerful telephoto lens in Nikon’s line. The focal range is perfect for sports or wildlife photography; the downside is that the maximum aperture—especially when you’re fully zoomed in—is a bit too tight to get the really fast shutter speeds you want for action photography when you’re using a long lens in anything but broad daylight. The built-in image stabilization stops most blur from camera shake, but you might get some motion blur from your subjects.
If you need something with a faster aperture, it’s best to go third party. The Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 ($769) gives up some zoom reach but has a much much wider maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the whole zoom range. It also works with FX cameras, so if you upgrade to a full frame body, you won’t need to buy a new zoom lens.
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If You Want to Shoot Landscapes
While you can shoot landscapes with any lens—and the kit lens that comes with your camera is normally much better at landscapes than portraits or sports—most professional photographers love to use wide angle lenses; they mean you can get a lot more epic landscape into your photos.
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At a shade over $300, the Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR is a great starter landscape photography lens. On a crop sensor camera, a 10mm-20mm lens is equivalent to 15mm-30mm on a full frame camera, which puts the zoom range right in the sweet spot for landscapes. The aperture doesn’t really matter as much, because you’ll normally use a tripod.
If you want something a bit higher quality that will work on full frame cameras, then the $750 Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED is the way to go.
For Street and Travel Photography
For street and travel photography, you want a lens that is small, light, and versatile. The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ($196.95) hits every point.
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While not a pancake lens, the NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8 is small and light. It won’t add much bulk or weight to your camera, which is a blessing if you’re carrying it around all day or need to stash it in a bag. With an aperture of f/1.8, you’ll also be able to keep using it even after the sun goes down. The 35mm focal length (and the 50mm it’s equivalent to on crop sensor cameras ) is a classic for street photography; as long as you’re prepared to zoom with your feet, you’ll be able to do everything from environmental portraits to wide crowd shots.
Photography can be an expensive hobby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some really great glass at a decent price, as long as you buy the lens that’s right for the kind of photography you want to do. A $2000 wide angle lens won’t help you much if you mostly take sports photos.