Let’s say you have a brand new Nikon camera and you want to take your photography skills to a whole new level. In that case, you might want to buy a lens that suits your needs and expand your plethora of quality photos. Thankfully, Nikon cameras are usually compatible with tons of lenses, and even Nikon themselves produce some of the best lenses out there.
Top 10 Best Lenses for Nikon DSLR Cameras in 2021
To make things better, we’ll be talking about every type of lens for you – some telephoto, ultra-wide, and macro lenses.
Travel and Landscape Photography
- Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD
- Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
- Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS
- Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM
Portrait and Outdoor Photography
Wildlife and Sports Photography
But, what lens should you buy?
It depends on the type of photography you’re into. The most popular choices are telephoto zoom lenses for shooting some wildlife and sports events, and ultra-wide lenses are great for capturing landscapes and nature.
Can You Use Any Lens for Any Nikon Camera?
Before we begin our list, it’s important to get one thing out of the way, and it’s compatibility. So, can you really use any lens on any Nikon camera? Not exactly. As we mentioned in some of our past articles, there are FX (Full-frame) lenses and DX (APS-C lenses). If you mount an FX lens on a DX format camera, it will work perfectly and without any flaws. However, mounting a DX lens on the FX camera isn’t a wise decision.
This will result in forcing you to use ‘Crop’ mode which doesn’t take advantage of the whole region of the image sensor, thus reducing the image quality. Another common issue occurs when pairing the latest Nikon lenses with the older Nikon DSLRs, as newer Nikon lenses have AF-P autofocus systems and electromagnetic aperture control.
Since we got that out of the way, let’s see what lenses you should opt for.
Travel and Landscape Photography
1. Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD
- VC (Vibration Compensation)
- HLD (High/Low torque-modulated Drive)
- Moisture-resistant construction
Let’s kick off our list with a broader perspective to the world around you. You know what I’m talking about? A beautiful wide-angle zoom lens that looks exactly as it performs – amazing! Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD represents a substantial upgrade from the previous 10-24mm lens in terms of autofocus system and high-quality optical stabilization.
Thanks to the vast improvements, the lens is now quick and quiet when it comes to autofocus. Thanks to the fixed rings around the lens, the rotation during the autofocus is non-existent, hence it’s quiet and easy to use.
The build quality and design are simply supreme. With included weather seals and a fluorine coating on the front element, this lens represents a pinnacle of Tamron’s work. As for the sensor size, this one is DX-compatible, meaning that you can use it only with a DX camera. On the brighter side, we can’t help but admire its compactness and weight.
With its dimensions of 84x85mm and weight of 440g, this lens is great for outdoor photography while you’re on the move.
2. Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
- World's lightest 5x zoom with an f/2.8-4 maximum aperture
- Inspiring image quality; ideal for daily life, travel, blogging, HD video and more
- Versatile zoom range that covers wide angle to portrait views. Minimum Focus Distance : 1.15 feet.(0.35 meter)
If you want to go with Nikon all the way, here’s an amazing DX lens from Nikon. AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR is one of the greatest Nikon standard zoom lenses, producing outstanding image quality and image-stabilization capabilities. Speaking of image stabilization, we’re dealing with 4-stops stabilizer and the ultrasonic autofocus is here to make the quality even better. On top of that, Nikon really did a great job of designing this lens, as it looks beautiful and sturdier than ever.
Dimensions-wise, it’s the same as the previous lens and just 40g heavier. And if we count in the weather seals and fluorine coatings at the rear and front elements, we can say that this lens is able to keep up with you at all time. But, the downside is that there isn’t a constant f/2.8 aperture, especially at the higher zoom settings. In this case, it can be reduced to f/4, which isn’t a small difference.
If you’re willing to pay a bit more for the premium features, this is a great lens to go for.
3. Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS
- Nano Crystal Coating System (NCS) for increased light transmission and reduced internal reflections
- Fast F2.8 maximum Aperture + close-focusing to 9.5 inches = maximum versatility in all shooting conditions
- Optimized for excellent optical quality and true ultra-wide 110 degree edge to edge coverage with APS-C sensor digital cameras
When it comes to affordable, yet amazing lenses, Samyang is a company that we can’t miss. Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AC NCS CS is a lens that can give you a lot of premium features at an affordable price. This DX wide-angle lens comes with an astounding depth of field and fast aperture rating, and these two features are the highlights of this product. Thanks to its depth of field, Samyang wisely concealed one of its greatest weaknesses – the lack of autofocus. But, I don’t mind manually focusing my camera, as long as the manual focus works well, which is the case here.
The build quality is something that’s also great and is on par with the most expensive lenses out there. And although the image quality is amazing, I’m still worried about the lack of optical stabilization. This means that handheld pictures can still turn out blurry with a bit of noise, especially in low-light conditions. But, if you manage to buy a bipod or a tripod (which is really cheap), you’ll get a jaw-dropping image quality at a very low price.
With added nano-structure coatings and high-quality glass, ghosting and flare will be reduced to a minimum.
4. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM
- Ultra-wide-angle zoom lens
- Fast F2.8 maximum aperture
- Falls into Sigma's Art range of lenses
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM is a first FX lens on our list, and it’s a great one. Let’s begin by mentioning the near-perfect image quality and almost no distortion! Yes, you’ve read that well – thanks to its snappy autofocus and a maximum magnification of 0.14x, this lens produces razor-sharp photos. Coupled with the amazing build quality, the lens represents a fine piece of photography gear.
Being an ultra-wide zoom lens, Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM will offer you a broad perspective of nature and landscapes. However, we found that despite being 14-12mm lens, it isn’t that ‘ultra-wide’ as some competitors. On top of that, I’m quite surprised that there isn’t a filter thread, especially given the price. Nonetheless, if you want astonishing image quality and care about the build quality, this one is a great buy.
Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the weight of 1150 grams. It’s a juggernaut, but a good one!
Portrait and Outdoor Photography
1. Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD
- Fast f/1.8 aperture;Minimum Focus Distance 11.42" (29 cm)
- Dynamic close focusing capability; Angle of View (diagonal): 51°21’
- VC (Vibration Compensation) system
Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is an affordable FX lens for portrait photography. A good portrait consists of a razor-sharp subject and that lovely bokeh effect in the background. Thankfully, this lens is all about the fuzzy mess of sharpness and blur, creating some jaw-dropping results. This lens comes with a solid image stabilizer and weather seals, for added build quality. Truth be told, this one feels premium and offers an image quality that’s amazing for the price.
But, the maximum aperture of f/1.8 is still far from perfect. Some lenses with similar prices come with f/1.4 aperture and this aperture value is hard to beat. If you love shooting handheld portraits, the good news is that this one weighs around 540g and has dimensions of 80x92mm, which is still considered compact.
With a modest price, don’t expect it to be a premium-grade lens. For portrait lovers, the lens will be able to produce buttery-smooth bokeh with lots of rich details on the photo.
2. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM
- The Sigma 85mm 1.4 DG HSM Art is the latest addition to the world renowned Sigma Global Vision Line
- It has equipped newly designed hyper sonic motor (HSM) for nimble AF control, 1.3 times better torque of its predecessor
- Compatible with the Enthusiast APS-C Nikon D7100, D7200, D500, and D3100, D3200, D3300, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500 DSLR Cameras. Also compatible with Nikon Full-Frame DF, D600, D610, D750, D800, D810, D4, D5.
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM is an FX lens best used for portrait photography. And as such, I find it a bit confusing as the weight of 1130g isn’t something you can hold comfortably in your hands. Since the handheld portraiture is not that viable option here, I suggest using a tripod to increase some quality. Now, to the good side, the lens is truly magnificent when it comes to image quality. And as we mentioned before, f/1.4 is really hard to beat for portrait photography.
The sophisticated yet beautiful design is present here and we can proudly say that it looks better than ever. The weather seals are there and the filter thread is 86mm, which is respectable for the price. But, the strange thing is that there isn’t an image stabilizer, having in mind that we’re talking about portrait photography. On the brighter side, the ultrasonic autofocus works fine and is able to focus in a matter of milliseconds.
The only real downside of this lens is its enormous weight, making it a not-the-best option for portrait photography.
1. Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro
- 16-300mm zoom range for the perfect all around lens
- Lens hood included
- Piezo Drive autofocusing
Are you interested in macro photography? Don’t worry, here’s an amazing DX lens for your Nikon camera. Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro comes with a focal length of 16-300. That tells us that we’re talking about a lens that can produce quality pictures even at high zoom settings. Luckily, this theory is directly applied in the real world and this lens manages to take the picture quality to a whole new level! With its enormous zoom range, you’ll be able to capture the tinnies’ objects out there with ease.
The surprise is that there is a filter thread (67mm) alongside weather seals. And dimensions aren’t big either. With 75x100mm and 540g of weight, this one is surely on the lightweight side of the spectrum. But, what’s the downside of this lens? Well, its strength is also its weakness and that’s picture quality. If you go all the way to the highest zoom ranges, the drop in quality can be significant.
That being said, if you want an affordable macro lens, you can’t go wrong with this one, despite its caveats.
2. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
- Moisture-Proof and Dust-Resistant Construction
- Durable Fluorine Coating on the front element repels water and fingerprints
- Advanced coating technology reduces flare and ghosting ; Camera Mount Type Nikon F
Are you up for some macro shooting? No problem. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro is a 650-dollars FX lens that’s here to keep you covered. The lens comes with a premium-grade glass, high-quality weather seals, fluorine coating (front element), and dual nano-structure coatings. That’s a lot of features for a lens this cheap but wait ’till you hear this. The amazing and renewed autofocus system is optimized for close-up shooting, making this macro lens sublime for macro photoshoots.
It also comes with a filter size of 62mm and packs around 610g of weight, which really isn’t that much. The image stabilization is present, but I found that it isn’t always consistent, making me utilize my tripod a lot. But, the image quality is surprising, especially at 1.0 magnification. Sadly, Tamron doesn’t supply a lens pouch for this product, which is a bit peculiar.
At this price, you can still get a Tamron 16-300mm lens with variable focal length, making this lens a lot less valuable in comparison. In that regard, it took a lower spot on the list.
Wildlife and Sports Photography
1. Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
- Minimum Focus Distance- 3.6 feet (1.1 meter)
- Diaphragm blades: 9. Format: FX/35 millimeter. Minimum Aperture: f/ 22
- Focus distance indicator- 1.1 am to infinity
Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 FL ED VR is a telephoto zoom lens for FX cameras. This is one of the most expensive Nikon telephoto zoom lenses out there. But, is it any good? Oh yeah, it is! The highlight of this lens is its beautiful, professional-grade design coupled with 1430g of weight. Arguably, this is a lot of weight and shooting handheld photos is very difficult.
On the brighter side, the image quality is beautiful. That’s not strange for a Nikon lens, especially of the expensive one. What makes this lens special is a new Sports VR mode that makes it easier to track moving objects.
The ultrasonic autofocus and 4-stops stabilizer are also there, reducing the noise and blur on the photos. This lens comes with one HRI element, nanocrystal coatings and six ED elements, which contribute to the amazing image quality. And since it’s heavy and robust, we must mention the build quality, which is unparalleled at this price.
Regardless of performance, this lens is still very expensive and it’s all but affordable. Even if you’re a professional photographer, getting your hands on one of these is a devil’s business, hence we gave it a bit lower spot on our list.
2. Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
- Compact super telephoto zoom lens for birding, wildlife, motorsports, events and more
- 500 millimeter of zoom power on fx format DSLR; 750 millimeter equivalent on dx format DSLRs, minimum focus distance: 7.2 feet ( 2.2 meter), focal length range: 200 500 millimeter
- Fast f/5.6 constant aperture for beautiful out of focus backgrounds and low light performance
Buying a telephoto lens is sometimes very expensive these days. But, Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is still affordable. The FX sensor size means that you’ll be able to mount it on your FX or DX camera and the focal length of 200-500mm grants some amazing telephoto capabilities.
At constant f/5.6, the aperture rating is constant, which is quite strange, considering the speed and the amazing image quality. The letter ‘E’ in the name means that we have an electromagnetically-controlled aperture for increased accuracy and better exposure.
With the Nikon’s Sports mode, the image stabilization kicks in and produces amazing results. This makes this lens an excellent choice for wildlife and sports photography. The weather seals are also included and the build quality is top-notch. The bad thing about this lens is its incompatibility with the older Nikon DSLRs. And if you love working on your arms, you’ll be glad to hear that the lens packs 2.3kg of sheer mass.
This is the only bigger downside of this lens, making handheld photography almost impossible for most users.
What Lens Should You Buy?
Buying the right lens for your needs is very important. While the ultra-wide lens is great for capturing landscapes, a telephoto lens is best used for moving subjects, and the macro lens is for close-up shooting. Either way, before you make your purchase, think about what is your photography niche and stick to it when you make your choice.
You can use our list as a guide, as we listed the lenses that will give you solid performance for the price and you can’t go wrong with any of them. That being said, be sure to read the article once again to determine the right type of lens for you.