The best Nikon lens
Nikon is an extremely trustworthy name in photography -- and with good reason. Nikon has been making film and digital cameras for several decades.
When photographers are looking to purchase the best equipment on the market, Nikon is one of the few brand names they should consider. When you pair a Nikon DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera body with Nikon DSLR lenses, you'll receive gear that gives you outstanding performance.
Some Nikon camera kits will ship with a starter lens or two. But you likely will want to purchase additional lenses separately to provide more versatility in your camera bag. Our top pick, the Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G, has a fast aperture and a handy focal length.
Considerations when choosing Nikon lenses
Nikon manufactures a large number of lenses for its DSLR camera bodies. Finding just the right lens isn't as daunting as it may seem, though, when you understand the terminology.
Focal length: The focal length measurement in a lens determines the amount of magnification it will produce in the scene. Focal length is registered in millimeters. Focal lengths can range from 10mm to 1,000mm. (Focal lengths beyond 300mm are rare.) A 50mm focal length is considered average.
Prime vs. zoom: A prime lens is one with a single focal length. A zoom lens can use a range of focal lengths. Prime lenses will yield sharper images than zoom lenses.
FX vs. DX: Nikon lenses will be designated with a DX or an FX label. A DX lens works best with a Nikon camera body with a DX image sensor (the smaller of Nikon's two DSLR image sensor sizes). An FX lens works best with an FX image sensor. However, you can use either type of lens with either image sensor.
Nikon lenses are not cheap. You're paying for high-quality gear that carries a premium brand name, so you should expect some big price tags.
Lenses made for amateur photographers are available in the $100 to $300 range. These models don't quite have the pinpoint sharpness or fast apertures of more expensive Nikon lenses. Pro-level lenses will run from $300 to $3,000 or more.
The following features will greatly affect the cost of Nikon lenses:
Aperture: The maximum aperture (or opening) the lens can achieve is marked with an "f" in the lens name. A smaller number equals a larger opening, allowing more light through the lens. (Yes, this numbering system seems backward, but that's how it works.) A lens with a small f number will cost more.
Focus system: A Nikon lens may have a focus motor built into it, which costs more. These lenses are called AF-S or AF-P lenses. If you choose a lens without a focus motor (called an AF lens), you must have a focus motor in the camera body to use the lens properly. All types of Nikon lenses can use manual focus as well.
ED glass: If a Nikon lens contains ED in the name, it uses extra-low dispersion glass. This feature corrects for chromatic aberration, which causes purple-colored fringing around the edges of objects in photographs.
Q. How do I know what focal length is best for me?
A. For photos that will approximate the vision of a human, 35mm to 60mm is best. To shoot far-off subjects clearly, you want a big telephoto lens with a focal length of 150mm or higher. Mid-range telephoto lenses range from 60mm to 150mm. Lenses with a focal length of less than 35mm are wide-angle lenses.
Q. Can I use a Nikon lens with any camera?
A. No. Nikon lenses are only made to fit on Nikon DSLR camera bodies. These lenses have a connector ring that only fits the lens housing on a Nikon camera. However, some third-party DSLR lens manufacturers make lenses that are compatible with Nikon cameras.
Nikon lenses we recommend
Best of the best: Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Lens
Our take: When you need a fast aperture in a premium quality lens, this is the perfect choice.
What we like: Useful focal length, as you can shoot a lot of different types of scenes successfully with an 85mm prime lens. Compact size.
What we dislike: It's not cheap. Not really a starter lens; more of a second or third lens.
Best bang for your buck: Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens
Our take: A classic lens that every photographer should have in the camera bag, offered at an excellent price.
What we like: Includes a fast f/1.8 aperture, providing versatility. Lightweight lens that's great for on-the-go photography.
What we dislike: Not the highest build quality among the family of Nikon prime lenses.
Our take: It's expensive, but this is a zoom lens with amazing versatility, outperforming others in the market.
What we like: When you aren't sure what kind of scenes you'll be shooting, this lens helps you be ready for anything.
What we dislike: Aperture range isn't as varied as what's found in a prime lens.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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