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Best Lenses for the Nikon D5500

This is an attempt to find out the best lens for the Nikon D5500.

But, instead of zeroing in on just a single lens we shall be looking at 5 lenses, just to give you a few options to choose from.

The Nikon D5500 is an entry-level APS-C DSLR camera. It is built around a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor with a Multi-CAM 4800 DX 39-point TTL phase-detection autofocusing system.  It has no built-in auto-focusing motor. 

Related Post: The Best Lens for the Nikon D5600

Nikon D5500 DX-format Digital SLR Body (Black)
  • 24.2 MP DX-format CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter (OLPF)
  • 39-point Autofocus (AF) system
  • 5 frames per second continuous shooting
  • ISO 100 - 25,600
  • High resolution, vari-angle LCD with familiar, smartphone-like touchscreen for easy use

That means older D lenses or any lens that does not have a built-in auto-focusing motor will not auto-focus with this camera. Most recent lenses will, however, work, including anything that is marked as ‘G’.

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The Best Nikon D5500 Lenses (Detail View)

1. The Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
  • Fast, upgraded f/1.8, compact FX format prime lens. The picture angle with 35 millimeter (135) format is 47 degree and the...
  • Focal length 50 millimeter, minimum focus distance 1.48 feet (0.45 meter)
  • Newly developed optical system with aspherical lens element, exclusive Nikon silent wave motor (SWM)
  • M/a focus mode switch, filter thread 58 millimeter, autofocus: Yes. Dimensions (approx.) (from the camera lens mounting...
  • Optimized for edge to edge sharpness on both fx and dx format d SLRS

A true gem of a lens, this 50mm f/1.8 G, that is.

When mounted on a Nikon D5500 it gives a 35mm focal length equivalent of 75mm due to the 1.5x crop factor. 50mm is widely considered to be a standard focal length. So is this lens, when it is mounted on a full-frame camera. But on a crop camera like the D5500, the focal length becomes the equivalent of a medium telelens.

What Portrait Lens Should I Buy for my Nikon D5500?

The AF-S Nikkor 50mm has been designed keeping in mind full frame Nikon cameras. Thus, it has an image circle much larger than the APS-C camera in question.

Resultantly, there is very little vignetting, if any at all. Image sharpness of the AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is also more than satisfactory. There are photographers who would swear by its performance.

What makes this lens special is its maximum wide aperture of f/1.8.

It is 2 stops faster than a traditional f/3.5 – 5.6 kit lens, something like the 18-55mm that we are going to read about below.

In low light situations that translates to up to 2 stops of shutter speed leverage. Meaning, you could shoot at the same shutter speed you would normally shoot with a kit lens and yet get two stops of extra light.

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Extra light means better exposure and less noise, even in low-light situations. Alternatively, you can consider having two stops of shutter speed leverage at your disposal.

Meaning you can choose to shoot at a faster shutter speed in a situation where every other photographer is dragging the shutter speed to compensate for the lack of light. That means less image blur and sharper images.

This is an inexpensive lens, retailing at just under $220. It is certainly not the best in the business but is very good given the price tag.

2. Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras, 2183,...
  • F mount lens/DX format. Picture angle with Nikon DX format 44 degree
  • 52.5 millimeter (35-millimeter equivalent). Rear focusing; Manual focus override
  • Aperture range: F/1.8 to 22; Dimensions(approx.) 70 x 52.5 millimeter
  • Silent wave motor AF system. Accepts filter type is screw on. Lens construction: 8 elements in 6 groups
  • Compatible formats is dx and fx in dx crop mode. Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.16x

The AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G is designed exclusively for the smaller crop sensor powered Nikon cameras, like the D5500 in question.

Just like the 50mm f/1.8 discussed above the AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G also has a fast wide aperture of f/1.8. The focal length becomes the equivalent of a 52mm lens when mounted on a crop camera like the D5500.

Best Lens for Nikon DX Cameras: Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
A great prime lens for Nikon DX DSLR Cameras: The Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

The 35mm is just as equally versatile as a 50mm f/1.8. It is widely considered the APS-C format’s standard focal length, given the fact that the angle of view is roughly the equivalent of a 50mm lens when mounted on a full-frame camera.

Personally, I prefer the 35mm more than the 50mm, despite the fact that the 35mm has more barrel distortion and is generally considered unsuitable for portraits. You can see some sample images on Flickr.

I love the 35mm lens because of the great environmental portraits that I can shoot with it. The trick is as long as your subject is close to the center of the frame distortion is negligible.

Plus, you can easily correct distortion related issues by using the lens profile correction option in Lightroom and Photoshop. At the end of the day, that isn’t so much of an issue.

The 35mm f/1.8G retails at price lower than the 50mm we discussed above, at just under $200. Thus, the 35mm is a great contender for the title of the best lens for Nikon D5500.

If I had to choose between the first two this would have been my choice. But we have a few more lenses to check out.

3. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • Fast aperture medium telephoto lens
  • Internal focus, focal length: 85 millimeter, minimum focus range: 0.80 meter
  • Silent wave motor (SWM). Number of diaphragm blades: 7 (rounded diaphragm opening)
  • M/a focus mode switch. Filter-attachment size is 67 millimeter (p=0.75 millimeter)
  • Nikon super integrated coating (sic)

You would have noticed by now that I am deliberately choosing the f/1.8 G lenses over the 1.4 versions. There are two reasons for that really.

First, the f/1.8 is easier to focus than the f/1.4. Anything faster than f/2 is a real task to auto-focus anyways. The margin of error is really small.

Many times you would think you have nailed focus only to realize that your focus is off when you have returned home and finally had a chance to see your images in full size on your computer. Better the f/1.8 than the more difficult f/1.4.

A Great Lens for the Nikon DX DSLRS like the D5500: The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
A great piece of glass: The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G, ideal for portraits and wildlife photography.

The AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is a full-frame lens, which means it has an image circle larger than that of an APS-C sensor.

On an APS-C sensor powered camera, the lens gives a 35mm equivalent focal length of 127mm. This, as a result, transforms into a medium telelens.

Medium telelenses have the effect of sucking more of the background in. It would appear that the background is closer than it actually is. That means with these lenses your background is going to appear considerably larger than say a 35mm lens.

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Nikon 85mm f1.8G on the Nikon D5500: Depth of Field and Bokeh at f1.8

The 85mm is arguably the best portrait lens for full-frame Nikon cameras. So would I make sense buying this for a crop camera? Well, the 85mm does what it has been designed for, produce ultra-sharp images. 127mm focal length on a DX (Nikon APS-C) camera is a fairly good focal length for portraits.

Zero distortions super smooth creamy bokeh. What else can one ask for?

4. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens For Nikon Digital SLR Cameras...
  • Type of lens: G-type AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR lens with built-in CPU and Nikon bayonet mount
  • Focal Length Range : 70 -200 mm, Minimum Focus Distance- 4.6 ft.(1.4 m)
  • Dimensions: Approx. 87 mm dia. x 205.5 mm extension from the camera’s lens-mount flange
  • Weight: Approx. 1,540 g (3.4 lb)
  • Compatible Format(s) - FX, DX, FX in DX Crop Mode 35mm Film

Now for something that would need a serious budget. The Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II would get a place on any list that features Nikon lenses.

It is that kind of a lens. It’s ultra-sharp and extremely quick. If you are into serious photography this is one lens you must have. It is widely considered as one of the three Nikkor lenses that make up the f/2.8 Nikkor dream team. The other two being the 24-70mm f/2.8 VR and the 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S.

This lens is designed for the full-frame FX type cameras made by Nikon. It has a wide maximum aperture of f/2.8.

This is a G lens, meaning it would auto-focus without hassles on the D5500. The focal length becomes a 35mm format equivalent of 105 – 300mm. Thus, this is a handy portrait as well as wildlife lens, especially because of the wide f/2.8 aperture.

Exploring NIKKOR Lenses: Australia - AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

In many ways, this could easily be the greatest lens for Nikon D5500.

A single lens that covers a wide focal length range and something that you probably shoot the year round, never need another lens.

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Plus, it works with all the Nikon teleconverters giving you better range at a decrease of a stop or two in the maximum aperture. The overall construction is brilliant and the performance is extremely sharp.

This lens is the most expensive of all the lenses we have discussed thus far. No doubt a strong contender for the title of the best lens for Nikon D5500.

5. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus...
  • Ideal for wide-angle and "normal" shots
  • Maximum aperture: f/4 ; Offers two focus modes, M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual)
  • Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups
  • Image stabilization, vibration reduction (VR II) up to 4 stops
  • Nikon F mount for FX and DX DSLRs

Some readers would have probably hoped for the 14-24mm f/2.8G ED here. It is undoubtedly a fantastic lens. But for all practical reasons, the 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is more than enough.

The slight difference in focal length will not make a world of difference to me. I can simply take a couple of steps back. Both these lenses are landscape lenses. So, I don’t need a very wide aperture.

I would rarely be shooting either of these two lenses at their widest aperture. I need a vast depth of field so, I will probably be shooting at f/8 or even f/11 majority of the times. The 16-35mm f/4G ED VR with its vastly cheaper price tag (compared to the 14-24mm f/2.8G ED) is more than sufficient for me.

If you are into Landscape Photography the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is the best lens for your Nikon D5500 DX DSLR
Best for Landscape Photography: The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

The 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is a well-built lens. This is an FX-format lens, meaning the 1.5x crop factor ultimately makes it a 35mm focal length equivalent of 24 – 52mm.

Plus, it has VR which the other lens does not. Hand-held shooting all of a sudden looks a lot more promising. This is one of the sharpest lenses that Nikon has ever made. Being a zoom lens it is versatile and is sharper than the sharpest of prime lenses in the business. The FX Nikkor 16-35mm is priced just under $1,100 (as on 16 October 2016).

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To round up: Which one is the Best Lens for the Nikon D5500? 

It is hard to tell. It all depends on the type of work that you do, the budget you have and what you expect from a lens. For my money, it would be the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II.

The crop factor of the camera extends to the focal length to the equivalent of a proper telephoto. If you wish to shoot with a teleconverter you can always use the latest teleconverters and the lens becomes a super-telephoto, albeit with a drop in maximum aperture.

It is well built and will remain an asset for as long as you live. Designed for the full-frame sensor the lens will continue to serve you even after you upgrade to a full-frame camera.

The only negative point is its price tag (and that the lens is quite heavy to carry around). Apart from that this the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II deserves to be called as the best lens for the Nikon D5500.

If you are on a tight budget, you may also want to check out our post on the best Nikon telephoto lens.

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