The best Nikon full-frame cameras are useless without the best lenses paired with them. As a matter of fact it is not the camera that captures an image but the lens. You can manage with an average camera but an average lens will stick out; much like a sore thumb. If your camera is state of the art and your lens is optically below par, any images you make will compound the issues inherent to that lens and make it obvious in front of everybody.
In a few words you need the best Nikon full frame lenses to go with your full-frame Nikon camera. And while we are at it, we shall also discuss a few of the best third party lenses for Nikon full-frame cameras that fit and work seamlessly with your Nikon full-frame camera.
Wide Angle Prime/Wide Angle Zoom
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G ED
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR
- Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
Mirrorless Full-Frame Lenses (Z-mount)
- Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S
- Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S
- Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S
- Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S
- Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Nikon Z mount
We have selected two standard primes for this and both of them are Sigma-made third-party options. First up is the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and then we shall discuss the Sigma 35mm f/1.4.
If you are developing a collection of prime lenses, we recommend that you make sure that the maximum aperture of the lens is the same across all of your optics. The advantage is that if you are changing lenses in between shots, your exposure remains the same. You don’t have to reset the exposure dials to counter for the loss in light or increase in light (based on the maximum aperture of the lens). All you need to do is to the frame perfectly and you are ready to go. It also ensures consistent depth of field between shots.
Best Standard Prime
Excellent standard prime
Fast aperture. Excellent image quality.
The 50mm prime is an all-time favorite. This Sigma 50mm lens is fast, accurate, and produces crisp images when used correctly.
One major problem with using a fast wide aperture is that the depth of focus is very narrow. The wider you open your lens, the narrower it gets. This can make it difficult to nail focus, especially if you’re new to manual focusing.
Cameras with eye-focus are the best when working with such wide aperture lenses. Nikon’s new Z series cameras the Z6, the Z7, and the latest Z5 comes with Nikon’s Eye Detection AF mechanism. When you use these lenses with the FTZ adapter you should be able to retain much of the auto-focusing mechanisms of older legacy lenses.
Between the 50mm and the 35mm, we would definitely go for the 50mm lens because of its closest resemblance to what the human eye sees. Plus, the 50mm is such a versatile lens in so many ways.
Excellent 35mm prime
Fast aperture. Excellent handling.
We are in love with Sigma’s Art series lenses. As have been mentioned countless other times, this series of lenses are a fine synergy between optical performance, handling, build quality, and pricing. Pricing has always been slightly on the higher side for the Sigma Art series lenses. At this price, you can get cheaper OEM options too. But then the optical performance is something that may leave you unhappy.
The fast f/1.4 aperture is a treat to work with. At the same time, you will relish the fact that you are able to blur out the background and produce a beautiful out of focus effect.
It is a common belief that any focal length lens less than 50mm is unsuitable for shooting portraits. But the fact remains that if you can keep your subject at the center of the frame and then keep enough negative space around the subject, even a 35mm lens is good enough for some environmental portraits.
All in all, this is definitely a lens that will be loved by many!
Wide Angle Prime/Wide Angle Zoom
Good option or landscape photographers
Extremely wide angle. Fast wide aperture.
This is a wide-angle lens designed for people interested in landscapes and architecture photography. The 24mm lens works as your go-to lens for shooting everything on a large, broad canvas.
Being able to use it with crop cameras means you are able to use the lens on your existing DX-format camera systems. There will be a crop factor of 1.5x making the lens an effective 36mm one allowing you a slightly shorter field of view.
The lens’ best feature is undoubtedly the fast aperture of f/1.8. It helps produce beautiful background blur and allows you to isolate subjects when needed.
Best Wide-angle Pick
Ultra wide zoom lens
Fantastic focal length and image quality
This is an amazing wide-angle zoom lens. Sporting the widest zoom range that Nikon makes along with a fixed f/2.8 aperture, it’s hard not to love this lens. The fixed aperture allows the photographer to effortlessly move between ultra-wide angles of 14mm all the way to 24mm without any hassle.
One major issue with this lens is that the design features a heavily curved front element that bulges out. You have to make sure that you have the petal-shaped lens hood on at all times to avoid unintentional bumps and chipping to the front end. Additionally, the front element is so large that mounting a filter can be challenging.
If you feel that the 14-24mm is too big for you then there is a more practical alternative that we have listed below and that is the 16-35mm. But this lens remains as one of the best when it comes to shooting large panoramic views.
Between the 14-24mm and the 16-35mm, the 16-35mm is a more affordable and practical choice unless you require more ultra-wide-angle coverage.
A cost-effective option for landscape and architecture photographers.
If the above-mentioned 14-24mm f/2.8 lens seems like too much of an unwieldy option then you can certainly go for the cheaper and easier to handle 16-35mm lens.
This is a great budget wide-angle option. Perfect for shooting landscapes, architecture, and interior shots, you’re going to find this lens a treat to use.
But between the 14-24mm and the 16-35mm, the greatest difference is the one-stop difference in maximum aperture. The 16-35mm is the slower of the two lenses. And that is what probably lets you down in some low light situations. The solution is in using a camera with good ISO performance, use a slightly higher ISO number and you shouldn’t run into any problems.
Best Portrait Pick
Must have for Nikon Portrait Photographers
Superb image quality and excellent bokeh.
Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM is a fast, wide-aperture portrait lens. Portrait photographers will love this lens. With superb build quality and stunning image quality, this lens will not disappoint.
The main feature of the lens is the fast wide aperture of f/1.4. Shallow depth of field ensures that you are able to isolate a subject from its background to make for some dreamy bokeh.
Shooting outdoors a significant problem faced by photographers is the extreme temperatures that sometimes leave an impact on their equipment. The most telling effect is from heat and cold. To counter this issue some manufacturers use temperature-resistant material such as TSC. TSC stands for Thermally Stable Composite material. These elements don’t change when exposed to extreme heat and cold. The Sigma 85mm Art lens is one lens made of these components, meaning you can use it in any temperature extremes!
Second best option for portraiture
Excellent image quality. Superb handling.
We thought long and hard about the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G and this lens. There is no doubt that the 85mm f/1.4 G is a fantastic lens. If you like want just a single OEM lens for portraits and budget is not a constraint then we recommend you go for it. However, if budget is an issue and you need the best value for money then we recommend the 85mm f/1.8G. The quality of imagery is going to be almost the same. But the difference in pricing is significant.
One of Nikon’s most successful lenses ever, the AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens is a portrait photography lens designed specifically for the full-frame F-mount Nikon camera system. 85mm is widely considered to be the ideal focal length for shooting portraits.
The advantage of G lenses is that they have a built-in auto-focusing motor inside them. And that allows them to focus when paired with even the cheapest of Nikon’s APS-C camera bodies.
There are a number of USPs of this lens but the most significant one is that the lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. This is a great aperture for getting some stunning subject-background separation and ultimately, desirable bokeh.
There is no doubt that this is a great lens for portrait photographers.
Sigma’s Art series lenses are a collection of top-quality lenses that even the pros love! This 105mm offering is no exception.
With exceptional focusing performance, tack sharp images, and stunning color reproduction, this lens will perform wonderfully as a portrait shooter.
There are, however, a few drawbacks. This is a bulky lens in both its overall size and weight. If you intend to handhold, it might be worth looking for a lighter lens to use in place of this hefty piece of kit.
Best super telephoto lens
Best lens for birding and wildlife photography
Excellent focal length reach. Excellent Image quality.
For a birding enthusiast, at least one long prime telephoto lens is a must-have. The AF-S 500mm /5.6F PF ED VR is still affordable. Unlike the AF-S 600mm f/4E or the AF-S 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR or even the AF-S 120-300mm f/2.8E.
A longer lens allows for a tighter composition and a better image because the camera is able to fill the frame with the subject. E.g., if you are photographing birds a 500mm lens gets you pretty close to your subject. It will allow you to capture finer details that are impossible to be captured using a medium telephoto lens. And that is where the beauty of this lens is.
With a fixed focal length you don’t have time or room for fiddling with the zoom ring. You know exactly what distance you have to be in order to capture a great shot. The focusing ring is the one that you would want to play with. But even then with Group Area AF you have a cluster of AF points to work with nailing focus and racking a moving subject.
Surprisingly, the 500mm is still hand-holdable. I mean there are lenses that are pretty heavy and offer a shorter focal length. But this is in comparison a lot lighter at only 1460 grams. Pair it with a D850 (or even a D500) and you have a wonderful combination to shoot wildlife and sports.
Hand holding needs one more factor and that is image stabilization. And in that department the 500mm f/5.6E is excellent. The four stops of image stabilization come in handy in real life. Especially, when you are shooting in low light conditions. Say, a bird perched in its natural habitat. These are the most difficult of situations when you need three things – clean higher ISO performance of the camera, faster aperture, and image stabilization.
Best 70-200m lens
Must have for Nikon users
Excellent all-purpose focal length. Exceptional image quality.
The 70-200mm is the ultimate walk around lens. If you are a wedding photographer and can only afford to use a one-camera, one-lens setup then this is the lens that you are likely going to use 9 out of 10 times. If you are wondering what lens one would be using that one other time then the answer is the 24-70mm.
The 70-200mm is the optimum lens for a wide variety of genres. Portraits, weddings, street, a bit of everything really. The lens goes with Nikon’s range of teleconverters and thus you can transform this lens into a lens for wildlife shots, too.
Plus, you have VR. That adds up to four stops of stability to your images when hand-holding the lens. This comes in handy in a multitude of situations.
Optical performance is superb. People who use this lens swear by its optical performance. Sharpness improves slightly when the aperture is stopped down. But even wide open sharpness is admirable.
Great walk-around option for photographers
perfect walk-around focal length
The 24-70mm is a great walk-around lens if you are on a full-frame camera. Why? Because it covers a focal length range that is perfect for everyday photography. It covers a relatively good focal length for portrait photography as well as wide-angle focal lengths for street and landscape photography.
There is another 24-70mm lens that Nikon makes. But that one, the 24-70mm f/2.8G ED is also a great choice but that lens doesn’t come with image stabilization built-in. The reason why we have not picked that lens for this list.
The 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, as the name indicates, offers Vibration Reduction. Vibration Reduction on the lens is rated up to four stops. That means when hand-holding the lens you will be able to use a Shutter Speed that is up to four stops slower than the recommended one.
When compared to the non-stabilized version of this lens the difference in pricing is significant. If you don’t need stabilization or would be shooting indoors mostly in artificial (or controlled) lighting situations then the non-stabilized version makes ample sense. But if you need image stabilization then definitely go for it because it promises excellent image quality in all lighting situations.
Second best compared to the Nikon 70-200mm
Excellent image quality. Optically stabilized and powered by HSM.
Sigma’s 70-200mm is a cheaper option when compared to the Nikon lens that we just finished discussing. This is a medium telephoto lens designed for a wide variety of genres, but as the name states, it is infact specialized for sports photography.
This lens has a fast aperture of f/2.8 which means the lens is going to be useful in a wide variety of situations, including low light. Needless to say, this is not the fastest of lenses around.
The lens comes with good weather sealing which means you can head outside with this lens and not have to worry too much about the weather.
Another welcome addition to this lens is image stabilization which should allow you to comfortably hand-hold and still get sharp shots in most lighting situations.
Best Macro Lens
Excellent Choice for Macro Photography
Reasonably fast wide aperture for shooting small subjects. Fantastic image quality.
The Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD is a true macro lens. This lens can shoot life-sized reproductions of macro subjects. But at the same time, it can also shoot portrait photos because the focal length is just perfect.
The f/2.8 aperture isn’t the best that you can get. At least in terms of a lens that shoots portraits. But then this is not the sole purpose of buying the camera. It is a macro lens primarily and that is one job that it does well. The secondary role is to shoot portraits.
The lens has Vibration Compensation built-in. That allows the lens to be used hand held for extended periods of time and produce shake-free sharp images. Vibration Compensation is rated up to 3.5 stops. That translates in up to 3.5 stops of slower Shutter Speed when you are shooting your images. This is useful when shooting in low light situations.
There are a host of features that make this a fine lens to work with. For example, the dedicated USD actuator ensures that the lens is able to focus more accurately when working at extremely close distances. The lens has a full-time manual focusing override. Plus the weather-resistant design ensures that you are able to use the lens outdoors and expose it to inclement weather (to an extent).
Mirrorless Full-frame Lenses (Z-mount)
The perfect walk-around lens for your Z mount camera
Fast wide aperture. Great image quality.
If you’re looking for a dedicated Z mount lens rather than using past DSLR lenses with the FTZ adapter, the 24-70mm f/2.8 S is a top lens choice. It’s a serious contender when it comes to the best Nikon Z lenses.
We know how versatile the 24-70mm can be. It is a classic walk-around lens. The lens is suitable for shooting architecture, landscape, portraiture, and everything in between.
With this lens, you get stunning optics and great all-round performance making a hit for many photographers.
Cheaper alternative to the 24-70mm above
Cheaper but quality alternative to the Z 24-70mm f/4S
The 24-70mm f/2.8 is no doubt a better lens compared to the f/4. It is sharper wide open and produces excellent results in the right hands. But on the flip side, the lens is very expensive. If you are on a budget there is a slightly cheaper option and that is the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S.
When you compare the weight of this lens with something like the 24-70mm f/2.8 designed for the F-mount, the difference is vivid. This lens weighs half of the weight of the F-mount lens.
The weight of the Z-mount f/2.8 is comparatively heavier. Pretty close to being the same as the 24-70mm f-mount lens discussed previously.
One of the features of the new Z mount lenses is that they incorporate a Stepping Motor. Stepping Motor Technology is a much more precise auto-focusing technology compared to the normal jerky Silent Wave Motor technology.
Best Standard prime
Fast Standard Prime
Fast aperture. Works as your go-to lens for shooting anything from the human-eye perspective.
The Z 50mm f/1.8 S along with the Z 85mm f/1.8 S (discussed below) are two primes that a new Z mount camera owner should have.
This lens works as your standard prime option for anything between street photos to vacation photos, to anything in between. A standard prime is any lens that captures a scene from almost the same perspective as the human eye. Therefore you can really experiment and shoot a lot of creative stuff with a 50mm prime.
Plus, as you are not going to get entangled with a zoom ring, you can focus only on one thing and that is framing correctly and nailing focus. The amount of handling of the lens is reduced which helps in the overall image-making process.
Just like a majority of Nikon’s premium lenses this one too comes with an array of correction elements and coatings to take care of distortions and aberrations. Chromatic aberrations are well suppressed.
Additionally, like the other Z mount lenses, this one, too, comes with a Stepping Motor auto-focusing mechanism. It is quieter and more precise which allows for better focus lock in most situations.
Best Portrait Lens
Z mount’s favorite portrait lens
Fast wide portrait-length. Excellent image quality.
The 85mm f/1.8 S is the best portrait lens if you are on a Z mount camera system. Why? Because anything else will come through the FTZ adapter. Nikon’s legacy lenses are usable when you mount them on to an FTZ adapter and then mount the whole thing to a Z mount camera. But the results are not always fantastic. You want to have lenses made especially for the Z mount system.
Also, it is common knowledge that the 85mm works as the best portrait focal length. Followed closely by the 105mm and the 135mm.
Primes add a great degree of value to your photos because of their image quality, background blur capability as well as handling. If you love shooting videos a set of primes makes the most sense. Provided they all share the same maximum f-stop. This is because they allow you to maintain the depth of field of your footages even when you change lenses.
Cheaper alternative to the Nikon variant
Great focal length for portraits. Budget option.
The Samyang 85mm f/1.4 is also considered for this list. Despite the top-notch weather sealing, fast f/1.4 aperture, and excellent image quality, the lens is a second choice. Because of two major reasons. A, it does not have auto-focusing, and B, it does not have image stabilization built-in. Though Nikon’s mirrorless systems do come with a built-in sensor-shift image stabilization system, the lack of auto-focusing makes this lens an acquired taste.
That said we will not discount this lens. The overall performance of the lens is extremely good. First of all the lens is very sharp in the middle. Something that every portrait photographer would love. The corners are a bit soft. But it quickly goes away when you stop down the lens. But ideally, for subject separation from the background, you would want to shoot at the widest aperture possible. It is also how you are able to create that beautiful bokeh.
Of course, the final thing that should excite you is the price of the lens. The price of this lens is way less than that of the comparable Nikon lens.
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