If you’re looking to update your gear bag and get your hands on one of the best Nikon DX camera lenses, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we look at the best lenses for Nikon’s crop sensor cameras. Whether you’re a professional or you’re just starting out, there’s something for everyone on this list!
If you’re looking for a gift for a budding photographer, one of these lenses would be the perfect gift.
The Best Nikon DX Camera Lenses:
- 1. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
- 2. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
- 3. Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G
- 4. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
- 5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens
- 6. Tokina AT-X 14-20mm f/2 PRO
- 7. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
- 8. Tamron SP AF17-50mm f/2.8 XR Dii-II VC LD Aspherical (IF)
- 9. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Lens
- 10. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR
- 11. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
- 12. Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
- 13. Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
- 14. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports
- 15. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports
- 16. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
1. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
The best lens for wide-angle shots
This is an incredibly powerful lens built with quality in mind. You’re going to love this lens for capturing sharp, wide-angle photos.
The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art is a variable standard focal length lens. Designed especially for the crop DX camera system. The effective focal length on a DX camera is 27 – 52.5mm.
The construction of the lens includes 17 elements arranged in 12 groups. There are a total of five Special Low Dispersion (SLD) elements. These are for taking care of color fringing. There are four aspherical elements as well. These take care of spherical aberrations.
Finally, there is a Super Multi-Layer coating too and this is the coating that suppresses flares and ghosting.
There is a total of 9 rounded aperture blades. The higher the number of aperture diaphragm blades, especially if they are rounded, helps in creating a better looking out of focus effect (Bokeh).
But the number of elements and coatings and the technical details are mostly for academic interests. What really matters is how good the lens is when used out in the field. And in that regard, I am happy to state that this lens is an excellent performing unit. The lens is rated as the best by DxOMark among all lenses compatible with the Nikon F mount APS-C system (actual results based on tests on a Nikon D500). Therefore this is our pick as among the best Nikon DX camera lenses listed here.
2. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
Fast Standard Prime
Fast f/1.8 aperture. Excellent handling and image quality.
This 35mm standard prime has been designed for the smaller image circle of Nikon’s DX camera system. Because it is designed for the smaller image circle of DX format cameras the effective focal length becomes 52.5mm (on 35mm format).
Just because it is a 52.5mm lens a DX format user should use this as the default 50mm lens rather than go for a 50mm that is designed for the full-frame FX format camera.
The fast f/1.8 aperture allows you to shoot great images in almost all kinds of lighting situations. Compared to a kit lens, that opens up to a maximum aperture of only f/3.5, this lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 is 2 whole stops quicker. And that means the amount of extra light collected is also 2 stops more. That’s an incredible advantage no matter what lighting condition you are shooting in.
Plus, when you consider that this is a very inexpensive lens, it makes all the more sense to buy one of this and keep it in your camera bag. This and the 50mm f/1.8G prime. Two fixed primes that come in handy in a wide variety of situations.
Let’s take a look at the construction of the lens. 8 elements arranged in 6 groups makes for the lens. Additionally, the lens has Super Integrated coating. This coating suppresses ghosting and flares which in turn helps improve the color saturation and contrast of the images.
There are only 7 aperture diaphragm blades. Quality of the bokeh is good, but not of the same quality as a lens that comes with 9 blades.
Auto focusing on the lens is powered by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology. The lens is very quiet and extremely accurate when locking focus.
3. Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G
Fast wide 50mm prime
Effective focal length 75mm. Fast aperture of f/1.8.
This is a standard prime designed for the full-frame FX mount camera system. However, the lens can be mounted on DX cameras as well. With a crop factor of 1.5x. Which makes it an effective 75mm lens for the DX format camera system. Thus, this lens almost fits the bill as a perfect portrait lens. The fast f/1.8 aperture produces beautiful bokeh.
Please note, Nikon currently sells two versions of their 50mm prime lens. The G-type and the non-G-type (i.e., D-type) versions of the 50mm prime. There is a major difference between these two lens types. The D lens does not have built-in autofocusing motor. The G lens does that. While that does not pose a challenge for full-frame Nikon cameras, for cheaper DX cameras you must watch out. If you are using a camera that belongs to the D3xxx or the D5xxx series, you need to pick a G lens. That will the lens autofocusing on your camera body.
The construction of this particular lens consists of 7 elements arranged in 6 groups. This is a simple construction designed to shoot great images without any fuss.
There is no image stabilization on the lens. But that should not deter you. Prime lenses such as this one or the 35mm or the 85mm lenses that most manufacturers make come with fast wide aperture. As long as you shoot with a Shutter Speed that is in excess of one over the focal length, your images should be sharp. And that is very easy even in poor lighting conditions.
4. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
Excellent entry level micro lens
True macro lens. Affordable price.
The unassuming 40mm prime has a been a personal favorite of mine for long for macro photography work. Although, I rarely use it these days because there are other much longer focal length lenses to fall back on for the purpose of shooting macro photography. But the fact remains that this is one of the sharpest and at the same time one of the cheapest prime lenses that Nikkor sells. And to boot you can also shoot 1:1 perspective macro photos with this lens.
This lens is designed for the smaller image circle of DX lenses and therefore the crop factor does kick in. Therefore, the effective focal length becomes 60mm.
Now, 60mm is a somewhere in the middle kind of a focal length. For all practical purposes it isn’t the best when it comes to shooting portraits where you need a slightly longer focal length. It is also not suitable for street photography or anything where you need a wide-angle perspective But that said, the lens does serve its purpose when you use it intelligently.
I have always believed that a piece of gear is never a limiting thing. It only offers you different challenges to overcome.
40mm (Effective 60mm) is a bit of a weird focal length. True. It is neither too long nor too short. So, technically, you can’t use it as a portrait lens nor as a wide-angle lens for shooting street or group shots. It has limited functionalities and would depend on your capabilities as a photographer to produce the best results.
For shooting macro photography the longer the focal length, the better are your chances of getting a properly exposed shot of higher quality. This is because with a short focal length you have to step in closer to fill the frame. And when you do that you tend to block the light from your composition.
This lens comes with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. Come to think of it, it is much quicker than a kit lens. In effect that means you can capture an additional amount of light even when you are shooting in darker conditions.
Let’s take a quick look at the construction of the lens. There are 9 elements arranged in 7 groups. There is a close-range correction system built-in that helps in maintaining the image quality (as well as sharpness) across the focusing range of the lens.
Also, there is a Super Integrated Coating on the lens. This is so that flares and ghosting are suppressed, and the lens is able to produce more contrast and render color better even when you are shooting in difficult lighting conditions.
5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens
Super telephoto lens at affordable budget.
Super telephoto lens. Great image quality.
We have reviewed this lens extensively once before. It remains one of the best value for money lenses for the Nikon FX and DX mounts camera systems.
Please note, this lens is designed for the full-frame (FX format) image circle of Nikon’s F-mount camera system. But, it is also compatible with all the recent DX format cameras as well. Even the cheapest D3xxx and the D5xxx series cameras. and that is what makes this a fantastic lens for DX format cameras. Especially, the likes of D500 which is ideally suitable for sports and wildlife photography.
If you are still wondering why, then let me explain. It is the crop factor! It takes the focal length from 300mm all the way to 750mm which is in the domain of super telephoto lenses. And when you consider the price of this lens, it really is a superb value for money unit.
If you are using a top of the line DX camera, like the latest D500, you will no doubt benefit from the extended focal length. It will allow you to photograph wildlife, birds, sports and other subjects that are very far away.
This is an out and out wildlife and birding lens. You may also be able to shoot good sports photos with this lens. And that is exactly why we have recommended this as one of the best Nikon DX camera lenses.
I wouldn’t necessarily compare this lens with something like the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports or the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Lens. Those lenses are faster, sharper and handles better. But they are a lot more expensive too. And in that sense the 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is a value for money lens. Certainly one of the best Nikon DX camera lenses.
The construction of this lens includes 19 elements arranged in 12 groups. There are three extra-low dispersion elements. Plus, the lens features Super Integrated Coating for suppressing internal reflections, ghosting and flares.
6. Tokina AT-X 14-20mm f/2 PRO
Two reasons why we love this lens. First, is the excellent focal length range.
Wide angle lenses designed for DX format cameras are a bit tricky in the sense that they apply the crop factor and that extends the effective focal length beyond what the actual focal length is. As a matter of fact that is true for all lenses when mounted on a crop camera. Resultantly, the field of view becomes smaller than expected. As a photographer you have to keep this in mind when choosing a lens for a shoot.
In this particular case the focal length 14-20mm becomes 21-30mm. Yet, quite wide and still very useful. That is if you have landscapes, group shots, interiors and architecture in mind. You can also shoot a bit of street photography with this lens.
The second reason is the fast wide and constant aperture of f/2 across the focal length.
Sometimes when working in a not-so-great lighting condition you need some assistance from the lens. I.e., in terms of the maximum aperture that it can open to. That allows you to capture an additional amount of light and make great looking images where other cheaper lenses would struggle to produce even reasonable images.
The construction of the lens includes 13 elements arranged in 11 groups. These include one plastic molded aspherical element, two Super Low Dispersion glass elements and two glass-molded aspherical SD glass elements.
A host of aberrations and distortions are suppressed as a result. In addition to these elements the lens also features a multi-layer anti-reflective coating. This will ensure that ghosting and flares are never an issue with this lens.
7. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
Fast wide aperture wide zoom
Widest aperture of f/2.8 and sharp image quality.
This is not an Art series lens. And yet we love it because of the practicality of the focal length. The 17-50mm is designed for the smaller image circle of DX format cameras. The crop factor of 1.5x makes the focal length an effective 25.5-75mm on 35mm format.
Thanks to the crop factor and the effective focal length this lens is suitable for shooting many different photography genres. You can use it for portrait photography, for shooting landscapes, architecture, interiors, group shots and of course street photography.
But the best thing about this lens is undoubtedly its wide-open aperture. Unlike a kit lens where the maximum aperture is a variable parameter, i.e., it fluctuates anything between f/3.5 to f/6.3 across the focal length, here, the maximum aperture is f/2.8 and it is constant across the focal length.
The advantage in that is you don’t have to worry about changing the exposure as you zoom in or out.
The fast wide aperture allows you to use this lens hand-held in a majority of situations. And thanks to the built-in optical stabilizer mechanism you won’t find it too much of a problem to work the lens in all lighting conditions.
Now, let’s talk about the construction of the lens. There are a total of 17 elements arranged in 13 groups. Two of these are F Low Dispersion (FLD) elements. These elements are responsible for suppressing color fringing (or chromatic aberrations).
Additionally, there are three aspherical elements. These are responsible for suppressing spherical elements. Additionally, these elements are responsible for improving the overall contrast and color quality. Plus, the lens features a Multi-layer Coating.
8. Tamron SP AF17-50mm f/2.8 XR Dii-II VC LD Aspherical (IF)
Standard wide zoom
Great image quality. Fast aperture.
This wide zoom fast aperture lens is ideally suitable for several photography genres. Not just landscape photography but also areas like interiors, group shots and street photography. The effective focal length of the lens is 25.5mm – 75mm. That covers the 35mm and the 50mm important focal lengths and almost becomes good enough for shooting portraits.
This lens features several acronyms. Let’s take a look at those. SP stands for a Tamron acronym that suggests that this is a Superior lens design. All of Tamron’s lenses which are designed for the full-frame DSLR carry the acronym Di. The Dii acronym on this lens suggests that it has been designed for the smaller APS-C camera systems. VC is the Tamron acronym for Image Stabilization. Tamron calls it Vibration Compensation.
XR stands for Extra Refractive Index glass. This is evidently the trick how companies make lenses that are smaller and lighter and are, at the same time, able to handle different types of aberrations. Speaking of aberrations, the LD element handles chromatic aberrations (color fringing). The IF tag at the end suggests that the lens has Internal Focusing elements.
Now let’s take a look at the construction of the lens. This is a complicated design. The lens has a total of 19 elements arranged in 14 groups. There are 7 diaphragm blades. They allow you to capture decent enough bokeh for your portrait styled shots. But then this is a wide-angle lens mainly, and therefore you rare not going to use the lens for capturing bokeh.
9. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Lens
All in one zoom
Excellent focal length range. Good image quality.
This is a one-lens solution for all your requirements. This is the sort of lens that you would strap on to your camera and then forget to ever take it off. This particular lens offers you a focal length range of 18-200mm. Which when adjusted for the crop factor becomes a 27-300mm lens (on 35mm format equivalent).
In other words, this lens is designed to work for you as a go-to lens covering a wide variety of photography moments. If you love to take your DSLR on vacations and weekend trips you would love the convenience that this lens provides. You don’t have to pack additional lenses unless you are a birding enthusiast or want to shoot macro or love wide open apertures.
On to the construction of the lens, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II lens consists of 16 elements arranged in 12 groups. There are three aspherical elements for suppressing spherical aberrations and two extra-low dispersion elements that suppress color fringing.
Additionally, two extra-low dispersion elements ensure that the lens is able to reduce color fringing. Additionally, the lens also features Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating. This coating ensures that the lens is able to suppress the effects of internal reflections, ghosting, and flares, especially when working in difficult lighting conditions.
10. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR
Good portrait lens for DX cameras
Medium telephoto lens.
The Nikon AF-S DX Micro 85mm f/3.5G ED VR is a versatile lens in every sense. Though the focal length of the lens is 85mm the fact that this is a DX format lens makes it 127mm when you mount it on a DX format camera such as a D500.
This is a macro lens and produces beautiful life-sized reproduction images of small creepy crawlies, flowers and other small subjects when working from its closest working distance.
The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 11.26-inches. That’s just short of a full one foot of working distance. Ideally you can work from further away. And that’s the beauty of long lenses. First, they don’t obscure the incident light falling on the subject. Second, they don’t scare away the small creepy crawlies.
The lens features a total of 14 elements arranged in 10 groups. There is one extra-low dispersion element in the lens. This element takes care of color fringing providing better color saturation and contrast.
Additionally, the lens is coated with Super Integrated Coating. This suppresses flares and ghosting. Improves color saturation, contrast and image sharpness.
The only negative thing that goes against this lens is the f/3.5 aperture. In low light situations this lens will struggle to make decent exposures. But in good light or when you are using external lighting, this lens works well.
Auto-focusing is powered by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology. This technology ensures that focusing is silent and accurate. Though it is faster than the modern Stepping Motor technology that most lens manufacturers have introduced.
11. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
One lens does it all
Excellent focal length range. Afordable.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Nikon DX series lenses.
First up is the AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens. This is a great walk-around lens that gives you a phenomenal focal length range of 28mm all the way to 300mm. It basically means you can mount this one lens onto your camera and have no reason to take it off. It shoots portraits, street photos, vacation photos, landscapes, sports, and everything in between.
Yes, the lens is a bit slow at the long end of the focal length range. It is only f/5.6 when fully extended. But then if you need to shoot sports or wildlife on a serious professional level then you are looking at the wrong lens.
There is one caveat though and that is this lens when mounted on a DX-format camera offers an effective focal length of 42mm to 450mm. This is because of the crop factor. The crop factor for Nikon DX cameras is 1.5x.
This walk around lens comes with 3.5 stops of image stabilization.
12. Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
The most popular kit lens for DX camera owners
Standard zoom range. Value for money.
The Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm is one of the most popular kit lenses ever made by Nikon. As we have discussed above lenses that are designed for the smaller crop cameras (also known as DX cameras). The image circle is smaller and is optimized for the smaller sensor size that powers these cameras.
This particular lens is one of the most popular ever because it is bundled with a number of Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs.
The effective focal length of the lens is 27mm to 82.5mm. Making it suitable for photographing almost anything except birding, wildlife and sports.
Plus, you have VR. So, hand holding the lens in most lighting situations is very practical.
13. Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Better Option for DX users
Faster than the 18-55mm and genuinely better option because of the faster aperture.
You might feel that if you already have the 18-55mm lens you don’t need to spend on another wide zoom lens. Especially, something like the 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED. But there is a big difference between the two lenses.
You certainly don’t need the 18-55mm if you are going to invest in the 17-55mm. Between these two lenses the 18-55mm is the less premium one.
The 17-55mm has a wider maximum aperture of f/2.8. And it is fixed across the focal length range. Additionally, the lens is much better constructed compared to the 18-55mm kit lens. Heavier, too. When you pick it up you can feel the weight. Much more than the 18-55mm.
But there is one disadvantage and that is the lens does not have image stabilization built-in. However, as long as you shoot at a shutter speed that is faster than one over the focal length you should be fine. With the fast f/2.8 aperture that wouldn’t be a problem at all.
Good construction quality also implies that the lens is able to withstand the odd bump and knock. Internally the lens comes with a host of elements that take care of most of the problems of chromatic aberrations and other related issues of distortion.
14. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports
Fantastic budget lens for birding
The maximum focal length at this budget. decent image quality.
We love the Sigma Sports 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM. Though slightly more expensive than Nikkor’s 200-500mm f/5.6E this lens gives a longer focal length range and larger focal length range than the Nikon OEM version.
Our only complaint is that the aperture isn’t fixed across the focal length. That means as you zoom in and out you have to constantly keep an eye on the exposure. This is important when you are shooting in full manual mode. When shooting in Aperture Priority (or Shutter Priority) this will not be a major issue. As long as you use Auto-ISO to compensate for the loss of light.
Plus, for the shorter side of the focal length range, the lens only has f/4.5 as the maximum aperture. That means low light will be one area where the lens will struggle a bit.
Then again, on the flip side, the lens has a range of special coatings to counter against all sorts of ghosting and flares. Plus lens elements that take care of various kinds of aberrations and distortions.
This lens is ideally suitable for shooting wildlife and sports. At this price, it is quite phenomenal to think that you are getting the focal length of 600mm.
Plus, the lens is compatible with most of Nikon’s DX-format cameras. That means that the lens reaches an effective focal length of 900mm (35mm format equivalent). That is a stupendous reach for any budget.
The lens is constructed of thermally stable components. Giving the lens good hot and cold weather endurance.
15. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports
Excellent budget super telephoto lens
Excellent image quality an focal length for the budget.
Sigma’s 150-600mm f/5 – 6.3 lens is designed for the budget wildlife shooter. There is one more Sigma lens that we just mentioned above. Together these two lenses offers the best value for money proposition if you are looking for a sub-2000 dollars 600mm lens. There are a few other options like the Nikkor 200-500 or the Tamron 150-600 SP. We are not a great fan of the Tamron version but we do like the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E. It is definitely one of the best budget super telephoto lens that we recommend. Especially if you have a DX camera.
The Sigma 150-600mm comes with the usual coating to suppress chromatic aberrations and other distortions. Elements inside the lens ensure that the lens does not suffer from chromatic and other aberrations.
Optical image stabilization is a must have with a lens this long. It helps to stabilize the lens when shooting hand held fully extended.
16. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
Great focal length for everyday work
Great image quality. Excellent handling.
Another wide zoom Nikkon lens designed specifically for the smaller image circle of DX cameras. The 16-80mm is a practical lens for everyday photography requirements. You can do a lot with this lens if you use it properly.
Since the lens will be affected by the crop factor of the camera (in this case Nikon’s DX-format DSLR) the effective focal length will become 24-120mm (on 35mm format equivalent). That allows the lens to be used for a number of genres of photography.
You can shoot wonderful portraits with this lens. The relatively usable aperture of f/4 at 80mm gets you enough light to create sharp images. In addition to portraits, the focal length is perfect for shooting street photos, landscapes, seascapes, anything that fits into the effective focal length range.
That said there are limitations to what you can do with this lens. The maximum focal length of the lens is only 80mm and that means this lens is neither suitable for birding nor wildlife or sports.
The lens has a number of other features that help it to make great images in most lighting conditions. First of all the lens has a full-time manual focusing override. Then there are a host of lens elements that ensure that the lens is able to suppress chromatic and other aberrations easily. This is an overall value for money proposition.
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