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.
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1. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
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.
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).
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 one of the absolute best Nikon DX camera lenses listed here.
2. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
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 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 making it 2 whole stops quicker. That’s an incredible advantage no matter what lighting conditions 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 these and keep it in your camera bag. This and the 50mm f/1.8G prime come in handy in a wide variety of situations.
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.
Autofocusing 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
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. This will give the lens a crop factor of 1.5x. Which makes it an effective 75mm lens for the DX-format camera system. With this in mind, 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). There is a major difference between these two lens types. The D lens does not have a built-in autofocusing motor. The G lens does. 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. Without such a lens, the autofocus will not work.
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 a 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
True macro lens. Affordable price.
The unassuming 40mm prime has been a personal favorite of mine for macro photography work. This is one of the sharpest, and at the same time one of the cheapest, prime lenses that Nikon 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 giving the lens the effective focal length of 60mm.
Now, 60mm is a somewhere-in-the-middle kind of 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.
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 more light even when you are shooting in darker conditions.
5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens
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) camera system. But, it is also compatible with all the recent DX-format cameras as well. This 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 a pure 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 handle 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.When it comes to budget and sheer focal-length, this is definitely one of the best Nikon DX camera lenses.
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 of 14-20mm becomes 21-30mm. So even with the crop, this is still quite wide and still very useful 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 we love this lens is because of the fast wide and constant aperture of f/2 across the focal length.
This is great for if you need to get in that little extra bit of light for your shot, even when the lighting situation is less than ideal. You can compose and zoom as needed without having to worry about sacrificing that wider f/2 aperture.
7. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
Widest aperture of f/2.8 and sharp image quality.
We love this lens because of the practicality of the focal length. The 17-50mm is designed for the smaller sensor 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, 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 of this is that 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 without the need for a tripod in the 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.
8. Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Dii-II VC LD Aspherical (IF)
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.
9. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Lens
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 never 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.
10. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR
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 which makes it 127mm when you mount it on a DX-format camera such as the D500.
This is a macro lens and produces beautiful life-sized reproductions 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 live subjects.
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
The AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens 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 for most photographers, this should suffice.
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.
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 Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm is one of the most popular kit lenses ever made by Nikon.
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
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.
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
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. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR
Great image quality. Excellent handling.
Another wide zoom Nikkon lens designed specifically for the smaller sensor 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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