We recently reviewed a bunch of macro lenses for the Canon EF and EF-S mounts. These include both proprietary Canon lenses as well as third party lenses. Today, we shall be looking at the best macro lenses for Nikon f-mount.
We should have said best micro because that is what Nikon refers to its close focusing lenses as. Micro is to Nikon what macro is to Canon. Nikon has several good lenses that allow you to get in pretty close and capture a 1:1 (life-size) perspective of a subject. Let’s begin with the top lenses manufactured by Nikon, and then we can move on to some third party solutions.
|Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105 mm 1:2.8G VR||View On Amazon|
|Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm 1:2.8G||View On Amazon|
|Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm 1:2.8G ED||View On Amazon|
|Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm F/4D IF-ED Lens||View On Amazon|
|Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD||View On Amazon|
|Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens||View On Amazon|
|Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di Macro Lens||View On Amazon|
|Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens (Nikon)||View On Amazon|
|Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 (F mount)||View On Amazon|
|Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 Macro (F mount)||View On Amazon|
Original Nikon Made Lenses
1. Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105 mm 1:2.8G VR
The Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105 is the auto-focusing version of the older lens (the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 without autofocus build in 1983). If you need auto-focusing, this is the lens that you should opt for (also, the old model is no more available).
This new Nikkor macro lens feels solid in the hands. It is compatible with all of Nikon’s modern auto-focusing DSLRs as well as most of older 35mm film cameras. On smaller crop senses cameras the crop factor of 1.5x extends the effective focal length to a 35mm format equivalent of 157.5mm.
It is quite well made and weighs 720 grams. The metal frame of the lens feels solid in the hands. The internal construction of the lens includes a total of 14 elements arranged in 12 groups. There are 9 rounded aperture diaphragm blades that produce nice bokeh.
Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM). Typical of modern auto-focusing mechanisms this is very quiet. The lens also comes with a manual focusing override option. That means you can grab hold of the focus ring and manually adjust focus even in AF mode. Still on the subject of focusing the lens focuses internally which means there is no barrel length change when the lens focuses.
This is a true macro lens, meaning this lens will produce 1:1 or life-size reproduction of anything that you can aim it at from a close distance. Also being a medium tele macro lens the 105mm allows you to close focus from a sufficient working distance. This ensures that you will not be scaring the living daylights out of your small subjects. Also, this means you will not obstruct the light with your own body and or the lens camera combination.
Vibration Reduction has been provided in the lens. VR is to Nikon what O.I.S. is to Canon. The VR on this lens is rated to 3-stops. That means you can use up to three stops slower shutter speed compared to other non-VR lenses in a given lighting situation.
To top it all this lens doubles up as a great portrait lens as well. The lens works as a great solution if you are out in the field shooting macro and all of a sudden you have a great portrait making opportunity. Don’t fret if you forget your portrait lens back home. The AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105 mm 1:2.8G VR will work just fine. Especially, if you are on a full-frame camera.
- Designed for close-up and macro photography; versatile enough for virtually any photographic situation
- Maximum Angle of View (FX-format): 23°20'.Features new VR II vibration reduction technology, Focal Length : 105 mm, Minimum...
- Nano-Crystal coat and ED glass elements that enhance overall image quality by further reducing flare and chromatic...
- Includes an internal focus, which provides fast and quiet auto-focusing without changing the length of the lens. Maximum...
- Weighs 279 ounces, and measures 33 x 45 inches; Made In China ;5-Year Warranty (1-Year International + 4-Year USA Extension)
2. Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm 1:2.8G
The AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm 1:2.8G is a very inexpensive microlens from Nikon designed for the smaller image circle of Nikon’s APS-C sensor powered cameras. On a DX (Nikon’s APS-C system cameras) camera, the effective focal length of the camera is 60mm. Which is just a shade longer than what you would get with a 35mm prime lens. Thus, this lens will double up as a fixed prime lens that you can shoot everyday photos as well as lots of macro photography. That said, you will never regret the quality of your photos.
Don’t bother mounting this on a full-frame camera as the lens will not utilize the whole sensor real estate and the resulting loss of resolution will not be worth it. If you don’t turn on DX crop vignetting will destroy your compositions (on full-frame).
This is a very lightweight lens, weighing just 235 grams. Build quality is decent, nothing out of the ordinary. Lots of plastic. Which is expected. But it is good quality plastic and the lens feels quite solid and well built in the hands.
Related Post: Best Nikon Lenses (for Video Shooting)
The lens opens up to a maximum aperture of/2.8. On the other side, it can stop down to a minimum of f/22. You would be shooting stopped down anyways for getting that large depth of field. The lens is very sharp in the middle and will allow you to capture those breathtaking flower shots and small creepy crawlies in life-size proportions. As well as anything else that you may fancy shooting.
The lens constitutes a total of 9 elements arranged in 7 groups. Super Integrated coating has been provided in the lens. SIC has the ability to cut down on flares and ghosting when shooting wide open, especially when shooting in backlit situations. The lens diaphragm is made up of 7 blades. You get decent enough bokeh but not as good as some of the other lenses we have listed here.
The lens has some amount of weather sealing. Rubber gasket has been provided on the lens mount to ensure that the elements stay out. That said, the lens is not 100% weather sealed.
Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology. Also integrated into the lens is the Close-Range Correction (CRC) system. This system allows the lens’ focusing elements to move independently of each other. The result of this is that the lens is able to achieve a much better auto-focusing performance, especially when working at close distances.
This is a true macro lens as it gives 1:1 perspective from a close focusing distance. The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 6.4″. The lens comes with a manual focusing override button which ensures that the focusing can be manually adjusted and fined tuned even in auto-focusing mode.
- Compact and lightweight DX-format close-up lens. Lens Construction (Elements/Groups) - 9 elements in 7 groups
- Maximum reproduction ratio is 1.0x. Focal length is 40 mm
- Sharp images from infinity to life-size (1X), Autofocus to 64 inches
- Close-Range Correction System (CRC). Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
- Angle of view is 38 degree 50 feet. Features focus distance indicator 0.53 feet to infinity having minimum focus distance as...
3. Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm 1:2.8G ED
The AF-S micro Nikkor is the other popular micro lens offered by Nikon. This slightly longer than standard focal length ensures that you have a longer reach and closer focusing even from a comfortable working distance.
The lens is designed for the full-frame sensor of Nikon but that said the lens is compatible with all of Nikon’s DX-format cameras as well. This being a G lens comes with a built-in AF motor. That should autofocus it on cheaper DX systems as well. These are cameras like the D5100 and the D3100 which do not have a built-in auto-focusing motor.
The construction of the lens includes a total of 12 elements arranged in 9 groups. These include two aspherical elements as well as one extra-low dispersion element. These elements suppress all types of aberrations as well as distortions. The result is sharper colors and better contrast.
Still on the subject of construction and the internal elements of the lens. This lens comes with 9 rounded blades which ensure that the quality of the bokeh is very nice. If you want, you can produce a nice background (and foreground) blur that would obliterate anything that is in front and behind the focusing plane.
The lens also includes Nikon’s Nano crystal coating as well as Super Integrated Coating. These coatings ensure that the lens can handle flares and ghosting much better than other lenses.
Related Post: Best Nikon Tele Macro Lenses
The lens is capable of producing 1:1 or life-size reproduction of any subject to the sensor from a close focusing distance of 7.3″.
Like many of the other modern Nikkor lenses, auto-focusing on this is handled by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology. This ensures quieter auto-focusing and better handling when compared to older AF technologies. The lens also includes full-time manual focusing override. Comes in handy very often as you focus on a very small subject at close distances and the camera cannot lock focus precisely where you want to.
Another feature on the lens that is handy is the internal focusing mechanism. Internal focusing ensures that the lens’ barrel length does not change when the lens focuses. This has some interesting applications as the lens is able to focus close without becoming something of a scary proposition for small living subjects.
The thing that is missing on the lens is image stabilization. You will have to shoot at a minimum shutter speed of 1/60 sec to ensure that your hand-held shots are devoid of blur.
- Lens Type: AF-S 60mm f/2.8G ED
- Designed for use with Nikon FX and DX digital SLR cameras including the D40, D60, D80, D90, and D300
- Focal length: 90mm effective for APS-C sensor cameras
- Ideal for closeup and macro photography; Minimum focus distance: 8 inches
- The item is made in Thailand
4. Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 200mm F/4D IF-ED Lens
The 200mm micro Nikkor f/4 IF-ED is a telephoto lens that is capable of focusing from a close distance of 48cm and producing 1:1 perspective of small subjects. The lens is optimized for the larger sensor size of full-frame cameras but that said it would also mount on smaller DX format DSLRs made by Nikon. Plus, the lens is also compatible with Nikon’s film cameras.
A word of caution though. This is a ‘D’ lens. Nikon’s D lenses, unlike G lenses, don’t have an auto-focusing motor on them. which means if you plan on using this lens on one of Nikon’s cheaper DX-format cameras, which don’t have a built-in AF motor, this lens will not auto-focus on them.
On a DX camera, the focal length becomes the equivalent of a 300mm lens mounted on a full-frame body. The incredible effective focal length means you could also use it as a tele-lens for birding and wildlife photography.
The aperture opens up to f/4 which means it is not as fast as some of the other lenses that we have discussed here. But that said, this is no pushover either. It is probably one of the sharpest macro lenses that you can buy for your Nikon and as such would also work as a general purpose telelens.
That said, this would not work as your typical portrait lens, even if you can stretch the definition of a standard portrait lens to include something as the 200mm. Why? Because at f/4 the bokeh isn’t as exciting as you could get with some of the other dedicated portrait lenses.
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The lens’ construction includes 13 elements arranged in 8 groups. These include two extra-low dispersion elements which ensure that the lens is able to suppress chromatic aberrations better. Plus, Nikon has also provided close-range correction system which should allow the lens to perform auto-focusing better compared to other non-CRC enabled lenses.
Additionally, the lens features an internal focusing mechanism. This ensures a constant barrel length when the lens focuses. There is no full-time manual focusing override on this lens but there is a manual focusing ring. The MF ring is large and sits comfortably at the front of the barrel. It is easier to control focusing manually when needed.
The lens aperture diaphragm is made up of 9 diaphragm blades and that is what makes it possible to capture nice bokeh when shooting small subjects. That said you don’t have to always go for bokeh. You can stop the lens down and produce a large depth of field just as well.
This is a bulky well-made lens, make no mistake about it. The lens weighs 1.18 kilos making it mandatory to use a tripod when shooting. Especially, because the lens does not feature an image stabilization system.
- 200mm; F/4.0; Micro lens
- D-Series; Uses 62mm filter
- Lens not zoomable
- An optical glass developed by Nikon that is used with normal optical glass in telephoto lenses to obtain optimum correction...
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Third Party Choices
5. Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD
The Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro VC USD is a macro lens designed for the Nikon f-mount. It happens to be one of the best macro lenses for Nikon f-mount systems you can get from third party manufacturers.
It is optimized for the large 35mm (full-frame) sensor Nikon cameras (note the acronym Di). The lens also works with 35mm film cameras. Plus, it will also work DX-format cameras as well. Though, with DX-format cameras you will get the advantage of a longer effective focal length (because of the 1.5x crop factor).
DxOMark rates this lens with a score of 35 when tested with a Nikon D800E. It is a fairly high score and coming just after the Nikon AF-S VR Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED which we discussed above.
The internal construction of the lens consists of 14 elements arranged in 11 groups. These include one low dispersion element and two extra-low dispersion elements. These elements will take care of aberrations and distortions that plague fast aperture telelenses.
Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by a ring-type ultrasonic motor (Ultrasonic Silent Drive). This is quiet when focusing and is fairly accurate too. Tamron’s USD actuator technology provides faster and more precise focusing lock when using things like manual focusing override.
Additionally, to suppress flares and ghosting, especially when working in backlit situations, BBAR and eBAND coatings have also been implemented. The lens diaphragm is composed of 9 rounded blades which ensure that the lens is able to produce beautiful creamy bokeh.
But what makes this lens a fantastic piece of an optical tool is its ability to produce 1:1 perspective or 1x magnification when working from its closest focusing distance of 11.81″. Being a reasonably long lens the working distance is long enough to not scare off small living subjects like frogs, butterflies, and bees.
Additionally, this lens features Tamron’s VC (Vibration Compensation). VC on the lens is rated at 3.5 stops. It gives you the advantage to shoot at up to 3.5 stops slower shutter speed compared to what the camera’s built-in meter is telling you.
Good thing too that the lens has VC because at 90mm the lens is almost perfect as a portrait lens when mounted on a full-frame camera. You would need VC to shoot stable shots. The fact that the lens has a reasonably fast aperture and a 9 blade diaphragm means you will also get a comparable bokeh to what you would get with an 85mm f/1.8 lens.
For any lens to be called a true macro lens just being able to catch a 1:1 perspective isn’t enough. You got to be able to work in any environment. This Tamron lens comes with a series of rubber seals around the switches and rings, allowing it to remain unaffected in inclement weather, dust, and dirty environments.
- Moisture-Proof and Dust-Resistant Construction
- Durable Fluorine Coating on the front element repels water and fingerprints
- Advanced coating technology reduces flare and ghosting
- Circular aperture to achieve beautiful, rounded blur effects (bokeh)
- VC enhanced with shift compensation
6. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens
DxOMark rates the Sigma slightly lower than the Tamron in terms of their DxOMark scoring system. But the Sigma is still a formidable lens to shoot macro photos with. The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens is also capable of shooting 1:1 or life size reproduction of any small subject from its closest focusing distance. Which happens to be 31 cm.
The internal construction of the lens includes a total of 16 elements which are arranged in 9 groups. This includes a Special low Dispersion (SLD) element as well as a high refractive index SLD. These two elements take care of a lot of aberrations and distortions.
The focusing mechanism works in a way so that the front element of the lens does not rotate. This is useful when using variable ND filters as well as using circular polarizes.
The f/2.8 aperture is not the quickest but is bright enough for some creamy background blur. The fact that there are 9 aperture blades means you will be able to get good results.
The lens comes with image stabilization. Sigma calls it Optical Stabilization. Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Sigma’s HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) technology. Focus free technology has been incorporated into the lens as well. The lens will auto-focus without the manual focusing ring moving. It makes things easier as the lens has full-time manual focusing capabilities as well.
Additionally, the lens features Sigma’s proprietary OS (Optical Stabilizer) mechanism. This enables the lens to handle low light and or hand-held shooting much easily when longer shutter speeds become necessary.
There are two OS modes on the camera. The first one is designed for stabilizing all movements regardless of the direction in which the camera is moving. The second one is for assisting panning movements. This mode is basically for sports and for any action scenes where you need continuous AF when the subject is moving about. This mode is rarely used if ever in macro photography situations.
This is a well-built lens with lots of metal elements. Sigma’s lenses tend to be heavier than their counterparts and this particular lens lives up to that billing. It weighs 726 grams.
7. Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM Lens
The Sigma 180mm is a medium tele-lens and a macro lens all built-in one large frame. This is a fantastic piece of equipment, one that is guaranteed to produce great images for years to come. This is a well-built lens no doubt about it. At 1.63 kilos it is a pretty heavy lens too.
The lens is capable of producing true macro perspective images or life-size reproduction of small subjects when working at its smallest working distance.
The lens comes with a series of features. The maximum aperture of this lens is f/2.8. Fast enough to handle low light situations and for capturing nice background blur. But not quick enough for the purpose of stopping action in low light. You can, however, use this lens as a general purpose tele-lens as it has an optical image stabilizer feature.
The internal construction of the lens includes 19 elements arranged in 14 groups. These include 3 FLD glass elements which ensure that color fringing is suppressed. The lens aperture diaphragm consists of a total of 9 blades which makes sure that the lens is able to produce nice creamy background (and foreground) blur when you shoot something wide open.
On the outside, the lens has several toggle switches. One works as the focus delimiter switch. The second works as your AF / MF switch and the third is for controlling OIS. Speaking of the optical image stabilizer, it is rated at 4 stops. As such this allows you to use a shutter speed up to 4 stops slower than what the camera’s metering system tells you. There are three OS modes. One is for turning off OIS completely, the other two is the standard OIS mode and the panning assist mode.
Auto-focusing mechanism on the lens is powered by a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM). The focusing mechanism comes with a floating architecture which ensures field curvature and other forms of aberrations are also suppressed. In real life situations even when the lighting is poor the lens does manage to find focus. It only tends to stutter and then go into a focus hunting frenzy when the light gets really poor and or when you have very little contrast to lock on to.
In good light and when there is some reasonable amount of contrast to lock on to, the lens never disappoints. The best thing about the lens is that focusing (in good light) is never all the way to either extremes. It always tends to find the point of highest contrast on the first attempt.
Additionally, there is a super multi-layer coating as well. This coating ensures that the lens is able to suppress ghosting and flares, especially when working in backlit situations. Evidently, this produces better contrast and more saturated colors.
Barring the weight factor and the price (which is slightly on the higher side) there is little to complain about this lens. One of the best macro lenses for Nikon f-mount systems.
8. Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di Macro Lens
Both these 90mm Tamron lenses (the VC and the non-VC) are excellent for macro photography. The Canon versions of both these Tamron lenses had been included in our previous discussion about the best macro lenses for Canon. So, no wonder that the Nikon version of both these lenses will be included on this list as well.
There are a few acronyms/abbreviations mentioned on the list. SP stands for Superior Performance, a mark that says this is one of Tamron’s better quality lenses. Di is an acronym that’s used on Tamron’s special lenses which have been engineered to work not only on traditional film SLR systems but also on digital SLR systems.
The 1:1 perspective capable on the lens at a minimum focusing distance of 11.4″ allows you to shoot life-size reproduction of any small subjects.
That said, the lens has been remodeled to incorporate an AF motor inside to ensure that it works with all cheaper / entry level Nikon DSLRs which don’t have a built-in AF motor on them.
This particular lens, however, is the non-stabilized version. If you can’t work without some form of image stabilization then this lens is not for you. Make sure you get the other (VC) lens and not this one.
F/2.8 is a fast aperture, may not so much when shooting in very dark conditions, but when shooting in reasonable lighting you would be able to shoot sharp photos with good color contrast.
The construction of the lens includes a total of 10 elements arranged in 9 groups. The lens diaphragm consists of a total of 9 diaphragm blades. That should give you an excellent background and foreground blur. This is suitable for completely melting away anything that may be distracting the composing or at least not adding anything to the composition.
Finally, a word on the build quality and weight of the lens. The overall weight of the lens is 405 grams. That makes it very lightweight and easy to use for considerable periods of time, especially when shooting handheld.
9. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens (Nikon)
The Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens was also included on the list for the best macro lens for Canon. This is a really good lens and thus, also deserves a place on this list. This is a true macro lens capable of producing 1:1 perspective.
The lens consists of 19 elements arranged in 13 groups. It consists of 3 Special low dispersion glass elements. Additionally, the lens comes with a special coating that takes care of ghosting and flares.
Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Sigma’s Hypersonic Motor technology. In real life situations especially when shooting in bright outdoor situations, the lens rarely misses focus. Auto-focusing speed is quite quick. The only time auto-focusing tends to miss or hunt is in low light situations. The manual focusing ring is well dampened too and very reassuring when turned.
A floating internal focusing mechanism ensures that the lens is able to focus quite accurately at all distances. Additionally, the internal focusing mechanism ensures that the lens’ barrel length does not increase during focusing. Plus, the front element of the lens does not rotate when focusing. This is useful for photographers when using variable neutral density filters as well as circular polarizers.
The lens’ optical image stabilization is rated to up to four stops. That means you can use up to four stops of image stabilization when shooting hand-held as against the shutter speed that the camera’s built-in metering system suggests.
Ideally, a 150mm lens is a bit too long for portraits. Normally, photographers would prefer the range between 85mm to 135mm (for full-frame cameras) to shoot portraits with. In that sense, this is a bit too long. Having said that, if you don’t have any other lens on you, the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro isn’t a bad choice as a portrait lens. You have to shoot from a slightly longer distance.
Still on the subject of using the Sigma as your portrait lens. The quality of bokeh, something you would consider no doubt for your portrait lens, isn’t so good. The blurry background is not rounded at all. Instead, they are sort of blended together.
10. Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 (F mount)
Last year Irix launched the 150mm f/2.8 Macro lens for the popular full-frame mounts. The lens is capable of producing 1:1 magnification and has a minimum focusing distance of 1.1”. The lens is a manual focusing design and comes with a focus locking mechanism.
One of the salient features of the lens is 0 distortion. Something that the company claims. In actuality there is a minuscule amount of difference. But that is not going to be a deal breaker and would not matter unless you are a nitpicker. The second major selling point is the weather sealed construction. The other features include an 11-blade rounded aperture diaphragm.
11. Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 Macro (F mount)
This is a brilliant piece of optical technology by one of the finest lens manufacturers in the business. No wonder it finds a place on this list of the best Nikon macro lenses. That said the Zeiss Milvus has one important drawback and that is the lens is unable to reproduce 1:1 magnification.
Something that a majority of the other lenses on this list do. Plus another disadvantage of this lens is it does not have auto-focusing motors. If autofocusing is a big thing for you then you will struggle with this lens. It might not be a good buy for you. But on the other hand if build quality, superb optical quality and negligible distortion is your need and you are not too finicky about auto-focusing, the Zeiss Milvus 100mm will give you’re a lot of joy.
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