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Best Nikon Lenses for Beginners in 2022 (Mirrorless & DSLR!)

For those just getting started in photography, knowing what lenses to pick can be a daunting task! If you’re a Nikon user, we’ve picked out some great starter lenses for both mirrorless and DSLR models to get you started. Read on for our top 10 best Nikon lenses for beginners!

Mirrorless Lenses 

1. NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S

The Walk Around Lens

This versatile lens is a premium option at a good price point and very easy to use.

The focal length is amazing
Well constructed, weather sealed, and durable
Macro focus to limit focusing distance
Somewhat pricey for a beginner
The f/4 aperture isn’t as bright as comparable versions in this focal length

The 24-70mm focal range is fondly referred to as the “walkaround lens” because this magnificent piece of glass can go from a wide-angle landscape lens all the way to a beautiful portrait lens! Beginner photographers who want to remain budget-conscious but need a great, versatile piece of glass will really like the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S

The fact that this lens has a fixed aperture of f/4 also helps tremendously. Although f/4 won’t grant you as much low light ability as wider apertures, it’s still a great number to sit at and the fixed nature means you don’t have to worry about it changing as you adjust your zoom.

NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S Standard Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras

This lens is lightweight and very compact for a 24-70mm, making it easy to throw into a bag and pull out when you’re ready to shoot! Paired with an all-weather build, you have yourself an optic best friend for any photographic endeavor! 

2. NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S

The Walk Around Lens Upgraded

With all the perks of the version above this one, the f/2.8 aperture will make sure this lens lasts you a lifetime.

All of the same perks as the f/4 above
Bright f/2.8 aperture
Silent and super sharp autofocus
Expensive

Similar to the lens above, the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is a step-up thanks to the much wider aperture. Featuring all of the same benefits as the lens above, the added bonus is the f/2.8 fixed aperture featured in this model – making lower light situations a lot easier to handle! 

NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras

The f/2.8 variant of this focal length is such a popular and staple piece of kit that you’ll keep this lens for many, many years to come. The sharpness is absolutely superb, making the need for excessive photo editing a thing of the past! Add in a totally silent autofocus motor and you have a recipe for a spectacular lens. 

That being said, budget-wise, this lens is costly. But if you consider the longevity of your passion, it is a great investment. With some professional features built-in such as a programmable button on the lens itself, this is a model that will easily grow with you as you improve your photography skill. 

3. NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S

Telephoto Lens Extraordinaire

The most famous telephoto focal lens, this lens is awesome for beginners who want to get into wildlife or sport photography.

Sharp, clear, bright, and colorful results with smudge and dust/grime-proof glass coating
Great f/2.8 aperture
Quiet autofocus
Extremely durable workhorse lens
Expensive
Bulky

If you’re a new photographer looking into subjects such as wildlife or sports, the NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is a stellar pick! Likely the most famous telephoto type of lens ever, the 70-200mm focal length is such a big hit that every lens line-up in the world has one. 

NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras

If you’re very passionate about photography and about subjects that require you to be pretty far back, you’ll find that the NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S really does check all of the boxes. This lens is pretty straightforward to use with no fancy gimmicks or complexities and the focal length really is the perfect concoction. With the glass coated to prevent finger smudges, dirt, and grime, this is also very user-friendly in the durability department!

That being said, this lens will be a bit of a workout due to its overall weight and bulk. The price also is not exactly beginner-friendly – it’s an investment for sure.

4. NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S 

A Budget-Conscious Nifty Fifty

The nifty fifty is called so for a reason, and this lens is a superb example of just that.

Ultra sharp in a small, compact body
Very bright f/1.8 aperture with easy focus thanks to mirrorless technology
Nicely weather sealed
Excellent price for the immense perks
The control ring can be a bit too touchy sometimes
There can be some vignetting on the edges

The good ol’ nifty fifty tends to be the best introduction to prime lenses for new photographers! The NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S is friendly on the wallet while producing beautiful results. Granted, in photography terms, friendly-on-the-wallet refers to lenses under $1k in investment, and this one sits at around $600 give or take. But, there are some really great features packed in that make it pretty bang-for-your-buck in comparison to the $100 versions of the nifty fifty. 

What makes the 50mm so beginner-friendly is the fact that this focal length mimics the human eye pretty well. What this means is that the photographer using this optic does not have to account for any sort of distortion (for example, a wide-angle lens making living subjects appear, well, wider than they actually are). What you see and how you see it is what you get! 

NIKON NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S Standard Fast Prime Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras

The f/1.8 aperture can be slightly more difficult for beginners to grasp as the shallower depth of field makes it harder to achieve focus. Thankfully, the brilliant mirrorless tech that has been implemented makes the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S a pretty easy lens to autofocus! The wide aperture creates the beautiful creamy background that professional images are known for and lets in a lot of light for darker shooting scenarios. 

This lens is known for pretty great sharpness and has a nice dust-and-splash proof design. Small and lightweight, the 50mm can be used for a wide array of subjects with ease. 

5. NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR

A Good Consumer Option

Intended to be a kit lens, this option is very versatile and encompasses a large scope of subject matter.

Amazing price
Very versatile focal length
Great communication with the mirrorless cameras
Variable aperture can be hard for beginners, especially with these narrow apertures
Construction is not as durable as premium options

Beginner photographers looking to grab a lens for their travels will really love the NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR. Although the variable aperture (an aperture that changes with the zoom) can be more difficult for learning photographers to use, the focal length really makes up for this learning curve. 

Nikon NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR Lens - with Hoya 62MM Digital Filter Kit II...

This lens is aimed at consumers and beginners, with a focal length that covers a tremendous range from 50mm all the way to 250mm!

Nikon did drop a lot of the premium construction but the compact and lightweight nature of this lens does make up for it. With a price point of under $400, it’s a great deal! As this is a mirrorless model, the autofocus is led heavily by the camera itself so the focus does tend to be pretty accurate as well, making it easy for a beginner to snatch this guy up and get going. 

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DSLR Lenses 

6. AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR

The Kit Lens Upgraded

A kit lens that has gotten a major premium upgrade, this is a great option for those that photograph many different types of things.

Very sharp in the ccenter
Has image stabilization system built-in
Great price
Variable aperture can be difficult for beginners
Has softer focus edges

Similar to the NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR we looked at in the mirrorless section, the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR is similar but built for DSLRs and has a slightly wider maximum aperture. Considered an “enhanced kit lens” this is one of the few very consumer-oriented models that actually has really great vibration reduction built-in! 

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto...

Vibration reduction refers to Nikon’s image stabilization system, which means that you can shoot at somewhat slower shutter speeds and still get crisp shots because the equipment compensates for any sort of camera shake one may encounter. 

The build is sturdy and the quality is sharp, very unlike that of “cheap” “consumer” lens products. The price is extremely attractive, something that would also draw a lot of users in. The variable aperture is something I argue is more complex for beginners to use, but can absolutely be learned without trouble. 

7. AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED

The DSLR’s 24-70mm Lens

The 24-70mm is the ultimate focal length, and we will keep driving this point!

All of the same perks as the mirrorless equivalent
Incredible center sharpness
Expensive
Heavy and bulky in comparison to similar models

If you haven’t caught on yet, the 24-70mm will keep popping back up! The AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED is the DSLR equivalent, pricey and bulky, but will last you eons to come.

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Auto Focus-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens (Renewed)

The DSLR version has absolutely exquisite center sharpness, which means that your centered subject will appear so detailed and clear you wouldn’t believe your own eyes! Plus, of course, all of the perks of our previous comparative mirrorless suggestion. 

8. AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D

Best DSLR Budget
The DSLR Nifty Fifty

This is the DSLR equivalent of our beloved nifty fifty mentioned above.

Many of the same perks as the mirrorless version
Absolutely stunning bokeh at f/1.8
Lightweight, small, and compact
The price cannot be beat
This lens is loud when used

Another budget-friendly nifty fifty to get you through is the AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D. Comparable to the mirrorless version we spoke about in an earlier section, this 50mm f/1.8 has a very close focusing distance which makes shooting subjects even easier because you don’t need to necessarily mind your distance in order to capture sharp focus! The depth of field and bokeh remains beautiful, creamy, and lush. 

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

The caveat to this model is that it is very loud when being used, but for the most part, camera noises aren’t that bothersome to subjects. It wouldn’t be suggested to use this for capturing wildlife, however, as the lens noise can scare them away. 

9. AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

The Original Extraordinary Telephoto

One of Nikon’s most famous lenses is also a great choice for new enthusaists in the craft.

Same perks as the mirrorless version
Has a focus limiter to help with autofocus
Very sharp with image stabilization built-in
Expensive
Heavy and bulky

You will definitely strengthen your arms with the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, a telephoto beast. Featuring many of the same pluses as the mirrorless version, this one has some added perks of a focus limiter switch. Although this feature tends to be more professional-oriented, beginners can use it very easily as well. 

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras...

Focus limiter switches are physical buttons on telephoto lenses that allow you to control at what distance the lens will focus. For example, if you select the limiter switch for something a bit further away, the lens will not automatically focus on anything nearby and will only focus on longer distances. This is intended to help the lens not autofocus on something you don’t want, such as having the lens focus on a deer instead of the bush closer to you. 

10. AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

The Portrait Lens Dream

This focal length doesn’t appear on beginner lists much but it certainly should, as this is a magnificently easy to use portrait lens.

Absolutely stunning portrait lens with great optic compression
Sharp and beautiful results
Comfortable size with a wide f/1.8 aperture
No optical stabilization

The 85mm doesn’t often appear on lists for ‘beginner lenses’, but we like to differ from the norm when duty calls – and the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G is one that really does deserve to be on this list. 

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Considered the ultimate portrait lens, the 85mm is actually a telephoto lens as it surpasses 70mm. There is pretty much no distortion in this lens, so what you see is what you get, and subject proportions look stunning! This lens will make shooting portraits easy as pie, everyone will love how flattering it makes them look. 

The 85mm doesn’t feel so far away that you must be a good distance from your subject, it’s very versatile and useful in a variety of spaces. This lens is priced beautifully, especially for the sharp quality you receive! The f/1.8 aperture is the same as the 50mm we’ve been mentioning, making for a lovely amount of subject separation. 

Which of the Best Nikon Lenses for Beginners Should You Start Out With? 

Although lens selection does tend to be very subjective and dependent upon the subject at hand, as a rule of thumb, the lenses that tend to work best for beginners do not have wide-angle distortion (as wide-angle lenses tend to be more complex to use), are very versatile in their abilities, and don’t have too many overly fancy extras. For our list, the choices reflected the above criteria and also added the bonus of longevity, picking out lenses that work best for both professional and hobby kits alike! 

As an overall favorite, the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S for mirrorless users and the DSLR equivalent of AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED is the top choice, thanks to this “walkaround” focal length being pretty exceptional for all things. For the budget-conscious who still want a stunning piece of gear, the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S (for mirrorless) and AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D (for DSLR) are great bang-for-your-buck options. 


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