Nikon’s superior optical technology and range of available lenses is a boon for anyone using one of Nikon’s full-frame cameras. In this comparison post, we will be looking at 11 great Nikon FX DSLR lenses which are excellent choices for a variety of genres.
FX means full frame (36x24mm, similar to 35mm film), whereas DX-format refers to the smaller sensor size (24x16mm).
Best for Portraits, Autofocus capability, Large maximum aperture;
Ideal for indoor and outdoor portraits, High-speed f1.8 aperture, Compact and lightweight;
Effective standard length lens, Closest focusing: 0.45m/1.5 ft., Great travel companion;
Reproduction ratios of up to 1: 1, High contrast and sharp images, Best for flower photography;
Fast f/5.6 constant aperture, 4.5 stops of vibration reduction, Best for birding & wildlife;
Sharp focusing, 4 stops of vibration reduction, Ideal for wide-angle and normal shots;
Exceptional low light performance, Dust and moisture resistance, Excellent image quality;
Fast telephoto zoom lenses, Jaw-dropping image quality, Best for low-light, sports, wildlife;
Ultra-wide-angle zoom, Edge-to-edge sharpness, High-speed autofocusing;
Best Nikon FX Lenses for Advanced Users (11 Top Picks)
- Nikon AF DC- Nikkor 135mm f/2D
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D
- Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D
- Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4D IF-ED Lens
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G Lens
1. Nikon AF DC- Nikkor 135mm f/2D
We will pick a few Nikon DSLR lenses that are probably out of your radar at the moment. One of them is the Nikon AF DC- Nikkor 135mm f/2D. DC stands for Defocus Control and this is what makes the 135mm f/2D something of a special optic in a crowd of overlapping focal lengths and myriad of technical mumbo-jumbo. All set, at the end of the day, it is the sheer ability of the lens to control background out of focus, as well as its overall sharpness, is what makes all the difference. The 135mm f/2 is a piece of beauty in that regard.
As per many, the 135mm is the best focal length for portraits. This is, however, highly debatable as there is a sizeable fan following for the 85mm as well as for the 105mm. But while the 105mm is somewhat of a ‘safe choice’, the 135 with its medium telephoto focal length and therefore better background compression and the 85mm with its superior optical quality are truly the number one and two (though not necessarily in that order) in terms of portrait photography.
It is pertinent to mention that there is also a 105mm f/2.8 Defocus Control lens as well. The greatest strength of the 135mm f/2 DC is its ability to control the amount of background and foreground blur, using what it is, a damped ring on the lens body. The 9-blade aperture diaphragm produces superior rounded bokeh. That is a prime requirement for a portrait lens.
There are clear markings on the lens barrel that indicates what you are defocusing the background (R) or the foreground (F). Not to make it light or anything the 135mm f/2 is also optically very sharp. One of the sharpest Nikon DSLR lenses for portraiture that you would come across at this budget.
If you have a DX camera, one which has no auto-focusing motor on it you have no auto-focusing control over the lens.
2. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D
The Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D is no longer sold by Nikon. Additionally, some users have mentioned that the lens has some focusing issues and is likely to miss a few times. But that does not mean that the lens is crap. What works is the nice bokeh and the superior build quality. Being a prime lens with less moving parts inside the lens is an uncomplicated design with superior optical quality. There is an aperture ring on the lens which means you can change the aperture withfout having to take your eyes off the viewfinder.
The fact that this lens is no longer made by Nikon means you will have to find a pre-owned piece somewhere. At the time of writing this, there were about half a dozen sellers on Amazon who were selling this lens. Albeit pre-owned.
Related Post: Best Nikon Lenses for Beginners
The Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D is the perfect sort of focal length when you need to shoot portraits. On a 35mm camera like the D750, you will get a slightly larger angle of view than what you can expect with a smaller crop camera like the D500. However, as the lens is compatible with both the FX and the DX mounts it means you can use it with cameras that use either of these two mounts. On the D500 the effective focal length will become the equivalent of a 127.5mm lens as if it is mounted on a full-frame camera.
About D Lenses
However, there is a caveat. This is a D lens and just like any other D lenses that you have used this one does not have a focusing motor inside it. The lack of a focusing motor on this lens means you will not be able to auto-focus if you are using one of the entry-level Nikon cameras. Cameras like the D5500 or the D3300 mainly and every other camera in those series. So, if you are having one of these cameras or want to buy something in mint condition straight out of a factory sealed box, then go for the newer version – 85mm f/1.8G.
- Lens not zoomable
- Portable medium telephoto lens that is ideal for indoor and outdoor portraits
- Rear Focusing system for fast and smooth optical performance
- Subtle blurring of background for beautifully natural and evocative portraits
- High-speed f1.8 aperture
3. Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D
There are a number of 50mm primes made by Nikon. The latest Nikon DSLR lenses feature auto-focusing motor highlighted by the G acronym on the lens barrel. The D lenses don’t have an AF motor built-in. But they have an aperture ring which comes in handy in more than one ways (already stated above).
The f/1.4 is exactly 2/3rd stop brighter than the f/1.8. That has its own advantages, especially when you are shooting in dark conditions. But the wide aperture is also useful for moments when you want to really obliterate the background (as well as the foreground) of your subject. But on the flip side, the margin of error in terms of focusing is very thin.
Related Post: Best 50mm Lenses for Nikon DLSR
The 50mm prime is in the standard prime segment and provides a focal length that is perfect for everyday photography requirements. Please note that the lens will not be suitable for specialized requirements like birding, wildlife or sports and so on. But if you use lens reversal technique you would be able to use this as a macro lens.
- The AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D DSLR Lens from Nikon is a very effective standard length lens compatible with both FX and DX format...
- Lens construction: 7 elements in 6 groups
- Closest focusing: 0.45m/1.5 ft.
- Accepts 52mm filters;Maximum Aperture f/ 1.4 ;Minimum Aperture f/ 16
- Includes 52mm lens cap, rear cap
4. Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4D IF-ED Lens
Macro photography enthusiasts start off with a variety of methods trying to get a close-up view of a subject. Most do everything except using a proper macro lens. Let’s face it, macro lenses are not cheap. But those who are genuinely interested in shooting macro photos, e.g., shooting professional quality images of wedding rings or flowers or small products for a catalog, a proper macro lens is a must-have.
The 200mm f/4 IF-ED lens is a good lens to start shooting with. It is purpose-built for shooting creepy crawlies and wedding rings and anything small enough, from a minimum working distance of 48cm and yet fill the frame. The magnification ratio of 1:1 gives you life-size reproduction.
Related Post: Comparing the 10 Best Macro Lenses for Nikon
That said macro lenses are known for their superior optical quality and the 200mm f/4 IF-ED is no different in that regard. This is optically a very sharp lens. The 200mm focal length makes this a telephoto lens, i.e. if you are interested in shooting birds and wildlife and things like that. But at f/4 you will face issues trying to use a fast shutter speed. Either your exposure will be off, or if you try to compensate that by dragging the shutter, you will induce image blur. Of course, you can always use a higher ISO number to compensate.
Hands down this is one of the best FX Nikon DSLR lenses for macro work.
- 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...
5. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
The 200-500mm isn’t optically the fastest super telephoto lens around, neither is it the best in terms of superior optical quality. But what it does is it takes you into the realm of serious telephoto shooting range. For someone just beginning in birding and wildlife photography and looking at proprietary options, the 200-500mm is a good option to begin one’s search.
Advantages of the Lens
The lens has several advantages going for it. It is one of the cheapest proprietary super telephoto options that you could lay your hands on. Being a super telephoto lens means you will probably never miss a teleconverter. Moreover, the maximum aperture is fixed across the focal length which gives you an incredible advantage when shooting at its tele-end.
Related Post: Nikon 200-500mm Review
The Nikon 200-50mm is considerably cheaper when you consider the price at which other Nikon DSLR lenses (and for that matter those made by the competition) made for telephoto works sell. Additionally, the lens comes with built-in image stabilization. Built-in image stabilization ensures that you can handhold the lens while using it at its longest focal length.
That said, at 2.3 kilos this is a heavy lens. Thus, it can become too unwieldy especially when paired with a full-frame camera. However, if you do manage to hand-hold the lens there would be no issues when the four-and-a-half-stops VR kicks in. You may develop stronger forearm muscles if you hand-hold this on a regular basis.
Small things like a free tripod collar also make this lens a sweet deal, especially for photographers who are on a budget.
- Compact super telephoto zoom lens for birding, wildlife, motorsports, events and more
- 500 millimeter of zoom power on fx format DSLR; 750 millimeter equivalent on dx format DSLRs, minimum focus distance: 7.2...
- Fast f/5.6 constant aperture for beautiful out of focus backgrounds and low light performance
- 4.5 stops of vibration reduction with sports mode. Approx. Weight 81.2 ounce. Approx. Dimensions (diameter x length) 4.2 inch...
- Af compatible with optional TC 14e series tele converters and DSLRs that offer f/8 support. Mount type: Nikon f bayonet
6. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
If you choose practicality over showing-off, the 16-35mm is probably the lens that will go into your camera bag over anything wider (and or faster). This is a wide angle zoom lens and is designed keeping in mind corner to corner sharp frames. i.e., landscapes, group shots and anything else where much of the frame is required to be sharp.
Significantly cheaper than the 14-24mm we earlier recommended the 16-35mm is a practical choice, even though it is slower and ‘narrower’. If you cannot do something with a 16-35mm lens then there is no point going for a 14-24mm. the 16-35mm is wide enough. Plus, you can always take a couple of steps back to fit in extra areas of the frame.
Related Post: Amazing Nikon DSLR Cameras under $1k
Another thing is you rarely shoot wide open when shooting landscapes, or seascapes or cityscapes or group photos. You would be stopping down the lens to something like f/8 or f/11. So, what’s the point of paying extra 800 bucks for a lens that gives you one stop of extra light?
The other features of the lens include Nikon’s VR II image stabilization and a series of special elements and nanocrystal coating to ensure that the lens is distortion and aberrations free.
- Ideal for wide-angle and "normal" shots
- Maximum aperture: f/4 ; Offers two focus modes, M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual)
- Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups
- Image stabilization, vibration reduction (VR II) up to 4 stops
- Nikon F mount for FX and DX DSLRs
7. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
The Nikkor 24-70mm is a universal favorite as a general purpose lens. Together with the 70-200mm f/2.8, is one of the best FX Nikon DSLR lenses around. The focal length coverage is ideal for use of the lens for a variety of photography projects. You can shoot weddings, landscapes, group shots, a little bit portraits and everything in between.
There are several options in this segment. Nikon makes several of these. The two we are going to talk about are the AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and the AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 E ED VR. Though we shall be concentrating on the G-Lens.
The reason for selecting the G lens and not the latest VR lens is because the VR lens is softer at the center when compared with the performance of the G-Lens. The 24-70mm is a full-frame lens and is compatible with both FX and DX cameras. On DX cameras the focal length becomes the equivalent of a 36 – 105mm lens, perfect for portraits at the tele-end of the focal length range.
The problem with the new VR lens is that it has been designed to excel corner to corner. The results it produces show admirable improvement in the corner sharpness. But in trying to achieve that the sweet sharpness that was possible with the previous G lens has now been compromised.
Sharpness algorithm, as it seems, have been distributed across the frame. If you are a portrait shooter, someone who loves shooting environmental portraits rather than the traditional headshot, then the VR lens would be a bit disappointing.
But then the older lens lacks VR, something which the new lens has. So, that’s one area which you need to consider when making your choice. We prefer the G lens, which is the better portrait shooter among the two.
- Minimum Focus Distance : 1.2 ft.( 0.38 m)
- Exceptional low light performance
- Lens Construction (Elements/Groups): 15/11 (3 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and 1 Nano Crystal Coat)
- Focal Length Range : 24 70 mm
8. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
Between the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR and the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4 G lens, I prefer this one. This one is faster and better built. There is also a newly launched anniversary edition of this lens. It’s too pricey and is basically a collector’s item and does not give you anything extra. No point in spending $4K on a lens that you can get at under $2.8K.
At 200mm the lens gives you telephoto perspective. The constant and fast f/2.8 aperture ensures that the lens is able to collect a lot of light even in bad lighting conditions. Plus, the presence of a four-stop optical image stabilization system ensures that the lens is perfect for shooting in poor lighting even whilst you are hand-holding. With a 9-blade aperture diaphragm, the bokeh you can get with this lens is superb.
The construction of the lens consists of 6 extra-low dispersion elements, a fluorite element as well as a single high refractive index element. All of these help in suppressing chromatic aberrations and color fringing. The result is superior clarity an exceptional sharpness no matter which direction the light is coming from.
On top of these, the lens also features Nikon’s Nano crystal coating and Super Integrated Coating (SIC) ensures that the lens is able to handle light coming in at a low angle much better than ordinary lenses. This is the sort of light that would result in flares and ghosting.
Finally, to prevent the lens from becoming a smudge and fingerprint magnet, fluorine coating has been provided at the front as well as the back element.
This is probably the sort of lens that would partner your wide zoom lens. As a matter of fact, this lens is a perfect pair for the 24-70mm f/2.8. Together, these are two of the best FX Nikon DSLR lenses you can buy.
Take these two lenses and maybe a 1.4x teleconverter (use it exclusively with the 70-200mm) and you wouldn’t have to worry about anything else. And both lenses being 77mm at the front end, you can swap filters and polarizers as you go along; never needing to carry two different sets for each lens.
It saves a considerable amount of hassle checking in at the airport, and time in terms of managing small pieces of glass and optics that can easily get misplaced. Not to mention the savings in space in your camera bag.
That said, the 24-70mm weighs about 900 grams and the 70-200mm weighs about 1430 grams. Add to that a full-frame body and you have a hefty camera gear to lug around on your travels.
- Minimum Focus Distance-3.6ft.(1.1m)
- Focus distance indicator- 1.1 m to ∞
- Accepts Filter Type:Screw-on
- Diaphragm blades: 9. Format : FX/35mm. Minimum Aperture : f/ 22
9. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens
The definitive landscape photographers lens the 14-24mm f/2.8G is a must have if the 16-35mm f/4G is ‘too narrow’ for you. With the 14-24mm the largest field of view that you can get is 114 ◦. Much larger than its nearest competitor the 16-35mm f/4G when shooting at its widest focal length. That field of view is 107 degree.
That said the 14-24mm does not come with image stabilization and it is way heavier than the 16-35mm. Additionally, the bulging front element means none of your filters will work with it. Plus, there are no rear threads on the lens too. Hence, using gel type filters are out of the question. Probably, this is one of the most difficult lenses to work with if creative photography is your forte.
If you are not using the petal-shaped lens hood, you are forever exposing the front end of the lens to knocks and bumps.
For many, the 16-35mm makes more sense than this lens. At f/2.8, the lens is fast, but then who does ever shoot landscapes at f/2.8? That said, the 14-24mm is designed for someone who absolutely loves the wide-angle perspective. Not just the ability to shoot wide open but capture more of the scene. In that sense this lens is perfect. Add to that the optical superiority of this lens and you have in your hands a lens that is a dream come true for wide-angle shooters.
Mind the weight factor though and the lack of ability to use a filter (already mentioned). The lens weighs a hefty 1 kilo and is pretty large considering some of the other options in the market. If you absolutely need such a large lens go for it. Else, consider the 16-35mm f/4G we listed above.
In terms of construction, the 14-24mm f/2.8G has a total of 14 elements arranged in 11 groups. Three aspherical elements and a total of two ED elements. Hence, aberrations and distortions are well suppressed.
On top of that, the lens has a Nano crystal coating. This suppresses flares and ghosting. Comes in handy when shooting with the sun lower at the horizon/sun rays coming directly across the field of view.
The 9 blade aperture rounded aperture diaphragm is ideal for bokeh and stuff. Though you would hardly ever use it for bokeh purposes.
- Focal Length Range : 14 -24 mm
- Minimum Focus Distance 0.9 ft.( 0.28 m), minimum f/stop 22
- Lens construction 14/11 (2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and 1 Nano Crystal Coat)
- Angle of View : 114° - 84°
10. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens
Another telephoto lens and this one is a beast. At 300mm and opening up to f/2.8, the Nikkor AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens will find interested suitors from a wide variety of photography genres. This is one of the best FX Nikon DSLR lenses in the telephoto segment.
The best thing is the lens is compatible with all of Nikon’s current bunch of teleconverters (1.4x, 1.7x and the 2.0x). Hence, it makes perfect sense for use in a wide range of photography genres including wildlife and sports.
Please note using a teleconverter will drop the maximum aperture by one or more stops, depending on the specific teleconverter that you are using. The 2.0x teleconverter will drop 2 stops of light. i.e., the f/2.8 lens will become a f/5.6 lens. Still good enough, especially when you are working in good light. With a 1.4x teleconverter, the lens will drop 1 stop of light. So the f/2.8 lens will become an f/4 lens. Not a significant disadvantage considering there are many super telephoto lenses that has a maximum aperture of f/4 and have a price tag in excess of $10K.
The fact that this is a prime lens means that you have to worry less about zooming. You can concentrate fully on focusing aspects, composition and exposure while your legs do all the ‘zooming’. The wide open aperture is combined with a long focal length. As a result, you can stay away at a safe distance and yet capture a beast in its natural habitat or an athlete on the track with a beautiful background and foreground blur.
Auto-focusing is one of the strong points of this lens. It’s blazing fast. Consequently, you will never lose a moment. Another strong point being the optical image stabilization system. The optical stabilization on this lens is rated at up to 3 stops. Basically, it means you can use up to three stops slower shutter speed than what is metered by the camera when O.I.S. is activated.
300mm is not super long. So the working distance would be no more than 350 meters for shooting animals or athletes. Consequently, you cannot expect to fill the frame at that distance. For birding, the working distance will be even shorter.
That said if you attach a teleconverter, something like an AF-S TC-14E III, all of a sudden the focal length becomes 420mm. It then becomes a serious super telephoto lens. With a loss of light of just one stop of light, you can get pretty close to where the action is.
Coming now to the construction of the lens, the AF-S Nikkor 300mm has three extra-low dispersion elements. This takes care of color fringing. Along with that, there are super integrated coatings and Nanocrystal coatings. The last two takes care of flares and ghosting that affect most lenses when shooting wide open in bright outdoor conditions.
- F/2.8 Extra low dispertion
- G-Series lens
- Internal focus
- Auto Focus
11. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G Lens
The Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G is one among a number of 28mm versions made and sold by Nikon. You will find D variant of this focal length, as well as a close-range correction system variant and another variant with electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism (E). But we are concerned with this one.
This is the G variant which has a built-in autofocusing motor. This allows the lens to autofocus without issues on all Nikon cameras (FX and DX). Since we are concerned with full frame camera systems in this discussion, we will keep ourselves limited to those systems only and discuss lens properties in relation to these cameras only.
In anyways, the 28mm f/1.8G is designed as a general purpose wide-angle lens. This is a prime lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. The lens construction consists of two aspherical elements as well as Nano crystal coating and Nikon’s super integrated coating (SIC).
The lens also features Nikon’s silent wave motor autofocusing technology which ensures that the AF performance is super quiet. Still, on the subject of focusing, the lens has a large manual focusing ring. The lens comes with full-time manual focusing. Manual focusing is always very precise with this lens.
The lens’ aperture diaphragm is composed of 7 rounded blades. Bokeh? Well with 7 aperture blades bokeh wouldn’t be that good. But then this lens is not designed for soft mushy background/foreground It is designed for capturing landscapes, group shots, architecture and everything in between.
The 28mm is versatile in the sense that you can use this lens as your primary optic when traveling. It gets you a standard eye-level view of everything which is what great street photos often are. Nevertheless, you may choose to shoot wide open at f/1.8 and blur everything in front or behind a subject. The results would be good. Personally, I would prefer the 28mm f/1.4 E ED if
Plus, the 28mm is somewhat in the middle ground coming right between 16mm and the 35mm. Which is perfect because you don’t have to carry a heavier zoom lens. You can carry the 28mm, and take a few steps back or forward when you need to change the composition.
- Fast f/1.8 prime NIKKOR lens
- Nano Crystal Coat. Aspheric lens Elements
- Diaphragm blades: 7
- Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
- Lens not zoomable
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now. You can consider him as your “master guide” here at PhotoWorkout.
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