The best Nikon lenses

You've bought a Nikon camera, and now you need a lens to go with it - let our photography expert talk you through your options

Boy with camera with a Nikon lens

by Kirk Schwarz |
Updated on

Welcome Nikon owner, I can tell by your camera strap that you’re a discerning photographer with an eye for style, precision and quality. Of course, you don’t need your ego buttered up, you’re a straight-talker who just wants to get down to the brass tacks and get the kind of lens that gives you outstanding image quality to match the clarity of your sensor.

Fret not, these utter bad boys of optical prowess are formidable in the resolution stakes and boast a mix of crisp optics, wide apertures and even the occasional value for money too.

Related: Everything you need to know about camera lenses

You’ll find some of the finest landscape lenses ever developed, optics that will give you the edge for creative portraits or street photography and even glass that’s got more reach than PewDiePie’s YouTube account (one for the digital marketers out there). That said, you might not have a specific genre in mind and you might be here to browse, so we’ve got you covered too.

You can rest assured that any lens on this list, be it for the DSLR range of full-frame or APS-Cs, or the high-tech powerhouse mirrorless Z range, these optics shine, shimmer and sparkle with world-class performance and are sure to give you the upper edge on your next photo assignment. Take it from Kirk, each one has the seal of approval and you can take that to the bank… where they’ll look at you strangely and inform you that it actually doesn’t have any monetary value - sorry!


The best Nikon lenses

Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR1 of 9

Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

Designed exclusively for the APS-C Nikon DSLRs, such as the D3500, D7500 and D500, this ultra-wide to wide angle zoom gives you an equivalent focal range of 15-30mm. It comes with a variable aperture, 3.5-stop optical stabilisation and 3 aspherical elements. It may have a variable aperture, though for landscape shots, this won't be a problem and for the price this is an astonishingly sharp lens. Between f/5.6 and f/16 you'll capture bags of details in your shots, making it ideal for big prints and pixel-peepers!

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G ED2 of 9

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G ED

Possibly the best bargain on this list, the 85mm f/1.8 gives you an ultra-fast aperture and some buttery, creamy smooth as silk bokeh thanks to the 9-rounded diaphragm blades. There's a Silent Wave Motor to power the AF system, aspherical and Extra-low Dispersion lens elements and compact design. If you're into portraits, this is must-have glass at a must-have price.

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S3 of 9

Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S

Paired with one of the ultra-sharp Z range of mirrorless Nikons, this ultra-wide to wide zoom lens gives you a fixed f/4 aperture, top class S-Line optical construction including anti-reflective Nano Crystal Coating and a near-silent focusing system. The glass is pretty close to perfection, picking up a huge amount of details in the centre and corners throughout the range. It's fast becoming a legendary landscape lens for the Z6 and Z7 and the 82mm filter thread makes it perfect for ND filters and filter holders.

Nikon AF-S 20mm f/1.8G ED4 of 9

Nikon AF-S 20mm f/1.8G ED

Just coming in at the edge of the ultra-wide range, this 20mm gives you a super-fast f/1.8 aperture, 13 elements in 11 groups with Extra-low Dispersion and aspherical elements and Nano Crystal Coating. It's respectably light and reasonably compact and is not only ideal for landscapes, with a 77mm filter thread, but also a dream to capture astro shots.

Nikon AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR5 of 9

Nikon AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

Want something that pushes the boundaries? Need to capture action from a distance? The 500mm PF is an astonishing mix of razor-sharp glass and lightweight - yes, really - build. There's three Extra-low Dispersion elements and Nano Crystal Coating for excellent transmission, as well as fast and silent AF with a limiter switch, Phase Fresnel element to keep the size and weight down and four stops of image stabilisation - outstanding.

Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S6 of 9

Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S

To round out the wider optics on this list, the 35mm f/1.8 S-Line is a belting piece of glass that is well deserving of some credit. It gives you the iconic focal length that's beloved by street and environmental portrait photographers, a wide textured focus ring and razor-sharp results at any aperture. Don't be fooled by the fact it's an f/1.8, it could be the best money you ever spend.

Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S7 of 9

Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S

In terms of 24-70mm glass, Nikon has some excellent examples. Whether it's the DSLR alternative or the more affordable S-Line f/4 version you're sure to get pro-quality optics. However, it's the latest mirrorless version that really floats our boat. It comes with ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coating, a close focusing distance of 38cm and wide f/2.8 aperture. There's an OLED panel that give you a display of your current settings, as well as a control ring and customisable barrel-mounted function button. It's lightning fast in focusing terms and is one of the sharpest lenses on the market.

Nikon AF-S FX 14-24mm f/2.8G ED8 of 9

Nikon AF-S FX 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

It's our last pick and oh boy, it's a good'un! An ultra-wide zoom with a fast fixedf/2.8 aperture, this is the one all the landscapers covet. It gives you one of the best performances of any ultra-wide zoom with three aspherical elements, a brace of extra low dispersion lenses and near-complete lack of any imperfections. The only thing you'll need to remember is the number for the hospital 'cuts and scrapes' department, because the sharpness here is off the chain.

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G9 of 9

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G

Let's kick this off with one of the most iconic focal lengths in existence. This 50mm gives you an ultra-wide aperture, sharp images and creamy bokeh. There's a SWM (Silent Wave Motor) for nippy and accurate focusing and best of all, it works on both full-frame Nikons, as well as crop DX APS-C models too. The latter gives you a 35mm equivalent focal length of around 85mm - perfect for portraits.

Discover more tried and tested reviews:

Reviewed: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8G ED VR II

Reviewed: Nikon AF-S 24mm F/1.8G ED

Reviewed: Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G

Reviewed: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm F/5.6E ED VR

Reviewed: Canon EF 135mm F/2L USM

Kirk Schwarz is one of our resident tech experts. A tech-addicted photographer with more than a decade's experience, Kirk's used to putting new gear through extreme field-testing. He also works for Practical Photography magazine

Subscribe to the **What’s The Best Newsletter**to keep up to date with more of the latest reviews and recommendations from Kirk and the rest of the What’s The Best team.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us