Sharpest Nikon Prime Lenses Under £1000

Sharpness is always the key component we look for in a lens. Sure, build quality, auto-focus and handling are important too, but what we really want is fantastic image quality. So we challenged ourselves to find the ultimate affordable Nikon DSLR glass on the market...

Sharpest Nikon Prime Lenses Under £1000

by Kirk Schwarz |
Updated on

Nikon debuted its now-renowned F mount in the late 1950s with the Nikon F film SLR camera. It’s pretty amazing to think that it’s the very same F mount you’ll find on Nikon’s digital SLRs today. In fact, it’s been so successful that it’s helped the company exceed a total production of 100 million Nikkor lenses for Nikon interchangeable lens systems, combined with its mirrorless CX mount.

Related:10 Best Wide-Aperture Prime Lenses Under £1000

The mount has truly lasted the test of time, making the Nikkor lens range one of the largest on the market. Nikon also demonstrates an ability to constantly push the boundaries of photography, creating optics one step better than the last. This lens evolution was demonstrated recently, with the release of its Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED lens – the fastest 105mm on the market. The Japanese company has several production factories, in locations such as China, Thailand, and, of course, Japan.

Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR
Price: $1024.95
Alternative retailers
Adorama$379.00View offer
Walmart$1130.50View offer

This lens offers great sharpness with low distortion and 1:1 macro reproduction ratio. We do think itu2019s quite expensive and not the best in low light conditions. Sharpness impressed even at the widest aperture across the frame. Contrast is a little low wide-open, but this is fixed quickly, showing strong edge-to-edge clarity at f/4. We noted hardly any chromatic aberration, nor optical distortion. There is a small vignette at f/2.8, but this disappears from f/5.6 onwards.

Camera shake is exaggerated when shooting so close, though Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) helps to steady handheld shots. Its 14 elements are arranged in 12 groups, including a single ED element. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) tends to hunt occasionally when searching for the focus in low light conditions.

Sharpness impressed even at the widest aperture across the frame. Contrast is a little low wide-open, but this is fixed quickly, showing strong edge-to-edge clarity at f/4. We noted hardly any chromatic aberration, nor optical distortion. There is a small vignette at f/2.8, but this disappears from f/5.6 onwards.

Spec

Aperture: f/2.8-32

Minimum focus: 31.4cm

Filter size: 62mm

Size (DxL): 83x116mm

Weight: 750g

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Rrp: $479.95

Price: $419.00
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Adorama$273.00View offer
Walmart$419.95View offer
B&H Photo Video$476.95View offer
BuyDig.com$476.95View offer

This lens is super lightweight and great value, it also has very low optical distortion. The only downsides are some chromatic aberration and the SWM is a little slow to focus and not quite silent, though it is very accurate.

A focal length of 85mm is the choice of many portrait photographers, as its short telephoto properties keep facial distortions to a minimum. This Nikkor optic has a wide aperture of f/1.8 too, so it’s easy to blur backgrounds. It has nine elements and each has its own group. They fit inside its sleek body, which measures 80x73mm, and although it doesn’t have a metal finish like Sigma’s Art range, this 85mm is very light, weighing just 350g.

The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) inside the 85mm f/1.8G was very accurate during testing, but it was quite slow to focus on a subject when autofocusing from close to far away. It was also not completely silent in operation, despite being called a Silent Wave Motor.

When the lens is mounted, the rubberised focusing ring sits naturally in the hand, very near the front of the lens barrel. It takes about a quarter of a turn to go from infinity to the closest focusing distance. On the side of the barrel is an AF/MF switch, which is a little awkward to engage with an eye to the viewfinder. That said, the focus distance window is a nice addition.

We found a small amount of blue and green chromatic aberration in the corners throughout the aperture range, though the corners aren’t susceptible to any blooming, so display plenty of contrast. That said, we’d have liked the whole frame to be a notch sharper when shooting wide-open, including the centre of the image. There is hardly any optical distortion to note whatsoever, though there is a slight vignette at f/1.8, which cleared up at f/2.2. Between f/3.5 and f/11 we found results to be very sharp and very useable.

Spec

Aperture: f/1.8-16

Minimum focus: 80cm

Filter size: 67mm

Size (DxL): 80x73mm

Weight: 350g

Want to know more? Read our in depth review of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G prime lens.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED

Rrp: $529.95

Price: $476.95
Alternative retailers
Adorama$303.00View offer
BuyDig.com$526.95View offer

This lens has super-fast auto-focusing and low chromatic aberration, itu2019s also very light and easy to transport. We did find the contrast is a little low at f/1.8 and thereu2019s a small amount of barrel distortion.

Nikon’s 35mm f/1.8G ED has no fewer than 11 elements in eight groups, but the whole optic is as portable as a can of Coke, with its dimensions measuring a squat 72x71.5mm.

It houses both ED and aspherical elements and its aperture is constructed from seven rounded blades. The 35mm focal length is ideal for wide shots where you require more of the scene in the frame to add context. Its Silent Wave Motor (SWM) gives an admirable performance, locking on quickly and without producing too much noise. The minimum 25cm focus distance means you can get close to the action.

We found a tiny amount of chromatic aberration and a slight vignette at f/1.8, but this disappears at f/2.8. The centre is sharp at f/1.8, but the centre and corners lacks contrast up until f/2.8. There is also a small amount of barrel distortion.

Spec

Aperture: f/1.8-16

Minimum focus: 25cm

Filter size: 58mm

Size (DxL): 72x71.5mm

Weight: 305g

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Kirk Schwarz is a tech-addicted photographer with over a decade's experience; Kirk’s used to putting new gear through extreme field testing. He's previously written for Practical Photography.

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