The AP team picks out the best Nikon lenses for F-mount. If you’re using Nikon DSLRs, these are the lenses you should be considering. 


Welcome to our guide to the best Nikon F-mount lenses. For DSLR photographers, the Nikon F system is one of the most diverse lens ranges around, dating back to the days of film SLRs. You’re spoiled for choice as an F-mount photographer – so much so that it can be a little overwhelming to find the right lens for what you want to shoot!

You’ll get the most out of one of the best Nikon DSLRs if you get a sharp, well-built lens to attach to it. Choosing the right lens makes a huge difference to the look of your final image or video; indeed, it can be argued that it’s even more important than the choice of camera. Lenses also vary quite wildly in price. There are certainly cheap ones available, but as with most things, you get what you pay for.

Also, something to remember is that Nikon F-mount lenses can actually be used with the best Nikon mirrorless cameras, thanks to the FTZ mount adapter. In the majority of cases, you’ll also get full functionality of autofocus and stabilisation, meaning you don’t have to count out F-mount just because you’ve made the jump to mirrorless.

Our list of the best F-mount lenses is based on the experience of our technical and review team. We’ve included a mix of lenses that can still be bought new, as well as some that can be found for a bargain price on the second-hand market. Before we get into it, let’s look at how to go about choosing your F-mount lenses.

How to choose the best Nikon F-mount lenses

Which is the best Nikon F lens for your DSLR setup? While this guide presents you with a broad selection of options, narrowing it down to one will depend largely on the subjects you plan to photograph. Different lenses suit different purposes. Here is a quick guide to the main considerations when picking a Nikon F lens.

DX or FX? You’ll see these letters in the names of all Nikon F-mount lenses, and they refer to the sensor size of the camera they pair with. Nikon DSLRs come in two varieties – APS-C sensor (DX) and full-frame sensor (FX). A DX lens will create a smaller image circle, designed to fit a smaller APS-C sensor. See our guide to APS-C vs full-frame for a thorough look at how it all works.

Prime or zoom? The main difference between these types is that prime lenses have a fixed focal length, while zoom lenses have a focal range that lets you get closer to or further from your subject. With prime, you get superior optical quality, so picking between the two types is generally a choice of sharpness vs versatility. If you know you want a zoom, check out our dedicated guide to the best zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs.

Focal length? Wide-angle lenses (around 8-35mm) are good for capturing expansive scenes like landscapes, and conveying scale in architecture. Standard lenses (40-75mm) provide a naturalistic perspective, useful for street and documentary photography. Telephoto lenses (80mm and higher) are good for bringing distant subjects like wildlife into sharp focus, or flattering facial features for portraits.

Maximum aperture? This refers to the widest aperture setting a lens can offer – an f/2.8 lens has a maximum aperture setting of f/2.8. The lower the number, the wider the aperture, and the more light a lens can let in. This also allows for shallow depth of field, which is handy for portraits. Some zoom lenses have a variable maximum aperture like f/3.5-5.6 – this means the maximum aperture changes depending on how far zoomed in the lens is.

VR? The ‘VR’ acronym on Nikon F-mount lenses refers to Vibration Reduction, which is Nikon’s name for its optical image stabilisation system. Image stabilisation keeps a lens steady when it’s being used hand-held, allowing for the use of slower shutter speeds without the need for a tripod.

Here’s our full list of the best Nikon F-mount lenses you can buy…


Best Nikon lens overall: AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

At a glance:

  • Full-frame (FX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.38m
  • Weight: 900g
  • Price: £1,719 / $2,096 (nikon.com)

Sometimes only the very best will do, and when it comes to standard zooms on a full-frame Nikon body, this is it. The latest version of Nikon’s pro workhorse lens adds optical image stabilisation and uses an electromagnetic diaphragm, which provides much-improved functionality when shooting in live view or for video work. With an array of exotic glasses and coatings, it’s designed for use on the latest high-resolution DSLRs such as the 45.7MP D850. It can also be used with DX-format cameras, giving a 36-105mm equivalent range. Super-fast autofocus and top-notch build quality round off a truly excellent package – in our full, in-depth review, we described this as, ‘superb fast standard zoom that’ll be perfect for a range of shooting environments.’

Pros

  • VR adds shooting flexibility
  • Hugely impressive autofocus
  • Excellent quality throughout zoom range

Cons

  • Some vignetting when wide open
  • Steep asking price

Read our Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR review.


Best Nikon lens for landscapes: AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

At a glance:

  • Full-frame (FX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.28m
  • Weight: 1,000g
  • Price: £729 / $949 used in good or better condition (nikon.com)

This lens is something of an institution in landscape photography circles. If you’ve perused a landscape photography competition shortlist within the past 10 years or so, you’ve definitely seen an image taken with it. The Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED was first introduced in 2007, and it is quite simply a beautiful feat of optical engineering. It delivers images of outstanding sharpness thanks to its extra-low dispersion elements and the Nano Crystal Coating and Super Integrated Coating that have been added. It’s also weather-sealed, and the constant aperture of f/2.8 gives you real creative freedom.

Sure, you don’t get more modern features like lightning-fast autofocus and optical stabilisation, but landscape photographers don’t really need them. The main thing that’s likely to rankle landscape shooters is the fact that you can’t attach filters to the bulbous front element. Workarounds exist, but they will add to the cost of the lens, so bear that in mind.

While it can be hard to find new, especially in the UK, the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED can be picked up used for less than £999/$999, and is a steal at that price.

Pros

  • Outstanding optical performance
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • Solidly built with weather sealing

Cons

  • Won’t take screw-on filters
  • Pretty heavy

Best cheap Nikon zoom: AF-S DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (APS-C)

Nikon AF-S DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (APS-C)

Nikon AF-S DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (APS-C)

At a glance:

  • APS-C (DX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.38m
  • Weight: 485g
  • Price: £349 (renewed) / $649 (new) (nikon.com)

If you’ve outgrown the 18-55mm kit zoom that came when you bought your camera, this might just be the perfect upgrade. It offers a usefully extended zoom range, from 24mm equivalent wideangle to 128mm telephoto, while providing a respectable optical performance that’s aided by a fast ultrasonic-type autofocus motor and built-in image stabilisation. It’s been on the market for almost a decade now, meaning good prices can often be had if you’re prepared to shop around.

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Broad, do-everything zoom range
  • Fast autofocus

Cons

  • Somewhat slow maximum aperture

Best standard zoom: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f2.8-4E ED VR

The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f2.8-4E ED VR.

At a glance:

  • APS-C (DX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.35m
  • Weight: 480g
  • Price: from £499 / $599 (used) (nikon.com)

An upmarket version of Nikon’s standard zoom, the AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR commands an extra premium in terms of price. However, for the money, you do get a more generous maximum aperture of f/2.8-4. What’s more, the price gap between the 16-80mm f2.8-4E and the 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 has narrowed now that both are on the second-hand market. New, there would have been about £300 between them; now it’s more like £100.

This makes the AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f2.8-4E ED VR a highly tempting option, and as we noted in our review, it’s an excellent lens all-around. Getting Vibration Reduction, an electromagnetic diaphragm, a 5x zoom and the aforementioned generous maximum aperture, all wrapped up in a lightweight body.  Our test results showed good centre sharpness, with some expected drop-off in the corners, especially at large apertures.

Pros

  • Reliable autofocus
  • Generally good image quality
  • Good price on used market

Cons

  • Plasticky construction
  • Some optical shortfalls at edges

Best Nikon tele zoom: AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR

Nikon AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR

Nikon AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR

At a glance:

  • APS-C (DX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 1.1m
  • Weight: 415g
  • Price: £349 / $396 (nikon.com)

Often the first lens DSLR users buy after the 18-55mm that came with their camera is a telephoto zoom. But there’s a huge number to choose from, with Nikon alone offering six for its DX-format SLRs, distinguished only by opaque combinations of letters in their names. The most up-to-date is the AF-P 70- 300mm f/4.5-6.3 VR: a compact, image-stabilised optic with a usefully long zoom range and the latest fast, silent AF-P motor for autofocus, that’s also suitable for video work. Being an AF-P lens, though, it’s not compatible with Nikon DSLRs that were released five years or more ago. So if you use an older model, you’ll need to buy the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR.

Pros

  • Useful zoom range
  • Silent autofocus
  • Very good value

Cons

  • Doesn’t work with some Nikon DSLRs

Best Nikon superzoom: Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

At a glance:

  • Full-frame (FX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.5m
  • Weight: 800g
  • Price: £554 / $554 used in good condition (nikon.com)

A discontinued lens that can still be picked up for a good price on the used market, the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR delivers unparalleled versatility for a Nikon DSLR user. It’s one of the few superzoom lenses that’s compatible with full-frame. Does it deliver the kind of optical quality you get from Nikon’s prime lenses? No, of course not – but it does pretty well across the entire zoom range, and you won’t have any problem shooting dynamic, striking images with it.

The thing you do have to live with is the rather uninspiring maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.6. This is part and parcel of keeping the lens to a sensible weight and cost, but all the same, those who want to create striking shallow depth of field or beautiful bokeh will want to look elsewhere. Also, we should mention the Vibration Reduction (VR) functionality, which really does work well in low light. You can use much slower shutter speeds than you would normally and still get sharp pictures, which really cements the credentials of this lens as an all-in-one, carry-everywhere choice.

Pros

  • Good sharpness for a superzoom
  • All-in-one convenience
  • Effective Vibration Reduction

Cons

  • Pedestrian maximum aperture
  • No aperture ring

Best Nikon portrait lens: AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

At a glance:

  • Full-frame (FX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
  • Weight: 350g
  • Price: £489 / $476 (nikon.com)

If you want to take people pictures to another level, then a large-aperture, short-telephoto prime is the way to go. Nikon’s AF-S 85mm f/1.8 is a good quality yet reasonably affordable choice, with fast autofocus and sharp optics. With a nine-bladed circular aperture, it can also provide very attractively blurred backgrounds. The lens is equally suitable for use on full-frame and DX format DSLRs, giving a 135mm view on the latter. To get even better results, you’d need to invest in an 85mm f/1.4, with Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM (£999) being a fine example.

Pros

  • Solid budget portrait lens
  • Produces attractive bokeh
  • Useful f/1.8 aperture

Cons

  • Not as sharp as some portrait lenses

Best Nikon wide-angle zoom: AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

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

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

At a glance:

  • APS-C (DX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.22m
  • Weight: 230g
  • Price: £349 / £306 (nikon.com)

Nikon users have long been crying out for a lightweight, inexpensive wideangle zoom, and finally it’s arrived in the shape of this 10-20mm lens. Optically it’s OK, if not outstanding, but crucially, its built-in optical stabilisation is extremely useful. Again, though, its AF-P designation means that it only works on relatively recent APS-C DSLRs, so check compatibility before you buy. Otherwise this is a great complement to a standard zoom for subjects such as landscapes, interiors and architecture, where you’d like to squeeze as much as possible in the frame.

Pros

  • Excellent built-in stabilisation
  • Useful focal range

Cons

  • Not the sharpest
  • Not compatible with everything

Best Nikon street lens: AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

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

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

At a glance:

  • APS-C (DX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.3m
  • Weight: 200g
  • Price: £199 / $196 (nikon.com)

Large-aperture prime lenses allow you to shoot indoors without flash, or blur backgrounds for creative effect. Not only is this small 35mm prime one of the best Nikon lenses of its type for APS-C DSLR users, it’s also very sharp. With a view roughly equivalent to a 50mm prime on full-frame, it’s suitable for subjects from street photography to portraits. If you want a lens that will also work on full-frame, you’ll need the similarly-named Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, but this costs almost three times as much. Other important things to know about this lens are its 30cm minimum focus distance, it accepts filters and adapters via a 52mm thread and accepts Nikon’s HB-46 lens hood.

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Impressive sharpness
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons

  • Doesn’t work on full frame

Best Nikon 50mm lens: AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G product shot

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens

At a glance:

  • Full-frame (FX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.45m
  • Weight: 185g
  • Price: £175 / $216 (nikon.com)

For many years, 50mm primes (or ‘nifty fifties’) were sold as general-purpose lenses with 35mm film cameras, but they fell out of favour for a few decades. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence in their popularity for use with APS-C format DSLRs. They tend to be small, light and relatively cheap, yet very sharp, and perfect for shooting portraits. Nikon’s AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is a classic example of the type, and will also work on full-frame cameras. In our review of this lens, we found it performed well across the board. ‘Improving on a classic design is often a difficult task, but it is one in which Nikon has succeeded,’ was our verdict.

The lens has a 58mm filter thread and a construction of seven elements in six groups. Don’t confuse it with the cheaper AF 50mm f/1.8D, which won’t autofocus on Nikon’s entry-level D3000-series or D5000-series DSLRs.

Pros

  • Curved aperture blades
  • Nice and cheap
  • Good sharpnesss

Cons

  • Some curvilinear distortion

Read our Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f1.8G review


Best Nikon lens for wildlife: AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

Best Nikon lenses, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

We put the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR through its paces.

At a glance:

  • Full-frame (FX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 3.0m
  • Weight: 1,460g
  • Price: £3429 / $3596 (nikon.com)

The Nikon AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens is the lightest 500mm full-frame telephoto prime lens; the lens weighs just 1.46kg, making it lighter than most 150-600mm zoom lenses. The lens is light enough to shoot with handheld, and the Vibration Reduction system gives 4-stops of stabilisation. The lens gives impressive image quality, as well as rapid focus performance, making it ideal for when you need a telephoto prime lens. When we took the lens to Lords Cricket Ground for a field test, we discovered just how well it delivers the goods: ‘If I were a Nikon user planning to go on safari, I’d put my name down to hire this lens in an instant,’ our reviewer said at the time.

Pros

  • Terrific optical performance
  • Fast focusing
  • 4-stop stabilisation
  • Very light for this focal length

Cons

  • Inevitably expensive

Read our Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR field test


Best Nikon lens for sports: AF-S 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR

Best Nikon lenses, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR taken out on a field test.

At a glance:

  • Full-frame (FX)
  • Minimum focus distance: 2.0m
  • Weight: 3,500g
  • Price: £10,999 / $12,396 (nikon.com)

If you have the budget, then Nikon’s AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens offers not only a 180-400mm telephoto zoom, but also features a built-in 1.4x teleconverter. With the price being over £10,000 it might be a lens you could look at hiring for special events. It’s worth noting that due to the weight, of 3.5kg, you might not want to carry it around for too long, and a monopod can help out here, as we discovered when we took it for a review at a bird-in-flight workshop. As we said at the end of our day’s shooting, ‘Nikon has created an absolutely sensational lens, it’s just a shame that its high price will have the final say over the number of photographers who get to use it.

It certainly delivers impressive image quality though with Vibration Reduction helping to keep shots steady, and for that it is to be commended.

Pros

  • Built-in teleconverter
  • Superb imaging performance

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Very, very expensive

Read our Nikon AF-S 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR field test


For more have a look at the latest newslens reviews, and buying guides, or have a look at the best Nikon DSLRs.


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