Prices for Nikon lenses recently jumped in the United States by between 8% and 25%. That followed similar increases in Europe, Asia, Austrialia, Canada and, well, pretty much everywhere. Price increases hit especially hard at discounters such as Amazon and Adorama (which will ship worldwide).
With the higher lens prices is more important than ever to shop smart. To that end here’s our review of the best—and best value—Nikon lenses:
Best Lenses in the 30mm to 200mm range
Wow! Sharp, vibrant, and high contrast photos—that’s what makes the 70-200mm f/2.8G one of our favorite lenses for any brand of camera. This lens is rock solid, built entirely of metal and glass except for rubber gaskets. Sadly, it also weighs like it is made of metal, scaling in at 5 pounds. If you are looking for a cheaper, lighter lens in this same focal length consider the reasonably good Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8. But if you seek a professional-quality lens that’s especially adept at sport, theater and high-speed photography, then you won’t mind lugging around the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G. This lens is as good as it gets!
Price Category: Moderate-Expensive Quality Grade: A+ Value Grade: A-
A superb walking around lens that focuses fast, features image stabilization and takes shots way better than it’s puny price would suggest. This f/4-5.6G might not be as sharp as the f/2.8G (above) but then it weighs 72 ounces less. And costs much less.
Price Category: Very Inexpensive Quality Grade: B+ Value Grade: A+
This 105mm is our recommended Nikon lens for macro photography. It is also the only Nikon macro lens with vibration control—we were able to get sharp macro shots with this lens without a tripod, even in low light conditions. The lens with built well, almost entirely of metal, and comes with an excellent storage pouch. Cost wise, it isn’t the cheapest macro lens available. It’s also far from the most expensive. And since you are likely to buy only one macro lens, it may as well be one that can provide the optimal photo quality this one does.
Price Category: Moderate Quality Grade: A Value Grade: B
This is perhaps the best value Nikon lens out there. It is super fast, ideal for low light. The way it draws out details makes it excellent for portrait work too. Every Nikon photography should have this inexpensive gem in their camera bag. Note: There’s a faster f/1.4 version of this lens too but at almost twice the cost we don’t think it’s worth it.
Price Category: Very Inexpensive Quality Grade: A- Value Grade: A+
Best Lenses below 30mm
The gold standard in Nikon wide angle lenses, this 12-14mm produces photos that are edge-to-edge sharp. The photos are too contrasty (if that’s a word) for some tastes, but we love the details revealed by this lens’s two extra-low dispersion elements. The Nikon 14-24mm also features an especially nimble auto focus and Nano Crystal Coat that greatly minimizes ghosting.
Price Category: Moderate-Expensive Quality Grade: A- Value Grade: B
For a wide angle lens this gem from Sigma has such an interesting focal length range. We occasionally wish it extended higher than 20mm but love the fish angle effects. And it takes photos as sharp and vibrant as the Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED for half the price.
Price Category: Inexpensive Quality Grade: B+ Value Grade: A
Do you grudgingly admit the advantages of shooting in digital but long for the days of big, manual film cameras? This is your lens: no auto focus or schmancy features. Simply the best shaped glass humans are capable of cutting, old school.
Price Category: Expensive Quality Grade: A- Value Grade: C+
Best Lenses above 200mm
The good news is: The best telephoto lens for the Nikon line of digital SLRs is made by Sigma and so may not see a price increase on February 1st. The bad news: How much higher than the price get? Listing at $35,000 (but selling on Amazon at a $9,500 discount) this is the only telephoto we know of capable of an f2.8 aperture at 500mm. And with a dedicated attachment, this Sigma can auto-focus up to 1000mm. Add in three ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass elements and meticulous craftsmanship and you have the best lens available for taking on a safari along with your Nikon.
Price Category: Really, Really Expensive Quality Grade: A+ Value Grade: D-
Everything about this lens seems built for wildlife and sports photography, including its two VR modes (one normal and the other active for fast motion shots), four extra-low dispersion elements and fast auto focus ability. Spot Cool Stuff is going on safari in April and this is the lens we are bringing.
Price Category: Expensive Quality Grade: A Value Grade: B
If the Sigma 200-500 f/2.8 (above) is the best telephoto lens when money is no object, then this Nikon 70-300mm is your choice when money is the central object. For a remarkably low cost you get a lens that maintains very good optics across a remarkably wide focal range. We did find the auto-focus on this lens to be a bit slow, but then you’d rather skimp on that than on picture quality. And the picture quality on this 70-300mm is excellent. Not surprisingly, Nikon has targeted this lens for one of its larger percentage Feb 1st price increases.
Price Category: Moderate-Inexpensive Quality Grade: B+ Value Grade: A
Do you have a favorite Nikon lens? Or a question about which lens to buy? Focus your attention on your comments section: