The 8 Best Nikon DSLR Lenses to Buy in 2018

Find the top Nikon interchangeable lenses

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No matter what kind of photographer you are, there's a DSLR lens that's perfect for your shooting needs. Whether you want landscape shots, images from the latest sporting match or street photography, there are dozens of choices that offer far more control than the standard kit lens. Grabbing the perfect photo is never easy, but, luckily, a smart choice of lens can make your images better quality. And some of the best Nikon lenses aren’t even from this decade. While it might surprise you to see some lens here that have been on the market for years, it's just proof that Nikon lenses stand the test of time and continue to offer outstanding photography. Need help nailing down the best lens? This list will help you find one that's sure to up your photography game.

Our Top Picks

Best Zoom: Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4.0-5.6

With best-in-class optical performance, the Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4.0-5.6 lens is an exceptional choice for Nikon DSLR owners who want a great combination of zoom and value. The built-in motor helps to quickly utilize the Tamron’s ultrasonic quiet auto-focus that's designed specifically to capture fast-moving action such as sports or racing. If a photographer chooses to fine-tune or make image adjustments on a whim, the full-time manual focus is integrated without the need for switches or buttons. Zoom on the Tamron lens performs best between 180mm and 300mm, which is marked on the lens by a gold stripe for quick positioning. A switch on the body of lens easily switches to Macro mode, allowing close-range focus on a subject with a sweet spot of about three feet of distance.

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

Designed to be both compact and lightweight, the budget-friendly price tag of the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G lens doesn’t mean budget photographic results. On the contrary, this beginner-friendly option is a perfect solution for low-light shots, as well as for capturing images, portraits or blurred backgrounds. The 35mm focal length is great for creating a more “natural” angle of view, so images will look exactly as you envisioned. The f/1.8G aperture adds complete depth-of-field control for isolating subjects, which allows for excellent portrait results, as well as outstanding low-light performance. Nikkor’s silent wave motor helps the auto-focus operate with barely any audible detection. Meanwhile, Macro mode enables the lens to get as close as one foot to a subject without any blurring.

Best Wide-Angle: Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5

As one of the first wide-angle lenses to offer a fixed maximum aperture, the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 is an ideal choice for photographers looking for a wide-angle solution for a Nikon DSLR. Constructed out of a mix of metal and plastic, the Sigma is great for low-light photography. For the photographer who enjoys controlling the depth of field, the Sigma’s fast fixed aperture allows precise control. The inclusion of super multi-layer coating helps reduce flares or ghosting, while the inner focusing system is great for the use of polarizing filters. Ultimately, the camera really shines when it’s shooting landscape photography, building interiors, weddings, group shots or even architecture. The focusing system itself is whisper quiet, performs superbly for the price and is a great addition to a real estate agent’s staple of goods

Best Macro: Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G

The Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G lens allows handheld image capturing at four shutter speeds slower than other competitive lenses. Ultimately, this leads to sharper images and minimized chromatic aberration. The 1:1 magnification allows objects to be projected life-sized onto the lens's image sensor at a distance of just 11.2 inches. The inclusion of an optical stabilization system goes a long way at helping steady handheld macro shots. The lens can double as a short telephoto prime lens if you need to switch gears and work with non-macro subjects.

Best Daytime: Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G.

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II
Courtesy of

If your heart is set on getting the best all-in-one, look no further than the Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. Featuring a focal length range of 50mm, this day-to-day shooting all-star lens offers a minimum distance of 1.48 feet. As a daytime lens, the 50mm makes for a great all-around lens, and it's travel-friendly (it weighs just 6.6 ounces). And despite being more budget-friendly, the 50mm doesn’t skimp on build quality (the weather-sealed lens mount prevents any access for moisture or dust). 

For the money, the 50mm offers notably sharp photography throughout the entire frame of a picture. Colors are nicely balanced, with skin tones coming out true to form and the bokeh mode offering great depth of field control. The autofocus zoom is quick enough to hone in on a fast-moving subject, so you can count on edge-to-edge sharpness optimization. Released in June of 2011, the 50mm has stood the test of time (and more recent releases) and supporting that notion is a hard-to-ignore 4.8 out of 5 Amazon rating with 89 percent five-star reviews.

Best Nature: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction
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Impressive telephoto zoom range and a reasonable price help make the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction zoom lens a great choice for nature and sports photography. By all appearances, the 55-300mm looks and feels like any other Nikon DX lens with black plastic casing and zoom rings. But when it comes to performance, what the 55-300mm lacks in slow aperture and autofocus, it makes up for in overall photo quality. Where the 55-300mm shines is the price-to-performance ratio, so you can expect great photography taking pictures on a safari or in your own backyard.

Best Low-Light: Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX
Courtesy of

Low-light photography doesn’t just occur at night. You could, perhaps, be shooting indoors with little ambient light, or even standing in a shadow outdoors. Either way, to get the best shot in low-light settings, you’ll want a fast lens. Arguably, that’s even more important than having a camera that can shoot cleanly at high ISOs. Most consumer zoom lenses hover around f/3.5-f/5.6 for max aperture, but the larger the maximum aperture (read: the lower the f-number), the faster the lens is. This Nikon prime lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, making it super speedy and thus great for capturing photos in low light. Beyond that, it has a fixed focal length of 85mm and a minimum focus range of .80m. It has a solid build quality and while we wouldn’t recommend dropping it, some reviewers on Amazon admit to doing so and recovering it without a scratch.

Best Portrait: Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

The difference between a photo taken with the iPhone’s advanced Portrait mode and one taken with a professional portrait lens on a DSLR is what Mark Twain would call “the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” To get the best portrait shot, you’ll want a fast lens. And although a f/5.6 might not sound so far from a f/1.4, a wider aperture can blur background detail more effectively to keep the focus on the subject, a desired feature called bokeh. This Nikon lens surely doesn’t come cheap but with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 and a fixed focal length of 85mm, it makes a perfect portrait shooter. In fact, Nikon claims that an 85mm focal length is ideal for portrait work using a 35mm SLR camera. It shoots well in low-light conditions as well, inspiring several Amazon reviewers to call it the best lens they’ve ever owned.