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Autofocus   Manual Focus  1  Compatibility   Comparisons

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Best lenses for DX SLRs (The DX Dream Team)

Best lenses for FX and 35mm SLRs

Best Macro Lenses

 

The Nikon FX Dream Team

D3 Lens Suggestions

Nikon Cheapskate FX Lenses 13 August 2008

Nikon Lens Terminology Explained

Nikon Lens Compatibility: what works with what

 

What is a DX Lens?

Nikon Ultrawide Zooms Compared 08 March 2010

Lens Sharpness 22 May 2008

Portrait Lenses 01 March 2008

Nikon System Compatibility 05 September 2007

Teleconverters and Accessories   Third-party teleconverters

Nikon's 10 Best Lenses 17 July 2008

Nikon's 10 Worst Lenses 17 July 2008

Rangefinder Lenses

Nikon IX Lenses 02 September 2008

How to Use Ultrawide Lenses 11 August 2008

Understanding Basic Lens Specifications 05 September 2008

Bokeh

Nikon f/0.95 Lenses 22 July 2008

Calculating Angle of View 06 July 2007

Using Manual Focus Lenses on AF Cameras

Bizarre: Using Nikon lenses on Canon cameras

Lens Test Terminology   

More Sources of Information

 

How to pick a lens:

older recommendations for Digital SLRs

older recommendations for Film SLRs

older recommendations for Manual Focus SLRs

 

Autofocus     top

Explanation of Nikon's endless alphabetic designations

Nikon Pro Normal Zoom Comparison

 

8-9mm

Sigma 8-16mmSigma 8-16mm DX Review 02 September 2010

AF-s 9mm f/2.8G DX ED-IF 10 April 2006 (speculation)

 

10-11mm

Nikon 10-24mm Nikon 10-24mm Review 16 May 2009

Tokina 11-16mm II ReviewTokina 11-16mm f/2.8 II Review 22 September 2012

10-17mm Tokina 13 February 2007

Nikon 10-18mm f/4 02 June 2009

AF 10.5mm f/2.8G DX Fisheye ED 15 November 2006

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Review 02 April 2008

 

12mm

AF-s 12-24mm f/4G DX ED-IF 01 September 2005

Nikon Ultra-Ultrawide Lens Comparison 23 December 2008

 

14mm

AF 14mm f/2.8D ED

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED 31 August 2007

 

16mm

AF 16mm f/2.8D Fisheye

Nikon 16-35mm VR

Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR 09 February 2010

Tokina 16-28mm

Tokina AT-X 16-28mm f/2.8 FX Review 09 Dec 2010

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR 31 January 2008

Nikon 16-85mm VR vs. 18-200mm VR Comparison 22 March 2008

Tokina 16.5-135mm

Tokina 16.5-135mm DX 19 January 2011

 

17mm

AF-s 17-35mm f/2.8 ED-IF Best expensive film wide-angle 10 June 2005

AF-s 17-55mm f/2.8G DX IF-ED 27 September 2004

Tokina 17-35 review

Tokina 17-35mm f/4 FX Review 11 November 2011

Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X

Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X (1993-2005)

 

18mm

Nikon 18-200 vs. 28-300 vs. 18-300 Comparison 11 July 2012

17mm and 18mm Lenses and Zooms Compared

Nikon 18-300mm Review

Nikon 18-300mm VR DX

2014-

DX coverage only, 67mm filters, 19.4 oz/550g, 1.6'/0.48m close focus.

Nikon 18-55mm VR II

Nikon 18-55mm VR II DX

2014-

DX coverage only, 52mm filters, 6.9 oz/195g, 0.9'/0.27m close focus.

Nikon 18-140 Review

Nikon 18-140mm DX VR

 

DX coverage only, 67mm filters, 17.3 oz./490g, 1.5'/0.45 m close focus, about $600.

Nikon 18-35mm G Review

Nikon 18-35mm G

FX, 35mm and DX coverage, 77mm filters, 0.9'/0.28m close-focus, 13.6 oz./385g.

Nikon 18-300mm VR ReviewNikon 18-300mm DX VR 14 June 2012

Nikon 18-200m VR II  Nikon 18-200mm VR II 01 August 2009

Nikon 18-200mm VR vs. 55-200mm VR

AF-s 18-200mm VR f/3.5 - 5.6G DX IF-ED 01 November 2005

Nikon 18mm f/2.8 AF-D AF 18mm f/2.8D

Nikon 18-105mmNikon 18-105mm VR DX 27 August 2008

AF 18-35mm f/3.5 - 4.5D ED-IF Best midprice film wide-angle 05 June 2003

AF-s 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6G II ED Best basic digital lens 16 November 2006

AF-s 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6G VR 20 November 2007

AF-s 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6G ED older version of above 05 October 2005

AF-s 18-70mm f/3.5 - 4.5G DX IF-ED 22 July 2004

AF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G DX IF-ED 10 August 2006

 

20mm

Nikon 20mm f/1.8 Review

NEW: Nikon 20mm f/1.8 G

2014-

FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 77mm filters, 12.5 oz./354g, 0.66'/0.2m close focus, about $800)

20mm Sharpness Comparison 23 September 2010

Light Falloff Comparison of Every Nikon 20mm Lens 18 February 2008

AF 20mm f/2.8 updated 06 October 2005

AF 20-35mm f/2.8D (discontinued 1999)

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PROTokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Review 27 November 2010

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PROTokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro Review 18 November 2010

 

24-25mm

All Known Nikon 24mm Lenses and Zooms Compared 14 August 2010

Nikon 24-85mm VR review

Nikon 24-85mm VR (2012-)

72mm filters, 16.2 oz./460g, 1.25'/0.38m close focus

Nikon 24-70mm

24-70mm f/2.8 G (2007-)

77mm filters, 31.8 oz./902g, 1.2'/0.38m close focus

Nikon 24mm f/1.4

24mm f/1.4 G (2010-)

77mm filters, 21.8 oz./ 618g, 0.82'/0.25m close focus

Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8 D

24mm f/2.8 D (1986-)

52mm filters, 9.4 oz./268g, 1'/0.3m close focus

Nikon 24-120mm VR

24-120mm f/4 VR G (2010-)

77mm filters, 25.0 oz./708g, 1.3'/0.4m close focus

24-85mm f/2.8 - 4 AF-D (2000-)

24-85mm f/3.5 - 4.5 G (2002-2006)

24-120mm VR f/3.5 - 5.6 G (2003-2010)

24-120mm f/3.5 - 5.6 AF-D (1996-2002, "Streetsweeper")

Zeiss 25mm f/2 Review

Zeiss 25mm f/2 Review 02 December 2011

28mm

Nikon 18-200 vs. 28-300 vs. 18-300 Comparison 11 July 2012

Nikon 28mm f/1.8 G ReviewNikon 28mm f/1.8 G Review 05 July 2012

 

Nikon 28-300mm VR 28-300mm VR 19 August 2010

 

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AF-D28mm f/2.8 AF-D 08 April 2005

 

Nikon 24-85mm VR reviewNikon 28-70mm AF-D 19 July 2012

 

Nikon 28mm f/1.4 AF-D28mm f/1.4 AF-D Aspherical

Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 AF-S28-70 mm f/2.8 AF-S (1999-2007)

Tokina 28-70m f/2.8 AT-X AFTokina 28-70mm f/2.8 05 August 2011

28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-D (discontinued 2001)

28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 G 09 October 2007 Best cheap film zoom

28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-n (discontinued about 1992) Best used midprice film zoom

28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D

28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 D much better than you think!

28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G 30 August 2004

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 05 June 2007

 

35-40mm

Nikon 18-55mm VR II

NEW: Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G FX

2014-

FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 58mm filters, 10.8 oz./305g, 0.85'/0.25m close focus.

 

Nikojn 35mm f/1.8 35mm f/1.8 DX (2009-)

 

Nikon 35mm f/1.4Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S (2010-)

 

Nikon 35mm f/2 D35mm f/2 D (1989-)

 

Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8 D35-70mm f/2.8D (1987-2007)

 

Nikon 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D35-105mm f/3.5-4.5D (1994-2001)

 

Nikon 40mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor Nikon 40mm f/2.8 Micro-NIKKOR 12 July 2011

 

50-60mm

NEW: Nikon 50mm and 58mm Bokeh Comparison 11 December 2013

Nikon High-Speed 50mm Lens Sharpness Comparison 09 Sep 2010

Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G

58mm f/1.4 G

2013-today, 72mm plastic filter thread, 382g, $1,700.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G

50mm f/1.4 G

2008-today, 58mm plastic filter thread, 278g, $440.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G

50mm f/1.8 G

2011-today, 58mm plastic filter thread, 185g, $217.

AF 50mm f/1.8

AF 50mm f/1.8D

AF 50mm f/1.4D

Nion 55mm f/2.8 AFAF Micro 55mm f/2.8 updated 17 July 2008

AF-s 55-200mm f/4 - 5.6G 05 October 2005

AF-s 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR 05 March 2007

Nikon 55-300mm VR 55-300mm VR DX 19 August 2010

60mm f/2.8 AF-S Micro 31 January 2008

Nikon 60mm AF-S vs. 60mm AF-D 07 May 2008

60mm f/2.8 AF-D Micro 12 February 2008

 

70-75mm

Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR NEW: Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR December 2012

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II Nikon 70-200mm VR II 22 December 2009 Best telephoto zoom for theater and sports

AF Micro 70-180mm f/4.5 - 5.6D ED

AF-s 70-200mm f/2.8 G (2003-2009) 02 March 2003

AF 70-210mm f/4-5.6D Best inexpensive film telephoto zoom (discontinued 2000) 27 January 2005

AF 70-210mm f/4 SLEEPER LENS! (discontinued 1988) 10 June 2005

AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED

AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6G 14 July 2005 Best Inexpensive second lens

AF-S 70-300mm VR f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED 10 August 2006

AF 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 (discontinued 1999)

 

80mm

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 History 28 July 2008

Nikn 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 AFNikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 D AF (1995-1999) 01 August 2008

Nikon 80-200/2.8 AFNikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF (1988-1992) 29 July 2008

Nion 80-200/2.8 AFSAF-s 80-200mm f/2.8D ED-IF (1999-2004)

Nikn 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-DAF 80-200mm f/2.8D ED (1997-today) Best buy!

Nikon 80-400 AF-S Review

80-400mm VR AF-s June 2013

AF 80-400mm VR f/4.5 - 5.6D 04 July 2004 Best telephoto zoom for distance

 

85mm

85mm Lens Specifications Compared 24 June 2009

Nikon 85mm Lens Bokeh Comparison 26 March 2008

Nikon 85mm Lens Central Sharpness Comparison 23 June 2009

Nikon 85mm Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison 23 June 2009

 

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S G85mm f/1.4 AF-S 19 August 2010

 

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-D Review 85mm f/1.4D

 

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 GNikon 85mm f/1.8 G Review 02 March 2012

 

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF85mm f/1.8D

 

Nikon 85mm f/3.5 Nikon 85mm f/3.5 VR DX

 

Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC-E July 2008

 

100-105mm

105mm Center Sharpness Comparison    

105mm Corner Sharpness Comparison  

Nikon 105mm f/2 DCNikon 105mm f/2 DC Review 17 August 2011

Tokina 100mm f/2.8 Macro AT-XTokina 100mm f/2.8 Macro Review 12 November 2010

Nikon 105mm Micro VR105mm f/2.8 AF-S VR Micro (macro)

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AFAF 105mm f/2.8D Micro (Macro)

 

135-150mm

Nikon 135mm DC Nikon 135mm f/2 DC Review 04 December 2009

Sigma 150-500mm Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 Review 27 October 2010

 

180mm

Nikon 180mm f/2.8 History 30 October 2008

Nikon 180/2.8 AFAF-n 180mm f/2.8 ED-IF

 

200mm

200mm Center Sharpness Comparison   

200mm Corner Sharpness Comparison

Nikon 200-400mm VR II Nikon 200-400mm VR II 27 April 2010

AF-s 200-400mm VR f/4G IF-ED 27 September 2004

Nikon 200 micro AFNikon 200mm AF Micro 13 August 2008

AF-s 200mm VR f/2 27 September 2004

Nikon 200mm f/2 VR II Nikon 200mm f/2 VR II 15 September 2010

Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 12 March 2008

 

300mm

Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR IINikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II 10 December 2009

AF-s 300mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED 27 September 2004

AF 300mm f/4 ED-IF

AF-s 300mm f/4D ED-IF

AF-I 300mm f/2.8D ED-IF

 

400mm

NEW: Nikon 400mm f/2.8 Lenses Compared 09 July 2014

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 E FL VR review

NEW: Nikon 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

(2014-)

40.5mm filters, 134 oz./8.4 pounds/3,800g, 8.5'/2.6m close focus

For all formats.

400mm f/2.8 VR (2007-2014)

400mm f/2.8 AF-S II (2001-2007)

400mm f/2.8 AF-S (1998-2001)

400mm f/2.8 AF-I (1994-1998)

400mm f/2.8 AI-s (1985-2002)

 

600mm

600mm f/4 VR 26 September 2007

600mm f/4D AF-I ED-IF

 

Teleconverters

Nikon TC-20E IIINikon TC-20E III 10 December 2009

 

Manual Focus     top

You can still buy these brand-new, see the selection

Using Manual Focus Lenses on AF Cameras

What are Series E

Adorama's list of hundreds of used ones for sale

Used ones at eBay (see How to Win at eBay)

Nikon's list of current manual-focus lenses

Nikon Pro Normal Zoom Comparison 20 December 2007

 

5.6mm

Sunex 5.6mm Fisheye 29 February 2008

 

7.5-8mm

Nikon 7.5mm Fisheye 21 April 2008

Nikon 8mm f/8 fisheyeNikon 8mm f/8 Fisheye 02 May 2012

Nikon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye 29 April 2008

ProOptic 8mm f/3.5 fisheyePro-Optic 8mm f/3.5 06 April 2010

 

13mm

Nikon Ultra-Ultrawide Lens Comparison 23 December 2008

Nikon 13mmNikon 13mm f/5.6 23 December 2008

 

14mm

ProOptic 14mm f/2.8ProOptic 14mm f/2.8 26 October 2010

 

15mm

Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Review Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Review 16 March 2012

Nikon 15mm f/5.6 29 February 2008

15mm f/3.5 AI-s

 

16mm

Nikon 16mm f/2.8 AI-s Fisheye review16mm f/2.8 AI-s Fisheye

Nikon 16mm f/3.5 Fisheye 16mm f/3.5 Fisheye

 

17mm

17mm f/3.5 Tokina SL

17mm and 18mm Lenses and Zooms Compared

 

18mm

17mm and 18mm Lenses and Zooms Compared

18mm f/3.5 AI-s

Zeiss 18mm f/3.5Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 (Nikon mount, manual focus) 15 December 2009

Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Compared to Nikon 14-24mm and Canon 16-35mm L II 15 December 2009

 

20-21mm

20mm Sharpness Comparison 23 September 2010

Light Falloff Comparison of Every Nikon 20mm Lens 18 February 2008

Nikon 20mm f/3.5 UDNikon 20mm f/3.5 UD 20 September 2010

Nikon 20mm f/4Nikon 20mm f/4 Smallest Ultrawide Lens

Nikon 20mm f/3.5Nikon 20mm f/3.5 21 September 2010

Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AI-sNikon 20mm f/2.8 AI-s 21 September 2010

Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar 23 September 2010

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 16 December 2009

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Compared to Nikon 14-24, Canon 16-35 L II and LEICA 21mm f/2.8 ASPH 16 December 2009

 

24mm

All Known Nikon 24mm Lenses and Zooms Compared 14 August 2010

24mm Perspective-Control 31 January 2008

Nikon 24mm PC-E Compatibility 09 April 2008

24mm f/2.0 AI-s

24mm f/2.8 AI-s

 

28mm

28mm f/2.0 AI

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AI 16 July 2008

28mm f/2.8 AI-s Nikon's sharpest wide angle lens

28mm f/3.5 AI 04 June 2007

28mm f/3.5 PC 15 April 2008

28-50mm AI-s 14 July 2008

 

35-45mm

NEW: Samyang 35mm f/1.4Samyang 35mm f/1.4. 09 July 2011

35mm f/2.8 PC (Perspective Control)

Nikon 35mm f/2.8 AI 14 December 2007

35mm f/2.0 AI-s

35mm f/1.4 AI-s

Nikon 35-70mm f/3.5 AI 13 December 2007

Nikon 35-70mm f/3.5 AI-s 18 December 2007

Voigtlander 40mm f/2Voigtländer 40mm f/2 AI-P 29 August 2010

Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E July 2008

45mm f/2.8P

 

50mm

Comparison of 50mm Lenses

Nikon High-Speed 50mm Lens Sharpness Comparison 09 Sep 2010

Nikon 50mm f/1.2 Coma Examples 09 September 2010

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AI-s Review

50mm f/1.4 AI-s Review (1981-today)

52mm filters, 8.8 oz./249g.

Nikon NIKKOR-S 50mm f/1.4 Review

Nikon NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 Review 23 May 2012

Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AI-s 11 October 2007

50mm f/2 Nikkor-H 06 September 2007

50mm f/1.8 AI

50mm f/1.8 AI-s Series E

50mm f/1.4 ZF Zeiss for Nikon

50mm f/1.4 AI

Nikon NIKKOR-S 58mm f/1.4 Review

NEW: Nikon 58mm f/1.4 Review 20 October 2012

1959-1962: 52mm filters, 12.4 oz./350g.

 

Zeiss 50m f/2 Makro Planar ReviewZeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar Review 10 August 2011

 

55mm

Nikon 55mm f/1.2 ReviewNikon 55mm f/1.2 Review December 2012

55mm f/2.8 Micro AI-s

55mm f/3.5 Micro AI 05 June 2003. 25 year old lens

 

58mm

Nikon 58mm f/1.2 Noct-NIKKOR58mm f/1.2 Noct-NIKKOR 10 September 2010

 

70-80mm

70-210mm f/4.5 - 5.6 AI-s

Vivitar 70-210mm Series 1 04 March 2008

75-150mm f/3.5 Series E

80-200mm f/4 AI-s 09 November 2005. Also includes earlier manual tele zooms.

 

85-90mm

Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC-E 12 March 2008

85mm Lens Specifications Compared 24 June 2009

Nikon 85mm Lens Bokeh Comparison 26 March 2008

Nikon 85mm Lens Central Sharpness Comparison 23 June 2009

Nikon 85mm Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison 23 June 2009

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 24 June 2009

85mm f/2.0 AI-s

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s 09 July 2008

Vivitar 85mm f/1.4 Series 1 24 June 2009

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar 22 September 2010

 

100-105mm

105mm Center Sharpness Comparison

105mm Corner Sharpness Comparison

Nikon 105mm f/4 AI-s Nikon 105mm f/4 Micro 15 July 2010

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AI-s Micro-NIKKOR Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AI-s Micro 16 July 2010

Nikon 105mm f/2.5 Review 105mm f/2.5

105mm f/1.8 AI-s

100mm f/2.8 Series E

Tokina 100-300mm f/4 AT-X 28 August 2008

 

135-150mm

Nikon 135mm f/2 AI-sNikon 135mm f/2 AI-s Review 03 August 2011

Nikon 135mm f/2.8 AI-s135mm f/2.8 AI-s 27 March 2004

135mm f/3.5 AI 10 January 2008

Tokina 150-500mm 17 May 2008

 

180mm

Nikon 180mm f/2.8 History 30 October 2008

180mm f/2.8 ED AI-s

 

200mm

200mm Center Sharpness Comparison   

200mm Corner Sharpness Comparison

Nikon 200mm f/4 MicroNikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR 17 August 2010

Nikon 200mm f/4 NIKKOR-Q 200mm f/4 Q

200mm f/4 AI

200mm f/4 AI-s

 

300mm

300mm f/2.8 ED-IF (History of the Nikon 300mm f/2.8)

300mm f/4.5 P

300mm f/4.5 AI-s

300mm f/4.5 ED AI

300mm f/4.5 ED-IF AI-s

 

500mm

500mm f/8 C reflex

Nikon 500mm f/8 N Reflex-NIKKOR 500mm f/8 N 08 October 2010

 

600mm

600mm f/5.6 ED-IF AI-s

Nikon 600mm f/5.6 NIKKOR-P 22 July 2008

Nikon CU-1 Focusing Unit 22 July 2008

 

Teleconverters     top

How to use Teleconverters 29 September 2003

TC-14E AF-I, AF-S Teleconverter

TC-17E II Teleconverter June 2004

TC-200 Teleconverter

TC-20E AF-I, AF-S Teleconverter

Nikon Lens Scope Converter

Other Brand Teleconverters

 

Rangefinder System     top

Nikon SP

The Nikon Rangefinder System (1946-1964).

 

Comparisons     top

Camera comparisons

Many of the individual reviews have comparison sections. These below are only some of the broadest comparisons

NEW: Premium 50mm lenses compared September 2014

Nikon 50mm and 58mm Bokeh Comparison 11 December 2013

Best Macro Lenses 28 June 2013

Nikon FX Ultrawide Zooms Compared

Nikon 18-200 vs. 28-300 vs. 18-300 Comparison 11 July 2012

DX Wide Zooms Compared

Bokeh Comparisons

Nikon Ultra-Ultrawide Lens Comparison 23 December 2008

All Known 17mm and 18mm Lenses and Zooms Compared

Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Compared to Nikon 14-24mm and Canon 16-35mm L II 15 December 2009

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Compared to Nikon 14-24, Canon 16-35 L II and LEICA 21mm f/2.8 ASPH 16 December 2009

20mm Sharpness Comparison 23 September 2010

Light Falloff Comparison of Every Nikon 20mm Lens 18 February 2008

 

All Known Nikon 24mm Lenses and Zooms Compared 14 August 2010

 

Nikon Pro Normal Zoom Comparison 20 December 2007

Comparison of 50mm Lenses

Nikon High-Speed 50mm Lens Comparison 09 Sep 2010

Nikon High-Speed 50mm Lens Sharpness Comparison 09 Sep 2010

 

85mm Lens Specifications Compared 24 June 2009

Nikon 85mm Lens Bokeh Comparison 26 March 2008

Nikon 85mm Lens Central Sharpness Comparison 23 June 2009

Nikon 85mm Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison 23 June 2009

 

105mm Center Sharpness Comparison    

105mm Corner Sharpness Comparison   

Lens Bokeh Comparison at 135mm

200mm Center Sharpness Comparison   

200mm Corner Sharpness Comparison

 

Older Lens Suggestions     top

Everyone asks me what lens to buy. That's a tough recommendation, since everyone is different. That's why there are so many lenses! Anyone who recommends anything without knowing what you want to do with it should be ignored.

I make specific suggestions below. You'll have to read through some explanations to keep you honest and understand the basis for my suggestions. If you don't want to read, for any DX digital Nikon SLR just get the spectacular new 18-200mm VR which does almost everything imaginable. I love it, but is costs $750! If you're on a budget then get the cheapest (but excellent) 18-55mm II ($160 or less bought with a new camera) and then the 70-300 G ($120) if you need to go longer.

I've personally tested almost all of these lenses out of my own curiosity. I post the results here so I could remember them all. This is the core of what started this website.

There are always so many new lenses and cameras coming out that this page's suggestions can get dated. If this page and an individual review disagree, the individual review pages are newer.

The best lenses to use for 35mm film and FX digital SLRs are completely different from the most practical lenses for DX digital SLRs. Sharpness isn't the issue. The issues are completely different sensor sizes and ISO speeds. You need much shorter lenses for digital and digital's higher ISOs let you get away with slower and therefore less expensive lenses. Therefore I offer two totally different sets of suggestions. When I say "film lens" or "digital lens" I'm referring to the best application of these lenses, not any hard limitation. All film lenses work great on digital cameras and even the DX digital-only lenses can be used on film cameras with varying results.

Before spending as much time agonizing over all this as I have, be sure to read here about how equipment quality has nothing to do with an image's quality. Even the worst of these lenses in the hands of a great photographer is good enough to win a magazine cover, photo contest, or make prints to hang and sell for top dollar in any art gallery.

If sharpness is your only concern then don't even mess with 35mm or digital cameras. Step up to medium or large format cameras which are what professionals have been using for decades. Nikon and Canon and Leica always seem to forget to mention that the only pro use of the smaller formats is news and sports. A $50 used Yashica-MAT 124G (a medium format camera) is sharper than any Nikon, Leica or Canon, and a $200, 50 year old 4 x 5" Crown Graphic (large format) is sharper than any Hasselblad. More at my format page.

Ever wonder why 35mm and digital photographers are always worrying about sharpness? That's because these are such small formats that any loss of sharpness is visible. If you really want sharpness, just forget these and step up up to medium or large format and you'll not have to worry because you'll just get sharp images.

It's very hard to find complete perfection in SLR lenses, especially wide angles and zooms. The special retrofocus design required for wide-angle SLR lenses makes them very difficult to design well, so most of these lenses exhibit barrel distortion and fuzzy corners wide open. That's typical for Nikon and even Leitz.

Remember that everyone has different standards, and every sample of every lens will vary from every other sample. A sad thing about these tests is there is a lot of quality variation among SLR lenses. Lenses that get good reviews here prove that the design is good, but that's no guarantee that the one you buy will be any good. Likewise, if a lens tests poorly here, there's no reason why the one that you have won't be better. I test from the lenses I or my friends have owned, just like the lenses you have. These are not the cherry-picked samples provided to advertiser-sponsored magazines. I hope you benefit from all the film I burned doing this!

 

Older Suggestions for DSLRs     top

Newest Suggested lenses for DX SLRS

Newest Suggested Lenses for FX and Film SLRs

September 2007: This applies to DX SLRs. For the D700 and D3 FX DSLRs, see D700 Lens Suggestions and D3 Lens Suggestions

Information below is older:

Everyone's needs vary. That's why Nikon makes so many lenses. With these caveats let me make suggestions aimed at the beginning photographer with general needs.

General issues for digital SLRs:

1.) Don't bother with manual focus lenses on digital cameras. Optically they work great, however with most cameras you'll have no metering or automation. You can use these in a studio but they are almost useless in the field.

2.) Optically all Nikon lenses ever made work great on all digital Nikons. Nikon designs its digital cameras for their lenses, so ignore the discount brands' barking about magic lenses optimized for digital. Nikon digital SLRs are already designed for Nikon lenses and no discount brand could possibly optimize their lenses for every camera brand simultaneously. Nope, no one pays me or sponsors me; these are just my opinions. In this case I agree with Nikon's marketing, even though their latest slogan about "the camera matters" is baloney. Nikon's "DX" moniker just means these shorter focal length lenses won't cover 35mm film, so don't use them on a film camera. All Nikon lenses are already "digital optimized."

3.) Fixed focal length lenses aren't needed, except for macro or super tele. The faster f/stops of fixed lenses aren't needed with digital's high ISOs. Almost all lens development in the past 20 years has been focused on zooms, so as digital dawns there are few things that zooms can't do better.

Mid Range Zooms for Digital back to top

The new 18 - 200 VR lens is all 90% of everything anyone would want for everything. It's a breakthrough. There's never been anything like it in my over 30 years of photography. Now that I have one it never seems to come off my D200! It's expensive, about $700. If you're considering it I'd advise just getting it. It's unlike any other all-in-one lens I've ever used. You'll love it! It's rare that I need anything longer.

On a more reasonable budget I'd suggest the 18 - 55, which you can get with a camera as a kit. It's inexpensive, about $140, and works as well or better than the more expensive 18 - 70 ($330) and 17 - 55 ($1,500) lenses. There's no reason you can't make tens of thousands of fantastic images with just the 18 - 55. Of course each of those lenses is progressively heavier, more sensitive in low light and more durable, too. If you take care of your gear and make casual use of it I'd go for the cheapest 18 - 55. If you beat your gear, or are a full time pro, by all means pay ten times as much for the 17 - 55, just don't expect to see a visible difference in the images.

Digital SLRs have a sensor only 67% as big as film, so any lens used on digital gives a smaller field of view similar to a lens of 1.5 times the focal length. Take the focal length you use on your film camera and divide by 1.5 to get the focal length you need on a digital camera for the same effect. For instance, a 28 - 105 mm lens is about perfect on a film camera, which means for a digital camera you want an 18 - 70 mm lens. AHA! You'll notice the big issue is that there are very few zooms that start around 18mm and then go all the way out to 70mm.

Zooms starting at 24 mm or 28 mm are NOT useful as mid range zooms on digital. 24 or 28 mm is great for film camera, but the smaller sensors of digital cameras require shorter lenses to get the same effect as they do on film. For instance, a 28mm lens on a digital camera has the same angle of view as a 40mm lens on a film camera. 40mm isn't wide; it's normal. For instance, my favorite 24 - 85 mm film lens used on a digital camera gives similar views as a 37 - 122mm lens does on a film camera.

Forget the film 18 - 35 film lens since it costs more and does less than the 18 - 70. Of course if you have one use it, just don't buy a new one for digital. Zooms starting at 17 or 18 mm give the same results as a zoom starting at 26 mm on a film camera, very useful indeed.

28 - 200 mm lenses are NOT useful as a do-everything lenses on digital, since they only start at the equivalent of 43mm. In digital one needs an 18 - 135mm lens too cover the same range. An 18 - 200 lens covers the equivalent of 28 - 300.

I avoid discount brands.

Pro Combos

Before the 18 - 200 everyone carried a combination of a wide zoom and a telephoto zoom, skipping the middle lens entirely. You won't miss the range between the two zooms.

Add a mid zoom to these two if you still want to have just one lens you can grab for social events, but you'll notice over time that the mid zoom sits around a lot if you have the two others.

The wide zoom will be very expensive and the telephoto zoom can be almost free. Mortgage yourself to buy the wide zoom and pay with what you'll save on the telephoto compared to film days.

Digital SLRs are so new that there are few lenses designed with the shorter focal lengths more appropriate to their smaller sensors. Therefore there are fewer choices, making these suggestions much easier.

Wide Zooms for Digital back to top

I love super wide lenses. Before I got my 18 - 200 a month ago my Nikon 12 - 24 was what I used 75% of the time. If you want a super wide lens of course I suggest the 12 - 24.

If cost is an issue I'm soon to test all the 3rd party versions, however before I do I'd suggest the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 as a safe bet for half the price of the Nikon I have. Nikon was the only super wide DSLR lens made in 2004 when I bought mine.

If you photograph landscapes or real estate you need this lens. You can read about it in depth here.

Telephoto Zooms for Digital back to top

This is easy! The 1.5x factor that wreaks havoc for getting normal or wide zooms makes telephotos trivial. Digital's higher ISOs also eliminate the need for the heavy, expensive fast f/2.8 zooms of film days, except of course if you want shallow depth of field for portraits.

Your best bet on a budget is to go get any used Nikkor 70 - 210 mm AF zoom. It might cost you $100 - 150. Every one Nikon has made is great. The oldest 70 - 210 f/4 constant aperture version from the 1980s is a winner. It focuses as fast as both of today's new 70 - 300 AF lenses, is a stop faster, focuses twice as close and has the smoothest, almost angelic, zooming action of any lens I've ever used. Likewise, the newest 70 - 210 mm f/5.6 AF-D lens, discontinued in 2000, is very small, very well built and focuses much faster and closer than any of the brand new or older 70 - 300 zooms. The 70 - 210 f/5.6 (non-D) AF lens made in between these two is almost the same as the newer lens, but only focuses as fast as the older f/4 lens.

If you buy new, which is just a luxury, you have the choice of quite a few lenses. Nikon makes two versions of their 70 - 300 mm lens. The 70 - 300 G version is cheap and sells for about $99 - 150 brand new. The more solidly made 70 - 300 ED version sells for about $300. Either should be fine and each focuses as slowly as the 1980's 70 - 210. The 70 - 210 AF-D focuses much more quickly than any of these.

Of course my favorite, and the lens I use most of the time as of 2006, is my 18 - 200 VR. It costs more than any of these above, but focuses faster and, except for correctable distortion, is better still than any of the others. It adds VR, focuses to a foot and a half and zooms out to wide angles, too.

The great news about digital is that the fast ISOs usually excuse you from the need for an expensive f/2.8 lens. The f/4 - 5.6 lenses above are usually fine even in less than optimum light. For sports your prime concern is how fast they focus. For this you'll want the discontinued 70 - 210 AF-D, or the 18 - 200 VR which are much faster than any other under-$800 tele. These two focus faster than most of the older 80 - 200 f/2.8 AF lenses that might tempt you as used lenses. Again, skip here to see this explained under film telephotos. The only fast focusing f/2.8 telephoto zooms are the AF-S versions and only the very latest AF-D version with the factory tripod collar. The newest 18 - 200 VR also focuses very, very fast and for a digital camera replaces not just the tele, but the mid-range zoom as well.

If you want to spend more and carry heavy lenses then feel free to get an f/2.8 or the other lenses I cover under telephotos for film here. Personally I love my 80 - 400 mm zoom as explained below under film.

 

Old Suggestions for AF SLRs     top

Nikon makes so many lenses because peoples' needs and budgets vary. Since I don't know your specific predicament, I can only be so helpful. With these caveats let me make suggestions aimed at the photographer with general needs.

Depending on what you want you may not even want a 35mm Nikon. Read my film format page before you waste any money on Nikons if you want to do landscape photography, for instance. People forget that personally I shoot 4 x 5" or at least 6 x 7 cm for the photos you see on my site. 35mm film died in 1999 with the introduction of the Nikon D1 for newspapers; today you should be using larger format film or digital.

You'll either want just one medium zoom lens, or if you want to get fancy you'll instead want a separate wide and another tele zoom, forgetting about the medium one. By all means if you get both a wide and tele zoom feel free also to get a medium zoom, just know that you'll really only be using the medium zoom if you have to run out with just one lens some day, or for party and wedding and event photos.

If you are a beginner then the lens that comes included as a package is usually all you need. Don't let eager salespeople sell you a ton of glass until you can master what you already have.

Are you shooting prints or slides? I shoot slow 50 speed slide film in all sorts of dark light so I need and use the speed of the expensive f/2.8 pro zooms and f/1.4 fixed lenses. If I shot prints or digital only then I'd use the slower zooms instead and you should, too. Of course I don't suggest you shoot print film, but if you do you'll be happy with any lens. If you shoot prints then just use whatever medium zoom that comes as a kit with your camera (or sells new for $100 alone) and you'll do great, or get the two cheapest zooms I mention below.

Let's now presume you are serious about starting and will be shooting slides.

Medium Zooms for Film Cameras back to top

If you just want one lens my favorite is the newest AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G that costs $360. It's cheap, small, light, easy and fun to use and gives fantastically sharp images. For $540 the 24-120 VR may be more fun; I'll let you know when I get more time with one. I prefer this to the much heavier and expensive 28-70 f/2.8 AFS for practicality's sake.

If you go for the two zoom solution instead you have a couple of great ways to go depending on your weight and dollar budget. Remember with the two-zoom system you probably don't need or want the midrange zoom above. You simply don't need the small range between 35 and 80mm.

Wide Zooms for Film Cameras back to top

I suggest the AF 18 - 35mm f/3.5-4.5D ED-IF. It sells for about $450 after the rebate. I use the AF-S 17 - 35mm f/2.8 ED-IF that weighs a ton and costs $1,500 and which I bought before the smaller 18 - 35 was introduced. For rational people the 18 - 35 gives exactly the same quality images as my $1,500 lens without all the weight. If you want to be picky by all means go for the $1,500 lens, just remember that the $450 one wasn't available when I bought my 17 - 35 so I didn't have the choice you do. The 18 - 35 is a very well made, easy to use, light, fast focusing, focuses very close and is a very sharp lens. I suggest it for everyone so long as you're not shooting a lot of architecture. Read my reviews for all the details. This again is an easy recommendation since it's so good. I have never seen either of these new lenses used so I can't vouch for buying them that way, just buy them new at discount at the links on each page. Zoom lenses have internal cams that can wear and degrade the performance of a lens over time.

Telephoto Zooms for Film Cameras back to top

For the telephoto zoom I'd strongly suggest saving for the AF 80-200mm f/2.8D ED w/tripod collar for about $800 after rebate. It's a superb fully professional lens and will last you for your next ten years of photography regardless of which camera, film or digital, you may have in 2015. You'll never wish you had something else. I suggest this one strongly since it's a bargain and I'm not that impressed by the cheaper, lighter alternatives of the current AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED ($310) or AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6G ($130). If you'd rather not deal with the price and weight of the 80-200 now then look around for a used AF 70-210mm f/4-5.6D from the 1990s or even the AF 70-210mm f/4 from the 1980s, each of which may cost you about $150 used. Since a brand new 80-200 is so inexpensive avoid used 80-200s, since all the earlier models focus much slower, and I've also bought used 80-200s that looked new on the outside but were misaligned on the inside and gave fuzzy results. Heck, you have to pay almost as much for the crummier discount brands, too. Again, if you have $800 this is a very easy recommendation to make. Don't even consider second and third rate brands like Sigma or Tamron simply because you can get genuine Nikon for about the same price.

Oddly I've heard a few complaints about inaccurate focusing at the 200 mm setting of the AF 80-200mm f/2.8D ED w/tripod collar at f/2.8 on a D70. If you plan to use this particular combination check this carefully. Other than that observation by others this lens has worked remarkably well for me.

If you have $1,400 for the telephoto zoom then I use the AF VR 80 - 400mm f/4.5 - 5.6D for most things and the discontinued AF-S 80 - 200mm f/2.8D ED-IF for action and low light. See the reviews for the specifics. If I was smarter back when I bought these I may have bought the AF 80 - 200mm f/2.8D ED w/tripod collar instead. As of 2004 the 80 - 200 AFS has been replaced by the 70 - 200 VR, which for action and low light is the best lens ever made. If you don't have an extra $1,000 lying around the basic 80 - 200 above is almost as good; the only real difference is the vibration reduction which doesn't stop action but does help eliminate the need for a tripod in dim light.

Unless you shoot slow 50 speed film as I do and blow it up into huge enlargements there is no reason to spend for the expensive lenses. All they will do is lighten your wallet and weigh you down every place you go. I love and use my expensive lenses, but remember I'm a little crazy and shoot slow film handheld at night. That's what I meant above when I cautioned you about taking advice from people without them asking what you do. All because I use one lens doesn't mean that it's right for you, or that I even would make the same choice again as you see. If you shoot print film then the very cheap G lenses (including the one that may come with your camera as an outfit) are all you'll need; on prints smaller than 8 x 10" one never can see any differences between lenses. You only see this if you blow up to 16 x 20" and larger.

I don't bother with discount lenses like Tamron and Sigma. Sigma is very poorly made (actually I've been told the name is derived from SIGnificant MAlfunction), so of course it costs less. When you go to sell the lenses you get much more much faster for real Nikkor lenses so I see no reason for the false economy of cheap lenses. Of all the cheapies I'd try Tokina first. More here about why your local camera store probably is pushing the cheaper (but higher-profit) discount lenses on you. In spite of what camera stores tell you, I know of NO professional photographers or even decent amateurs who use anything other than camera brand lenses. And no, no one pays me anything to do this site and no one's giving or even loaning me free cameras; this is what I've learned over decades of buying and selling all this for my own personal photography.

 

Old Suggestions for Manual Focus Cameras     top

Nikon makes so many lenses because peoples' needs and budgets vary. Since I don't know your specific predicament, I can only be so helpful. With these caveats let me make suggestions aimed at the photographer with general needs.

DO NOT use manual focus lenses on autofocus and digital cameras. If you already own these lenses as I do fine, but it's silly to buy a new manual lens because you lose almost all the features you need, like metering, with manual lenses used on modern cameras. I very deliberately titled this section "... for Manual Focus Cameras" because I only suggest these manual lenses for use on manual cameras.

Manual focus cameras work with all the AF lenses suggested above except the G series. Please read this section above about film cameras above if you haven't already, since it all applies here and you need to know about the differences between lens choices if you shoot film or shoot slides. I have more about what lenses work on which cameras here.

Feel free to use the AF zooms I suggest above since they work great on manual cameras. Optical quality for most purposes is better in today's zooms. Why? 25 years of innovation. These manual focus lenses were all designed about 30 years ago even if they're still sold new today. Nikon develops newer, better zooms every month. The 17 - 35 AF is a better lens than the 20 mm f/4 AI below, but it costs and weighs ten times as much. I don't suggest any manual focus zooms since they are also 30 year old designs and usually inferior to even the cheapest new AF zooms today.

The reasons you might want to step backwards to manual focus lenses are:

1.) Lower cost

2.) Smaller size and lower weight.

3.) Faster f/stops ideal for use with slides hand-held in low light, also with lower size, weight and cost compared to zooms

4.) Standardized 52mm filters. You can have every lens from 20 mm to 200mm, including PC shift and macro lenses, take the same 52mm filters.

5.) Much better mechanics. The manual lenses are works of mechanical art with their very high quality metal construction and flawless precision. The focus rings can be operated with a single finger and work at all temperatures. The manual lenses feel much better than AF lenses when used manually.

6.) Easier focusing. The AF lenses are a little skittish when focused manually, since they are designed for speed on AF cameras. By comparison the manual lenses are a joy to focus by hand. Also fixed lenses are easier to focus manually, since zoom lenses focused manually usually focus too slowly at wide and too fast at tele.

Here's what I suggest for manual focus 35mm Nikon lenses:

1.) Ultrawide lens. Personally I prefer my rare 20mm f/4 AI for its size and superb image quality. It also takes standard 52mm filters for compatibility with the rest of the suggested lenses.

2.) Short tele. I use the 85mm f/2 AI-s. I love the focal length and size and standard 52mm filter. I find 105mm too long for the way I see things.

These two lenses cover almost everything I shoot. For a normal lens I use a 35mm, not 50mm, lens. My favorite 35mm lens is the

3.) Normal lens: 35mm f/1.4 AI-s. This gives me the speed I need for use in available light handheld. It's been made ever since 1969 and is the same lens with just mechanics that change over the decades. The 35mm f/2 AF or 28mm f/1.4 AF lenses are second choices. The 35 AF has had reliability problems with oil on the diaphragm blades. The 28/1.4 is extraordinary, however it costs $1,800 and takes larger 72mm filters, albeit with much better optics than the old 35/1.4. I never liked my 35mm f/2 AI-s. It had a problem with ghosting for night photography.

4.) Long tele: 200 mm f/4 AI or AI-s. Inexpensive, sharp, small and takes 52mm filters like all the other lenses I just suggested. Built-in hood. The 180mm f/2.8 ED is great, but much heavier and thus it usually sat home.

 

More Information     top

Nikon Lens Technology and Alphabet Soup

Thousand and one nights

Nikon's December, 2010 index of current manual-focus lenses (full-line lens brochure)

Nikon USA's April, 2010 list of current manual-focus lenses

The Thousand and One Nights

How to Fix Lens Distortion in Photoshop

Panorama Tools is a free program to correct nonlinear distortion and color fringing electronically. Other people publish coefficients, let me know if you find any online. Caution: this is a program for math professors; it's not easy to use if you're my mom.

DxO Software corrects most optical issues perfectly.

Roland Vink's Nikon SLR lens data

Robert Rottmerhusen's AF Lens CPU serial numbers

John White (AI conversions of old lenses). I've used him with great results.

Legacy2Digital.com does AI-P conversions.

Links to other sources of Nikon information (Nikonlinks.com)

Japanese site (in English) with some Nikon lenses scavenged from fax machines and photolithography applications.

 

 

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