Best Enthusiastic Lenses for Nikon DX/APS-C DSLR

Started Apr 4, 2016 | Discussions thread
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Malli New Member • Posts: 21
Best Enthusiastic Lenses for Nikon DX/APS-C DSLR

Hi Folks,

For an enthusiastic photographer who may have price constraints but still wants to balance lens quality, Convenience and price factors here is my opinion on selection of lens for each lens category of DX/APS-C size lenses for Nikon Mount DSLR.

I own Nikon D7100 and derived this selection based on my experience of owning some of these lenses or trying out at Camera stores and of course from expert reviews and user reviews in internet.

This list includes both Nikon and Third party lenses. Some of the lens selections are FX size which is helpful if planning upgrade to FX/Full size sensor body. I guess many of the Third party lens selection listed here also hold good for Canon, Pentax or Sony APS-C DSLR.

This is a long post as I wanted share my brief reasoning (but not with technical details) behind lens selection criteria from different lens categories and share what’s in my mind.

I am aware that large number of photo community is moving towards Mirror less advanced cameras. But still there is much larger photo community who wants continue with DSLR and continue to buy new DSLR cameras and DSLR lenses for whatever reasons.

1) Standard Zoom:

Needs: Zoom between 16 to 80mm with F2.8 throughout the zoom range, Internal Focusing, image stabilization so that its’ useful in very low light situations, Action, silent lens operation and serves general purpose photo situations from landscape to Portrait.

Selection is Sigma 17-50 F2.8 EX DC OS HSM. Other peers are Tamron 17-50 F2.8 Di II VC. Seems Sigma 17-50 has little edge on silent Image stabilization, Fast, build quality and overall lens functionality. But worries remain in sample variation of third party lenses. Nikon 17-55mm F2.8G and Nikon 16-80 F2.8G lenses are very expensive.

I don’t yet own the Sigma lens but I tried Sigma and Tamron lenses at Camera stores and read expert and user reviews. Soon I am going to buy Sigma 17-50.

2) Mid-Range Telephoto Zoom :

Needs: 70-300mm, Internal Focusing with effective image stabilization as Image stabilization is a must for handheld telephoto photography.

Selection is Tamron 70-300 F4-5.6 SP Di VC USD. Other peers are Nikon FX 70-300 F4.5-5.6G ED VR, Nikon 55-300 DX F4.5-5.6G ED VR. Tamron 70-300 has advantage of price with same performance as Nikon FX lens. Tamron 70-300 VC USD is better selection compared to Nikon 55-300 in terms of image quality and of course FX body upgrade option. Only little caveat about Tamron is ‘Not So Silent’ VC functionality.

After trying Nikon and Tamron lenses at camera stores, I purchased Tamron 70-300 VC USD and I am very happy with it.

3) Wide Angle Zoom:

Needs: 10-20mm zoom range, Internal Focus. Peers in this range are Tokina 11-20 F2.8 PRO DX, Tokina 11-16 F2.8 PRO DX II and Sigma 10-20 F3.5 EX DC HSM.

Tokina 11-20 F2.8 PRO DX may be a better option for its F2.8, longer zoom range and legacy of Tokina 11-16.

I don’t own any Wide-angle zoom lens, and so far did not get chance to try out it in camera store. Expert reviews are favoring Tokina 11-20.

4) Prime Macro lens

Needs: 100mm Macro prime, 1:1 reproduction with Image stabilization and Internal focusing.

Macro lens in 40-60 mm range is not much useful for Macro as one needs to get too closer to object which will shadows the object, better to go for 100mm range.

Peers are Nikon DX 85mm F3.5 ED VR , Tamron 90mm F2.8 Di VC USD, Nikon FX 105mm F2.8 VR and Sigma 105mm DG EX OS HSM.

Exploring from the angles of angles of Price, Performance, Reliability and FX upgrade options, Tamron 90mm VC seems to be better.

I tried my friend’s Tamron 90mm VC and also tried at Camera shop the Nikon 105mm VR. Nikon 105 mm seems be slight edge over Tamron in image, build quality and Image stabilization. I did not get chance to check Sigma 105 DG EX OS HSM, but read good reviews on Sigma 105.

Need to decide between Tamron 90mm F2.8 Di VC USD or Sigma 105mm DG EX OS HSM.

5) Standard General Purpose Prime lens:

Needs: Light weight/Small size, Prime lenses 35mm DX F1.8 apertures which simulates Human eye Angle.

Considering the price and performance, selection is very easy. It is Nikon 35mm F1.8G AF-S DX .This lens is very affordable, very sharp, lightning fast F1.8, Silent focusing useful in different situations.

If photographic situations allows to you move forward and backward, then it works like a standard zoom lens.

6) Portrait Prime Lens:

Needs: Portrait lens with Light weight/Small size, 50mm to 85 mm with f1.8 apertures.

Selection is Nikon 50mm F1.8G AF-S FX. Like Nikon 35mm F1.8G lens it is affordable, fast and lightweight lens. On DX body it works as excellent Portrait lens. This is a good buy if planning to use it as General purpose prime lens on FX body.

I own both Nikon 50mm and 35mm lens and use it on Kids, Pets, within home and very low light situations. In Particular, I use Nikon 50mm for Portraits.

If you are contended with Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens and don’t want shift between 35 mm and 50mm fixed primes then you can avoid buying Nikon 35mm DX or Nikon FX 50mm. Combined price of Nikon 35mm and Nikon 50mm nears the price of Sigma 17-50mm.

7) Fish Eye Lens:

I guess Fish eye lens usage is very funny, but rare; so why to pay heavy price. If someone need for rare occasions, then Selection is Rokinon 8mm Ultra-Wide F/3.5 DX Fisheye Lens (either HD8M-N or AE8M-N model)

I own this Rokinon 8mm F3.5 HD8M-N lens mode from past 8 months and having lot of fun.

8) One lens solution/ Travel lens:

I feel this category could be listed as 1st point.

At one point, you may just want to own only one lens OR just want to carry one lens for you travel/ tours and all purposes. Of course, you need to comprise on quality and specific photo purpose compared to lens of each category.

I feel it’s not wise to have all-in-one Zoom such as 18-200 or 18-300.Such lenses will have noticeable image degrade after reaching 75% of higher end zoom range.

Needs: Not heavy, catering the needs from Wide angle to higher zoom range, decent performance across zoom range, Reliable and Image stabilization.

Peers: Sigma 17-70 F2.8-4 DC OS HSM, Nikon 18-105mm F3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR, Nikon 18-140 F3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR.

Selection is Nikon 18-140 F3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR due to its longer zoom range, metal mount. Sigma 17-70 renders excellent image quality but zoom range is limited and will not fulfil the needs of photographing faraway objects which is a usual part of Travel photography. Nikon 18-105mm is similar to 18-140 but lacks metal mount and higher zoom range.

I own Nikon 18-140 lens and this is my first DX lens and used it extensively before purchasing other lenses. Of course, apart from known distortion limitations of this lens at wide angles and at 140mm, this lens delivered excellent images.


Please note that I just tried my best to provide Best List of DX/APS-C size lens as on today (April 2016) for each Lens category for Enthusiast photographers with Budget constraints to strike balance between Quality,Convenience and Price factors; but every individual has their own right preferences.

So here is the list:

1) Standard zoom : Sigma 17-50 F2.8 DC EX OS HSM

2) Mid Telephoto Zoom : Tamron 70-300 F4-5.6 Di SP VC USD

3) Wide Angle Zoom : Tokina 11-20 F2.8 PRO DX

4) Prime Macro : Tamron 90mm F2.8 Di SP VC USD or Sigma 105 DG EX OS HSM

5) General Purpose Prime : Nikon 35mm F1.8G AF-S DX

6) Portrait Prime Lens : Nikon 50mm F1.8G AF-S FX

7) Fish eye Lens : Rokinon 8mm F3.5 DX ( either HD8M-N or AE8M-N model)

8) All Purpose/One lens solution : Nikon 18-140mm F3.5-5.6 AF-S DX ED VR

I welcome your responses/opinions.

Mallikarjuna H M

Nikon D7100
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