Best lenses for Nikon APS-C (DX-format) DSLRs

For each of the categories below the winner was the lens which we found to offer the best combination of quality and value. In most cases, we've also provided a more budget-friendly option, as well as a choice for those with more to spend.

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Best kit lens replacement

Standard (kit) zooms are just what they sound like - versatile, general-purpose lenses that start with a fairly wide angle of view and allow you to zoom in to a focal length traditionally used for portraits.

Our pick: Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM

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The Sigma 17-70mm gives a noticeably wider and longer coverage than the standard 18-55mm kit zoom that probably came with your camera. More significantly, it offers a wider aperture, particularly at the long end of the zoom, to give slightly more control over depth-of-field and a fractionally better image quality in low light.

Also consider:

Best value:
Nikon AF-S DX 18-140mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR

For those seeking more reach, there's the Nikon 18-140mm F3.5-5.6G. While not as fast as the other lenses in this group, its image stabilizer can reduce shake by up to 4 stops.

Money no object:
Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR

Offering a useful but relatively modest equivalent focal length range of 24-120mm, this well-built lens sacrifices extreme telephoto reach for sharpness and brightness.

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Best prime / single focal length lens

Prime lenses are just a single focal length; removing the complexity of a zoom often allows for these lenses to be smaller, lighter and sharper, while letting more light through and being more useful in dimly lit situations.

Our pick: Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM Art

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The Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM Art offers an equivalent focal length of 45mm on Nikon's APS-C DSLRs. This makes it a classic 'normal' lens, in the sense that it approximately replicates the human field of vision.

Sharpness and overall image quality are excellent, and the 30mm's fast aperture of F1.4 means that it's very useful in poor light. This allows you to create beautiful blurry backgrounds for portraits.

Also consider:

Best value:
Nikon AF-S DX 35mm F1.8G

Nikon's 35mm F1.8 for APS-C DSLRs is one of the best value lenses available for the system. Very small and light, the 35mm F1.8 is equivalent to a 52mm 'standard' lens.

Money no object:
Nikon AF-S FX 24mm F1.8G ED

Equivalent to a 36mm lens on Nikon's APS-C DSLRs, the 24mm F1.8 is beautifully sharp. It's fully compatible with full-frame DSLRs too, which might be handy if you're planning on moving to FX-format in future.

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Best wide-angle zoom lens

Wide-angle lenses are often useful for taking photos of interiors, landscapes and architecture.

Our pick: Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm F4.5-5.6G VR

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The Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm F4.5-5.6G VR is a very good value wide-angle zoom lens which covers an equivalent focal length range of 15-30mm. There are brighter (wider aperture) lenses available, but the combination of small size and weight, good sharpness and optical image stabilization makes the 10-20mm hard to beat - especially for the price.

Note: This lens is only compatible with recent Nikon DSLRs, which include the D3300, D5500, D7500, D500, and newer. Those with older models may wish to consider the Tamron 10-24mm F3.5-4.5 Di VC II HLD.

Also consider:

Best value:
Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM

The Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 has been on the market for some time, but optically it's still impressive, and it's great value if you don't mind a somewhat large lens.

Money no object:
Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM

For a wider field of view, the Sigma 8-16mm's equivalent range of 12-24mm could prove very useful. just watch out for the large front element - you won't be able to add a protective filter.

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Best telephoto zoom lens

Telephoto lenses start out being fairly zoomed-in, and allow you to zoom in further so you can fill your frame with more distant subjects.

Our pick: Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-6.3G VR

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The Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-6.3G VR is a cut above the 55-200mm zoom sometimes bundled with cheaper Nikon DSLRs. Equivalent to 105-450mm, the extra reach is considerable, and the addition of optical Vibration Reduction (VR) makes it easier to get sharp images at long focal lengths.

Note: This lens is only compatible with recent Nikon DSLRs, which include the D3300, D5500, D7500, D500, and newer. Owners of older models should consider the Nikon AF-S DX 55-200mm F4-5.6G VR II.

Also consider:

Best value:
Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 Di VC USD

The Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 is actually a bit more expensive than our overall pick, but offers substantially better build quality and good performance. It can also be used on Nikon's full-frame FX models, if you decide to make the switch in future.

Money no object:
Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD

If you don't mind spending a little more, the Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD offers excellent performance and a continuous maximum aperture of F4. Well-built and weather-sealed, this lens is also compatible with full-frame, as well as APS-C DSLRs.

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Best portrait lens

Whether you're taking informal headshots or making a living shooting weddings, a fast prime, medium focal length lens is a must-have.

Our pick: Nikon 50mm F1.4G

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The Nikon 50mm F1.4G is an optically excellent lens, to the point that it’s still our standard test lens for all Nikon APS-C DSLRs. It’s small and reasonably priced, too, for the performance it gives. Arguably a touch short for classic portraits, but not to a serious degree.

Also consider:

Best value:
Nikon 50mm F1.8G

The Nikon 50mm F1.8G is an excellent, affordable way to find out what it’s like to shoot with a prime lens. It’s a fraction shorter than ideal for classic head-and-shoulders portraits, but this is resolved by taking half a step backwards.

An alternative:
Nikon 85mm F1.8G

The Nikon 85mm F1.8 offers a roughly 128mm equivalent focal length on APS-C cameras, making it a great choice for tightly-framed portraits. It’s perhaps not as flexible as the wider 50mm lens, but it makes a great pair with the 50mm F1.8.

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Best macro lens

Macro lenses allow you to focus very close to small subjects, which is very handy for photographing flowers or bugs.

Our pick: Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm F2.8G ED

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The Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm F2.8G ED is an updated version of one of Nikon's most popular lenses, which provides excellent image quality for close-up photography and general use. On APS-C bodies it's neither too wide nor too telephoto, giving users a lot of flexibility when composing photos.

Also consider:

Best value:
Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm F2.8

The Nikon DX 40mm F2.8 is designed specifically for APS-C DSLRs, and offers an equivalent focal length of 60mm. Capable of extremely high-quality closeup imagery, the 40mm is small and light enough for everyday use, as well.

An alternative:
Tamron SP 90mm F2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro

The Tamron 90mm has a 135mm equivalent focal distance, which allows you to photograph things like bees on a flower without having to get too close. The lens's built-in image stabilization is a nice bonus.

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Best travel zoom lens

Travel zooms are like your kit zoom lens but taken to the extreme. You still start out with a fairly wide field of view, but you can zoom in almost as much as many telephoto lenses. This is convenient, but these lenses tend to let less light through them, so aren't as useful in dimly lit situations, and they may not always give you the sharpest results.

Our pick: Tamron 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

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Offering an equivalent focal length range of 27-600mm, the Tamron 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD is all about versatility. There are sharper (and smaller) lenses available that cover various parts of its massive zoom range, but that's the tradeoff for such a versatile zoom.

Also consider:

Best value:
Sigma 18-300 F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM

Sigma's 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 is a great value wide zoom, covering the equivalent of 27-450mm. If you don't need the extra telephoto reach of the Tamron 18-400mm, this less-costly lens would make a great choice.

Money no object:
Nikon AF-S DX 18-300 F3.5-5.6G ED VR

Nikon's 18-300mm F3.5-5.6 is a good midpoint between the Tamron and Sigma offerings, covering an effective focal length range of 27-450mm. Optically it's a cut above your kit lens, and Vibration Reduction helps keep pictures steady at the long end of the zoom.

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