Recommended Nikon Nikkor and third party lenses for DX and FX

lensen

The discussion about the “best” lenses is a debate that never ends and is also a personal choice. These are my recommendations based on my opinion and needs. As this is a photography blog with lots of travel pictures and some more personal photos, the recommendations reflect this.

DX vs FX
FX has the same sensor size as the old film, 35mm. The DX sensor is smaller by a factor of 1.5, and what we call the crop factor. As the DX sensor is smaller, it can use physically smaller and lighter lenses as the lens doesn’t need to draw as large image on surface of the sensor. Also note that any modern FX lens will fit on a DX camera, but for best performance use a DX lens on a DX body and a FX lens on a FX body.

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nikkor

Nikkor is Nikons in-house brand of lenses, so if you buy a Nikkor lens, you buy a Nikon lens.

VR
As none of today’s Nikon DSLR offer stabilization in the camera, they rely on stabilization in the lens. For Nikkor that means the lenses are branded with “VR” (Vibration Reduction) on the lens body. VR is a technology that minimizes blur caused by camera shake. In practical terms means you can take a photo without blur in less light and/or longer shutter speed and/or lower ISO, than a lens without VR.

Tip; First generation VR (Vibration Reduction) is indicated by VR written in red on the lens. Second generation VR is indicated by VR written in gold on the lens.

DX-lenses

Travel zooms
Nikkor 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 VR II
Try avoiding the first generation of this lens, as it suffers heavily on lens creep. (This lens is on the edge of not being on this list, but stays on for now).

Nikkor 18-300 f/3.5-6.3 VR II
Actually better and cheaper than the first generation of this lens, and also better optically than the 18-200 VR.

Both of those lenses are obviously full of compromises, but in my opinion out weighted by the convenience. For fast traveling or as one-lens-do-it-all, those are perfect.

Even though 18mm on DX is quite wide, what we often see in cities like those in Spain is that 17mm or 18mm is not always wide enough, so this next one may come in handy:

Wide zoom
Nikkor 10-24 f/3.5-4.5
Its the follow up of the great Nikkor 12-24 f/4, and its actually sharper (and wider).
Nikkor AF-P DX 10-20 f/4.5-5.6 VR
Great lightweight consumer lens.

Normal zoom
We actually miss a very good normal zoom in Nikons lineup and the old Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 doesn’t longer justify the price and weight on today’s high resolution DX-cameras. The best choice could be:
Nikkor 16-80 f/2.8-4 VR
Quite wide in the wide end and fast (large aperture) normal zoom of good quality.
Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 VR its also a good lens in the lower price range.

Telephoto zoom
Nikkor AF-P DX 70-300 f/4.5-6.3 VR
The AF-P version of this lens is quite good and light. Build quality obviously not the best, but good enough for light travel.

Summary
A good alternative to the superzoom lens of the 18-300, one could get a lightweight 3-lens travel kit with AF-P 10-20, AF-P 18-55 and AF-P 70-300 with excellent image quality.

FX-lenses

Travel zoom
Nikkor 24-120 f/4 VR
My go-to-travel zoom. Pretty good wide open and have a decent size for travel. Most of my travel pictures are taken with this lens if I’m using a FX-camera.

Wide zoom
Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8
Nikkor 16-35 f/4 VR
I’m not so much of a wide angle guy and I’ve noticed the high praises of the 14-24 f/2.8, but its also a very bulky lens that take up a lot of space in the bag. I went for the smaller and lighter 16-35 f/4 VR.

Normal zoom
Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 VR
This is a must have lens in my opinion, although big and heavy, its what we call a workhorse lens.

Telephoto zoom
Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR
Nikkor 70-200 f/4 VR
Nikkor AF-P 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR

The 70-200 range might look like something you can forget, but you really can do some amazing things with a fast 70-200 lens! If you don’t need f/2.8, don’t forget the f/4, witch is a stunningly sharp lens that can save you some weight and money. If you on the other hand need a bit more reach, and/or would like to save even more weight, the new AF-P 70-300 VR is a excellent choice.

Telephoto zoom II
Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR
Maybe not “travel size”, but if you need the extra reach, this one could be what you’re looking for.

Primes
Not a huge fan of prime lenses although I understand the benefit of them when it comes to image quality and compromises.

Some primes I briefly brought with me on travel:

Nikkor 35 f/2 or the Nikkor 50 f/1.4. Both of them are FX-lenses, so they both work great on DX too. Biggest reason I brought them with me earlier is the large aperture so they helped a lot indoors in low lighting, pared with relatively small size. Nowadays with the extreme high ISO performance, I’ve seen less use of them on travel.

Third party lenses
Third party lenses can be very good and in some cases even better than Nikons own Nikkor lenses. Biggest difference though is the build quality, where expensive Nikkor lenses are in most cases way better than third party lenses. For professionals that “throw their gear around”, that would be the decisive point of choice. For happy amateurs on the other hand, there could be some big money to save going for the third party choice.

Stabilization
As none of today’s Nikon DSLR offer stabilization in the camera, they rely on stabilization in the lens. As for Sigma, look for OS (Optically Stabilization), and for Tamron look for VC (Vibration Compensation). Tokina has VCM (Vibration Correction Module) in their 70-200 f/4 only, but expect more from them in the future. If you are torn between two lenses and one has stabilization and the other don’t. Use the rule of thumb that if most of the pictures you expect to use the lens for are done with a tripod, it doesn’t matter much (as it can be turned off), but if most of the pictures will be taken handheld, go for the stabilized option. For me, I would always go for a lens with stabilization if I could choose with to without.


NEWsigmaLogo
Sigma
is a brand that historically has a mixed reputation, some are very happy with their lenses, and other is more lukewarm towards the brand. Never had any experience with them, but acknowledge that they make some very good lenses.

tokina
Tokina
is a more “hidden” brand that makes very good lenses. Although they have a 70-200 f/4, they are mostly known for their wide angle and normal zooms.

tamron-logo
Tamron
seems like being on attack lately, and have released some very appealing lenses. Has the upper hand in superzooms, but also some very good f/2.8 zooms.


For DX
, some popular lenses that you can’t go wrong with are the:

For wider angle zooms the choices could be:
Sigma 10-20 f/3,5
Tamron 10-24 f/3.5-4.5 VC
Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 (both models)
Tokina 14-20 f/2

Normal zoom
Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC
Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 OS

In the telephoto zoom department, I would consider:
Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 (looks to be discontinued though)

Superzooms
Sigma 18-200 f/3.5-6.3 OS
Tamron 18-270 f/3.5-6.3 VC
Tamron 18-400 f/3.5-6.3 VC
All of them are quite good to be a “convenience lens”.

Primes
Primes on DX are limited at best, and I advise you to include the FX primes in the mix if you are in the market.
Sigma 20 f/1.4
Sigma 20 f/1.8
Sigma 24 f/1.4
Sigma 35 f/1.4
Tamron 35 f/1.8 VC
Tamron 45 f/1.8 VC
Sigma 50 f/1.4
Sigma 85 f/1.4
Tamron 85 f/1.8 VC
Sigma 105 f/2.8

Notice that Tamron has started putting VC in their prime lenses, which I think its awesome!

For FX there seem to be more options, which are good.

Wide zooms
Sigma 12-24 f/4
Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 VC
Tokina 16-28 f/2.8

Normal zooms to consider:
Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC
Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC G2
Tokina 24-70 f/2.8
Sigma 24-70 f/2.8
Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 OS

Out of the first three, the Tokina is insanely sharp in center, but unfortunately lacks stabilization. The Tamron VC and the non OS Sigma perform about the same high level. The new Sigma with OS seems to be slightly outperformed by the new Tamron G2, which is excellent.

Telephoto zooms
Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC G2
Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC (G1)
Tokina 70-200 f/4 VCM
Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 OS

The G2 Tamron will be hard to beat, while the Tokina could be a interesting alternative to the Nikkor 70-200 f/4 VR.

Telephoto zooms II
Tamron 150-600 f/5-6.3 VC G2
Sigma 150-600 f/5-6.3 OS C/S

Sometimes you just need that little extra reach.

Superzooms
To my knowledge there is only the Tamron 28-300 VC and the old Sigma 28-300 (without stabilization) out of the third party manufacturers. Not any of them are particularly good, so consider the Nikkor 28-300 VR too.

Primes
Sigma 50 f/1.4
Sigma 85 f/1.4
Tamron 85 f/1.8 VC
Tamron 90 f/2.8 Macro VC
Tokina 100 f/2.8
Sigma 150 f/2.8

Notice that Tamron has started putting VC in their prime lenses, which I think its awesome!

Some final words about third party lenses: Although they are mostly cheaper than Nikon Nikkor lenses, they also fall like a rock on the used market if more than a couple of years old. If you are looking for a lens that has been out for some time, try getting a nicely used sample. Expect about half price for a few years old lens and even less if older or there has been a newer upgraded version in the meantime (exception may happen for very popular or attractive lenses like f/2.8 zooms and fast primes).

My lenses
Lenses I’ve owned or still own (underlined) in numeric order, primes first:
Nikkor 35 f/2
Nikkor 50 f/1.4
Nikkor 50 f/1.8
Nikkor 85 f/1.8
Tamron 10-24 f/3.5-4.5 VC
Tokina 12-24 f/4
Nikkor 16-35 f/4 VR
Tamron 17-50 f/2.8
Tamron 17-50 f/2,8 VC
Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6
Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 AF-P VR
Nikkor 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 VR
Nikkor 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 VR II
Nikkor 18-300 f/ 3.5-6.3 VR
Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8
Nikkor 24-70 f/2,8 VR
Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC G2
Tamron 28-75 f/2.8
Nikkor 55-200 f/4-5.6
Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR
Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC G2
Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR

Flash
Little bit on the side of the subject, but still related. Something I bring more than those before mentioned primes is the:

SFLANIKSB400A_l

Nikon SB-400 Unfortunately discontinued and not replaced with something similar sized, but can easily be found on the used market. Very compact external flash with tilt able flash tube so the light can be bounced off of something. Fits easily in the front pocket of your trouser without looking vulgar. Even though it’s not very powerful compared to its bigger siblings, I normally don’t rely only on the flash alone, but just add a touch of light in some cases. And for that, this little flash is perfect.

Wish bag
If I would start over “collecting” lenses it would be something like this:

For DX, Tamron 10-24 f/3.5-4.5 VC, Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC, Nikkor 18-300 f/3.5-6.3 VR or Tamron 18-400 f/3.5-6.3 VC

For FX, Nikkor 16-35 f/4 VR, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC G2, Nikkor 24-120 f/4 VR, Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC G2, Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR, Sigma 50 f/1.4, Tamron 85 f/1.8 VC

As you can see, I’m not completely true to my wishes, partly because of some older luggage that I’m in the process of selling and that its a live and continuous process.

As you also might see, is that I’ve turned more towards Tamron. The reason for this is that when I started out with DSLR, third party lenses wasn’t really that good. It was one here and one there, like the 12-24 f/4 Tokina, and the 28-75 f/2.8 Tamron among some few others. Now a least Tamron, but also Sigma has a very solid lineup of high quality lenses, and as Nikon has neglected their DX-line, choosing Tamron there is a no-brainer. For FX, Nikon makes some really serious glass, but to a price that in most cases are ridiculous compared with third parties lenses that are about on par with the Nikkor brand.

Future wishes
For the close future I wish and expect a couple of new Tamron lenses, like a 17-50 f/2.8 VC “G2”-style (DX), and could we be so lucky to get a 24-120 f/4 VC G2 too (and maybe a full line of f/4 FX)? Unfortunately it seems like a lens company is judged by their fast primes, so to draw more justified attention to Tamron, I hope they produce some awesome f/1.2 or at least some f/1.4 primes as well.

Updates
This page will be updated here and there to keep up with time, last 26/9-17.

Please let me know if you have any comments.

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