Best Nikon DX Lenses

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Written By John

American digital marketer and founder of TheCreativv.com with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.

Nikon DX lenses are designed specifically for Nikon digital SLR cameras that have the DX sensor size.

These lenses are smaller and lighter than their FX counterparts, and they’re typically less expensive.

While they may not offer the same level of performance as FX lenses, they’re still a great choice for beginner and intermediate photographers.

In this article, I’ll be reviewing some of the best Nikon DX lenses available on the market today.

Nikon Lens Abbreviations

When I was new to Nikon, I remembered being quite confused by the letters found on many of their lenses.

I had previously used Sony, so these new abbreviations had me lost.

These abbreviations are standard across all camera brands, but each brand has its own naming conventions.

To get you caught up to speed on the Nikon ecosystem, here are some abbreviations you’ll see throughout the list. I wish I’d had this when I first bought my Nikon camera!

  • Nikkor – Nikon’s lens brand
  • AF-S – Auto Focus with Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor built in
  • ED – Extra-low Dispersion glass elements help deliver better sharpness and reduce chromatic aberration
  • G -Doesn’t have a manual aperture ring
  • E – Has electronic diaphragm control instead of a physical lever on the lens
  • Micro – Nikon’s odd denotation the lens is designed with macro photography in mind
  • VR – Vibration Reduction compensates for motion blur while using handheld for a more stabilized final image
  • DX – Designed specifically for APS-C DX camera bodies (see sensor size comparison below)
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras, 2183, Black

BEST STANDARD PRIME

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

QUICK GLANCE

Affordable lens with 35mm equivalent of the nifty fifty focal length

One of my go-to lenses for everyday shooting

Wide maximum aperture of f/1.8 for shooting in low light situations

MORE BEST STANDARD PRIME lenseS FOR NIKON DX

Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM

The first lens I recommend in this roundup of the best lenses for Nikon DX cameras is one of my favorites: the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G. Since it was designed for crop sensor Nikon cameras, this is the DX equivalent of a nifty fifty lens. It is compact, lightweight, affordable, and delivers great image quality.

When I was a Nikon shooter, this was one of my go-to lenses in the field. It offers a full frame equivalent focal length of roughly 50mm, so you can capture landscapes, street, or portrait photography. As 50mm provides a field of view similar to what we see as humans, its a very popular lens for many photographers.

One of the most attractive things about this lens is its price—it’s a relatively inexpensive lens. I’ve placed it at the top of this list because I encourage you to consider buying this lens as soon as possible when you first get your Nikon DX camera. The quality of the photographs this lens takes outshines the kit lens, so bundling this with a camera is a great option.

There are a lot of other great Nikon DX standard prime lenses that I’ve conveniently linked to above if you want to shop around and compare options.


Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Aspherical Super Wide Angle Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

BEST WIDE ANGLE ZOOM

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD

QUICK GLANCE

Decent wide angle zoom range for landscapes, real estate photography, or architecture

Popular and trustworthy brand

Constant maximum aperture of f/3.5 is larger than Nikon’s 10-20mm lens

MORE BEST wide angle zoom lenses FOR NIKON DX

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

Sigma is one of the most popular options for third-party lenses for Nikon camera bodies. I frequently shot with other photographers that swore by Sigma lenses. The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD comes with a long name and a trustworthy past.

Many photographers rely on this wide angle zoom lens for shooting on their Nikon DX camera. It has a focal length that offers a wide angle view, perfect for sweeping landscapes, cramped interiors, and more. The maximum aperture of f/3.5 is constant throughout the entire focal length range.

Yes, Nikon does have its own 10-20mm lens, the Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, for a little more money, but the wider constant aperture and build-quality of the Sigma makes it my pick for the best Nikon DX wide angle zoom lens.

It is worth noting, Nikon’s version does have vibration reduction, which may be important for some of you. I don’t find VR to be as crucial for wide angle lenses since you can already get your shutter speed a bit lower in tricky situations without introducing motion blur.

There are a lot of other great Nikon DX wide angle zoom lenses that I’ve conveniently linked to above if you want to shop around and compare options.


Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Aspherical Super Wide Angle Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

BEST standard ZOOM

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED

QUICK GLANCE

Decent wide angle zoom range for landscapes, real estate photography, or architecture

Popular and trustworthy brand

Constant maximum aperture of f/3.5 is larger than Nikon’s 10-20mm lens

MORE BEST standard zoom lenses FOR NIKON DX

REPLACE THIS

My top pick for the best Nikon DX standard zoom lens is the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED. This lens isn’t necessarily affordable, but is a versatile lens with a lot of fantastic features that I am a fan of.

For one, it covers a wide focal length range equivalent to 24-120mm on a 35mm sensor. This gives me us photographers the ability to frame a shot perfectly in many situations without having to move around—especially useful for travel or event photography.

It also has Vibration Reduction with up to 4 stops of compensation against motion blur while shooting handheld and electronic aperture control for better accuracy when shooting in high frame rates. Especially at the top end of the zoom range, this VR becomes very important since you’d normally be bumping up your shutter speeds.

If you’re after a single lens that renders stunning image quality and the freedom to quickly compose shots on the fly, this should be high on your list.

While traveling, there’s nothing worse than having to open my bag to swap lenses in the middle of everything happening around me. A standard zoom lens is the perfect companion to switch things up and go from a wide landscape to an intimate close-up in seconds.

There are a lot of other great Nikon DX standard zoom lenses that I’ve conveniently linked to above if you want to shop around and compare options.


Best Portrait Lenses for Nikon DX

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens is a great addition to anyone's camera bag. It is perfect for portraits, landscapes and everyday shooting. The f/1.8 aperture allows for beautiful background blur and the autofocus ensures that your shots are always in focus. This lens is also lightweight and durable, making it this nifty fifty lens the perfect travel companion. 

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While this lens is a nifty fifty on Nikon FX sensors, it is also compatible with DX cameras, delivering an equivalent 75mm focal length.

It is an affordable lens with a wide maximum aperture of f/1.8, making it perfect for portraits with dreamy bokeh and background separation.

It is very similar in build material and quality to the 35mm option at the top of the list, so if you prioritize size and weight, you’ll like its compactness and light weight.

I owned both a 35mm and 50mm lens when shooting with Nikon did find the field of view of both lenses to be a bit too similar.

If you already have the 35mm, I recommend considering one of the 85mm portrait lenses below as an alternative that gives your lens collection more versatility.

If you’re after an alternative, more expensive option at the 50mm focal length, I highly recommend checking out the Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art DG HSM. You’ll want to double check your camera’s compatibility to make sure the autofocus functions properly.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Lens

If you're looking for a great portrait lens that won't break the bank, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is a great option. This lens offers excellent image quality and a fast aperture for creating beautiful portraits with creamy bokeh. It's also lightweight and easy to use, making it a perfect choice for beginner photographers.

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By now you’ve probably noticed a trend—Nikon has a suite of f/1.8G lenses that look very similar.

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is another affordable lens from the Nikkor line that offers incredible image quality.

It has a full frame equivalent focal length of about 130mm, so you can get tight portraits with a nice compression effect and separate your subject from the background.

The 50mm above might be better for small group portraits since you’d have to stand pretty far back to fit everyone in with this lens.

At the end of the day, consider what types of shots you’ll be frequently taking and determine what focal length will work for you best.

I personally love the look and feel of tight portraits, but you sacrifice some of the important human interaction with your subject since you’re distanced.

If you’re after an alternative, more expensive option at the 85mm focal length, I highly recommend checking out the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. You’ll want to double check your camera’s compatibility to make sure the autofocus functions properly.

Best Telephoto Lens for Nikon DX

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Nikon has long been a trusted brand in the photography world, and with the release of their AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f 2.8G ED VR II lens, that reputation only continues to grow. This lens is perfect for anyone looking to capture beautiful photos of people, places, or things. With its fast aperture and Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f 2.8G ED VR II lens is sure to help you take stunning images, even in low light conditions.

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Offering a full frame equivalent focal length of 105-300mm on a Nikon DX camera body, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II is an outstanding choice for the best telephoto lens.

This lens gets you close to the action, making it ideal for photographers interested in shooting sports, wildlife, or nature.

It has a constant aperture of f/2.8 throughout the entire zoom range, so you’ll be able to shoot in low light situations and capture photos full of bokeh.

If that wasn’t reason enough to grab this lens, you’ll be happy to know that it includes Nikon’s vibration reduction technology to mitigate motion blur while shooting at higher shutter speeds.

As any sports or wildlife photographer knows, any small vibration or movement of the lens can result in soft photos that are unusable.

Best Macro Lens for Nikon DX

Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G

Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G

Macro photography is a popular form of photography and the Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G is an affordable option for Nikon DX camera users. It's a lightweight lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and has a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:1 so you get life size images of your subjects.

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If you’re into macro photography and want to pick up an affordable macro lens, you’ll definitely want to consider the Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G.

Interestingly enough, Nikon labels its macro lenses with “Micro” and there are several focal lengths of Micro-Nikkor options: 40mm, 60mm, 85mm, and 105mm.

The minimum focusing distance varies lens to lens, but they all have a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:1, or life size.

The 40mm version I’m recommending here has a minimum focus distance of just over 6 inches, so you’ll be able to get up close and personal with you subjects to capture incredible detail.

While this is a little wider than you’d expect for a macro lens, it can produce great images while staying fairly compact.

It has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, so if you happen to want to shoot portraits or find yourself without a lot of light, this 40mm lens does a decent job.

As with many of the lenses on this list, this macro lens is lightweight, affordable, and delivers the fantastic image quality you’d expect from a Nikon-branded lens.

Best Tilt Shift Lens for Nikon DX

Rokinon TSL24M-N 24mm f/3.5

Rokinon TSL24M-N 24mm f/3.5 Tilt Shift Lens (Nikon)

The Rokinon TSL24M-N 24mm f/3.5 is a manual focus tilt shift for Nikon FX and DX camera bodies. While it lacks autofocus and image stabilization, it is a much more affordable option when compared to many professional tilt shift lenses on the market today.

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A tilt shift lens is a type of lens that allows the photographer to control the focus plane.

This is done by tilting the lens in relation to the camera sensor. While there are many situations where a tilt shift lens comes in handy, you’re probably most familiar with the photos taken to create a miniature effect, which makes objects look small and toy-like.

The Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED is insanely expensive, so I’ve opted to recommend a third-party lens from the reputable Rokinon brand.

However, if you’re a professional photographer, Nikon’s lens deserves a look.

The Rokinon TSL24M-N 24mm f/3.5 is the best tilt shift lens if you’re a beginner or amateur photographer looking to push creative boundaries with your photography.

It is the only manual focus lens on this list, so keep that in mind as you weigh your options.

Conclusion

Nikon is a name that has been synonymous with photography for many, many years. They are a trusted brand with incredible cameras and lenses.

If you’re shooting on a Nikon APS-C sensor camera like the D3500, I hope this roundup of the best lenses for Nikon DX was useful.

I recommended quite a few lenses in this article, but don’t forget that there are plenty of other options—some more affordable and some much more expensive. You can click here to learn more and check the best prices for Nikon DX lenses.

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