Best Nikon DX Lenses for Crop Sensor (APS-C) Cameras

Are you looking for the best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor DSLRs? The search for the best lenses to match your DX camera can quickly become a tiring and confusing process. But it need not have to be that way. We have made sure of that. We have tried and tested a large number of lenses and have finally zeroed in on the ones that we feel are the absolute best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor cameras.

Best Nikon DX Lenses for Crop Sensor (APS-C) Cameras

So, without further ado here they are:

Quick Summary: Nikon Lenses (DX) for Crop Camera Sensors

Nikon 50mm f/1.8

BEST BUDGET PORTRIT LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Nikon 35mm f/1.8

BEST STREET PHOTOGRAPHY LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4

BEST WALK AROUND LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

BEST WIDE ANGLE LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4

BEST TRAVEL LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Nikon 40mm f/2.8G

BEST MACRO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G

BEST SUPER ZOOM LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Tamron 70-210mm f/4

BEST TELEPHOTO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Understanding DX and FX Nikon Mounts

Nikon has two different sensor sizes for its DSLR camera line-up. These sensor sizes are the full-frame equivalent 36mm x 24mm and the other the crop sized 24mm x 16mm. The full-frame sensor powered DSLR systems are also referred to as FX cameras and the crop sensor powered DSLRs are known as DX cameras. Nikon uses the same bayonet-type F-mount for both these camera systems and they are both interoperable. Meaning lenses designed for one format works on the other.

Making Sense of Crop Factor and Field of View

The smaller physical size of the imaging sensor inside DX cameras has an interesting implication. When you mount a lens that has been designed for the FX camera system on to a DX camera only the central portion of the image coming through the lens gets utilized while the rest of the image is discarded. Evidently what you get is a slightly ‘zoomed-in’ view of a scene. In effect, the full-frame lens’s effective focal length gets extended.

Now the question is by what factor does this get extended? The answer is by the crop factor. And in the case of Nikon DX cameras, that crop factor is 1.5x. So, a 50mm lens mounted on a DX-format camera will become a 75mm. Similarly, a 16-80mm lens will become a 24-120mm one.

DX vs FX Compatibility

Nikon produces two different types of F-mount lenses. One that has an image circle that is optimized for the smaller sensor size of DX-format cameras. The other has an image circle that is optimized for the larger image circle of FX-format cameras. Nikon uses the same bayonet F-mount for both the FX and DX-format DSLR cameras.

As a matter of fact, their DX and FX-format lenses are designed to work interchangeably on both camera systems. However, there is one catch. Two actually. Using an FX lens on a DX camera results in the sensor using only the central part of the image and rejecting the rest. That is why the image appears slightly zoomed in. And the second thing is if you use a DX lens on an FX camera the camera will switch to DX mode automatically.

Best Nikon DX Lenses for DSLRs

1. Nikon 50mm f/1.8

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

The 50mm f/1.8 prime is definitely one of the best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor. The reason for the same being that on a crop camera the effective focal length of the lens becomes 75mm (equivalent to 35mm format). And that means it is very much a portrait lens when used with a DX camera system.

The greatest benefit of using the 50mm f/1.8 prime is the fast aperture. There are two major benefits to that. First with a fast aperture like that you can completely obliterate the background, thereby producing beautiful background blur. This is also known as Bokeh. The second is with a fast aperture you can use a fast Shutter Speed. A fast Shutter Speed ensures that the frame is frozen, resulting in a sharp image.

The 50m f/1.8 offers great value for money for entry-level photographers or someone with a tight budget.

What I Like

  • Becomes the perfect portrait focal length when mounted on a DX camera
  • Fast aperture of f/1.8 producing excellent bokeh in most lighting conditions
  • Excellent auto-focusing performance
  • Extremely inexpensive lens, perfect for anyone looking to pick up their first photographic lens

What I Don’t Like

  • Does not have image stabilization built-in
  • Does not have weather sealing built-in to it

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2. Nikon 35mm f/1.8

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is a great lens for everyday photography. This lens is designed for the smaller DX-format camera mount and therefore optimizes for the smaller image circle of these camera systems. But the fact that when you mount this lens on to a DX camera crop factor kicks in, the effective focal length becomes 52.5mm (35mm format equivalent).

The fast f/1.8 aperture will be able to produce great images in almost every kind of lighting and every level of lighting be it bright sunshine or with candlelight. The fast aperture also works if you are interested in experimenting with bokeh.

The lens is capable of producing really beautiful bokeh or out of focus background effects for your portraits.

What I Like

  • The 35mm is a great walk-around lens for shooting everything except anything that requires a telephoto lens
  • Fast f/1.8 aperture produces beautiful background blur
  • Inexpensive lens. Every photographer can pick one for his / her photo bag.
  • Comes with several lens coating and elements for sharp image quality

What I Don’t Like

  • Cannot be used effectively on an FX camera because of the smaller image circle
  • Does not have image stabilization built into.

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3. Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8- 4

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS (Optical Stabilizer) HSM Lens for Canon EOS Cameras

The Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 is a very versatile lens designed for the smaller DX-format camera systems.

The effective focal length when mounted on a DX camera is 25.5-105mm (35mm format equivalent). The versatility of the lens is that you can use it for almost every kind of photography that you wish to do, including macro work. Yes, the lens is actually marketed as a macro unit. However, it is not a true macro unit because the maximum magnification possible with the lens is not 1x. 1x magnification is the basic requirement for a lens to qualify as a true macro lens. The minimum focusing distance of the lens is only 22cm.

Auto-focusing is precise and you also get full-time manual focusing override. Additionally, because of the Thermally Stable Composite materials used in the construction of the lens, you can use this unit safely in any temperature.

What I Like

  • The focal length is perfect for everyday photography.
  • Comes with built-in optical image stabilizer. One of the few lenses that we have discussed here that comes with this feature.
  • Built-in auto-focusing motor – Sigma’s Hypersonic Motor powered autofocusing mechanism with full-time manual focusing override.
  • The lens features Thermally Stable Composite material, ensuring that the lens never changes dimensions under extreme temperature fluctuations.

What I Don’t Like

  • Though the lens is marketed as a macro lens it is not a true macro unit. The maximum magnification is less than 1x.
  • The lens’ auto-focusing isn’t the most accurate in all situations.

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4. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for Nikon

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II Digital Zoom Lens (AF-S Motor) (for Nikon)

The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens designed for the smaller DX-format camera systems of Nikon (there are compatible iterations for other mounts). As this is a DX-format lens crop factor does creep in and the effective focal length becomes 16.5-24mm (35mm format equivalent). That is impressive and is useful when it comes to certain types of photography. Namely, street, architecture, group shots and of course landscapes.

The f/2.8 aperture is not exactly used primarily for these genres of photography. If you buy this lens you will invariably stop down the aperture to produce images that are sharp from corner to corner.

What I Like

  • Perfect lens for shooting a wide variety of wide-angle photography genres
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture across the entire focal length range
  • Hard stops at the end of each of the manual focusing range limits give positive feedback when you are manually pulling focus. Some lenses don’t have this and can be a little confusing to manually focus.
  • Very economically priced and therefore is definitely one of the best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor camera systems.

What I Don’t Like

  • The one-touch focus clutch mechanism that switches between auto-focusing and manual focusing isn’t always as smooth to use as expected. If you are not used to this system already it will take time.
  • Weather sealing is not up to the mark.

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5. Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

This is definitely one of the best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor if you are looking for a walk-around lens for everyday photography. We have discussed the 50mm f/1.8 prime and the 35mm f/1.8 prime in this list. These are two of the best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor.

The 16-80mm f/2.8-4 covers both the above focal lengths and beyond. This lens is designed for the smaller DX sensor format camera systems. Thus, the crop factor will have a role to play in the effective focal length of the lens. The effective focal length of the lens is 24-120mm (35mm format equivalent). And that covers important genres of photography including street, architecture, group, landscape, and portrait photography.

The Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4 is one lens you could mount on your camera and leave it there forever.

What I Like

  • Excellent focal length range that covers all essential everyday photography requirements.
  • Great auto-focusing performance with full-time manual focusing override.
  • A number of lens coatings and elements used for super sharp images reduced flares and aberrations
  • Built-in image stabilization is rated at up to four stops.

What I Don’t Like

  • Weather sealing is an issue. If you plan to use this lens outdoors in inclement weather you will need some kind of protection to ensure that the lens stays dry and functional.
  • A little pricey considering that the lens is designed for DX-format cameras and meant for entry-level photographers.

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6. Nikon 40mm f/2.8G

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Macro lenses are wonderful tools in their own rights. They open a completely new dimension to your photography. The trick with macro lenses is that you need them to be long enough so that you have some breathing space when shooting. Evidently, these lenses are used for shooting creepy crawlies among other small subjects. The second requirement for great macro lenses is that they should be able to capture a 1:1 ratio of the subject being photographed.

The Nikon 40mm f/2.8G satisfies the second requirement but not the first. But does that mean this is not a useful lens? Not really, as long as you are shooting in good light or be able to use artificial lighting when shooting indoors, you would be able to produce great images in low light. This is one of the cheapest macro lenses designed specifically for the Nikon DX-format camera system.

What I Like

  • Able to produce 1:1 reproduction of subjects being photographed from a distance of 16.3cm.
  • Inexpensive macro lens perfect for entry-level enthusiasts
  • Comes with Nikon’s Close-Range Correction system that produces excellent results across the focal length range
  • Features Nikon’s silent wave motor technology and has full-time manual focusing override

What I Don’t Like

  • The 40mm f/2.8 lens does not have image stabilization built-in
  • Quality of bokeh is not great if you are using the lens for shooting portraits

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7. Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

The Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G is designed to be your one-stop solution as one lens for all occasions. You can shoot portraits, wildlife, street photography, landscape and everything in between. Though realistically speaking for wildlife photography you will always need good light, because the maximum aperture at the tele end is only f/6.3. That means in less than optimum lighting the lens will struggle to produce fine results. You will be forced to raise the ISO number to increase the exposure.

What I Like

  • Among many other features the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 features a four-stop image stabilization system.
  • The effective focal length range of the lens is 27-450mm making it one of the longest focal length lenses in this price for the DX camera system.
  • The lens has a decent auto-focusing mechanism with a full-time manual focusing override.
  • One of the cheapest super-telephoto lenses (35mm format equivalent) at this price range

What I Don’t Like

  • Maximum aperture is only f/6.3 at the tele-end.
  • There is no focusing distance indicator.

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8. Tamron 70-210mm f/4

Tamron 70-210mm F/4 Di VC USD for Nikon FX Digital SLR Camera (6 Year Tamron Limited USA Warranty)

The Tamron 70-210mm f/4 is a short telephoto lens designed for the Nikon full-frame camera systems. As a result of the interoperability of FX and DX lenses on reciprocal mounts, this lens mounts and works on all DX-format cameras made by Nikon. The effective 35mm format equivalent focal length on DX cameras is 105-315mm.

The lens is perfect for portraits, a little bit of wildlife, birding, and sports as well. Thanks to the fast f/4 aperture the lens will produce great images in good light, but not be too bad even in low light. You will, however, have to boost the ISO number in case of very low light.

All in all this is one of the best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor if you are looking for a medium telephoto glass.

What I Like

  • Constant f/4 aperture across the focal length range
  • Four stops of vibration compensation (Tamron’s version of Image stabilization)
  • The lens has moisture resistance built-in.
  • Auto-focusing mechanism is decent with full-time manual focusing.

What I Don’t Like

  • The lens is not completely weather sealed.
  • Autofocusing can be a bit noisy at times.

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Zoom vs Prime Lenses

Zoom lenses have a variable focal length. Unlike prime lenses that have a fixed focal length. Prime lenses have traditionally been some of the best-made lenses. Because they have a fixed focal length, engineers could focus on their optical quality. And these lenses, by and large, tend to be optically superb. However, the best Nikon DX lenses for crop sensor doesn’t always have to primes.

Zoom lenses are also considered as great photography tools. And there are some excellent zoom lenses you can purchase. But zoom lenses have their own disadvantages just as they have some advantages of their own.

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