Top 10 Must Have Nikon Lenses (DX & FX)

If you are looking to accompany your Nikon camera with the new lens and struggle to pick the right model, you’ve come to the right place. Because in this article, I am going reveal a list of must have Nikon lenses.

Must Have Nikon Lenses

The main challenge of selecting the right lens for your camera is that Nikon DSLR cameras come in 2 different types, based on the size of the digital sensor they are built around. Full frame models come with the size of a sensor similar to the size of a 35mm film. The crop sensor models, also known as APS-C type, come with a sensor that 1.5 smaller.

It is not surprising that lenses intended for Nikon DSLR cameras come into 2 categories as well. FX type of lenses designed for full frame cameras and DX lenses designed for crop sensor (APS-C) cameras.

Even it is possible to use FX lenses on crop sensor cameras and DX lenses on full frame models, I always recommend to stick with FX lenses on full frame cameras and use DX lenses on crop sensor (APS-C) models.

For example, if you have Nikon d3400, d3500, d5600 camera models, it makes more sense to accompany them with DX lenses.

But if you are searching for a new lens for your full frame Nikon D750, make sure to select full-frame FX lenses.

Must Have Nikon Lenses (DX and FX)

Nikon DX Lenses

1. Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro

New photographers looking for an upgrade from the standard Nikon kit lens will find the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 ideal. It provides extra reach, a wider maximum aperture, better close focusing, and excellent build quality, all without breaking the bank.

The 1:2.8 magnification and 22cm close focusing distance are handy for photographers looking to dabble in macro imaging.

See also: Best 50mm Lens for Nikon

Corner sharpness isn’t great, especially at 17mm. 28mm is the strong point for this lens but all focal lengths improve as you stop down the aperture slightly. Unfortunately as you close in on 70mm sharpness falls off once again. 

Distortion is rather high (~4%) at 17mm but decreases as you zoom in. Stil, there’s no doubt that the Sigma 17-70mm is a great step up for photographers looking for their next zoom!

What I Like:

  • Good build quality
  • Useful zoom range
  • Inexpensive
  • Fantastic alternative to kit lens

What I Don’t Like:

  • Not a true 1:1 macro lens
  • Slightly soft in corners, telephoto end

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC

2. Tokina ATX Pro 11-20mm F/2.8

Landscape, architecture, and event photographers who shoot expansive spaces often need the width of an ultrawide and the flexibility of a zoom. Fortunately, Tokina has several lenses perfect for the job, and the best of them is the ATX Pro 11-20mm f/2.8.

See also: Best Nikon DX Lenses

This lens is optimized for the wide end and is sharpest at 11mm. Quality only dips slightly throughout the zoom range, however. Unfortunately, the corners do soften somewhat, especially at f/2.8. However the corners sharpen nicely as you stop down, with f/5.6-8 being the sweet spot.

While there is some slight barrel distortion at 11mm the lens improves quickly and shows practically none by 16mm. Lastly, the f/2.8 maximum aperture makes it ideal for low light and even astrophotography.

What I Like:

  • Rare ultra-wide, fast aperture APS-C zoom
  • Inexpensive
  • Distortion very well controlled
  • Excellent center sharpness

What I Don’t Like:

  • Rather heavy and bulky
  • Corner softness at f/2.8-4

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the TOKINA ATX Pro 11-20mm F/2.8

3. Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

Every brand has their “Nifty Fifty” and Nikon’s is the 35mm f/1.8G. 50mm equivalent prime lenses are some of the most popular in the world because the focal length is so versatile. You can shoot everything from landscapes to portraits with them. 

See also: Best Lenses for Nikon D3400 (D3300, D3500)

50mm primes are also lightweight, sharp, and inexpensive because the design is so well honed. This is a lens that can find a place in nearly any kit.

The only real downsides are that the performance at f/1.8 is a bit weaker. Chromatic aberration is strongest here and the lens vignettes slightly. The lens is also not as sharp and loses some contrast wide open – stopping the aperture down improves all of these issues!

What I Like:

  • True 50mm equivalent
  • Compact, lightweight lens
  • Fast, accurate autofocus system
  • Good image quality yet inexpensive

What I Don’t Like:

  • Struggles with chromatic aberration and vignetting wide open
  • Sharpness losses at edges 

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

4. Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR

Photographers in need of a versatile travel lens with more reach than kit zooms will find the Nikon 16-80mm f2.8-4 perfect for their needs. It has extra reach on the telephoto end and slightly more width than the comparable Sigma 17-70mm.

See also: Best Macro Lenses for Nikon

Like the Sigma the wide end does suffer from high levels of barrel distortion but cleans up marvelously once zoomed in even a little. As a VR (Vibration Reduction) lens the Nikkor also provides 4 stops of stabilization to counteract blur due to hand shake.

The only things that would make this lens better would be a price more in line with Sigma’s offering. It also has noticeably soft corner performance, especially wide open.

What I LIke:

  • Great zoom range
  • Ideal travel lens
  • Good image quality
  • Light, compact, and inexpensive

What I Don’t Like:

  • Not cheap
  • Corner softness at wide end

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR

5. Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G

Superzooms are perfect for photographers who don’t want to both with swapping lenses and missing a moment. Convenient and light considering the expansive focal rage, teh Nikon 18-200mm is one of the best superzooms available.

 Unfortunately, superzooms tend to have significant optical compromises and lack sharpness, show chromatic aberration, and poorly control distortion.

Despite being quite good the Nikon 18-200mm does show some slight losses in sharpness, especially beyond the central region of the frame and past the 100mm focal length. It also vignettes fairly heavily wide open.

What I Like:

  • One of the best DX Nikon superzooms
  • Extremely wide focal range
  • Great image quality
  • Highly effective Vibration Reduction system

What I Don’t Like:

  • Expensive
  • Superzoom image quality compromises

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G

Must Have Nikon FX Lenses

6. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G

If you’re a fan of the 50mm focal length then you’re aware that it’s the most versatile around. From architecture to portraits, there’s little a good Nifty Fifty can’t do and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is one of the very best! 

See also: Best Nikon FX Lenses

50mm lenses have been manufactured so long the formulas for excellent sharpness, color contrast, and distortion have been perfected. The autofocus motor is fast and precise.

Nikon also included weather sealing to make this into a true do-everything prime lens. The only thing it truly lacks is vibration reduction (VR) however this would have certainly driven up the price and size.

What I Like:

  • 50mm standard lens
  • f/1.8 aperture
  • Good color contrast and sharpness
  • Weather Sealed

What I Don’t Like:

  • No Image Stabilization
  • Slightly soft corners at f/1.8

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G

7. Nikon FX 24-120mm f/4 G

Travel photographers looking for a one lens weather sealed choice have the perfect option in the Nikon 24-120mm f/4. The constant f/4 aperture ensures exposure remains constant throughout the zoom range, which can be trickier with budget variable zoom apertures.

24-120mm also covers everything from expansive cityscapes to tightly cropped portraits. And thanks to the weather sealing you’ll be able to shoot in the dust and rain. 

See also: Best Nikon Portrait Lens

The image quality of this lens is great, though not superb. Sharpness is best in the central region throughout the focal range. Chromatic aberration is also easily found when shooting at f/4 and is best managed by f/5.6-8.

Distortion is also highly evident at 24mm but rapidly improving as you zoom. On the plus side, pairing this lens with an APS-C body crops out the worst of the barrel distortion.

What I Like:

  • Great travel focal length
  • Image stabilized
  • Constant f/4 aperture
  • Weather sealed

What I Don’t Like:

  • Soft corners wide open
  • Somewhat expensive

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Nikon FX 24-120mm f/4 G

8. Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di

Some photographers prefer a single lens that can do everything. If you need incredibly long reach but don’t want to miss out on wide-angle views the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 is the best tool for the job.

As versatile as it is, the Tamron has impressive image quality in terms of contrast and sharpness. Edge sharpness is rarely good in superzooms but the Tamron does a decent job even on the telephoto end.

The downsides are few but worth mentioning. In some shooting environments (i.e. branches against a bright sky) the Tamron shows significant chromatic aberration. The lens also vignettes heavily at both extremes of the focal range when used wide open. Lastly, as a variable aperture lens it stops down to f/6.3 at the long end.

What I Like:

  • Extremely long focal range
  • Impressive image quality for a superzoom
  • Very affordable
  • Weather resistant

What I Don’t Like:

  • Heavy chromatic aberration in some situations
  • Strong vignetting at 28mm and 300mm

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di

9. Nikon AF-S FX 16-35mm f/4 G

Landscape photographers need versatile yet expansive tools for composing a shot. The 16-35mm provides just that as well as image stabilization to prevent sharpness loss from hand shake from.

The autofocus motors are quiet and precise and the casing is fully weather sealed, making it the perfect outdoor photography tool.

See also: Best Nikon Landscape Lens

In terms of image quality, the Nikon 16-35mm is a solid performer. It is sharp and controls chromatic aberration and distortion well, though at 16mm the barrel distortion is fairly high.

Unfortunately this lens is notorious for poor corner sharpness. Even stopping down only brings marginal improvements. The Nikon is also both pricey and large, making it a lens strictly for professional nature and landscape shooters!

What I Like:

  • Landscape photographer’s dream lens
  • Constant f/4 aperture
  • Image stabilization
  • Great image quality

What I Don’t Like:

  • Softer corners at f/4
  • Large, heavy, and not inexpensive

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Nikon AF-S FX 16-35mm f/4 G

10. Nikon 70-200mm f/4 G ED VR

Sports, events, and nature photographers who need reach and speed should be looking at the Nikon 70-200mm f/4. So long as your subject is somewhat distant you can flexibly compose to fit any shooting style.

f/2.8 zooms are popular for that extra bit of exposure and shallow depth of field. However f/4 is enough for the vast majority of situations, plus the lens is both lighter and cheaper as a result.

Like most telephoto zooms distortion is very well controlled, with close to 0% across the entire focal range. Chromatic aberration is also present but low and easily corrected by stopping down (and with post-processing).

While not inexpensive, a weather sealed, high quality telephoto zoom can be expected to cost a little more. For the price, it’s one of the FX lineup’s best options!

What I Like:

  • Weather sealed
  • Accurate, quiet autofocus
  • Cheaper and lighter than f/2.8 model
  • Great image quality

What I Don’t Like:

  • Not inexpensive
  • Some chromatic aberration

Check Buyer Reviews & Price for the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 G ED VR