Great Cameras Deserve Great Lenses
The image quality of recent Nikon SLR cameras is very strong, so you'll want to make sure that you're using a quality lens. This advice applies both to affordable models with 24MP resolution right up to the full-frame D850 and its monster 46.5MP sensor.
Luckily, Nikon owners have access to a wealth of excellent options, ranging from the Nikkor glass made by Nikon itself, to third-party options from the likes of Sigma, Tamron, and Zeiss.
First-time SLR owners are advised to consider an upgrade from the 18-55mm Nikkor that's bundled with the D3400 and D5600. It's a decent starter lens, but it limits the image quality and versatility that an SLR can provide.
For those users we recommend going third-party, either with the Sigma 18-35mm (if you value a wide aperture) or 17-70mm (if zoom range is paramount). Another popular choice is to supplement a wide zoom with a prime lens—the Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G is a fine choice if that's the path you want to take. The two Sigma zooms listed here only cover the APS-C image sensor used by DX Nikon models, but they can be used on a full-frame (FX) body, they just won't use the entirety of the image sensor.
We've also highlighted an excellent macro lens, the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED—one of the best we've tested for any system. A handful of strong telephoto options can bring distant subjects into close view. And if you want to capture the world in an ultra-wide perspective, Nikon offers the excellent 16-35mm zoom for full-frame models.
Pros will want a pair of zooms, the 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8. Thankfully Nikon's latest entries are both top performers. If you need longer reach, Sigma's affordable 150-600mm Contemporary is our favorite affordable wildlife lens, but you can also opt to pack light and go with the sharper, lighter Nikon 300mm f/4—it'll work with a teleconverter if you need more reach.
And portrait specialists should look at the 105mm f/1.4E ED. We didn't have room in our top ten to include it, but it's a one-of-a-kind lens that delivers crisp images with a razor thin depth of field.
These are just the tip of the iceberg in Nikon's vast lens catalog. If you want to see all of the lenses (and cameras) we've reviewed, check out our Digital Cameras Product Guide. We've also rounded up the Best SLRs if you think it's time to upgrade to a new body.
Bottom Line: Nikon's AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G is a fast wide-angle optic that is incredible sharp—and affordably priced.
Bottom Line: The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens improves upon its predecessor, capturing sharper images and focusing closer.
Bottom Line: The Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED captures sharp images and is capable of true 1:1 macro magnification, making it a clear Editors' Choice.
Bottom Line: The Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM delivers on its promise; it boasts the speed and sharpness of a prime lens, along with the convenience of a zoom.
Bottom Line: The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary offers incredible telephoto reach, fast focusing, and solid image stabilization at a reasonable price.
Bottom Line: The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is a light and compact telephoto prime lens, but you pay a premium for its size.
Bottom Line: The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR lens can shoot images at dramatic wide angles, but it needs to be stopped down for edge-to-edge crispness.
Bottom Line: The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR adds image stabilization to the workhorse lens of many a professional photographer.
Bottom Line: The Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM lens is a solid replacement for the 18-55mm that shipped with your camera, but another Sigma zoom is our Editors' Choice.