In many ways, the D850 is a complete camera if you know how to use it. With a 45.7-MP FX-format BSI CMOS sensor paired with the EXPEED 5 image processor, the D850 is a formidable camera that produces stunning images. Thanks to the back-illuminated sensor, the camera produces stunning images in low-light conditions. The sensor does not have an optical low pass filter, so the camera can capture a lot of detail. This is handy when shooting landscapes, products, fashion, and other genres of photography that rely on the little things.
The seven fps continuous shooting speed is nowhere near some of the other Nikon DSLRs (and mirrorless cameras) tailor-made for shooting wildlife photography, but it’s also not bad. With the 51-frame buffer, you can get exciting images if you time your shots correctly and are patient enough.
It’s also a capable video camera with 4K UHD video recording options at 30p.
BEST MACRO LENS
BEST WIDE-ANGLE LENS
BEST STANDARD LENS
BEST TELEPHOTO LENS
BEST PORTRAIT LENS
BEST SUPER-TELEPHOTO LENS
The Best Lenses For Nikon D850 Camera
1. Best Macro Lens – Nikon 105mm f/2.8G
Macro lenses are designed to offer sharp images at a minimum 1:1 magnification from a close focusing distance. I’ve looked into several contenders, and in this segment, I will discuss the one I think is best suited to the Nikon D850 and look at how it compares to other options.
The best macro lens for shooting tiny creepy crawlies and bugs is a minimum 90mm focal length. Anything shorter than that will not be suitable for capturing subjects of that scale, as the working distance would have to decrease, and you’re likely to scare your unsuspecting subjects as you sneak up on them with your camera and lens.
Ideally, if you have a slightly higher budget, you can go for the 105mm focal length, which for me, is the best. It provides a combination of the best focal length, performance, weight, and price.
All the lenses I looked into provide adequate sharpness at the center of the frame – it’s the corner softness that makes all the difference. The discontinued Tamron 90mm performs the best in controlled environment testing, but can be hard to come by. The Nikon may not be the sharpest when shooting charts in a controlled environment, but if you’re out and about and capturing photos in the real world, the quality difference is negligible.
Plus, the Nikon is an OEM lens and has no compatibility issues with the D850 or other Nikon models. The Tamron 90mm f/2.8 is an outstanding lens, but it won’t autofocus on Nikon Z series cameras as well as it would on a DSLR. The Nikon 105mm f/2.8G has no such issues.
The Nikon and the Sigma macro lenses are both well-constructed. They weigh almost the same, with the Nikon weighing 720 grams and Sigma coming in at 725 grams. The Tamron 90mm f/2.8 and the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 are the lightest in this segment, but not everyone will like the outer plastic construction of these lenses. The Nikon also uses plastic, but incorporates metal, allowing it to take the lead in this category. Additionally, the lens comes with a rubber gasket around the lens mount, which aid in its weather sealing.
So, let’s talk about the focus throw. The best macro lenses have a long focus throw. This helps a photographer adjust the focus precisely when manually focusing the lens.
Some may wonder why someone would use manual focusing when a macro lens can autofocus. When you’re shooting macro photos from a close focusing distance, your lens is susceptible to misfocusing. The lack of contrast or the lack of light in a scene can make the lens hunt for focus, and that’s a major disadvantage when shooting moving objects. Switching to manual focusing ensures that you, the photographer, can focus precisely on the aspect of the subject that you’re trying to focus on. This is why the manual focus throw is so essential.
The Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro offers the best focus throw – a 3/4th turn followed by the Nikon with a 2/3rd turn.
The D850 has an exciting feature that’s tailor-made for macro photography. However, you can also use this feature for landscapes and other scenes. This feature is known as “focus shift.” It is beneficial when capturing a series of photos and using the focus ring to adjust the focus between each shot. The idea is to produce a series of shots in which the focus is adjusted across them. Later, these are compiled using photo editing software to produce a single image with a vast depth of field.
However, there are challenges to this technique. If you’re unable to create the photos with precise focus adjustment or the light changes or the subject moves, then there is every possibility that the images may be unusable. With the camera shifting the focus automatically, it becomes faster, more efficient, and more precise and eliminates the chances of your photos getting wasted. I wanted to discuss this feature because both the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS and the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G are compatible with this D850 feature.
Macro lenses are known for their versatility. They’re suitable for shooting photos other than macro, as they’re solid performers even when you’re not using them at their closest working distance. The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro also comes with the right focal length to be used as a steady portrait lens.
2. Best Wide-Angle Lens – Nikon 16-35mm f/4G
Wide-angle lenses are suitable for a range of photography pursuits, including but not limited to landscapes, group shots, weddings, street photography, and travel photography. There is much debate about the right focal length that does it all. Each photographer has their preferences. However, one thing is true across the board; a zoom lens will be far more versatile than a prime lens.
The 35mm is also a very versatile choice; it can shoot many different genres, but I feel lenses such as the 14-24mm and the 16-35mm are more versatile and, for me, are the best wide-angle lenses. If you had to buy one lens as a wide-angle set-up, I’d recommend the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G. Let’s go through the reasons for this.
Let’s first talk about the focal length and angle of view offered by these lenses. The 14-24mm offers an angle of view of 114 degrees. With this lens, you can capture a lot of the scene in front of the camera. It’s no wonder the 14-24mm is such a popular choice for shooting landscape photography.
The 16-35mm offers a maximum angle of view of 107 degrees when shooting at 16mm. The 16-35mm is more practical for shooting in everyday situations, while the 14-24mm wins if your shooting space is tighter. You can argue that there isn’t much difference between 16mm and 14mm, but on the other side, the 35mm range limit is more lenient than 24mm.
Many of you may wonder why the other Nikon wide zoom, the 17-35mmf/2.8 D, is not mentioned. It’s also a good lens; however, the 16-35mm is a newer model than the D lens and is a better match for your D850. Also, the 16-35mm is a little lighter than the 17-35mm despite being physically bigger.
In that sense, the 16-35mm is a very practical walkaround lens. If you’re someone who shoots street photography, you will find the 16-35mm more user-friendly than the 14-24mm.
The 16-35mm also offers the best focal length for shooting everyday photography. Whether it’s parties, weddings, or group shots, the 16-35mm offers just the right focal length for capturing a wide-angle shot.
Another reason why I prefer the 16-35mm over the 14-24mm is that the 14-24mm has a very bulbous front end. This makes it hard to just screw it on and forget about it.
However, the plus side is that the 14-24mm is built like a tank. If you want a lens to go to war with and come back unscathed, this would be the one (apart from the 80-200mm f/2.8D, which has been discontinued now). At 1000 grams, this is one of the heaviest wide-angle lenses around. Just for the sake of comparison, the 16-35mm f/2.8 weighs 680 grams. So, the 16-35mm wins points if you want a lightweight lens that you can shoot with for an extended period.
One feature that many photographers take into account is VR (Vibration Reduction) or image stabilization. I feel that for a lens that offers a maximum aperture of f/2.8, such as 14-24mm, you don’t need to worry about the absence of VR. At f/2.8, with even half-decent light, you can shoot stunning images. But with an f/4 lens, this could be a problem. Especially when working in low-light conditions.
Then again, if you’re looking for a wide-angle lens for shooting landscape photography, you also don’t need image stabilization. What you need is a tripod to steady your camera. Image stabilization is only necessary when you’re shooting weddings, group shots, and scenes where the camera is hand-held. The 16-35mm offers 2.5 stops of image shake correction; for most purposes, that’s more than enough.
The 16-35mm is a superb lens in terms of optical performance, but the 14-24mm is superior in this category. The 14-24mm proves its worth with distortion-free results. It’s sharp and distortion-free at the corners, even when shooting wide open at f/2.8 – something that even the 16-35mm finds challenging to match. But you will not always shoot wide open, especially if you’re shooting landscapes. Therefore, when you stop down the lens, the results are pretty similar.
That said, if you’re an astrophotographer looking for a lens that would be legendary in terms of performance, you will find the 14-24mm more to your liking. For astrophotographers, the option to shoot at the widest possible aperture and yet get corner-to-corner sharpness is imperative. The 16-35mm is a more practical choice for everything else.
3. Best Standard Lens – Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR
A lens like the 24-70mm f/2.8 satisfies many of the focal length cravings of an average photographer. If you need something with a little further reach, I have discussed the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in the next section.
Returning to the 24-70mm f/2.8, it would be an understatement to say that this lens is versatile. This lens covers many of the prime focal lengths that photographers look for. These would include the 35mm, the 24mm, the 50mm, and the 40mm. Additionally, the fast wide aperture of f/2.8 ensures that the lens can produce well-lit photos in most lighting conditions. Thus, it’s no wonder that many photographers find this lens integral to their camera bag.
There are many different iterations of this lens. The two most popular Nikon versions are the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8GE ED and the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR. And for this discussion segment, we selected the 24-70mm f/2.8E lens as our pick.
One feature lending itself to this model’s superiority is image stabilization. This has always been a complaint among Nikon photographers. The new lens comes with up to four stops of image shake correction. This means you can shoot hand-held with this lens, use up to four stops slower shutter speed, and still capture excellent images.
Another thing that may be an advantage is the weight of the lens. This lens does not feel too heavy compared to the f/2.8G lens, but it is nearly 200 grams heavier, adding to the quality feel when holding it.
The older 24-70mm f/2.8G had excellent sharpness in the middle of the frame that softened towards the corners. Compared to the older lens (24-70mm f/2.8 G), the new lens’s optical resolving power is spread across the focal length. This means that the lens is no longer notably sharper towards the center of the frame.
This would be considered a downgrade to some photographers, especially portrait or wedding photographers who benefit from placing their subject in the center of the frame and getting superior quality where it counts. Consistent quality across the frame comes at the expense of excellent quality in the frame center, leaving many photographers who upgraded to this lens fuming.
On the other hand, photographers who shoot landscape photos find this lens to be exceptional. The resolving power and optical sharpness have spread across the frame. Also, now that the lens has better results with objects at Infinity rather than at a closer distance, the lens is suddenly a great performer for shooting landscape shots.
At the widest focal length, the f/2.8G is the better performer at the center of the frame than the f/2.8E ED VR. However, when you check the results at the rest of the frame, the f/2.8 E ED VR is the better performer.
I would like to add that when the lens is zoomed in, the f/2.8G lens performs better than the newer lens and produces optically sharper results. That means the f/2.8G lens is the better performer at the portrait focal length.
In terms of colors and contrast, the new model does not disappoint. It captures stunning images from the moment you press the shutter button.
4. Best Telephoto Lens – 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR
The 70-200mm f/2.8 easily takes the crown in this category. This is my favorite telephoto lens, hands-down, and the best companion to the 24-70mm f/2.8 E ED VR. This is such a versatile lens and comes in handy in so many ways that it becomes tough to leave home without this lens in the bag or attached to your camera.
Now, if you’re looking to buy this lens, there are two versions that Nikon makes for the F-mount D850. One is the 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR and the other is the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II. The 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR is the ‘new’ version and contains the latest updates to the lens.
Let’s first discuss the build quality of this new lens – one of the most remarkable features of the lens. Even the older lens was well-built, and the new lens does not disappoint in this area. Much of the lens’s tough outer shell consists of metal magnesium alloy and hardened plastic. The lens comes with excellent weather sealing, making it ideal for shooting in any weather condition, come rain or shine. The lens can undoubtedly take a bit of abuse and still deliver excellent results because it has been designed to last a lifetime.
The lens also features a fluorine coating on the front and rear elements. This ensures that the lens is easy to clean if smudges, fingerprints, or other obstructions form on the lens element.
Another improvement of the 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR over the older 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II is that the new lens has nearly no breathing issues. Although, focus breathing isn’t a significant issue when shooting everyday photography. It only comes into play when you’re shooting many images in a short interval and stacking them or when you’re shooting videos.
The lens consists of six extra-low dispersion elements and one fluorite element. With it, there is also a high refractive index element. Together these elements ensure that the lens can suppress the effects of chromatic aberrations and color fringing.
The lens features four stops of image shake correction, half a stop more than the older 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II. This extra half-stop of image shake correction ensures that the lens can give that much more leverage when you’re shooting hand-held.
One physical change Nikon has made with this lens is that they swapped the zoom ring and the focus ring positions. The older lens has the zoom ring closer to the lens mount and the focus ring further away towards the front end of the lens, whereas the new lens has this the other way around. This is a subjective matter, and many photographers will not find this to be an issue at all. But for someone upgrading to this new lens, this will come as a shock and require some time to get used to.
In terms of optical performance, the 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR produces superior wide-open results at almost every focal length compared to the older lens. Even the frame’s sides and corners show better performance. The only focal length where the older lens still prevails is the farthest focal length.
At 200mm, the older lens performs slightly better than the new lens, which is a surprise. This better performance, however, is towards the center of the frame. Stopping down the lens to f/4 sways the favor back to the newer model.
5. Best Portrait Lens – Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
Many photographers believe that the discussion and debate around portrait photography lenses begins and ends with the 85mm prime. And I would say that they are mostly correct.
There are a few options for choosing the best lens for portraits for your D850. Notable among them are the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G and Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. However, considering the lens’s overall package, price, and performance, I have picked the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G.
The f/1.8G is much lighter and smaller than the f/1.4, but the f/1.4G offers a lot more light in any situation, and the shallow depth of field is also far superior. That said, the f/1.8G is close enough if you are not able to pay the premium price for the f/1.4.
The weight and specifications of this lens are worth mentioning. The f/1.8G lens weighs only 350 grams, so it feels very lightweight when mounted on your D850. Comparatively, the f/1.4G lens weighs 595 grams. I don’t mind the extra weight and bulk, as the lens is well-built and feels a lot more solid in the hands. It even has a metal focusing ring compared to a plastic ring on the f/1.8G. The Sigma f/1.4 Art is way heavier than either of these lenses. It weighs 1.13 kilos! It’s also much bigger than the f/1.4. The Sigma isn’t for you if you’re looking for a lightweight lens.
It needs to be mentioned that the f/1.8G lens has seven rounded aperture blades, while the f/1.4G lens comes with nine rounded aperture blades. This means that the bokeh quality is slightly better with the f/1.4G lens than with the f/1.8G.
The one serious drawback of the f/1.4G is that it’s more than three times the price of the f/1.8G, which can be a big issue if you’re just getting into photography. If you’re on a budget and looking for a solid portrait lens that offers a lot of value for money, then the f/1.8G is a good option. But if you’re looking for the best in bokeh, superb low-light performance, and excellent build quality, the f/1.4G is a great choice.
Let’s round up this discussion about the Nikon f/1.4G with a comparison of the lens’ performance. The f/1.4G is a very sharp lens. Even when you’re shooting wide open, the lens offers excellent sharpness. I feel that the Sigma f/1.4 Art lens is also comparable in terms of optical performance, but falls just short of the Nikon.
What about the f/1.8G in that regard? The f/1.8G is slightly softer at the corners when you’re shooting wide open; this is where the f/1.4G shines. But if you compare the results stopped down, the f/1.8G and the f/1.4G are indistinguishable – not many people can tell which image was captured with which. So, if you’re not that finicky and want to save a few hundred dollars, go for the f/1.8G, but if you want the best corner sharpness wide open, build quality, and bokeh you will want to have the Nikon f/1.4G as your portrait lens.
6. Best Super-Telephoto Lens – Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II
When it comes to shooting bird photography, you need extensive focal length reach and optical quality to ensure you get the best results. The same goes for shooting wildlife photography in general. You need to be able to capture sharp photos from a distance.
A bunch of good third-party options are available within a reasonable budget. The Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports, the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2, and the extremely popular Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR are a few choices. However, none offer the same optical quality, performance, handling, and build quality as some of the premium lenses made by Nikon.
The AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 IF-ED is a lightweight option, but its focal length range is shorter than the requirement. Plus, the lens does not open up more than f/4. In low light conditions, the lens does not offer the same flexibility as the other Nikon lens in question – the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II. If you think the focal length is on the shorter side, you can easily use any of the teleconverters that Nikon makes and extend the focal length of this lens.
If you use the Nikon 1.4x TC-14E II, the focal length extends to 420mm, and the aperture drops to only f/4. The Nikon 1.7x TC-14E II offers an extended focal length of 510mm, with the aperture dropping to f/4.8. That means the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II will be half a stop faster than the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR at the comparable focal length. Yes, you lose an amount of light, but that’s not going to be more than the maximum aperture of the 500mm lens, and that’s a definite advantage.
Coming down to the constriction of the lens, the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II is well-built. Built out of magnesium alloy, this is a mainly metal design with hardened plastic and all the advantages that come with these materials. This lens will easily take the odd knock and bump and will still be able to produce stunning results without any issues.
The lens comes with excellent weather sealing, which is handy when shooting in inclement weather. However, the front element is still susceptible to scratches and dents.
One thing working against the lens is its weight. At 2.9 kilos, this is one of the heaviest telephoto lenses under 400mm in the business. The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR weighs only 1.46 kilos, and that’s a 500mm lens. Still, with the weight of the D850, the lens does not feel too lopsided.
In terms of performance, this is one of the fastest-focusing F-mount lenses on the market. The lens features Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology, which signifies that the lens is high-speed and accurate. The good thing about this lens is that even with the teleconverters attached, the lens produces excellent results. It autofocuses very well and ensures you do not miss out on the best shots due to focus hunting.
In terms of sharpness, this lens is legendary, sometimes compared with the 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR. Sharpness and focusing accuracy are attributes associated with wildlife and birding lenses; in that regard, this lens does not disappoint. Even when wide open, the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II produces eye-catching quality.
The sharpness is something that every D850 user would love with the incredible detail that the combination can achieve.
Wide-aperture lenses are susceptible to flares and ghosting, especially when the light source is in the frame. The Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II comes with a nano crystal coating, ensuring that the lens can handle the effects of ghosting and flares without any issues.
Wildlife and birding lenses are also known for their bokeh capabilities. The Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II produces exciting, smooth, and beautiful bokeh. When you’re not using the lens with a teleconverter, the fast f/2.8 aperture produces beautiful background separation. Even with the 1.4 or 2.0 teleconverters, the lens produces excellent bokeh and subject separation.