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Best Nikon DX Lenses for Photos and Videos (2023)

Rajib Mukherjee Avatar
Rajib Mukherjee
28 June, 2023 • Updated 23 days ago
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Nikon DX Lens
Nikon’s DX-format cameras are designed to be affordable for photographers getting into photography for the first time. Despite being an entry-level system, these are powerful cameras in the right hands. Just like any camera system is incomplete without a strong lens, the Nikon DX series cameras are incomplete without its trusty line of lenses designed specifically for the smaller image circle of DX cameras.

In this discussion, I will review a set of 6 lenses ideal for shooting both photos and videos.

Key takeaways

  • Understanding what makes a great lens for shooting videos
  • Understanding what makes a great lens for shooting stills
  • Looking at some Nikon DX options for shooting videos
  • Looking at some Nikon DX options for shooting stills

Here are the lenses in question:

Prime options

  • Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
  • Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
  • Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR

Zoom options

  • Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
  • Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED
  • Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G

QUICK OVERVIEW

Products Features
EDITOR’S PICK
4.8
+13000
+13000
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8GNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
  • Extremely lightweight, perfect match for lightweight DSLRs
  • Simple design consisting of only eight elements
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $300
  • Extremely lightweight, perfect match for lightweight DSLRs
  • Simple design consisting of only eight elements
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $300
Check price
at Amazon
MOST REVIEWED
4.7
+1500
+1500
Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G
Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8GNikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G
  • A reasonably fast aperture of f/2.8
  • True macro perspective with 1:1 magnification
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $400
  • A reasonably fast aperture of f/2.8
  • True macro perspective with 1:1 magnification
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $400
Check price
at Amazon
TOP PICK
4.6
+280
+280
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-EDNikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
  • Fast continuous aperture of f/2.8 across the focal length
  • Decent bokeh at 55mm
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $1000
  • Fast continuous aperture of f/2.8 across the focal length
  • Decent bokeh at 55mm
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $1000
Check price
at Amazon
BUDGET PICK
4.2
+500
+500
Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VRNikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
  • Suited to both still images and videos
  • Comparatively faster and quieter AF system
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $250
  • Suited to both still images and videos
  • Comparatively faster and quieter AF system
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $250
Check price
at Amazon

Best Nikon DX Prime Lenses

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

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

The 35mm f/1.8 is one of those special Nikon-made lenses designed specifically for the DX format that works great for shooting stills as well as videos.

The 35mm, when mounted on a DX camera, becomes a 52.5mm effective focal length. Meaning the focal length nearly becomes a 50mm prime. Therefore, the 35mm can be used for a variety of photography and video requirements.

I have used the 35mm f/1.8G on entry-level Nikon cameras, including the D3100 and the D5200, and the lens performs admirably. At just 200 grams, the lens is very lightweight and therefore balances well with a lightweight DX-format camera.

Another advantage of this lens is that it offers a fast aperture of f/1.8, meaning that the lens captures a lot of light. In poorly-lit conditions, that’s a big advantage to have.

But the other advantage of that fast, wide-open aperture is that photographers and videographers can play with a shallow depth of field that’s perfect for eliminating anything distracting in the background and creating smooth bokeh.

This is a G lens, meaning there is no mechanical aperture. Some photographers, especially old-school ones, will feel a little disappointed at this. But if you’ve been brought up on G lenses, this will not be an issue for you.

A little bit of information about the build quality is required because, to be honest, I am not a big fan of that aspect of the lens. It’s lightweight and takes up very little space inside your camera bag but the lens does not feel reassuring in the hand.

Needless to say, there is no weather sealing, which means if you expose this lens to inclement weather, you’ll have water seepage and internal damage. This limits the lens’s capability as a travel lens, despite its weight being ideal for this function.

Autofocusing is powered by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology, and you also have access to a full-time manual focusing override. This means you can adjust focus anytime, even when autofocusing is engaged.

Something I have noticed about the mechanically coupled manual focusing ring is that it’s on the stiffer side, though not enough to be a dealbreaker. In any case, most users will be using this lens in auto mode, which means the stiffness of the manual focusing ring will not matter to them.

Image sharpness is a must-discuss topic, at least when it comes to lenses. Now, I know a lot of you will be interested to find out how good the 35mm f/1.8G DX is when compared to the venerable 35mm f/1.8G ED, and I can be honest with you that it’s best not to compare the two lenses.

The 35mm f/1.8G ED is miles ahead in terms of sharpness straight out of the block. At f/1.8, the FX lens is much better at the center of the frame, and stopping down the lenses to f/2 makes the difference even more stark.

I feel the only time the DX lens catches up to the FX one is at f/8, where the difference in sharpness is negligible.

The corner sharpness for both the FX and the DX lens is softer than at the center of the frame. But even then, the FX easily wins. The trend continues even at the corner of the frame.

Considering the price you pay, I feel the 35mm f/1.8 DX is an excellent choice for anyone shooting with a crop Nikkor body.

Pros
  • Fast f/1.8 aperture
  • Extremely lightweight, perfect match for lightweight DSLRs
  • Simple design consisting of only eight elements
  • Designed for the smaller image circle of APS-C Nikon DSLRs
  • Inexpensive
  • Full-time manual focusing override
Cons
  • No image stabilization
  • No mechanical ring for aperture control

2. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G

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

The Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G is a macro lens designed for smaller crop mount camera systems like the D3100 and the D5200. You can also use this lens with cameras like the D500 and the D7500. Nikon’s FX mount cameras allow you to use a lens designed for the smaller DX mount cameras. However, the crop mode is automatically activated when you mount the lens.

Why do I recommend this lens? This is the perfect small package lens for you if you’re starting out in macro photography. Of course, there is the AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR, which I have detailed below, but the 40mm f/2.8G costs a lot less, and the image performance of the lens is fantastic. I have been using this lens since August 2020, and I am very happy with the overall quality of the images produced by it.

This is a true macro lens. This signifies that it can capture a 1:1 magnification ratio from a close focusing distance. In other words, the lens can capture a life-size reproduction of the subject onto the image sensor.

The minimum focusing distance is 6.42 inches or about 16.3cm. The difference between traditional and macro lenses is that traditional lenses cannot focus at a very close distance. Macro lenses, on the other hand, are designed in a way so that the focusing elements are further away from the sensor. This is how they can focus at very close distances and achieve that true macro perspective.

When you mount this lens onto a crop body, the effective focal length becomes 60mm. This means this lens offers a slightly longer focal length than a standard 50mm lens mounted on a 35mm camera. You can also use this focal length for shooting portraits and other subjects.

One major gripe for photographers about the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G is that the lens does not have image stabilization. Though, macro photographers shoot with a tripod most of the time, so the absence of image stabilization shouldn’t be the biggest issue.

This very simple design consists of nine elements arranged in seven groups. The construction of the lens mainly consists of hard plastic components. It’s lightweight and feels solid in the hands, but at the same time, the lens does not have the build quality to withstand rough use. If you expose the lens to rough weather and harsh conditions, you risk damaging it.

I love shooting with macro lenses. Over the years, I have used the 85mm, the 105mm, the 40mm, and a few other focal lengths that I have absolutely loved using. Macro lenses have always fascinated me for the simple reason that they are able to capture a world that’s right under the nose, so to say, but often overlooked.

Macro lenses need to be very sharp, and the 40mm f/2.8 meets this requirement. The only problem I have noticed is that when I shoot at extremely close distances, the depth of field becomes very shallow. Stopping down the lens does tend to improve the depth of field. That said, when shooting portraits, I prefer to shoot with the aperture wide enough that I can blur out the background and capture beautiful out-of-focus effects.

Pros
  • Inexpensive dedicated macro lens
  • A reasonably fast aperture of f/2.8
  • Lightweight option perfect for hiking and other trips
  • True macro perspective with 1:1 magnification
  • Excellent image quality
  • Versatile focal length for shooting portraits
Cons
  • Does not have weather sealing
  • Does not have image stabilization

3. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR  

This is yet another dedicated macro lens designed for the smaller image circle of DX-format Nikon cameras. The longer focal length enables the lens to capture macro photos from a little further back, allowing the photographer to leave some space between them and the subject. This extra working space is useful when shooting insects and crawlies that are easily startled.

The lens’s effective focal length is 127.5mm when mounted on a DX-format camera. That makes this lens a great option for shooting portraits. The only cause of worry would be the slower f/3.5 aperture. At f/3.5, the lens is incapable of handling low-light situations very well. You will have to push the ISO a little higher than normal to compensate for the lack of light.

The longer focal length means that the minimum working distance of the lens is 11.26 inches or 28.6 cm, which is longer than that of the 40mm prime.

One of the main features of the 85mm f/3.5G is that the lens comes with image stabilization, or what Nikon calls Vibration Reduction. I believe in shooting most of my macro photos using a tripod to stabilize the set-up and am not too keen on shooting hand-held, because even the slightest movement gets magnified in the final image.

That said, image stabilization mode is handy when shooting portrait images. Plus, as the lens isn’t that fast when shooting in overcast conditions (i.e., ambient light is less than optimal), I am not forced to push the ISO. I can use a slow shutter speed and then switch on image stabilization to help me avoid image blur in the compositions.

Apart from the image stabilization that differentiates this lens from the 40mm f/2.8G that I discussed above, there is one more feature that makes a difference – one ED (extra-low dispersion) element. ED elements are designed to handle the effects of chromatic aberrations. Chromatic aberration is a type of optical issue that results in different light waves being focused on at different distances from the focus point.

Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology powers autofocusing. As I have mentioned before, this system is very smooth and works reliably. The lens features internal focusing architecture that ensures that the barrel length of the lens remains the same across the focusing range. This comes in handy when you’re working at very close distances with a subject that spooks easily.

Coming down to the all-important aspect of image quality, I must say that the 40mm and the 85mm are pretty similar in terms of image quality. Wide open, the 40mm is ahead in terms of sharpness. It must be considered that the 85mm does not open up beyond f/3.5, so it’s much slower than the 40mm f/2.8. Overall, I am happy with the performance of the 85mm f/3.5. It’s a versatile lens for shooting stills, both macro and portrait.

If you are looking for a macro lens for your DX Nikon camera, then I would recommend this lens because it’s versatile, has a good focal length, and is an inexpensive solution for macro photography needs.

Pros
  • True macro lens capturing 1:1 magnification
  • Ideal focal length for shooting portraits
  • Internal focusing mechanism
  • Built-in image stabilization is rated at three stops
  • One extra-low dispersion element
Cons
  • The maximum aperture is fixed at f/3.5

Best Nikon DX Zoom Lenses

4. Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED

The 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED is one of those rare DX lenses that Nikon still makes that can easily pass as a full-frame pro lens if we file off the DX moniker. It’s one of the oldest DSLRs lenses designed for DX-format camera systems that’s still in active production and demand nearly two decades after its launch.

This is one of the best-made DX lenses that I have ever used. As a long-term Nikon user, I had the opportunity to use this lens on a number of occasions. I have used this with a D3500 and a D7000 and have always been happy with the results.

Many of you will argue that we have the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, so why do we need a 17-55mm f/2.8G? My answer is that the f/2.8 G maximum aperture is one of the major reasons. If you prefer to shoot videos over stills, you will find the 17-55mm and its fixed f/2.8 aperture ideal for you.

I love to use a shallow depth of field when shooting videos, and the f/2.8 allows me to do that. It doesn’t have the same effect as an 85mm f/1.8 or a 50mm f/1.4 prime, but considering the price you pay, this is a great lens.

For stills work, the 17-55mm is very versatile. I have used the lens to shoot street photos, landscapes, interiors, and architecture, and the lens performs admirably in decent light.

Autofocusing on the lens is powered by Silent Wave Motor technology. The lens features an internal focusing design, meaning nothing moves externally when the lens is focusing. This is another reason video shooters and those using variable ND and circular polarizers will find this lens perfect for their needs.

I am happy with the autofocusing performance of this lens. It keeps locking focus accurately without any issues in broad daylight. In really dark conditions, the lens can struggle to focus, which is understandable.

There is very little focus breathing at the tele-end of the lens, though I did notice some focus breathing when I zoomed out and used the wider focal length. This contributes to the suitability of the lens for shooting videos.

Coming down to the optical features of this lens, it’s sharp for the most part. Sharpness is better at the frame’s center than at the frame’s corners. There is a bit of distortion at the wide end and the tele-end – pincushion on the tele-end and barrel at the wide end. But that’s not a dealbreaker and can be adjusted in post-processing.

Regarding bokeh, I am not too happy with the quality of background blur produced by the lens. I don’t think the bokeh quality at 17mm is worth writing home about, but at 55mm, the bokeh is decent.

Pros
  • Fast continuous aperture of f/2.8 across the focal length
  • Includes three aspherical elements and three extra-low dispersion elements
  • Decent bokeh at 55mm
  • Excellent control over light fall-off
  • Very little focus breathing
Cons
  • Does not have image stabilization

5. Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED

Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED

The NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED is designed for the smaller image circle of budget-friendly APS-C Nikon camera systems. It is compatible with all Nikon crop sensor bodies. This is a professional segment lens featuring excellent optics and sturdy build quality. You might find third-party lenses featuring the same focal length range, but none specifically for the DX range.

This is considered an ultra-wide-angle lens. The effective focal length translates to 18-36mm (35mm format equivalent) when the lens is mounted on a DX-format body. This gives a large field of view when photographing landscapes and interiors alike. The enormous depth of field also means that this lens can effectively be used for street and environmental portraits.

The lens has a constant aperture of f/4 across the entire zoom range. Many of the zoom lenses in the DX range have variable apertures ranging from f/3.5 to f/5.6 as you zoom in and out. That demands you recalculate your manual exposures whenever you change the focal length. This inconvenience is avoided when shooting with a constant aperture across the focal length range. It’s not the fastest lens on the market, I agree, but it does its job with ease in good lighting conditions.

An ultra-wide lens like this will probably be used for landscape and interior photography, where a shallow depth of field is not common.

This is not a portrait lens, after all. For those who demand a faster lens, Nikon does make an f/2.8 14-24mm at twice the price. That lens is optimized for the larger image circle of FX-format cameras.

Focusing on the 12-24 DX lens takes place internally, which means the front element does not move outward to focus closer subjects, nor does it rotate.

This has two advantages – you do not have to worry about the comparatively sensitive front element getting damaged, and your CPL (polarizing) filter stays in place once fixed to the lens.

Pro tip – For those wondering what a  CPL is, it is a filter primarily used to reduce reflections and add drama to the sky.

This Nikkor 12-24mm uses Nikon’s ED or Extra-Low Dispersion glass, which results in minimal chromatic aberrations, higher resolution, and excellent contrast. Its three aspherical elements ensure minimal distortion, especially in the outer areas of the image, increasing overall optical performance. 

The lens weighs 465 grams, which adds a reasonable amount of weight to a DSLR or mirrorless camera (most DX and FX lenses can be used on a mirrorless Z mount camera using an FTZ adapter. The reverse, however, isn’t true).

The heavier weight also, of course, signifies better construction quality and material.

The zoom ring of the lens is extremely easy to use and smooth. At the same time, there’s no noticeable zoom creeping or drifting, which is a sign of a true professional lens.

Moreover, a conveniently placed distance scale just behind the focusing ring allows you to check the focus distance. No hyperfocal scale is provided, and this is a common feature with most modern lenses from most manufacturers. 

Pros
  • A constant aperture of f/4 across the focal length
  • Silent Wave Motor allows smooth and silent autofocus
  • The high-grip surface on the zoom ring is reassuring to the touch
  • The zoom ring functions smoothly
Cons
  • Heavier than many DX lenses

6. Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G

This lens is often bundled as a kit lens with entry-level DX cameras. Designed for the smaller APS-C sensors, the effective focal length becomes 27-82.5mm (35mm format equivalent), which is quite handy for the wide-to-tele range one may require for everyday use.

The 27mm is ideally suited for landscapes, interiors, or architectural photography, while the 82.5mm is suitable for portraits. Given its versatility, this 18-55mm lens is a great tool for street photography as well. 

The lens gives a constant aperture of f/5.6 across the zoom range and opens up to f/3.5 at the wide end. It’s not the fastest in the business, but then again, this is something of a kit lens and not to be compared to high-end prime Nikkors. The best use of the lens is at its sweet spot somewhere around the f/8 and f/11 range, which provides the maximum depth of field for landscapes and interiors. 

Nikon offers two versions of this lens – one with and one without Vibration Reduction (the latter at a slightly lower price tag). This is a clear advantage, especially when shooting videos, or while using slower shutter speeds. I recommend the VR version, which is a better bargain despite the slightly higher price tag.

At just 205 grams, this lens is designed to be as compact and lightweight as possible. It comes with a retractable design to increase mobility. To get the lens into the ‘shooting’ position, you need to press a button on the side of the barrel, and the lens extends outwards by about 3 cm to 18mm.

Unlike the Nikon N1 series, getting the lens into the shooting position does not automatically turn on the camera, so this is an additional step while you take your camera out of the bag to shoot. Not a dealbreaker to most unless you are an avid candid photographer and find the extra second of getting into action an irritation. A solution could be to keep the lens in a ready position while you are out on the street, even when the camera body is switched off. 

The optical system of this 18-55mm is constructed using 12 lens elements in nine groups. The diaphragm is made using seven rounded blades for those who are particular about knowing the shape of their bokeh. The lens hood comes as an extra, but you probably won’t need it as this lens produces minimum flare or ghosting. 

When the front element of the lens moves outward to focus on nearer objects, the lens barrel itself does not rotate. This is of help when using a polarizing or a variable ND filter, which stays in place as you focus in and out, a clear advantage when shooting under harsh light.

On the other hand, a protruding lens barrel also comes with the risk of damage, especially since this is a plastic body lens. The advantage of a lightweight lens goes hand in hand with the sacrifice of robust build quality. In this particular case, the lens mount is plastic as well, which is unfortunate.

Out of the many 18-55mm DX lenses made by Nikon, this one stands out as the best value for money with its optical superiority.

Pros
  • A compact and lightweight lens
  • Suited to both still images and videos
  • Comparatively faster and quieter AF system
  • Reasonably priced
  • 4-stop optical Vibration Reduction
Cons
  • Plastic lens barrel requires careful handling

Which Nikon DX lens is considered the best all-around option for both photo and video shooting?

Among the prime lenses, I would go with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G, which always remains my first choice if I use a crop body like the D500 or the D7500.

The lens is useful for shooting both videos and photos and has a fast wide aperture of f/1.8 that collects a lot of light.

I would pick the 17-55mm among zoom lenses for its fast continuous f-number – f/2.8 – which allows the lens to shoot in almost all lighting conditions.

Which Nikon DX lenses are recommended for capturing landscapes and architecture?

Wide-angle lenses are generally preferred for shooting landscapes and architecture. Though, if I am specifically shooting architecture, I would prefer a tilt-shift lens because that allows for control of the perspectives.

For shooting landscapes specifically, my first preference would be a wide-angle lens that offers a wider view of the scene in front of the lens. My second preference would be to have a lens that shoots sharp photos when the aperture is dropped down.  f/8 or f/11 would be my preferred choice of aperture for shooting landscapes, meaning that the lens that I pick shouldn’t show signs of softness at f/8 and f/11.

Are there any Nikon DX lenses specifically designed for low-light photography or shooting in challenging lighting conditions?

There are a few fast-aperture DX lenses that you can work with depending on the lighting conditions. In low lighting, you will need a fast aperture lens or to push the ISO number to compensate for the lack of light in the scene.

The primary focus remains on using fast lenses. There are a few lenses that come with a fast wide-open aperture. One of them is the 35mm f/1.8 that I discussed above. The other is the 17-55mm f/2.8G, also discussed above.

Rajib Mukherjee Avatar
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. The first time he ever clicked an image was with an Agfa Click IV back in 1984. A medium format film camera. From that auspicious introduction to photography, he has remained hooked to this art form. He loves to test and review new photography gear. Rajib travels quite a lot, loves driving on Indian roads, playing fetch with his Labrador retriever, and loves photography. And yes, he still proudly owns that Agfa Click IV!