Nikon Lens Best Values

Oct 12, 2007
by:   Tim Stanley

In researching the type of lenses I wanted for a Nikon D80, I became increasingly frustrated by the type and quality of information available. User suggestions and ratings tended to focus on the most expensive lenses and ignored price. I had a limited budget, but wanted to know what would give me a good value for my budget.

I've summarized in this article what I believe as of October 2007 are very good quality lenses for very good value. I favor zoom lenses over a fixed focal length prime lens so I have a bias towards zooms. I also don't favor really wide angle lenses so I've not listed those.

Why These Lenses?

Caveat: Unless I own a specific lens, I didn't test it. I have researched the test results, reviews, and comments recommendations of others. All prices are listed as of October 2007. I own the D80, the Nikon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G. I also have some older pre-1972 Nikon lenses, but those are pre-AI lenses and do not fit the D80.

I've listed these lenses because in my opinion, they exhibit good value for the price range. If you read some of the news groups on lens recommendations, folks always recommend the $1600 lens. That's not my budget and I suspect it's not everyone else's either. I wanted to know if I spend a certain amount, what was the best value I could get for my money. That was is the primary reason I wrote this list. The second reason was people kept recommending lenses and I had no idea of the cost or quality.

I looked for good quality recommendations, popular lenses that if I decided to sell, others would want as well, and I also looked for lenses that retained their value. The Nikon lenses seem to retain their value very well. The prices of Nikon lenses on e-bay are sometimes higher than the price of a new lens. Unless I thought it was a very good value and highly recommended, I've listed only Nikon lenses.

I've listed the filter size because when buying multiple lenses, it's nice and more cost effective to have filters that fit multiple lenses.

All lenses listed below work on digital DX format Nikon D80 or D200 bodies. The G lenses do not have an aperture ring and so do not work on manual focus (Manual) Nikon bodies. Vibration Reduction (VR) will not work on manual focus cameras.

IQ in the tables below refers to the Image Quality ranking from SLR Gear. BR refers to the rating (1-5) provided by Bjørn Rørslett.

Nikon D40 D40x users: If you are considering one of these lenses, I would recommend you check the compatibility of the D40 or D40x to support auto focus on these lenses. The D4o and D40x support autofocus only on lenses with AF-S and AF-I which are equipped with an autofocus motor.

Budget of $250 or Less

DescriptionCostFilterFilmManualIQBRReviews
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Standard Auto Focus Nikkor Lens $109.95 52mm yes yes 9.13 5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Photodo
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 18mm - 55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX $114.95 52mm no no 7.81   Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 55mm - 200mm f/4-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX VR $229.95 52mm no no 8.20 3.5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone

Budget of $500 or Less

DescriptionCostFilterFilmManualIQReviews
Nikon 18mm - 135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX $329.95 62mm no no 9.25 Ken Rockwell
SLRgear.com
Thom Hogan
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF $399.95 62mm yes yes 9.50 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC Macro $399.95 72mm no no 8.83 SLR Gear
PhotoZone
Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5 - 5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR $479.00 62mm yes no 9.13 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Nikon Imaging
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II LD Asperical IF SP AF $449.95 67mm no no 9.14 SLR Gear
PhotoZone

Budget of $900 or Less

DescriptionCostFilterFilmManualIQBRReviews
Nikon 18mm - 200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR $769.95 72mm no no 8.24 4 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Thom Hogan
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF $899.95 77mm yes yes 9.42 5 Ken Rockwell
Ken Rockwell (afs)
SLR Gear
Nikon Imaging
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA

Budget of $1000 or More

DescriptionCostFilterFilmManualIQBRReviews
Nikon 17mm-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor $1199.95 77mm no no 9.18 4.5-5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 17mm-35mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S Nikkor $1499.95 77mm yes yes 9.11 5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Bjørn Rørslett Review
Nikon USA
Nikon 80mm - 400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED AF VR $1429.95 77mm yes yes 8.77 4 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Bjørn Rørslett Review
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 28mm - 70mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S $1434.95 77mm yes yes 9.6 5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR $1624.95 77mm yes no 9.83 5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone

Other Popular Lenses

These lenses are good values, but in my opinion, not the best. I've listed them because they get recommended frequently. In the cases of the f/1.4 lenses, the similar f/1.8 lenses are better values in my opinion.

The Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR while recommended by some, it's not recommended by others and the older non VR version appears to be a better value. Unfortunately, it's no longer available new.

DescriptionCostFilterFilmManualIQBRReviews
Nikon 70mm-300mm f.4-5.6G $134.95 62mm yes no 7.43 3-3.5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 50mm f1.4D AF $284.95 52mm yes yes 8.79   Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 18mm - 70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor $349.95 67mm yes no 8.28 4 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 60mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor $349.95 62mm yes yes 9.50   SLR Gear
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD-IF AF $369.95 67mm no no 8.85   SLR Gear
PhotoZone
Sigma 10mm-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC AF $499.00 77mm no no 8.48   Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
PhotoZone
Tokina 12mm-24mm f/4.0 PRO DX AF $499.00 77mm no no 8.08   Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
PhotoZone
Nikon 24 - 120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR $514.95 72mm yes no 8.00 3.5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR $759.95 62mm yes no 9.50   Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 12mm-24mm f/4.0G ED-IF AF $899.95 77mm no no 8.07 3.5-5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone
Nikon 85mm f/1.4D IF AF $1024.95 77mm yes yes 10.00 5 Ken Rockwell
SLR Gear
Bjørn Rørslett Rating
Nikon USA
PhotoZone

Notes

All lenses have some trade offs. When I see a pattern of multiple reviews reporting similar symptoms for a particular lens, I've noted it below. In many instances, some users report a lens as being not sharp, but other users report it is sharp. I would trust the measured lens results at SLR Gear and the MTF published results more than the users when it comes to sharpness.

Read the lens reviews and ratings carefully. Not all lenses that are f/2.8 provide the best image quality  at f/2.8.

The Nikon 18-135mm lens has had reports of motor noise and repairs needed under warranty. I own this lens and I have personally experienced the noise problem with this lens when the lens was turned at a 90 degree angle, but it went away when turned back to the horizontal. I have not sent this lens in under any warranty repair. I am extremely happy with this lens and it's range and results.

The Nikon 105 mm VR is not recommended by Ken Rockewell due to focusing problems.

Many users of the Nikon 18-200mm have reported having the lens barrel slips when pointed down.

References

Updates

  1. Nov 1, 2007 - Added Sigma 10-20, Tokina 12-24 and Nikon 12-24.