Every patron, a die-hard fan of a particular brand or make wants to know the best products that his trusted brand has to offer. They want to compare the products that they own with the ones that the brand perceives to be their best. They want to know what the pros feel about what they use and try to bounce their own opinion against those of the pros. Consider this a sort of gear fetishism or anything else that you may want to. This article is in no way aimed to spark a gear race or anything like that. It is a simple listing of the best Nikon lenses currently being sold by the company.
The Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
This is by far the best walk around lens ever made by Nikon. The fantastic optical zoom range of 24-70mm on a full-frame camera takes care of the most essential focal length range in your need for every day photography. This is a great all-purpose lens. When I say all-purpose I mean lenses which are capable of making images in most situations except where a specialized lens is necessary, such as a tilt-shift or a macro lens. You could shoot portraits on a DX format camera wit this lens, the focal length becomes a 35mm format equivalent of 36-105mm. You could shoot excellent street photos zooming into 50mm on a full-frame or 35mm on a DX format camera. You could also zoom out to explore wide angle photography at 24mm and do a lot more with this lens.
This lens has excellent optics. It can stop down all the way to f/2.8. Consists of 3 extra low dispersion elements, 3 PGM aspherical elements, nano crystal elements and a super integrated coating. To top it all the lens has good moisture and dust resistance making it ideal for all weathers and all conditions.
Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
Widely considered as one of the coveted Nikon triumvirate of lenses, the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II is a lens that is works as a perfect foil for the 24-70mm f/2.8G we just finished reading above. That lens being the second of that triumvirate. You can use this as a portrait lens straight away or choose to use it as a wildlife life lens by pairing it with any of the current Nikon tele-converters. The lens has good weather sealing which enables you to use it in inclement weather.
The 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II in many ways is the most favorite, along with the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 50mm f/1.8. The 70-200mm f/2.8G works as the go to lens for many photographers, especially those who don’t shoot landscapes for a living. Focusing is excellent and version II of this lens has many of the refinements that the version I lacked.
Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G
Some consider this as the ultimate portrait lens for a full-frame body. The Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G is a true optical marvel. If you get to master nailing the focus, every time when shooting at f/1.4, you get crazy sharpness and fantastic creamy bokeh with a hint of contrast for your backgrounds. What else can a portrait photographer ask for? Except may be the same thing when shooting from a distance. No wonder DxOMark rates this lens pretty high on their list. When paired with a D810, the DxOMark score for the AF-S 85mm f/1.4G is 43. Which brings us to the next lens on the list.
But before that a few more words on the 85mm f/1.4G. A lot of beginners think that the 85mm f/1.8G, a cheaper version of this lens does everything that the higher priced one does. They are partially right. Image quality is indistinguishable. Handling is flawless. But the build quality is slightly off than the f/1.4. Then of course you get the slightly better aperture coverage with the pricier lens. The price difference is also significant. The f/1.4G lens is priced at more than 3 times that of the f/1.8G lens. For beginners the f/1.8G lens is more than good enough. You might want to upgrade to the f/1.4G when you have more cash in your hand and want the faster aperture advantage.
Nikkor AF-S 200mm f/2G ED VR II
The Nikkor AF-S 200mm f/2G ED VR II does everything that the AF-S 85mm f/1.4G does but with a slightly longer focal length you have the advantage of making a tighter crop or shoot the same composition from further away. What is this lens good for? Many photographers consider the 200mm as to be the ideal length for making portrait shots from a distance. They give reasons such as perspective, proportions, candidness and so on.
There is something about this lens that you should know before jumping the bandwagon. This is a heavy lens. Make no mistake about it. At 2.93 kilos this can kill your arms in no time. This is not the type of lens that you should aim to hand-hold for even an hour, unless you are John Cena.
Having said that, however, this lens is ideal for shooting wildlife, I you have a tripod and especially if you have a DX format camera. In which case the focal length becomes a 35mm format equivalent of 300mm. It is compatible with Nikon’s range of tele-converters and has excellent weather sealing further increasing its usability in tough, demanding conditions.
Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
The Nikkor 14-24, f/2.8G is the ultimate wide angle lens for shooting landscapes, architecture and those sort of photos. Rarely would you be shooting in f/2.8 because for most landscape photography requirements the minimum required aperture is f/8, smaller, if the lens permits. The Nikkor 14-24mm is a sharp lens and you can easily use this with something like a D810 stopped down without the repercussions of lens refraction setting in your photos. Many would consider this lens to be a tag over-budget and settle for something like the Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR. Mind you that is another excellent quality lens. But the advantage with the 14-24mm f/2.8G is that you get some amount of weather sealing. This is extremely important when shooting outdoors.
The wide angle lens gives a field of view coverage of 114 ˚ to 84 ˚. It has the usual features that you would come to expect from a wide angle lens capable of shooting wide open – extra low dispersion glass, aspherical elements, nano crystal coating and super integrated coating. For any landscape lens the ultimate test is corner sharpness even when shooting at wide open. No lens is optically sharp at its widest, nor optically distortion free. Having said that, the 14-24mm is as sharp as you will ever get. Corner sharpness is something to die for. Even if there are any lingering issues with distortion and chromatic aberrations, those can be corrected in post without issues.
Nikkor AF DC 135mm f/2D
I know I said top 5 Nikon lenses. Consider this as a bonus. In a world where we champion the cause of auto-focusing lenses it is hard to comprehend why we are even considering a lens that does not auto-focus on all cameras. This is because, the AF DC 135mm f/2D is a lens that could rival the 85mm f/1.4G we talked about in the beginning as the best portrait lens. Strap this baby on to a full-frame DSLR and you would immediately know what I am talking about.
Built like a tank (at least the lens hood) the 135mm f/2D is a defocus control lens. Defocus Control suggests that the lens has the ability to control the background blur, something that is a rarity. Excellent optics, good distortion free performance and the wide open aperture combines together to produce a lens that you wouldn’t regret having purchased. If you pick this lens, however, you better have a camera that comes with a built-in AF motor. You cannot auto-focus otherwise.
image credit: CheddarCheez