Best Nikon General Purpose Lenses

Best Nikon General Purpose Lenses

Tamron 45mm f1.8 VC review

The new Tamron 45/1.8 VC is a very versatile and interesting lens: It offers a fast f/1.8 aperture combined with image-stabilization that is good for two stops in my tests. Both allow the lens to hold out longer in dimly lit situations. It produces very sharp images with very little coma right into the corner of a full-frame sensor. And it's relatively small and light. But it does not produce the same Bokeh as a 50/1.4 or 55/1.4 lens and it has color aberrations which show up although not as prominent as with Tamron's 35/1.8 VC. But with a sharpness / resolution that it is better than any other lens in this comparison apart from the Zeiss Otus the Tamron 45/1.8 VC clearly earns a Highly Recommended. Regarding this performance the price of the new Tamron seems OK.

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Nikon 24-70mm f2.8E VR review

Having the most effective image stabilization and the best image quality across the FX-sensor in its class earns this lens a Highly Recommended. Be aware though that this performance comes at a price: literally and in an increase in size and weight. Good points: Good to very good quality across the full-frame area; weather sealing; quiet and fast AF operation; very good image stabilization. Bad points: Stronger vignetting and distortions than predecessor; large and heavy; very high price.

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Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art review

If you want a truly high-end 50mm lens with autofocus, forget about Canon's own EF 50mm f1.2. For me, the best choice is Sigma's 50mm f1.4 ART lens. In my tests it delivers better contrast and crisper details across the entire frame, especially in the corners. And while the 'bokeh blobs' on the f1.2 are larger, I actually prefer the out-of-focus rendering on the Sigma. Admittedly the Sigma is bigger and heavier than any of the Canon 50mm lenses, but it costs only two thirds of the f1.2 making it a no-brainer in comparison, and that's before you even factor in the ability to switch its mount (at a cost) to a different system should you move from Canon in the future. For me it's the best 50mm with autofocus around.

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Nikon 35mm f1.8G review

The Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED is a pretty versatile lens all-in-all: it is light and pretty small, produces images that are sharp and contrasty (unless you look into the extreme FX-corners) even wide open, is flare-resistant, delivers a maximum magnification of 1:4, and has a large f/1.8 aperture to collect more light under demanding situations and allows you to better isolate your subject from distracting background. Plus it offers coverage of the full-frame image-circle so you can keep this lens should you upgrade from a Nikon DX-body to an FX-body. Thus I can fully recommend this lens.

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Nikon 50mm f1.4G review

The Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.4G shows a very appealing optical performance that alone would earn it a Recommended. But factoring in its small size, light weight, weather sealing and price/performance ratio I'd upgrade this lens to Highly Recommended! Good points: The most affordable f1.4 prime from Nikon; great image quality on DX and FX bodies; quiet and reliable AF operation; small and light; weather sealing at the lens-mount. Bad points: Longitudinal CA can be outright nasty; coma shows in high-contrast situations; some nervousness in background Bokeh; no image stabilization.

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Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 review

Good points: Outstanding performance across the frame of a high-resolution full-frame sensor even wide open; excellent build quality. Bad points: Extremely high price; no auto-focus; large and heavy; light fall-off at apertures larger than f2.8; not weather-sealed at the lens mount.

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Nikon 24-85mm VR review

The Nikon 24-85/3.5-4.5G VR is a surprisingly good lens at a reasonable price. The performance is pretty good in the DX image-circle but you need to stop down to f5.6 or even f8 to get good performance in the corners of a full-frame 36MP D800. Overall it is a worthy compact kit-zoom for those who start into FX-land or want to keep their options open for a future upgrade to an FX-body. A Recommended rating is well earned.

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Nikkor AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR II review

If you own (or are buying) a DX-format body and convenience is your number-one priority, but you want it with the least compromise in quality and features, the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR II should be top of your list. Highly Recommended. Good points: Very flexible and convenient 11.1x zoom range; optical stabilisation with four stops of compensation; quiet autofocusing on all Nikon bodies; decent build quality and zoom-lock switch. Bad points: The most expensive super-zoom for cropped bodies; suffers from zoom creep between 28 and 135mm; suffers from zoom-shrinkage at close range; beaten on price and quality by twin lens solutions.

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Nikkor AF-S DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

The bottom line is if you’re looking for a quality general-purpose DX-format lens which zooms-out to an equivalent of 24mm, then the DX 16-85mm VR is the model to go for and easily comes Recommended. It misses out on our Highly Recommended award though due to a lack of really compelling advantages beyond existing models and the fact you can buy the DX 18-200mm VR for only a little extra. As such our advice is to think very carefully about what you really need from your general-purpose lens and how it might fit into a kit now and in the future.

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