Best Nikon Telephoto Lenses

If you want to get close to a distant subject, you need a telephoto lens. These are ideal for sports and wildlife photography, along with capturing candid shots of people at a distance. They’re also great for getting closer to details in both natural and urban environments which are lost in a larger view. Their broad flexibility coupled with a desire to zoom-closer than a standard kit lens makes a telephoto model the natural choice when most people start shopping for a second lens. There’s a large variety of telephoto lenses out there and the first question you need to ask yourself is how close you want to get to your subject. If you’re shooting portraits or close-range action, then a zoom in the equivalent range of 70-200mm will be ideal.

If you need to get closer to mid-range action or start photographing wildlife though, then you’ll want at least 300mm at your disposal, and if you really get into wildlife, and especially bird photography, you’ll want the longest lens you can afford. While the natural desire for many people is to always go for a zoom lens, don’t rule-out fixed-primes. If you always find yourself zooming-into the maximum focal length, you won’t miss out on any flexibility, but you’ll enjoy a lens that’s typically superior in overall quality.

Anyone shooting action or working in low light will also appreciate a lens with a larger aperture, indicated by a small f-number, such as f2.8. These may make the lens bigger, heavier and more expensive than models with average apertures, but have the major advantage of gathering more light. This allows quicker shutter speeds to be selected, which in turn enable you better freeze action or reduce camera-shake without having to increase your camera’s sensitivity and compromise the image quality. Smaller f-numbers also allow you to achieve greater blurring on backgrounds, which is desirable on many action, wildlife or distant portrait shots.

Best Nikon Telephoto Lenses

Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-5.6E VR review

With the AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-5.6E VR Nikon launches their best 70-300mm zoom to date: It is sharp across the zoom-range right into the corners of a high resolution full-frame sensor with little color aberrations and distortions, has good image stabilization, is light and relatively small and offers fast, super-quiet, and reliable autofocus - if you have a body that supports the new AF-P. It is well sealed against the elements and has a reasonable price. In light of these advantages I wouldn't overrate the pretty strong light fall-off and weak Bokeh of this lens.

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Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art review

The Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art is a bright mid-length telephoto lens available in mounts for Canon, Nikon and Sigma DSLRs with full-frame sensors and can also be used with Sony E-Mount bodies using Sigma's MC-11 mount converter. I think this lens is Sigma's best yet in their Art line: extra sharp, with only minor color aberrations and a beautiful bokeh. In addition it's the only f1.8 135mm lens you can get for your Canon or Nikon DSLR. It might be on the large and heavy side, has no image stabilization, and it definitively is not cheap but all-in-all the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art earns a Highly Recommended.

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Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 VC G2 review

Tamron's new 70-200/2.8 zoom is a very competent lens: It's almost up there with the best Nikon has to offer, even sometimes surpassing the new Nikon 70-200/2.8E VR in image quality. It offers a very effective image stabilization of almost 5 stops even if it could not suppress the mirror-slap of the D810 completely and has a fast and reliable AF. And as its price is almost half of what you pay for the Nikkor the new Tamron deservedly earns a Highly Recommended rating.

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Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art review

The new Sigma 85/1.4 Art finally brings Sigma's 85mm prime up to the performance one can expect from a modern lens designed with 36+ MP sensors in mind: It offers the best performing FF/FX-corners and the softest Bokeh of any 85mm lens I know. Plus it is astonishingly resilient against strong contra-light. And although it is not the sharpest in the center, has a little more longitudinal CAs than others, and is a huge and heavy beast of a lens I'd award Sigma's new 85/1.4 Art a Highly Recommended. But this is under the caveat that the AF-issues are singular problems with my copy of the lens.

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Nikon 70-200mm f2.8E VR review

This is simply the best 70-200/2.8 zoom you can buy for your Nikon camera. It combines the best image quality in its class with a very good image stabilization, an acceptable size and weight, and a professional build. Thus Nikon's new 2.9x telephoto zoom deservedly earns a Highly Recommended rating.

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Tamron 150-600mm G2 review

Improved image quality combined with good image stabilization, improved sealing, shorter minimum focus distance, and an acceptable size and weight makes Tamron's new 4x super-telephoto a compelling package. It's a pity that Tamron didn't position it as the successor to their A011 model at the same price-point. But it certainly earns a Recommended rating.

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Nikon 105mm f1.4E review

Nikon has taken on-board the feedback it received on its 58/1.4 lens: not only did they produce an f1.4 lens at a unique focal length of 105mm which has a 20% better reach over a 85mm lens and gets you better background isolation but they also endowed it with very good image quality to boot: Easy to focus, sharp across the full-frame sensor, and with only little CA. You can easily use this lens wide open and get sharp and contrasty shots right into the corners of a high resolution full-frame sensor. As such its optical performance is almost up there with the Zeiss Otus and it delivers a better Bokeh. It is a bit on the fat and costly side but all-in-all the Nikon 105mm f1.4E earns a Highly Recommended.

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Samyang 135mm f2 review

Samyang did an excellent job when they designed their version of a 135/2.0 lens: For a 500 EUR lens to meet and even exceed the optical quality of an 1800 EUR Zeiss lens is quite an eye-opener. Only the plasticky feeling of the lens is a let-down. So if you need a robust long-lived lens that can take a beating, the Samyang may not be your first choice. But if you don't bang around your equipment that might not bother you too much, and don't forget you can replace this lens three to four times for the price of just one of the Zeiss versions. Like the Zeiss, there's no image stabilization and no autofocus drive inside that might break-down. But you should clearly understand whether you can cope with manual focus before considering getting this lens.

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Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E VR review

The best image quality in its class combined with a reasonable price, a good image stabilization, and an acceptable size and weight earns Nikon's new 2.5x super-telephoto a Highly Recommended rating. Good points: Very good quality over 36Mp full-frame, even wide open; good image stabilization; constant f/5.6 focal ratio; works well with 1.4x teleconverter; weather sealing; quiet, fast, and precise AF operation; maximum magnification of 1:4.0 in MF. Bad points: Not the cheapest super-telephoto zoom; not the lightest lens in its class; only 2.5x zoom range.

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Nikon 300mm f4E VR review

Good points: Excellent image quality across a 36MP full-frame sensor even wide open; smallest and lightest full-frame 300/4.0 lens; excellent image stabilization at low speeds; weather sealing at the lens-mount; quiet and fast AF operation; maximum magnification of 1:4. Bad points: VR not working properly around 1/160 - 1/80 on the samples I tested; fresnel flare under extreme conditions; expensive.

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Sigma 150-600mm Sport review

Sigma's 150-600mm Sport is a highly desirable lens for sport and wildlife photographers who demand a super-telephoto reach without the stratospheric cost of big primes, or even the highest-end zooms from Canon and Nikon. The build quality is excellent: it's heavy, but reassuringly built with full weather sealing. The AF, when coupled with a decent DSLR, is fast, confident and very usable for sports. And the optical quality in my tests proved to be very respectable across the entire range. There may be vignetting and evidence of coloured fringing, but both are easily corrected in RAW conversions, and importantly the lens delivers where it should with fine, well-resolved details right into the corners of full-frame images. Compare closely with Tamron's 150-600mm and Sigma's own cheaper Contemporary version.

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Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G VR review

Good points: Excellent image quality across a 36Mp full-frame sensor even wide open; excellent image stabilization; weather sealing; quiet, fast, and precise AF operation; maximum magnification of 1:5.1; relatively light weight. Bad points: Very expensive; flimsy tripod collar.

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Nikon 70-200mm f4G VR review

Good points: Excellent image quality in the DX image-circle even wide open; very good performance well into the FX corners at longer focal lengths; excellent image stabilization; weather sealing; quiet, fast, and precise AF operation; maximum magnification of 1:3.3: light weight compared to f2.8 models. Bad points: Not cheap even before investing in the missing tripod mount; maximum aperture of f4.0 limits shallow depth of field effects; some visible loCA.

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