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Best zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs

November 30, 2021

If you’re after the most flexible type of lens, a zoom lens is generally considered a good idea, here we highlight some of the best zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs. You can shoot at different focal lengths, without the hassle and fuss of having to change lenses (or carry them around). Of course, as with everything in life – you’ll usually find there’s some sort of compromise. Even with the best zoom lenses, one big compromise tends to be a narrower maximum aperture than you usually find with prime lenses.

When you’re deciding which zoom lens to pick, first of all consider which type of camera you’re shooting with. That is, whether it’s got an APS-C sized sensor, such as the Nikon D500, Nikon D7500, Nikon D5600, or a full-frame sensor, such as the Nikon D850 or the Nikon D5, also known as FX.  If you’re using an APS-C sized sensor, also known as DX, you  need to be aware of the crop factor. For Nikon cameras, that represents 1.5x the focal length written on the lens. So, as an example, the equivalent focal length of a standard 18-55mm kit lens used on an APS-C body is 27-82.5mm.

The next thing to consider is the type of zoom lens you need. Here we have separated the options into “standard zoom” and “telephoto zoom”. The former is a good option as a walk around lens, giving you flexibility to shoot at different focal lengths without zooming in too far. The latter is best suited to specific needs, such as sports, action, wildlife, or weddings and events.

Best zoom lenses for Nikon – Standard

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM

For: APS-C / DX | Equivalent focal length: 25.5-105mm | Street Price: £349

best zoom lenses for Nikon

For an affordable and flexible walk-around lens, the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 is a good option for APS-C users. The wide apertures available at either end of the optic make it a good choice for low light photography, while it’s useful for a range of subject choices, including landscape, street and portraiture.

Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4G AF-S VR ED DX Lens

For: APS-C / DX | Equivalent focal length: 24-120mm | Street Price: £899

Nikon 16-80mm Lens - best zoom lenses for Nikon

Often sold bundled with Nikon’s superlative D500 APS-C body, the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 makes for a fantastic walk around lens which doesn’t leave you with too many compromises. The focal length starts at the classic 24mm (equivalent), making it well-placed for landscape photography, rising to 120mm (equivalent), which should get you nice and close to lots of different subjects.

“The Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4 delivers some great results, and so long as you’re aware of its shortfalls you won’t be disappointed. Its overall performance is good, with dependable performances from the autofocus and Vibration Reduction.”

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR review

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF

For: APS-C / DX | Equivalent focal length: 25.5-82.5mm | Street Price: £1,349

This professional level standard zoom lens has a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, making it perfect for low-light photography work – as well as blurring out backgrounds. It’s close to the classic length of 24-70mm favoured by full-frame photographers and gives you lots of options for different subjects, including landscapes, portraits, still-life and more.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM

For: APS-C / DX | Equivalent focal length: 27-52.5mm | Street Price: £649

best zoom lenses for Nikon

If you want a super wide aperture, but also want some flexibility when it comes to focal length, Sigma’s fantastic 18-35mm f/1.8 could be the lens for you. You get an almost unheard of maximum wide aperture of f/1.8, ideal for low light and creating a super shallow depth of field. Carrying this lens around is like carrying 2-3 prime lenses, without the need to change or carry additional weight.

Nikon 24-120mm f/4 G AF-S ED VR Lens

For: Full-frame / FX | Street Price: £914

Nikon 24-120mm - best zoom lenses for Nikon

This standard zoom lens gives extra reach at the telephoto end of the optic over something like the 24-70mm, but you have to settle with an f/4 maximum aperture. You’ve also got vibration reduction on hand, while its compact design makes it well suited to travel – meaning you don’t have to carry around several lenses at once.

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E AF-S ED VR Lens

For: Full-frame / FX | Street Price: £1,779

best zoom lenses for Nikon

A professional quality standard zoom lens which is favoured by many full-frame shooters. The classic focal length of 24-70mm pairs with an f/2.8 constant aperture to give you good options when shooting in low light, or to create shallow depth of field effects. You’ll be paying a premium for the wider maximum aperture, so if you think that you’re less likely to be shooting in low light, you might find the f/4 version suits you just as well.

Best zoom lenses for Nikon – Telephoto

Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

For: Full-frame / FX | Street Price: £2349

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Zoom Lens - best zoom lenses for Nikon

To get closer to the action than a standard zoom allows, the next logical step is a 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens. The wide angle end is still available for relatively close-up work, such as portraits, while the telephoto end is great for distant subjects, such as sport. It’s designed for full-frame cameras, but it would also work well on some of the larger or more advanced APS-C models in Nikon’s line-up, such as the D500.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

For: Full-frame / FX | Street Price: £949

Tamron 70-200mm G2 lens

A full £1000 cheaper than Nikon’s proprietary 70-200mm f/2.8 lens makes the Tamron version a very, very appealing prospect. You don’t have to compromise on maximum aperture, while the lens has proven to be a great performer, in our review, here’s what we had to say about the lens: 

“If you’re an enthusiast photographer looking for a high-spec telezoom at a competitive price, the SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is a great choice, and a serious alternative to its more expensive Canon and Nikon counterparts.”

Nikon 70-200mm f/4 G ED VR Lens

For: Full-frame / FX | Street Price: £999

Another cheaper alternative to a 70-200mm f/2.8 option, is to plump for the f/4 version instead. If you’re mainly shooting in good light, the narrower aperture is likely to bother you less, and you get a hefty saving for making the compromise.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM A

For: APS-C / DX | Equivalent focal length: 75-150mm | Street Price: £949

best zoom lenses for Nikon

A high-end APS-C camera like the D500 would match perfectly with this wonderful lens from Sigma’s highly acclaimed Art line-up. With this lens you get a constant maximum aperture of f/1.8, which is extremely unusual for zoom lenses. Carrying this around is like having three wide aperture prime lenses in your bag, without the hassle of having to switch lenses or weighing you down – it’s quite big on its own though, so be prepared to do some weightlifting.

“The appeal of the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM A might be limited to those using APS-C cameras, but this doesn’t take anything away from what is an outstanding lens that delivers stunning images right across its zoom range. If you’re like me and want to create attractive background blur behind subjects at mid telephoto lengths without having to change lens and lugging around two or three fast primes, you’ll fall in love with this lens and quickly get addicted to using it at its maximum aperture.”

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM | A Review

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM IS

For: Full-frame / FX | Street Price: £2,699

best zoom lenses for Nikon

This telephoto zoom lens certainly isn’t cheap, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. There’s a nice long focal length, which makes it well suited to sports, action and wildlife shooting. The wide angle end could also be used for other subjects such as portraiture, but, due to its heaviness, you might find it’s most suitable for tripod photography. A wide maximum aperture of f/2.8 is constant throughout the focal length, and another specification which makes it well suited for tackling sports and wildlife photography.

Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

For: Full-frame / FX | Street Price: £1,299

Nikon 200-500mm

This lens offers a longer than normal telephoto zoom, from 200mm all the way to 500mm, with a constant f/5.6 aperture, and a price point that makes it very affordable. If you shoot in good light, or have a camera that you’re comfortable with shooting at slightly raised ISO speeds, then this could be an excellent choice.

“Nikon has put together an excellent telephoto zoom lens at a superb price of £1,299, without sacrificing performance. More portable than the AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II and a quarter of the price, it might not quite match it for optical quality, but it certainly punches well above its weight.”

Read our Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

Find more great lenses our buying guides, or have a look at the latest lens reviews!


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