Nikon Camera Lens Buying Guide

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Nikon Camera Lens Buying Guide

For anyone who owns a Nikon DSLR or one of the newer mirror-less compact system cameras made by Nikon, there are many options to consider when buying lenses. Both the DSLR and mirror-less compact system camera have the option of interchangeable lenses, and it is by using different lenses for different purposes that a photographer’s work will be the best it can be. Unless buying a camera body only, most Nikon DSLR's will come with a kit lens, usually of 18-55mm. While this lens is great starting point as it is versatile and useful, there will invariably come a time when the photographer will want to experiment with additional lenses. There are many things to look out for when buying a new Nikon lens, such as focal length, aperture, image stabilisation, format, and lens mount.

Essential Decision Making Tips When Buying a Nikon Camera Lens

There are different lenses available for different photography styles; for example, macro lenses for close up work and telephoto lenses for wildlife shots from a distance. Nikon make a few lenses for their mirror-less compact system cameras, but many more options are available for DSLR's. For both formats, however, there are some factors to consider which are relevant to both.

Focal Length

The focal length of a lens is the viewing angle which is covered by that particular lens. When buying a Nikon lens, there will be a number indicating the millimeters for the focal length, with the smaller numbers indicating a wider angle view and the larger numbers indicating a telephoto lens. For example, an 18mm would be considered a wide angle lens compared to a 300mm telephoto lens. There are options to buy fixed focal length lenses, such as a 50mm lens or a 35mm lens, as well as zoom lenses; for example, an 18-55mm lens. Fixed focal lenses do not zoom and are often called prime lenses. The focal length is fixed, and in order to get a different view with the camera, the photographer will need to physically move closer or further away from the subject they are trying to capture or use cropping or zooming features when editing the photograph on a computer afterwards. A zoom lens has two numbers which indicate the focal range. For example, the 18-55mm lens can be used as a wide-angle 18mm lens, and then without the photographer needing to physically move and just moving the components on the camera lens, it is possible to zoom in on the photograph to a maximum focal length of 55mm.
For portraits, a 50mm or a 35mm lens is considered a good buy, while for landscapes, a wider angle is better in order to capture more of the scene.
Some prime lenses can be very expensive, and they are sometimes considered to be better quality than zoom lenses, with one of the benefits being they can give sharper pictures. They are also much lighter than carrying around a zoom lens. Professional telephoto prime lenses that go as high as 600mm can cost upwards of thousands of pounds.
When buying a lens, it is important to be aware of the size of the sensor on the camera the lens is being bought for as this can also affect the focal length. For example, some DSLR's, usually the more expensive ones aimed at professional photographers, have a full frame sensor, which means the sensor size would be the same as the equivalent 35mm film negative. Many entry level DSLR's have a cropped sensor, and Nikon's mirror-less compact camera has a four-thirds sensor, which is smaller still. What this means in reality is that the viewing angle from the same lens on a camera with a full frame sensor would be slightly different to that lens being used on a cropped frame sensor.


Aperture is the second factor used in a lens specification. Aperture numbers show how much light the lens is capable of letting into the camera's sensor. The aperture number always follows the letter F; for example, F4, F1.8, F5.6. The smaller the number, the more light the lens will let in at its maximum. Therefore, for low light photography, a lens with a small numbered aperture such as F1.8 is ideal. Another benefit to buying a lens with a large aperture (and, therefore, small aperture number) is that larger apertures give a better depth of field. Depth of field has to do with focus points, how much of the photograph is in sharp focus, and how blurred or out of focus the rest of the picture behind the point of focus is. A shallow depth of field is important for creative photographs, especially portraits, where the focus should be the subject rather than a distracting, sharp, in focus background. Buying a lens with a large aperture, such as a 50mm F1.8, would assist with achieving the desired depth of field effect.

Image Stabilisation


Nikon uses an image stabilisation system called Vibration Reduction (VR) on many of its lenses. This system helps to reduce camera shake or blur when taking hand held pictures rather than using a tripod. Not all lenses have Vibration Reduction, but it is worth looking out for, especially when buying a telephoto lens or a zoom lens as the camera shake on such lenses is often worse than a wide-angle lens. Image blur is more common with longer shutter speeds, so it is particularly apparent in low light situations where long shutter speeds are necessary. The Nikon Vibration Reduction system can go towards reducing camera shake, but in low light situations, using a tripod is still preferable in order to get a clear, sharp photograph.

Lens Mount

Each different manufacturer of cameras, such as Canon, Olympus and Nikon, has different lens mounts on their cameras. This means that a Nikon lens will not fit the lens mount on a Canon camera, for example. Equally, Nikon lenses designed for use with their mirror-less system camera do not have the same lens mount fittings as those for a Nikon DSLR and are therefore not interchangeable. If buying older Nikon lenses or second hand, it is advisable to be aware that Nikon's entry level DSLRs will not have the ability to auto-focus with certain older lenses as the auto-focus mechanism is built into the newer lenses rather than the camera body. With professional level Nikon DSLRs, auto-focus may be a possibility with older lenses as the auto-focus mechanism lies within the camera body rather than the lens on the more expensive, professional DSLRs.


There are many factors to consider when buying a Nikon camera lens. Deciding on what type of photographs the lens is going to be used for is a useful starting point. This will allow shoppers to decide whether they will need to look for a wide-angle lens, zoom lens, or prime telephoto lens. The cost of lenses varies immensely, and specialist lenses, such as macro lenses, may cost more than the generic and popular lenses like the 18-55mm kit lens that comes with many Nikon DSLRs. It is important to check whether the Nikon lens being purchased will fit the camera it is intended for, and be aware of whether they the lens being purchased is suitable for a DSLR or Nikons mirror-less system camera as these cameras do not have the same type of lens mount. There are many places to buy Nikon lenses, and eBay offers a wide selection from many different sellers.

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