Sunday, September 22, 2013

Top-5 Best Value FX (Full Frame) Lenses for Nikon

The website began as one based exclusively on the DX (cropped sensor) system. In fact, if you search around you can probably find an older entry where I explain why you don't need full frame. I still believe the statement is valid, by the way. 95% of the people wondering whether they need FX, don't need it. If you need to ask, you don't need it. If you need it, you know you do. As simple as that.

But still, I began this project in an effort to help other fellow photographers (beginner, intermediate, and advanced as well), and talk about the things that nobody told me, and I had to figure out all by myself. I'm here to help you, so if (for one reason or another) you have a full frame Nikon and you are wondering about your FX lens options, I could give you some tips.

Full-frame and wallet-friendly? Well, why not...

As always, remember these are my recommendations and your needs might differ. I mostly shoot portraits and, non professionally, landscapes and macros. I can't decide for you, I can only give you ideas and food for thought.

  1. Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8
    This is probably the best value lens Nikon ever made. Superbly sharp, distortion-free, fast AF, small & light. Used, it costs less than $100. Perfect for low light, general photography, and portraits (slightly on the short side for it on FX, but still good)
  2. Nikkor AF-D 85mm f/1.8
    A very similar lens to the AF-D 50mm f/1.8, only longer. If portraits are your thing, the Nikkor AF-D 85mm f/1.8 is the best bang for the buck, as it costs about $200 used (varying). It has very few flaws, really, with the most annoying being unpredictable bokeh in smaller apertures. But wide-open and until f/4 it's top class, and it will serve you well.
  3.  Micro-Nikkor AI-S 105mm f/4
    Like I have mentioned in the review of this lens, forget the AF versions, unless if you plan to also use it for purposes other than macro photography. If not, this is the cheapest 105mm micro Nikkor, going used for less than $200. It's breathtakingly brilliant in every aspect. Very, very highly recommended. The other 105mm micro-Nikkors are equally brilliant, only more expensive.
  4. Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED
    Looking for a great value ultra-wide for your full frame Nikon? Look no further. It's very good, it's mechanically solid, and it costs hundreds of dollars less than what a similar Nikkor would cost you. The only thing you give up is autofocus. That's about it.
  5. Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300mm
    This one troubled me a bit. Not because this isn't a good lens - on the contrary, this is great value. But because it depends a bit on what you need a tele for. This is not a lens for low light. If you need a tele lens with low light capabilities, you're gonna have to consider your options. The best would of course be the Nikkor 70-200 AF-S VR f/2.8. But it's also a very expensive solution. There are third-party options, but if you also want VR, they are also quite a bit more expensive. Then we have the manual focus options, or also the non-zoom options, like the Nikkor AF-D 180mm f/2.8.

    To avoid all this (since I can't know what you want/need), I chose the 70-300mm as the perfect balance between everything. AF-S, VR, full-frame, and excellent image quality (at least until 200mm). Used, it's pretty cheap, too.


  1. The Samyang 14mm really sucks. Horrible moustache distortion, and lousy mechanical quality, making it really difficult to focus.

    1. If by "mustache distortion" you mean it's wavy, that it is - a bit like Sigma 10-20, which I also find to be a great lens. You have to cut from somewhere, and - at least for me - distortion is something I can live with in an ultra-wide.

      As for mechanical quality, at least the copy I tried seemed fine - very good, actually, considering the price tag.

  2. just buy 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 and the 14-24mm ƒ/2.8

    1. The lenses I offered are meant to represent the best value. Of course the 14-24 is a lens miles ahead of, say, the Samyang. It's also about $1500 more expensive, though...

  3. appreciate this rundown