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Best prime lens for Nikon cameras reviewed

Updated on July 13, 2015

the best prime lenses for your Nikon dlsr

The best prime lens for Nikon cameras will improve your photographs, fact. If you want to know what the best prime lens for Nikon cameras is you have come to the right place. A prime lens for Nikon has a fixed focal length, i.e. it can't zoom in or out and is static. If you want to make the subject bigger in the frame you have to physically move your feet and walk towards the subject. If you want to make the subject smaller in the frame you have to walk away from the subject.

Compared to zoom lenses the prime lens for Nikon are simple in design and are made out of great quality optics, which means the image quality of a prime lens is often excellent. When you use a prime lens your images will be bright and colourful but not oversaturated, full of contrast and tack sharp from the centre to the edges.

If you want to know the best prime lens for Nikon cameras currently available check out the prime camera lenses below.

Best prime lens for Nikon - 35mm f1 8 Nikon lens review

Nikon 35mm f1.8

The Nikon 35mm f1 8 lens is a fantastic prime lens for Nikon digital SLR cameras. If you shoot a crop factor Nikon a 50mm lens effectively becomes a 75mm lens, which is often too much of a zoom for interior shots, but the Nikon 35mm f1 8 over comes this problem.

Like all Nikon prime lenses the Nikon 35mm f1 8 is tack sharp, although you do need to stop it down to get the most out of it. Given the 1.8 aperture stopping the lens down will not cause too many problems and you will still be able to get a pin sharp subject and an out of focus background, even in low light. When using this lens you will find colors are bright and punchy but not oversaturated and the contrast is spot on.

This prime lens for Nikon does not have any image stabilisation although it does have an internal auto focus system that is very quick and very quiet, which works exceptionally well. Some people think image stabilisation is essential but at these focal lengths you should not have too many issues with camera shake.

The Nikon 35mm f1 8 is a very popular prime lens for Nikon amongst Nikon users and it is easy to see why. This is a top quality lens, very well priced and capable of capturing some exceptional images. If you want a sharp prime at the wider end check out this cracking lens.

Best prime lens for Nikon - 50mm 1.4 Nikon lens review

Nikon 50mm f1.4

The Nikon 50mm 1.4 prime lens for Nikon is a cracking lens that is well worth buying. If you want low light performance this is the lens for you since it is simply excellent. The auto focus is fast, quiet and never fails to lock on where it should. Like the Nikon 35mm f1 8 prime this lens does not have image stabilisation, but with a 50mm focal length you really should not need it.

The photographs are bright, vivid and have punchy colours that are not over saturated and sharpness is very good. Images may appear a little soft at 1.4 but if you stop it down they soon become tack sharp. When taking portraits there are times when softness is a good thing so you cannot mark the Nikon 50mm 1.4 down because of it.

The build quality of this prime lens for Nikon is good, although it is not as tough and durable as the Nikon professional grade lenses. That said, if you look after this lens it will provide years of trouble free service.

If you want the best 50mm prime lens for Nikon for your digital SLR camera the Nikon 50mm 1.4 is the one to go for. If you don't need the maximum 1.4 aperture you can buy this lens with a maximum 1.8 aperture for less money.

The 50mm Nikon f1.4 is an affordable prime ens that is capable of capturing some stunning images. If you only buy one prime lens the Nikon 50mm f1.4 has to be i

Best prime lens for Nikon - 85mm 1.4 Nikon lens review

Nikon 85mm f1.4

The next must have prime lens for Nikon digital SLR cameras is the Nikon 85mm f1.4. The auto focus system on this lens is blisteringly quick and almost instant. It really is exceptional and never fails to get a lock on the subject in super quick time.

Many photographers consider this the best prime lens Nikon owns and after you have used one it is easy to see why. The image quality of the 85mm 1.4 prime lens for Nikon is simply stunning. Colours are bright, vivid and punchy but not over saturated. There is centre to edge sharpness throughout, even when shot wide open. The images that are possible with this lens really do have to be seen to be believed.

The build quality of the Nikon 85mm 1.4 lens is second to none. It is strong, tough, durable and built to last. The Nikon 85mm 1.4 is not a cheap lens, but you do get what you pay for. This lens is also available with a maximum aperture of 1.8, which is obviously cheaper. The image quality of the 1.8 is also not quite up to that of the 1.4, although it is not too far off.

Best prime lens for Nikon - 85mm f3.5 Macro lens review

Nikon 85mm f3.5G AF-S Macro lens

If you want an alternative to the Nikon 85mm f1.4 take a look at the Nikon 85mm f3.5G AF-S ED VR micro lens, which is one of the most versatile prime lenses I have found for Nikon digital slr cameras. This lens has a narrower maximum aperture than the Nikon 85mm f1.4 so why does this lens deserve to be in my line up of the best Nikon prime lenses? Well, let me explain.

Firstly, this is a proper macro lens, i.e. gives 1:1 reproduction, making it perfect for all types of close up and macro photography. This lens is great for all subjects, even insect photography where you need a big working distance, i.e. distance between the end of the lens and the subject, so not to spook them. This lens is labelled a "macro" lens but it can also be used for other types of photography, and with an 85mm focal length it is ideal for portraits and group photos, as well as a general walk about lens.

Like all Nikon branded lenses this 85mm prime is durable, I would even go as far to say as bullet proof, and built to last. This lens will provide years of trouble free service, and great photographs, providing you look after it of course.

With a 3.5 maximum aperture this lens isn't really fast but it is plenty fast enough for taking macro photos handheld when the need arises. The vibration reduction technology will also help in keeping camera shake at bay and making sure you capture tack sharp photos time and time again. The 3.5 maximum aperture is also sufficient to capture portrait photos where the person is in full focus and super sharp and the background is nicely blurred out.

This is a sharp lens and I guarantee you will be impressed. Use this lens wide open and it is sharp, but stop it down a bit and it is ultra-sharp. The image quality can only be described as awesome and distortion, fringing and pin cushioning are well controlled and non-existent. If you buy this lens I can assure you will be more than happy with the image quality.

This is a mid-level lens that offers great value for money and gives a lot of bang for the buck, so if you want a sharp prime for your Nikon digital slr camera I highly recommend the Nikon 85mm f3.5G AF-S.

One of the best portrait lenses ever made for Nikon dslr cameras is the Nikon 85mm f1.4. This lens is super sharp and is one well worth buying.

Best prime lens for Nikon - 10.5mm fisheye Nikon lens review

Nikon 10.5mm fisheye

The 10.5mm fisheye prime lens for Nikon is a super wide angle fisheye lens, which makes it a bit of a special one and not for general photo taking so you may be wondering why I have included this lens in my line up. Well, it is a prime lens and has a fixed focal length. Secondly, I have included it because it is the best fisheye lens available for Nikon cameras.

If you want to capture some really creative shots that are a bit off the wall the 10.5mm fisheye prime lens for Nikon is the lens to do it with. Taking photographs of animals with the Nikon 16mm fisheye lens is great and you can really distort the perspective as well as their features.

The 10.5mm fisheye prime lens for Nikon is not cheap but the image quality is simply awesome. You can get a fisheye converter, however the effect is nowhere near as good as that as a proper fisheye lens.

Best prime lens for Nikon - 300mm f4 tele lens

Nikon 300mm f4 ED-IF AF-S tele lens

If you are in to your sports and/or wildlife photography the Nikon 300mm f4 ED-IF AF-S lens is an excellent buy. With a maxi um aperture of f4 this lens isn't as fast as the Nikon 300mm f2.8, but then it is a fraction of the cost and is an affordable alternative for those of us that simply don't have several thousand dollars of spare cash laying around. The f4 is plenty fast enough for outdoor use where the ambient light levels are good, but you will struggle indoors and will have to resort to increasing the ISO to keep the shutter speeds up.

The build quality of this lens is simply superb. It is tough, durable and built to last, but then this is to be expected given it is a Nikon branded lens. This lens is likely to spend most of its working life outdoors and it is more than up to the job. Believe me, you will not be disappointed with the build quality of this lens.

The image quality is superb. Colours are bright, vibrant and punchy but not oversaturated and there is good sharpness throughout the frame. Some people comment this lens is a little soft when used at f4 but if you close it down a little the sharpness significantly improves. I think this lens is super sharp, even when used wide open at f4 and when you consider the cost of this lens you aren't going to get any sharper for the money. Once you see what this lens is capable of you will not be disappointed with the image quality at all.

Barrel distortion and pin cushioning are well controlled, however there is slight fringing when used wide open. This is not a problem though as it is easily sorted out with some decent photo editing software.

Compared to other Nikon lenses this lens isn't cheap but then long reach tele lenses are expensive. However, if you compare the cost of this lens to the Nikon 300mm f2.8 lens you will see this lens is a fraction of the cost, which makes it an affordable alternative.

If you want a long prime tele lens for your Nikon dslr camera the Nikon 300mm f4 lens is the lens to buy. It really is an exceptional lens that is capable of capturing awesome sports and wildlife photos


Which Nikon prime lens?

Its now over to you. What is your favourite prime Nikon lens? What is it about this prime lens that makes it your favourite? Please feel free to expand your reply, and share your knowledge, to help other photographers out.

What is your favourite prime Nikon lens and why?

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Best prime lens for Nikon - FAQs

"What is the best focal length?"

What is the perfect focal length of the best prime lens for Nikon? This is a common question and the best focal length for one person is unlikely to be the perfect focal length for another person. When determining the best focal length you need to consider the subject you predominantly photograph.

As a rule of thumb;

a) If you predominantly shoot landscapes the best focal length is wide and a focal length of 10mm - 22mm is ideal.

b) If you predominantly shoot portraits a focal length of 85mm - 100mm is ideal. Lenses of these focal lengths will allow you to capture both "head and shoulder" portraits and full body portraits.

c) If you want a general and all-purpose walk around lens a 50mm prime is ideal. A lens with a 50mm focal length is a nice compromise that will allow you to capture decent images of all subjects.

"What are the advantages of buying Nikon branded lenses?"

The best prime lens for Nikon digital slr cameras is a Nikon branded lens. Nikon lenses are tough, durable and are a perfect fit for Nikon cameras. There are some good third party prime lenses about, but they don't seem to fit Nikon camera bodies as well as Nikon branded prime lenses do.

The other advantage to buying Nikon branded lenses is you know they are going to fit and work with future Nikon camera bodies, and since you will be changing your camera at some point in the future this is important. After all, you don't want to have to go and replace your entire lens collection when you buy a new camera right?

"How wide an aperture do I really need?"

The answer to this depends on what you are photographing. When photographing landscapes you want to maximise the depth of field to ensure there is front to back sharpness, and in order to do this you will use a narrow aperture, such as f16. In these situations it doesn't matter whether the lens has a maximum aperture of f1.2 or f5.6.

If you shoot in low light conditions and indoors you are going to need to use a wider aperture to get enough light to the sensor for the correct exposure. Therefore, a much wider aperture is needed such as f1.8.

Prime lenses with wide apertures are great, but they are expensive. In my experience I have found a lens with a maximum aperture of f1.4 to be the best compromise, however there are many people out there who capture awesome images using an f1.8 maximum aperture. 1.8 prime lenses are cheap and the image quality is superb. Remember, you can always push the ISO to get low light shots and modern day Nikon cameras are awesome at higher ISOs.

"Does a filter affect image quality?"

A lens filter is another piece of glass in front of the sensor therefore image quality is going to be adversely affected. That said, I have done a few of my own tests by taking the same photos with and without filters in a bid to see just what the effect of using a filter is. Unless you blow the image up to billboard size or go "pixel peeping" the effect of using a good quality lens filter is negligible. You do need to use a good lens filter though, and not one of the cheap ones of eBay.

I always have a filter on my lens and use one to protect the front element if nothing else.

"What is the best prime lens for my Nikon D600? What is the best prime lens for my Nikon D3100? What is the best prime lens for my Nikon D90? What is the best prime lens for my Nikon DXXX?"

Nikon branded lenses will work with all Nikon camera bodies. It doesn't matter whether you have a Nikon D90, Nikon D3100, Nikon D5100, Nikon D3200 or any other for that matter a Nikon branded lens will work. So the best portrait lens for a Nikon D3100 will be the same as that for a Nikon D90, and will be the same as that for a Nikon D3200 etc. When choosing the best Nikon lens for your particular model look at what subjects you photograph and choose the best lens for that particular subject.

How to keep your prime lens clean

If you want to get the most out of your prime lens you need to make sure you keep it dirt free, dust free and spotlessly clean. No matter how good you are with photoshop, or any other photo editing software, you will never get rid of a blemish caused by a dirty smudge or greasy fingerprint on the lens when the photo was taken. Therefore, you need to make sure you keep your lens immaculate at all times.

For a detailed video demonstration on how to clean a lens check out the following video footage, courtesy of Youtube.

Lens cleaning products to order from Amazon

If you want to keep your lenses clean check out the following products:

How to protect your expensive prime lens

UV filter for prime lenses

If you want to protect the front element of your prime lens you need a screw in UV filter. Some photographers believe UV filter reduces the image quality, however I have to say I have never experienced this. I have tried to test this by taking a photograph with and without a UV filter attached and comparing the results but I couldn't see any difference in image quality at all.

UV filters are cheap and could end up saving you a lot of money in the long run, so they are well worth buying for each and every lens you own, after all would you prefer to break a UV filter costing a few dollars or a prime lens costing a few hundred dollars.

As well as using UV filters I always leave my lenses in a padded lens case when they are not in use. Padded lens cases will set you back a bit of cash, but they are an investment and if you buy a good one in the first instance it will last the lifetime of the lens, and some.

Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange

Several manufacturers produce padded lens cases but one of the best is Lowerpro. Lowerpro are well known for producing high quality padded lens cases. Lowerpro makes lens cases in several different sizes therefore there is one available for all your lenses.

Lowepro S&F Light Utility Belt For Photographers

If you decide to invest in Lowerpro padded cases for your digital camera lenses a must have accessory is the Lowerpro utility belt, a product which allows you to carry several of your lenses around with you at all times, stored neatly on your belt.

If you have any comments, thoughts, suggestions, rants or raves please feel free to jot them down in my guestbook.

Your comments are welcome

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      4 years ago


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    • pauly99 lm profile image

      pauly99 lm 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for this lens. I am about to pull the trigger on a new camera and having a prime lens is what separates your shots (as well as being a good photographer) from the rest.

    • Edwardjames81 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Donallphin: Glad you found the lens useful!

    • Donallphin profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens. I just found a couple of accessories that I simply must have. Thanks for all the super information!


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