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The Best Nikon SLR Lenses for 2021

The Nikon SLR system is beloved by enthusiasts and serves as the workhorse for many professionals. And it’s been around for decades, so there’s no shortage of compatible lenses. When shopping for new glass today, you have access to hundreds of options from Nikon and third parties.

That makes it a little intimidating, as you’ll sometimes have to choose between lenses with similar focal lengths, or try to decide between spending a bit more on a Nikkor lens, or saving a few dollars by going with one from Sigma or Tamron.

This buying guide covers lenses made for Nikon SLRs. You can pair many of them with a Nikon Z mirrorless too, using the Nikon FTZ adapter. If you own a Z camera, we’ve put a separate story together to help you find the right Z lens.

FX or DX?

Nikon uses two sensor formats for its SLR cameras. Lower-cost models use the APS-C format, while more costly cameras use full-frame chips.

Surface area is the differentiating factor. The APS-C format is about half the size of an analog film frame. The 18-by-24mm format makes for the smaller, lighter cameras and lenses consumers prefer.

The current slate of DX models includes the D3500, D5600, D7500, and D500. We’ve broken out the lenses made for the APS-C format in a separate section. You can use full-frame (FX) lenses with these models, too.

The full-frame format is more popular with pro photographers and serious hobbyists. And while many have moved to electronic viewfinder mirrorless models, including Nikon’s Z system, optical viewfinders still have their proponents. The D780 and D850 are Nikon’s latest, and best, SLRs.

Regardless of which Nikon camera you have, there’s plenty of reason to think about getting a new lens. You may want to upgrade your everyday zoom, or add a lens that captures the world from a new perspective.

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