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Our opinion on the best lenses for the Nikon D7100 (DX & FX)

D7100 is a Mid-sized  APS-C DSLR , which was announced in 2014. It looks like the popular D7000 but has been completely overhauled. It features a 51-point auto-focus system, a 24MP CMOS sensor and 1.3x cropped shooting mode. This article is going to showcase the best lenses for the D7100 based on our photographic experience we have over the course of 12 years. If you are looking to buy a suitable lens for your D7100 then go ahead and follow our lens guide below.

*Note all these lenses are also suitable for the older model Nikon model D7000 and the latest models D7200 & D7500.

We will start of with the wide-angle lenses:

1. Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM A

A wide and fast Nikon F-mount prime, the 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens is a member of the highly regarded Art line of Sigma’s Global Vision Series and is characterized by its advanced optical construction and robust physical design. The combination of three “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) elements and four Special Low Dispersion elements help to achieve a marked reduction in chromatic aberrations, while a pair of aspherical elements, with one positioned in the rear of the lens, minimize a variety of additional distortions and aberrations. The 15-element-in-11-group optical design is poised to deliver consistent peripheral brightness and sharpness, even when working at the bright f/1.4 maximum aperture. A Super Multi Coating has been applied to lens elements, too, to reduce flare and ghosting for higher contrast and color fidelity.

2. Nikon AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G

As with many own-brand lenses, the Nikon 10-24 is expensive compared to similar spec third party lenses. In its favor, it has a class-leading 2.4x zoom range, which it shares with the Tamron 10-24mm lens, although the Tamron is little more than half the price. The Nikon’s build quality and construction is good, though, with ring-type ultrasonic auto-focus which delivers fast, snappy AF – and the handling is excellent. The medium-aperture sharpness is no more impressive than in most other rival lenses, but the Nikon does retain sharpness at wide apertures particularly well, and stays sharp into the corners of the frame. Vignetting is also quite well controlled. If you want to stick with Nikon and want a more affordable alternative, take a look at the new AF-P 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR.

3. Tokina AT-X 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX II

The AT-X 116 PRO DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8 Lens for Nikon Mount by Tokina is an ultra-wide angle auto-focus zoom lens with a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range. The f/2.8 aperture guarantees fast shutter speeds, active auto-focus and minimal blur in low light situations. The AT-X 116 PRO DX-II lens is designed for digital cameras with APS-C-size CMOS or CCD sensors. Its angle of view ranges from 82-104º and it can focus as close as 11.81″ (0.3 m). Nine shutter blades in the aperture help to create soft out-of-focus backgrounds and two Super-Low Dispersion glass elements and two aspheric elements help to achieve this lens’ excellent contrast, sharpness and minimal chromatic aberration. As an update to their AT-X 116 PRO DX, Tokina has improved the multi-layer coatings to minimize light reflection and improve optical performance.

4. Tamron SP AF 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DI II

When it was first launched, this Tamron lens set a new 2.4x zoom range record for a super-wide-angle lens. That’s since been equaled by the Nikon 10-24mm, though, and the Tokina 12-28mm also comes close. The Tamron does have a built-in electric motor for auto-focus but it lacks the refinement of ring-type ultrasonic or stepping-motor systems, and the focus ring rotates during autofocus so you have to keep your fingers clear. Sharpness at the center of the frame is good, especially at the short end of the zoom range, although the edges and corners of images can look soft. Barrel distortion remains quite pronounced throughout the zoom range. The Tamron is still a decent buy, but the drop in price of the constant-aperture Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 makes it look less of a bargain.

5. Tokina AT-X Pro 12-28mm f/4 DX 

With a minimum focal length of 12mm, this Tokina lens can’t go quite as ‘wide’ as most of its rivals, but it does offer a longer maximum zoom setting which makes it more of an all-rounder that you could leave on the camera more of the time. It feels reassuringly robust and has Tokina’s new SD-M (Silent Drive-Module) auto-focus, which is based on a GMR (Giant Magneto Resistance) system. It still lacks full-time manual override, but you can quickly switch between AF and MF via a simple control in the focus ring. The amount of barrel distortion is disappointing at the shortest zoom setting, but it’s practically non-existent at the long end of the zoom range. Sharpness is respectable, but it isn’t quite as good as Tokina’s own 11-16mm lens (above).

We continue with the portrait/standard lenses:

1. Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A

 

Thanks to its large aperture of f/1.4, the lens is not onlygreat for low-light photography, but it also can effectively isolate subjects from the background due to shallow depth of field, beautifully rendering background highlights, also known as “bokeh“. Unlike cheaper cropped-sensor lenses, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is designed to work on both APS-C / DX and full-frame / FX sensors. The lens rivals other fast 35mm primes from Nikon and unlike the branded versions that are in the $1500 range price-wise, the Sigma is actually the cheapest of the group at $899.

2. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

Most of the headline claims for the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G relate to its focusing system, which is of course key to the performance of any AF lens. The other obvious specification of note is the prime’s f/1.8 maximum aperture, which is a marginal improvement over the f/2 that was common in top-quality 35mm lenses of old. Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) employed here is genuinely quiet; so quiet in fact that the focus-confirmation beep is noisier than the AF system. It is also quick and smooth, without the race-and-judder acceleration that is exhibited by some lenses that attempt to focus just a little bit too quickly.
Given how well this lens performs and how pleasing it feels in the hand, the only shame is that it is compatible only with DX (APS-C) Nikon bodies. Were it otherwise, however, the price would doubtless be higher and that would penalize potential buyers for whom the DX format meets their every need.

3. Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART DG HSM

What is so special about the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens? When compared to other 50mm lenses, it has some characteristics of high-end professional lenses. First, it is currently the only 50mm lens on the market with a massive 77mm filter size. Compare that to Nikon’s 50mm f/1.4G and f/1.8G lenses that have a 58mm filter thread. Even Canon’s expensive 50mm f/1.2L USM lens has a smaller 72mm filter thread. Second, it has an ultra-fast Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM) that allows the lens to focus about twice faster than Nikon’s 50mm f/1.4G. Third, it is a large and heavy lens weighing 505 grams, which can help balance the lens with a DSLR body better. Fourth, the lens does not extend or rotate like some other 50mm prime lenses. And finally, the 9-blade diaphragm renders circular background highlights, which look more natural and pleasing than heptagon-shaped highlights on 7-blade diaphragm lenses. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM works and autofocuses on all new FX/DX and older Nikon DSLRs.

4. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is a professional-grade lens for enthusiasts and pros that need a high quality lens for portraiture, food and everyday photography. Its large aperture of f/1.4 is great for low-light photography and the shallow depth of field helps isolate subjects from the background, beautifully rendering background highlights, also known as bokeh.

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G replaces the older Nikon 50mm f/1.4D model (introduced in 1986). Compared to the AF-D version that has 7 optical elements in 6 groups, the new 50mm f/1.4G has a completely different optical design with 8 optical elements in 7 groups. Thanks to this new optical design, the front element of the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G does not extend or rotate, making it easy to use circular filters. The lens autofocus motor has also been replaced with a Silent Wave Motor (SWM / AF-S), making it possible to use the lens on entry-level Nikon DSLRs like Nikon D3100, in addition to being able to manually override focus at any time. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G features a rounded 9 blade diaphragm, which creates more circular bokeh shapes rather than the typical heptagon shape you see on the 7-blade 50mm f/1.4D version. Just like the older AF-D cousin, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G also features Super Integrated Coating, which helps reduce lens flare and ghosting. The lens is designed to work on both Nikon FX and DX sensors, although it is certainly better suited on FX sensors for everyday photography. On DX sensors, the lens is equivalent to a 75mm lens, which is perfect for portraiture, but a little too long for other types of photography.

5. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G replaces the older Nikon 50mm f/1.8D lens (introduced in 2002). Compared to the AF-D version that has 6 optical elements in 5 groups, the new 50mm f/1.8G has a modified optical design with 7 optical elements in 6 groups, one out of which is an aspherical element (reduces coma and chromatic aberrations). The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is the first Nikon 50mm lens that comes with an aspherical element; even the more expensive and higher-end Nikon 50mm f/1.4G does not have one.

Thanks to the improved optical design and larger lens barrel, the front lens element does not extend or rotate during autofocus operations, which makes the lens more durable and also makes it easy to use circular filters and filter holders. In addition to the above-mentioned optical improvements, the lens incorporates silent wave motor (AF-S), which not only provides near silent focus operation, but also allows the lens to be fully used on entry-level DSLRs such as Nikon D3100 and Nikon D5100 (the older Nikon 50mm f/1.8D cannot autofocus on entry-level DSLRs without a focus motor). In addition, the AF-S motor gives the ability to use autofocus with a manual focus override, which you cannot do on any of the AF-D prime lenses. Just like the older AF-D cousin, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G also has Super Integrated Coating, which helps reduce lens flare and ghosting. The lens is designed to work on both Nikon FX and DX sensors, although it is certainly better suited on FX sensors for everyday photography. On DX sensors, the lens is equivalent to a 75mm lens, which is perfect for portraiture, but a little too long for other types of photography. The lens retains the 7-blade diaphragm, which can result in heptagon-shaped bokeh at large apertures above f/2

6. Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G replaces the older Nikon 85mm f/1.8D lens that had been in production since 1994. Compared to the AF-D version that has 6 optical elements in 6 groups, the new 85mm f/1.8G has a very different optical design with 9 optical elements in 9 groups. You would think with so much glass inside the new 85mm f/1.8G would weigh more than its predecessor, but in reality it actually weighs 30 grams less. The lens is designed to work on both DX (cropped-sensor) and FX (full-frame) cameras from Nikon. On DX sensors, the lens is equivalent to a 128mm lens, which is a good range for portraiture, but may be a little too long for most other types of photography.

Just like the old Nikon 85mm f/1.8D, the front lens element of the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G does not extend or rotate during autofocus operations, which makes the lens more durable and also makes it easy to use circular filters and filter holders. In addition to the above-mentioned optical improvements, the lens incorporates silent wave motor (AF-S), which not only provides near silent focus operation, but also allows the lens to be fully used on entry-level DSLRs such as Nikon D3100 and Nikon D5100 (the older Nikon 85mm f/1.8D cannot autofocus on entry-level DSLRs without a focus motor). In addition, the AF-S motor gives the ability to use autofocus with a manual focus override, which you cannot do on any of the AF-D prime lenses. Just like the older AF-D cousin, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G also has Super Integrated Coating, which helps reduce lens flare and ghosting. And unlike the 85mm f/1.8D, which had a 9-blade diaphragm, the 85mm f/1.8G has a 7-blade diaphragm. This might sounds like a downgrade, but it is actually not – the 7-blade diaphragm used on modern Nikkor lenses is rounded, while the old ones are straight. This means that bokeh on a 7-blade rounded diaphragm lens could actually look as good or better than on a 9-blade straight diaphragm. The heptagon-shaped bokeh that is produced by the older lenses is generally not visible at large apertures and is only noticeable when stopped down to f/2.8 or more

Moving on to telephoto lenses:

1. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II

The AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II is Nikon’s professional f2.8 telephoto zoom. It covers a 2.9x zoom-range and was announced July 2009. It’s the successor to the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR and has an improved optical design and better image stabilization. This speed and performance doesn’t come cheap, but to be fair it is similarly priced to the 70-200mm f2.8 pro options from Canon or Sony.

Complement this lens with a 24-70mm standard zoom and you can seamlessly cover a 8.3x zoom-range from fairly wide-angle to a decent tele with only two lenses. And while the 70-200mm f2.8 is corrected for full-frame FX format bodies, you could equally use it on a cropped-frame DX-body where it gives you an equivalent 105-300mm coverage plus future-proofing should you upgrade to an FX-body at a later date.

The Nikon 70-200/2.8G VR II delivers very good overall performance throughout the zoom-range with a graceful decline in sharpness/contrast in the corners. But nothing that a little stopping down can’t heal. Mount it on a DX-body and it delivers a flawless performance from f4.0 with very high sharpness and contrast at all apertures. Its resolving-power also makes the lens quite a good match for a tele-converter should you need to reach beyond the 200mm focal length. Combined with image stabilization, a fast and reliable AF, and a large constant f2.8 aperture that can cut exposure times in half for fast moving action shots or deliver shallower depth of field effects, a robust body, and weather-sealing this lens is the tool of choice for the pros.

But it does have its downsides. The most prominent being the high price not to mention the size and weight. Although to be fair all stabilized 70-200/2.8 zooms are of similar size/weight and the price is in line with the options from Canon or Sony, even a little cheaper. But stabilized 70-200/2.8 zooms can be had for half the price if you take the Sigma 70-200/2.8 HSM OS or you could go for the Nikon AF-S 70-200/4.0G VR which is smaller, lighter and cheaper too. But there’s no way around it: the Nikon 70-200/2.8G VR II is the professional version of a 70-200mm zoom with a large aperture, a very good performance and a build to last. This clearly earns it a Highly Recommended rating if your budget (and muscles) can accommodate it.

2. Tokina 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S

Being the first Tokina lens to incorporate optical image stabilization, the 70-200mm f/4 Pro is a direct competitor to the excellent Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR lens. The Tokina 70-200mm f/4 seems to be similar to the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G in a number of ways. Its optical design incorporates 19 elements in 14 groups, with 3 ultra-low dispersion lens elements (vs 20 elements in 14 groups and 3 ED elements) and the lens does not come with a tripod collar either (available to be purchased separately). It has the same filter thread size of 67mm and has a slightly shorter barrel. Unfortunately, at 980 grams, it is a 130 grams heavier than the Nikkor, which is a pretty noticeable difference.

3. Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II

If you don’t need the longer telephoto reach of the Nikon 18-300mm below, the Nikon 18-200mm VR II is a great all-purpose lens for everything from wide-angle shots to close-ups. With an equivalent zoom range of 27-30mm on a 35mm camera and vibration reduction, it captures sharp images throughout its range and has a sturdy build that is built to last. The biggest shortcoming of the 18-200mm VR II is that it’s a bit short for certain types of telephoto photography like wildlife. But for travel, portraits, and as a walk-around lens, the 18-200mm is a nice choice.

4. Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 VR

For those who want to cover virtually the entire spectrum of focal lengths without changing lenses, the new Nikon 18-300mm VR is an excellent choice. Released in 2014, the new version of this all-in-one lens is considerably lighter and cheaper than the old one, with the only sacrifice being a maximum aperture at the long end of f/6.3 instead of f/5.6. The changes, however, are almost all positive and make it the leading all-in-one lens for the Nikon D7100 in our book. It even weighs less than the Nikon 18-200mm above.

5. Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR

The Nikon 55-300mm VR is the top telephoto zoom for DX cameras. The lens captures sharp images, good colors, and features vibration reduction (camera shake can be an issue with long zoom lenses). We like the extra 100mm of zoom range, which can make the difference for wildlife and other close-ups.

Final category for this lens guide, zoom lenses:

1. Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR is a constant maximum aperture lens with a 5x zoom range that is designed for professional and advanced amateur photographers that need a mid-range lens with image stabilization to be used for many types of photography, including street, nature, travel and wedding photography. Unlike variable-aperture lenses that typically have an aperture of f/5.6 when zoomed all the way in, the Nikon 24-120mm stays at f/4 throughout the focal range, giving a one-stop advantage to the 24-120mm f/4 over variable-aperture lenses on the long end (for example, the older Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G lens had a maximum aperture of f/5.6 beyond 85mm and the current 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR superzoom is at f/5.6 beyond 105mm).

In addition, the lens comes with plenty of updated optical features from Nikon, including second generation VR II (vibration reduction) technology, which offers camera shake compensation equivalent to a shutter speed increase of approximately four stops. Thanks to the AF-S silent-wave focus motor, the lens focuses quietly and accurately in various lighting conditions, and the 77mm filter thread makes it easy to use specialized screw-on filters. The advanced optical formula consisting of 17 elements in 13 groups with two ED, three aspherical elements and Nano Crystal Coat all contribute to great performance throughout the zoom range.

2. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM

This large aperture standard zoom lens covers focal lengths from 24mm and is housed in a compact construction. The latest optical design provides a compact construction and is ideal for general photography. ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass, two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements and three aspherical lenses provide excellent correction of all types of aberrations. This lens incorporates HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), ensuring a quiet and high speed AF as well as full time manual focus capability. This lens has a minimum focusing distance of 38cm/15in and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:5.3. The rounded 9 blades diaphragm creates an attractive blur.

3. Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VC

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is a versatile professional lens designed for many different kinds of photography needs – from wide-angle landscapes and panoramas, to portraits and events. Built with low-light photography in mind, the lens features a constant aperture of f/2.8, fast autofocus and built-in image stabilization (which Tamron markets as “VC” or “Vibration Compensation”). The latter is what no other manufacturers today, including Nikon and Canon, can pride themselves with – the Tamron 24-70mm is world’s first and currently only “standard zoom” lens with image stabilization (as of August 2012). Featuring 17 lens elements in 12 groups, 3 of which are aspherical and 3 with low-dispersion qualities, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 has a more complex design than the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G, which has 15 lens elements in 11 groups. With a barrel diameter of 3.5 inches and weighing a total of 825 grams, it is by no means a small or lightweight lens. It incorporates Tamron’s Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) motor, which provides both fast and ultra-quiet autofocus.

With a focal length of 24-70mm (which is not its actual focal length, as pointed out in the “Lens Handling” section below), which is equivalent to roughly 36-105mm, it is designed to be used more on full-frame (FX) than cropped-sensor (DX) cameras. 36mm just might feel a little “too long” on the wide end on cropped-sensor cameras for general photography needs. Unlike most professional lenses that can take 77mm filters, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 has a larger 82mm filter diameter, which means that it would require purchasing additional larger filters if you are planning to use filters on it. Due to the massive size of the front element, it would be impossible to use a 77mm filter with adapter rings.

4. Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G

The AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens is a truly versatile lens that can be used for many different kinds of photography needs – from wide-angle landscapes and panoramas, to portraits and events. With its constant aperture of f/2.8 (meaning the aperture does not change while zooming) and state of the art optics, the lens is targeted towards enthusiasts and professionals, who work in various conditions and need exceptional sharpness, color and contrast in their images – something the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G is made to deliver. It replaced the older Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8D lens and its optics were completely redesigned for superior performance and extra coverage on the wide-end. Featuring 15 lens elements in 11 groups, 3 out of which are ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements that reduce chromatic aberration and increase sharpness, the lens is a heavyweight monster weighing a whopping 31.7 oz. (900 grams), which is heavier than many Nikon DSLRs! In addition to the Silent Wave Motor (SWM/AF-S) that provides fast, accurate and quiet auto focus, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G also features Nano Crystal Coating technology, which helps reduce ghosting and flare. When it comes to weather sealing, the 24-70mm f/2.8G is designed to be well-protected against dust, moisture and tough weather conditions.

5. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

This large aperture standard zoom lens is designed for digital SLR cameras and incorporates Sigma\’s efficient OS function. It is a compact lens with an overall length of just 3.6 inches. This lens covers a focal length from 17mm wide angle and offers a large aperture of f/2.8 throughout the entire zoom range, making it ideal for many types of photography such as portraiture and landscapes. The OS (Optical Stabilizer) function offers the use of shutter speeds approximately 4 stops slower than would otherwise be possible. For Sony and Pentax mount, the built-in OS function of this lens can be used even if the camera body is equipped with an image sensor shift anti-shake system. As compensation for camera shake is visible in the viewfinder, the photographer can easily check for accurate focus and ensure there is no subject movement. Two FLD (F Low Dispersion) glass elements, which have performance equal to fluorite glass, plus two glass mold and one hybrid aspherical lens, provide excellent correction for all type of aberrations. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghost. This lens has superior peripheral brightness and provides sharp, high contrast images even at the maximum apertures. High image quality is assured throughout the entire zoom range. Incorporating HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), the lens provides fast and quiet AF. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches throughout the entire zoom range and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:5. The rounded 7 blade diaphragm creates an attractive blur to the out of focus images. The inner focusing system eliminates front lens rotation, making the lens particularly suitable for use with the supplied petal-type lens hood and circular polarizing filters.

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