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The DX Dream Team

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March 2017     Nikon Reviews    Nikon Lenses    Nikon FX Dream Team

Best Macro Lenses


Introduction         top

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Nikon has been making FX lenses since the 1950s. There are a zillion of them, all of which work with varying levels of compatibility on DX cameras.

Nikon has only been making DX lenses for DX digital cameras since 2003.

We're in luck, since some of these few DX lenses made by Nikon just happen to be exactly what we need for shooting anything with DX cameras.

With nothing but these three Dream Team lenses, the 10-24mm DX, 35mm f/1.8 DX and 55-200mm VR DX, you'll be prepared for any serious assignment.

You're far better off spending your money on these Dream Team lenses and a D3300 than throwing limited money away on fancier cameras.

The Dream Team will outfit you for anything, but I rarely carry even three lenses. All I usually carry is the 35mm f/1.8 DX and I'm done.

I originally wrote this page in about 2008. Today the 18-300mm VR, 18-300mm VR II or 18-200mm VR could be the only one lens you'd ever need to replace the entire Dream Team.


Basics         top

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All you really need for 90% of everything you might want to shoot is the 18-55mm lens that probably came with your camera.

Nikon 18-55mm

Nikon 18-55mm AF-P VR kit lens. (55mm filters, 7.1 oz./200g.)

Personally, I usually shoot with this or the 35mm f/1.8 and leave the rest at home. I move a few steps closer or further away to frame, and I'm good. The 35mm f/1.8 is a tougher, faster lens than the basic 18-55mm zoom.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8

Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX (52mm filters, 6.95 oz/197.0g).


The Dream Team         top

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Either single lens above is all you really need. Pick one, and go.

If you insist on buying more lenses, here are the only two or three you'll ever need for everything on DX cameras.

If you use the lenses below, leave the 18-55mm at home. Never carry lenses whose ranges overlap. I'm very serious about this. If you carry any lenses which overlap, you'll not only have to lug them all over, you'll miss photos as you waste your time wondering which lens to use for each shot and spend time jamming them on and off your camera. See also Assembling a System.

A pro photographer carries only two lenses, often on two dedicated bodies. With these, he's prepared for everything.

One lens is a wide zoom, and the other is a tele zoom. Often a pro throws a fast, fixed, normal lens in his pocket for low light, but that's it. Anyone who carries more is probably an amateur who doesn't shoot often enough to thin out his bag.

Pros know they don't need to cover every millimeter of focal length. The difference between the long end of the wide lens and short end of the tele lens is close enough that a few steps forward or back makes up the difference. Pros don't bother with mid-range zooms, although some wedding photographers will use a midrange zoom and nothing else.

These three lenses comprise the Dream Team for Nikon DX digital cameras. With these three lenses, you have everything you'd ever need.

Nikon makes just a few lenses specifically for DX, and luckily, a few of these just happen to be exactly what we need for DX cameras.

Click any of the lenses or links for detailed reviews.


Wide: 10-24mm         top

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Nikon 10-24mm

Nikon 10-24mm (77mm filters, 16.3 oz/463g).

This is the most expensive lens on the Dream Team. It's a lighter-duty version of the older semi-pro 12-24mm, either of which are great lenses.

Either offers superb performance with moderate weight.

It is the heaviest and most expensive lens on the Dream Team, and you probably don't need it.

For most people, the 18mm end of any zoom is wide enough. If this is you, forget this 10-24mm lens and use one of those instead.

This is a specialized lens. See How to Use Ultrawide Lenses for more.

If you get the 35/1.8 lens instead of a zoom, then you may need this lens.


Fast Normal: 35mm f/1.8         top

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Nikon 35mm f/1.8

Nikon 35mm f/1.8 (52mm filters, 6.95 oz/197.0g).

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is spectacular, especially when you consider that it sells for only $200.

For many photographers, including myself, I could quite happily shoot with nothing but this lens on my camera forever. Learn to move in and out and you don't need a zoom.


Tele Zoom: 55-200mm VR         top

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Nikon 55-200mm VR

Nikon 55-200mm VR II (52mm filters, 10.4 oz./296g, 3.6'/1.1m close focus).

This lightweight $350 tele lens is magnificent. It is optically one of Nikon's best lenses, and handles and works great on every DX camera.

It takes the same 52mm filters as most Nikon lenses like the 18-55mm and 35mm f/1.8 lenses, and has Vibration Reduction (Image Stabilization) for sharp hand-held shots at every focal length.

The only negatives to this superb and compact lens is that you need to be careful to grab the camera and not the lens, since the bayonet lens mount is plastic (this keeps weight down), and that you have to move a switch to get into manual focus mode. All the other lenses allow instant manual focus override simply by grabbing the focus ring.

I own huge pro f/2.8 tele zooms and the much larger 70-300mm VR, and I still prefer to shoot this 55-200mm VR lens when I shoot DX. I prefer its small size and focal length range.

You can pay more, but all you're getting will be tougher build quality, more weight, the need for bigger filters, instant manual-focus override, faster focus and lose the ability to zoom as short as 55mm.

If you really want to pay more (I don't), you can use either of the 70-300mm VR or 70-200mm f/2.8 VR on DX instead, but why pay that much money just to carry more weight? The only good reason is if you need f/2.8 for sports at night.


Other Teles

Get only one tele. If you get either of these, don't bother with any other like the 55-200mm.

Nikn 55-300mm

Nikon 55-300mm VR (58mm filters, 18.6 oz./529g, $365).

If you prefer, you can spend more for the 55-300mm VR to get longer range and a metal lens mount. Otherwise, it's the same as the 55-200mm VR but with a slightly larger 58mm filter thread.


Nikn 70-300mm

Nikon 70-300mm VR AF-P (58mm filters, 14.5 oz./412g, 3.7'/1.1m close-focus).

For action and sports, the 70-300mm VR AF-P has ultra-fast autofocusing. I'd strongly suggest it instead of the 55-200 or 55-300 for action shots. Be sure to get the VR version; the very similar non-VR version lacks image stabilization and makes it very difficult to get sharp pictures.


Nikn 70-200mm II

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II (metal 77mm filter thread, 50.3 oz./1,425g with tripod collar, 3.6'/1.1m close-focus).

Full-time pros use the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. I doubt anyone really needs a lens this big and expensive, but if you shoot all day for a living, you'll love it.


What About the 18-200mm VR?         top

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Nikon 18-200mm

Nikon 18-200mm VR II.

The 18-200mm VR II replaces the entire dream team in one lens.

The 18-200 is awesome, and is all most people need, but it's big, heavy and expensive, and doesn't work as well in the dark as the 35/1.8.

I've gotten so lazy that the 18-200mm is too heavy for me to want to carry around all day. It suits the chunky old D200 and D300, but I don't shoot either of those cameras anymore.

If you carry an 18-200mm VR, carry nothing else except the 35/1.8 for the dark.

If you carry the 10-24mm, do not carry the heavy 18-200mm VR because it duplicates part of the range. If you're going to carry the 10-24mm, bring the 55-200mm VR instead of the bulkier 18-200mm VR.

The 18-200mm VR takes a 72mm filter, while all the other lenses except the 10-24mm take standard 52mm filters.


What About the 18-300mm VR?         top

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Nikon 18-300mm

Nikon 18-300mm VR.


Nikon 18-300mm

Nikon 18-300mm VR II.

Just like the 18-200mm, the even larger Nikon 18-300mm VR and newer and more reasonably sized Nikon 18-300mm VR II each replace the entire team.

Get one of these if you want to cover a huge range in one big twist of the wrist.


What About the 28-300mm VR?         top

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Nikon 18-200mm

Nikon 28-300mm VR.

The Nikon 28-300mm VR is a big, fat FX lens. It's big because it covers larger format cameras, but it doesn't cover wide-angle on DX cameras.

Don't use the 28-300 on DX cameras, use either of the 18-300 DX lenses instead. This lens will work on DX, but I'd only use it on FX.


Compared         top

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Max Speed
Price (7/09)
Dream Team
52 and 77mm
10-24 + 55-200
52 and 77mm
18-55 + 55-200
35mm f/1.8
$120 or free


Gotchas         top

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These DX lenses are of little use on FX cameras. If you see a D610 or F6 in your future, you'll wind up buying all new lenses.

Yes, FX cameras downgrade themselves automatically to DX if you attach one of these DX lenses, but you'll only be using the center of your sensor and viewfinder. You'll quickly tire of that.

Even though Nikon touts "Compatible!," you'll wind up buying FX lenses for any FX camera you buy.


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March 2017, July 2014, Sept 2012