Best zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs in 2023

We run through the best zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs, with everything from standard walk-around lenses to powerful telephotos for wildlife.

With the best zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs, you can be prepared for every shooting situation. We’ve put together this guide to help you fin the right Nikon F-mount zoom for your photography or video. Whether you’re looking for a wide-angle, a standard zoom or a powerful telephoto, we’ve pulled together all our knowledge and experience based on years of testing lenses, and come up with a list of top recommendations.

And don’t worry – we know not everyone has an unlimited budget. This isn’t just a list of top-tier professional lenses. Those would certainly be the best, but they’re just not a practical choice for most users. So, here we’ve got a mix of zoom lenses for all budgets, with ultra-cheap options mixed in with the pricier stuff.

If you’re looking for a camera as well as a lens, don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the best Nikon DSLRs on the market. And for now, before we get deep into the list, let’s look at what makes for a good zoom lens for Nikon DSLRs…

How to choose the best zoom lens for Nikon

When you’re deciding which zoom lens to pick, first of all consider which type of camera you’re shooting with. That is, whether it’s got an APS-C sized sensor, such as the Nikon D500, Nikon D7500 and Nikon D5600 cameras, or a full-frame sensor, such as the Nikon D850 or the Nikon D5. On Nikon bodies, these two sensor sizes are also referred to as DX and FX respectively

If you’re using an APS-C sized sensor, a.k.a. DX, you need to be aware of the crop factor, which is the extent to which the sensor sizes changes the effective focal length of the lens. For Nikon DX-format DSLRs, the crop factor is 1.5x the stated focal length of the lens. So, for example, the equivalent focal length of a standard 18-55mm kit lens used on a Nikon APS-C DSLR body will be 27-82.5mm.

If you’re using a full-frame/FX sensor, the focal length will be exactly as it says on the lens. For more on sensor sizes and how they work, see our dedicated guide to APS-C versus full-frame.

For more choices, you can also see our general guide to the best Nikon F-mount lenses. But for now, here are our choices for the best zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs…

Best wide-angle lenses for Nikon DSLRs

First up, we’re running through the wide-angle zooms for Nikon DSLR cameras. Providing a wide field of view that crams a lot into a single frame, a good wide-angle zoom is a landscape or architecture photographer’s best friend. This isn’t their only use of course – some news and documentary photographers, for example, like a wider angle as it enables them to cover their surroundings effectively.

Still, a good rectilinear wide-angle, meaning one that doesn’t distort straight lines the way a fisheye does, is a fantastic pick for scenic photography and capturing fantastic views. Here are our favourites for full-frame and APS-C Nikon DSLRs.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

At a glance:

  • For: full-frame/FX
  • Street price:  $1,747 / £1,799
  • Used price: $699 / £649 (excellent condition)
  • One of the best-regarded landscape lenses… well, possibly ever, this rectilinear wide-angle provides a superlative field of view. With a constant aperture of f/2.8, it’s a great one for shooting when the light gets low, and even though it’s a good few years old now, the optical quality remains sublime. If you’re using a high-resolution full-frame Nikon DSLR like the D850, this is a hell of a lens to pair with it. While it won’t take screw-on filters due to that bulbous front element, the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED does have its own petal-shaped lens hood for controlling stray light.

    And, if $1,747 / £1,799 is out of your budget don’t forget to look at the secondhand market. Well used examples can be found from $544 / £320, with excellent condition examples costing $699 / £649.

    Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

    Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

    Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

    At a glance:

  • For: APS-C/DX
  • Equivalent focal length: 15-30mm
  • Street price:  $307 / £309
  • Used price: $204/ £179
  • For users of Nikon’s DX-format DSLRs, this inexpensive wide-angle is lightweight and easy to take everywhere with you. One thing you do have to check though is whether it will work with your Nikon DSLR; AF-P lenses use a newer autofocus system powered by a Pulse Motor. It’s even quieter than an AF-S lens, but the trade-off is that a DSLR without its own focus motor won’t work with it (if you’re using an older DSLR, your best bet is to Google before buying). Other than that, this is an optically decent lens that suits a host of wide-angle applications – we appreciate the fact that Nikon managed to cram its Vibration Reduction technology in here as well.

    In our review we said, ‘It delivers on the promise of a small, lightweight wide-angle that’s easy to carry when you want to travel light, and its Vibration Reduction certainly comes in handy if you like to continue shooting handheld after the sun has gone down.’

    Read our Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR review

    Best standard zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs

    Here, we’re looking at the best standard zooms for Nikon users. These cover a focal range that is neither too wide nor too long – normally most of the focal range of one of these lenses will be between the 35mm and 80mm marks, with an amount of wiggle room on either or both ends.

    Standard zoom lenses are great for general-purpose, day-to-day photography. If you’re looking to capture the world as you see it, in a naturalistic perspective that doesn’t feel to dissimilar to that of the human eye. As such, standard lenses often tend to be favoured in particular by street and documentary photographers. Here we’ve picked out some of the best standard zooms for Nikon DSLR cameras…

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f2.8-4E ED VR

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR

    At a glance:

  • For: APS-C/DX
  • Equivalent focal length: 24-120mm
  • Street price: $424/ £259 (used)
  • Often sold bundled with Nikon’s superlative D500 APS-C body, the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 makes for a fantastic walk around lens which doesn’t leave you with too many compromises. The focal length starts at the classic 24mm (equivalent), making it well-placed for landscape photography, rising to 120mm (equivalent), which should get you close enough to a variety of different subjects.

    In our review we said, ‘The Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4 delivers some great results and, so long as you’re aware of its shortfalls, you won’t be disappointed. Its overall performance is good, with dependable performances from the autofocus and Vibration Reduction.’

    Read our Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR review

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8G ED-IF

    Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8G ED-IF.

    At a glance:

  • For: APS-C/DX
  • Equivalent focal length: 25.5-82.5mm
  • Street price: $1,496
  • Used price: $164-339 / £240-330
  • This professional level standard zoom lens is for users of Nikon APS-C DX cameras. It has a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, making it perfect for low-light photography work – as well as blurring out backgrounds. It’s close to the classic length of 24-70mm favoured by full-frame photographers and gives you lots of options for different subjects, including landscapes, portraits, still-life and more.

    There are many well-used secondhand examples of this lens available, which sell in the region of £240. If you’re looking for a better example deemed to be in ‘Good’ condition with the original packaging, Nikon HB-31 lens hood and front and rear caps, you’ll need to spend closer to £330.

    Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

    Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM

    Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

    At a glance:

  • For: APS-C/DX
  • Equivalent focal length: 27-52.5mm
  • Street price: $669 / £699
  • Used price: $399-424 / £325-479
  • If you want a super wide aperture, but also want some flexibility when it comes to focal length, Sigma’s fantastic 18-35mm f/1.8 is a lens well worth looking at. You get an almost unheard of maximum wide aperture of f/1.8, ideal for low light and creating a super shallow depth-of-field. Carrying this lens around is like carrying two to three prime lenses, without the need to change the lens or carry additional weight. A great choice for landscapes, portraits, still life, snap shots, casual, and close-up photography.

    Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR

    Nikon 24-120mm f4G AF-S ED VR

    Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Street price: $1,097 / £1,249
  • Used price: $269-379 / £229-379
  • This high-performance 5x standard zoom lens gives extra reach at the telephoto end of the optic over something like the 24-70mm, but you have to settle with an f/4 maximum aperture. You’ve also got Vibration Reduction on hand, while its compact design makes it well suited to travel – meaning you don’t have to carry around several lenses, which can take up lots of space in your bag. It accepts 77mm screw-in filters at the front and has a 50cm minimum focus distance.

    Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

    Nikon 24-70mm f2.8E AF-S ED VR

    Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Street price: $2,097 / £2,099
  • Used price: $609-1,209 / £879-1199
  • A professional quality standard zoom lens which is favoured by many full-frame photographers. The classic focal length of 24-70mm pairs with an f/2.8 constant aperture to give you good options when shooting in low light, or to create shallow depth-of-field effects. You’ll be paying a premium for the wider maximum aperture, so if you think that you’re less likely to be shooting in low light, you might find the f/4 version suits you just as well while saving you some money.

    It’s a lens that picked up our Gold Award when we reviewed it in 2015. In our verdict we said, ‘the speed of AF acquirement is truly impressive and a big jump in performance compared with the earlier lens.’ Read our Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E AF-S ED VR review

    Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art

    Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens for Nikon F

    Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art. Photo credit: Michael Topham

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Street price: $1,299 / £1,149
  • Used price: $949-994 / £544-824
  • This absolutely superb lens is a winner for full-frame, with a significantly cheaper price tag than Nikon’s own 24-70mm f/2.8. Delivering superb image quality in a robust body, it’s a lens that impressed our review enough to earn the full five stars, as well as our coveted Gold Award. With an emphasis on image quality and artistic expression, Sigma’s 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art is an excellent choice for enthusiasts and professionals alike.

    Read our full Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art review.

    Best telephoto zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs

    Telephoto zoom lenses are all about bringing distant subjects up close. When you can’t get near a subject, whether that’s because it’s shy (wildlife), it’s fenced off (a rally car) or it’s simply too far away (that mountain on the other side of the forest), a good telephoto will bring it into sharp focus. They tend to be mostly used by wildlife and sports photographers, though in truth shooters in all disciplines can definitely make use of them – telephoto landscapes are tricky to pull off, but can be really interesting and different if done right.

    A good telephoto zoom will turn your Nikon DSLR into a versatile powerhouse. Here is a selection of what we reckon are the best telephoto zoom lenses for Nikon DSLRs…

    Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

    Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

    Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Street price: $2,096
  • Used price: $404-874 / £449-819
  • 1540g
  • To get closer to the action than a standard zoom allows, the next logical step is a 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens. The wide angle end is still available for relatively close-up work, such as portraits, while the telephoto end is great for distant subjects, such as sport. It’s designed for full-frame cameras, but it would also work well on some of the larger or more advanced APS-C models in Nikon’s line-up. Pairing this lens with a Nikon APS-C model like the D500 turns it into a 105-300mm telephoto zoom.

    Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

    Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

    Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Street price: $1,299 / £1,449
  • Used price: $614-769 / £649
  • 1485g
  • Being at least £700 cheaper than Nikon’s proprietary 70-200mm f/2.8 lens makes the Tamron version a very, very appealing prospect. You don’t have to compromise on maximum aperture, while the lens has proven to be a great performer; in our review, here’s what we had to say about the lens: ‘If you’re an enthusiast photographer looking for a high-spec telezoom at a competitive price, the SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is a great choice, and a serious alternative to its more expensive Canon and Nikon counterparts.’

    Read our Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Review

    Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport

    Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Sport

    Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport. Photo credit: Michael Topham

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Street price: $1,499 / £1,099
  • Used price: $1,099 / £824-939
  • 82mm filter thread
  • A lean, fast and highly effective telephoto zoom lens, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport is an exceptional option for those looking to shoot fast action and sports. It’s weather sealed for outdoor use, it’s got an effective stabilisation system, and while there are lighter 70-200mm lenses out there, the balance between value and performance on this lens is tough to beat.

    Read our Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport review.

    Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM | A

    Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

    Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

    At a glance:

  • For: APS-C/DX
  • Equivalent focal length: 75-150mm
  • Street price: $1,099 / £999
  • Used price: $700-814 / £669-744
  • A high-end APS-C camera like the D500 would match perfectly with this wonderful lens from Sigma’s highly acclaimed Art line-up. With this lens you get a constant maximum aperture of f/1.8, which is extremely unusual for zoom lenses. Carrying this around is like having three wide aperture prime lenses in your bag, without the hassle of having to switch lenses or weighing you down – it’s quite big on its own though, so be prepared to do some weightlifting!

    In our review we said, ‘The appeal of the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM A might be limited to those using APS-C cameras, but this doesn’t take anything away from what is an outstanding lens that delivers stunning images right across its zoom range. If you’re like me and want to create attractive background blur behind subjects at mid telephoto lengths without having to change lens and lugging around two or three fast primes, you’ll fall in love with this lens and quickly get addicted to using it at its maximum aperture.’

    Read our Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM | A review

    Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport

    Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM IS

    Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Used price: $2,299 / £2,000
  • This telephoto zoom lens certainly isn’t cheap, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. There’s a nice long focal length, which makes it well suited to sports, action and wildlife shooting. The wide angle end could also be used for other subjects such as portraiture, but, due to its heaviness, you might find it’s most suitable for tripod photography. A wide maximum aperture of f/2.8 is constant throughout the focal length, and another specification which makes it well suited for tackling sports and wildlife photography. For more, check out professional sports photographer Liam McAvoy’s opinion of the lens

    Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

    Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

    Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR on test. Photo credit: Phil Hall

    At a glance:

  • For: Full-frame/FX
  • Street price: $1,396 / £1,399
  • Used price: $799-839 / £843-887
  • This lens offers a longer than normal telephoto zoom, from 200mm all the way to 500mm, with a constant f/5.6 aperture, and a price point that makes it very affordable. If you shoot in good light, or have a camera that you’re comfortable with shooting at slightly raised ISO speeds, then this could be an excellent choice.

    In our review we said, ‘Nikon has put together an excellent telephoto zoom lens at a superb price of £1,299, without sacrificing performance. More portable than the AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II and a quarter of the price, it might not quite match it for optical quality, but it certainly punches well above its weight.’

    Read our Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Review

    Buying guides & lens reviews

    To find more great lenses check out our buying guides or have a look at our latest lens reviews!

    Further reading

    The 12 Best Nikon DSLR Cameras Ever

    Best Nikon Mirrorless Cameras To Buy in 2022

    The best Nikon F-mount lenses to buy in 2022

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