The First Three Prime Lenses Professionals Should Buy For Nikon DSLR
I think my favorite things about being a Nikon shooter, is that no matter what lens I can imagine from Nikon’s long list of creations, I can pretty much dig up anything and put it on my current DSLR and have it work. The F-Mount from Nikon was started back in 1959 and means anything created since then will at least fit on current DSLR models (or the Z systems with an FTZ adapter), and you’ll be able to shoot. So there’s no shortage of lenses out there to get creative with. That being said, with today’s super high megapixel cameras and incredibly sharp glass, if you want to compete on a professional level you need the right tools for the job, and something a little more modern, (and full-frame), may be the way to go.
In this post, I’ll be providing my thoughts and recommendations for the first three Nikon DSLR Prime Lenses you should get when you’re ready to up your photography kit to the next level and create some incredible images with the best equipment possible. We’ll have a suggestion piece for the Nikon Z kits as well as Nikon Zooms to go along with this and the beginner articles, so don’t worry if you’re looking for more information on those subjects, it’ll be here very soon!
The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G – $1596.95
Arguably the “Nifty Fifty” in any aperture is one of the first “must have lenses” for every camera and every shooter out there. For most of us, the 1.4G is the first “pro” lens we make the jump up too (given it’s also the cheapest), and it never seems to leave our bags no matter how far our journey takes us. That being said, when you speak to most professional shooters out there who’ve been in the business for some time and you ask them about the “50 mill” range of lenses, they immediately comment on how they ditched their 50mm for the 58mm! Why? I mean, even for me I had to say “what difference does 8mm really make?” And the answer is apparently quite a lot! If you’re not ready to spend the money on the 58mm, then the 50mm f/1.4 is still a VERY solid lens and available for an price of about $447. But if you’re ready to try something epic, then we recommend giving the 58mm a try.
While most may think there’s not much of a difference, those who’ve spent time with the 58mm f/1.4 will attest that it’s a VERY unique lens with a lot of personality. The bokeh is among Nikons creamiest & smoothest, despite it not being the sharpest when shot wide open, (when compared to the 50mm). But that’s not a negative when you factor in it’s perspective and bokeh feel. The build is lightweight when compared to other brands and similar designs since its frame is largely plastic.
Since we trust our autofocus so much, and the focus distance isn’t the same as on a 50mm, so photographers have to adjust for that accordingly. (Min focus distance = 1.9 feet). The lens was also designed differently from other G series lenses to give it a more “3D” feel to your images. While the 50mm is a fantastic lens and super sharp edge to edge, the 58mm will give you a much deeper and connected feeling image when shot wide open, leaving you with something a little more unique and absolutely beautiful bokeh.
- Lightweight & small
- Absolutely breathtaking Bokeh
- 3D feel to the images when shot wide open
- Unique character and feel to the images when shot wide open
- May have to have focus manually adjusted/calibrated
- More expensive than it’s 50mm brother
Check Pricing & Availability Here
The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G – $1596.95
This lens, is honestly one of the most loved in my camera bag (Second only to my 35mm)! The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is one of the best prime lenses I’ve ever used on my DSLR bodies. The lens itself is incredibly sharp edge to edge wide open, the bokeh is consistent and beautiful, and as far as Nikon is concerned, it’s one of the best “portrait” lenses out there. In my experience, I’ve found that the Autofocus can be a bit slow and ends up “searching” a bit in low light situations, but once you lock in it’s amazing and it’s incredibly quiet. Now the fun bit is the price for this lens, is identical to the 58mm 1.4G at $1597, so if you can only choose one, you’ll have to do some soul searching and figure out what’s more important to you for your style of work, but once you put this guy on your camera, you won’t be disappointed. While I love the 58mm, as mentioned above, some of my absolute favorite and most popular images i’ve ever shot were taken with the 85mm lens.
- Beautiful Bokeh
- Incredibly Sharp
- Solid and arguably hefty build quality
- Consistent look with all Nikon G Primes
- Same price as the 58mm
- Slightly slower autofocus
- Autofocus can “Seek” longer in low light scenarios
- Heavier when compared to the other primes
- Filter size is “larger” meaning you’ll spend a little more to put protective or creative filters on it.
Check Pricing & Availability Here
The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD – $899.00
The Tamron 35mm f/1.4 is honestly one of the best 35mm lens I’ve used. It’s sharp, it takes beautiful photos, and the price is great when you compare to the Nikon! We recently reviewed this lens in studio, and while I personally own the Sigma version of the 35mm and love it, it was truly hard to beat this lens even for professional use. Side by side comparisons, it had better distortion (meaning less), faster autofocus, and a more solid feeling build. While it’s a wide lens, you can still take a breathtaking portrait with it and I’ve done a LOT of portraits using the 35mm focal range. What’s great about the Tamron 35mm is you can also put your subject in the outside edges of the frame without them warping! And if you’ve ever photographed someone with a wide angle, you know this can be a huge pain in the butt to correct in post!
Speaking from a landscape side of things, the lens is also weather sealed, which is an advantage compared to many other 35mm’s out there. Giving you that little bit of extra time when things get a little wet or dusty before you have to pack up your shot and run for cover haha. The focus was fast, quiet, and incredibly accurate wide open on multiple camera bodies including D800, D750, and Z6 & Z7’s with the FTZ adapter.
- Minimal Distortion
- Sturdy Build Quality
- SUPER quiet and fast autofocus
- Incredibly sharp
- Weather Sealed
- Slightly more expensive than other 3rd party brands, but still 1/2 the price of the Nikon G version
- Slightly heavier than the Nikon G
- Slight vignetting but lens profiles can adjust this quickly
- Autofocus calibration will likely be required
Check Pricing & Availability Here
With each of these prime lenses you get something different to add to your creative toolbox, especially the 58mm f/1.4! When you’re ready to upgrade your lenses from the lower priced beginner and kit options for your Nikon DSLRs, these are the prime lenses I’d recommend you consider starting with. There are a ton of other options out there and wildly creative focal lengths and aperture ranges to choose from, so it’s up to you to get hands on and test them out to see what fits your style of shooting. If you haven’t shot with any professional prime lenses yet, as always we recommend that you rent them first so you can truly see if it fits your style.
The lenses recommended above will definitely help you with your creative possibilities, and are a cornerstone or staple of any professionals prime lens kit. Of course, without the skills to unlock the potential of these lenses, they are just tools in the box. The most important thing you can do is practice, and of course, educate yourself! For that, we shamelessly recommend the SLR Lounge Workshops.