Best Nikon Macro Lenses in 2018

Macro photography is one of the most popular forms of photography there is. People are fascinated with getting up close to a miniscule subject to discover the unseen. It’s a style of photography that can be very rewarding, producing often spectacular results. However, it can also be an exercise in frustration if you don’t have the right equipment.

We’ll take a look at some of the best Nikon macro lenses for 2018, what it is that makes them so great, and cover everything you need to know before buying one.

Best Nikon Macro Lenses


1. Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G ED IF VR Micro Lens

Why it’s great:

  • 1:1 magnification reproduction for true macro shooting.
  • Vibration Reduction (VR) technology for a steady shot.
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM) autofocus is quick and quiet.

There are many features that make the Nikon AF-S 105mm one of the best Nikon macro lenses available. Its 105mm focal length with constant max aperture of f/2.8 means you can get up close to the action and capture some high-quality shots. One of the real benefits of this lens is the VR technology, which allows for a steadier shot even when you’re shooting from the hand. Other features such as the SWM autofocus and built in manual/automatic switch means focusing on the right subject is quick and easy, even if you need to make finer adjustments. Overall, this is one of our favorite lenses for macro photography.

Buying considerations:

  • When you’re incredibly close to a subject (as you often will be) the VR system becomes a little less useful.

2. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens

Why it’s great:

  • 1:1 magnification, even as close as 12.2″ or 31 cm.
  • Hypersonic Motor (HSM) autofocus system.
  • Optical Stabilization (OS) technology for a steadier shot.

This lens is an effective and affordable alternative to the above Nikon model. The Sigma 105mm has almost as many great features as its rival, without the price tag. It gives the user a very comfortable working distance for macro shots, allowing you to get optically very close without causing too much disturbance to the scene. A sliding focus ring means you can instantly switch between automatic and manual focusing, which is helped out by the HSM system it uses. Like the Nikon model, this lens has image stabilization features which make it possible to take pictures whilst holding the camera, although for more detailed shots you’ll still want to use a tripod. Build quality is very good, and there’s little to fault about the lens overall.

Buying considerations:

  • At maximum aperture, performance drops off slightly.

3. Samyang 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro

Why it’s great:

  • 1:1 magnification and a minimum focusing distance of 1′
  • Excellent design and built quality.
  • Ultra Multi-Coating reduces lens flare and ghosting.

Samyang have crafted a very good macro lens in the 100mm f/2.8. It doesn’t have any autofocus capabilities, although serious macro photographers won’t mind this. The manual focus system is very good and handles well, responding to even the most refined movements. Image quality is of a high standard throughout the aperture range, and the Ultra Multi-Coating on the lens helps to reduce unwanted optical effects such as lens flare and ghosting.

Buying considerations:

  • It’s a little pricey compared to other similar lenses, and the lack of autofocus may be off-putting for less experienced users.

4.Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM Lens

Why it’s great:

  • 180mm focal length with 1:1 magnification.
  • Optical Stabilizer (OS) for handheld shooting.
  • HSM technology for autofocus that is fast and silent.

Of all the lenses on our list, this is one of the most versatile. Not only is it a high-quality telephoto lens, it has a magnification of 1:1 making it ideal for macro photography. It’s maximum aperture of f/2.8 means it performs well in all lighting conditions, and the Optical Stabilizer reduces camera shake when holding the camera in your hand. The HSM is also very good, and with a simple manual override system, you can achieve a sharp focus with very little effort.

Buying considerations:

  • There is some noticeable chromatic aberration towards the edge of the frame.

5. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD Lens

Why it’s great:

  • True-life 1:1 magnification with excellent sharpness.
  • Affordable and high-quality design.
  • Vibration Compensation (VC) image stabilizer.

Tamron are masters at producing affordable lenses that rival competitor lenses in terms of performance. The SP 90mm is no exception to this, offering outstanding optical performance at an affordable price. It has all of the features you’d expect from a good macro lens; Vibration Compensation for a smoother shot, a USD autofocus system that’s fast an accurate, and a focus limiter. All in all, this is a good choice in our list of best Nikon macro lenses.

Buying considerations:

  • The autofocus occasionally takes a while to find a target and focus on it.

6. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR

Why it’s great:

  • Telephoto lens with 1:1 macro capability.
  • Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) element for fantastic sharpness and color correction.
  • Internal focusing system is fast and accurate, and doesn’t change the lens length.

The 85mm length of the Nikon AF-S DX is equivalent to 130mm on a full-frame camera, making this lens a good choice for both macro and portrait photography. There are a host of features that make it good at both styles, from the Vibration Reduction mechanism to the internal focusing system that maintains the working distance throughout the range of the lens.

Buying considerations:

  • Although image quality is very good, it’s maybe not as sharp as other Nikon alternatives.

7. Nikon 60mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED Micro

Why it’s great:

  • 1:1 image magnification with 7.3″ minimum focus distance.
  • Super Integrated Coating produces high quality colors and reduces lens flare.
  • Compact and lightweight design.

The small and tough build of the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 makes it an ideal lens to slip into your camera bag when you’re out and about. It’s a versatile prime lens that takes some fantastic macro shots. Features such as SWM autofocusing and a manual override switch mean that performance is more than adequate.

Buying considerations:

  • Image quality drops off a little at wider apertures.

8. Nikon 40mm f/2.8 G AF-S DX Micro

Why it’s great:

  • Extremely compact design with 1:1 magnification.
  • Close-Range Correction system for close-up shooting.
  • Focus ring switches between manual and autofocus.

Nikon’s 40mm f/2.8 is a versatile lens that’s good for landscapes, portraits, and of course macro photography. It uses a Close-Range Correction system to make sure that when taking photos up close, you get an accurate and in-focus picture. Autofocusing is quiet, and it’s easy to manually override it using the focus ring.

Buying considerations:

  • Sometimes it can be a little slow to focus.

Best Nikon Macro Lenses: A Buying Guide


Now that we’re familiar with some of the best Nikon macro lenses available, it’s time to find out what you need to look for when buying one.

Magnification

As you’ve likely noticed, one of the key things to look for is whether a lens offers true 1:1 magnification. This means that subjects are captured in their actual real life size, which is crucial for maintaining a high resolution.

Minimum Focusing Distance

Another key factor is the minimum focusing distance. This determines how close you can get to your subject whilst still maintaining a sharp and accurate focus. If you’re looking to capture the finer details, this is crucial to look for.

Image Stabilization

Many of the lenses we’ve looked at have some form of stabilizing features. This is a very useful feature as it means as a photographer you can capture your subject without the need for a tripod. However, many serious photographers will use a tripod and strobe lighting to get the best possible effects.

Autofocus

Again, autofocus is a feature that is useful but not essential in macro photography. Your goal is to get the best possible sharpness when you’re close to your subject. Not all autofocus systems can do this at such distances. That’s why it’s useful to use the manual focusing ring to get a more precise focus.

Shooting Mode

It’s worth noting that many Nikon DSLRs offer a specific mode for macro photography. It’s worth experimenting with this to see the results for yourself.

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