Which Nikon Lens to Get First?

Many individuals are stumped when it comes to selecting their initial Nikon lens purchase. The majority of individuals who are just starting with digital photography end up buying a lens that comes in a kit. After using that lens for a year or two, they usually conclude that they want something more advanced.

Kit lenses are a great value, but are there any other alternatives that are more suitable for a beginner’s camera? Even though it would make more sense for some Nikon photographers to start by purchasing kit lenses, the prime lens that best suits my needs is a good all-purpose lens.

Continue reading to learn more about my suggestions, which are geared toward someone who is just beginning their journey into the world of photography.

When I purchased my very first DSLR, the kit lens that came with it was an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6. Anything looked better than my Sony Cybershot point-and-shoot, so I was extremely delighted for approximately six months until I upgraded my camera.

After that, I started becoming increasingly interested in photography. I was also spending a significant amount of time testing the camera in a variety of settings. I was reading books.

When there was sufficient light, I truly enjoyed taking images with my 18-135mm lens during the day, but low-light situations continued to be a source of frustration for me, and taking pictures indoors without using a flash was a difficult task.

I ultimately decided to upgrade to a more costly lens, so I sold the one I had for a price that was far lower than what I had spent for it. Due to image stabilization, the new lens (the Nikon 18-200mm VR) seemed superior, and I was pretty satisfied for a while after purchasing it.

However, after some time, I started experiencing additional issues, such as below-average image quality at a variety of focal lengths. The maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.6 continued to be a limiting issue, just like it did with the 18-135mm lens.

After doing additional reading and study, I decided that I wanted to be able to take photos in low light, have a better ability to render backgrounds (also known as “bokeh”), and have finer picture quality, so I purchased a 50mm prime lens with an aperture of 1.4.

Because I could no longer rely on zooming in and out, using this small prime lens taught me a lot of things and made me a better photographer. The lens required me to move about and think about how to compose shots, which resulted in my learning a lot of new things.

I have little doubt that the majority of photographers have shared experiences, some of which may have been more excruciating than others. After putting so many Nikon lenses through our rigorous review process over the years at Photography Life, I decided to compile my basic list of “first lenses” that everyone interested in shooting with Nikon should take into consideration.

If someone were to send me an email asking which lens they should get first, I would always recommend them to this list. As a result, I decided to share my suggestions so that other Nikon photographers might use them as a reference. Always keep in mind, though, that cameras and lenses are only tools; what matters is the photographer who is behind the camera.

The following listings have been organized into four distinct groups: Nikon FX mirrorless cameras, Nikon DX mirrorless cameras, Nikon FX DSLRs, and Nikon DX DSLRs. (You may learn more by reading our articles comparing Nikon DX and FX, mirrorless cameras, and digital single-lens reflex cameras.)

Lenses for Full-Frame Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras (FX):

  • A prime lens that is highly portable, not overly costly, and possesses excellent optical performance is the Nikon Z 40mm f/2. It is the ideal “first lens” for a photographer using a Nikon Z camera, and with a price tag of under $300, it allows you to get a feel for prime lenses without having to shell out further funds for one of Nikon’s S-line lenses. The Z 35mm f/1.8 S and the Z 50mm f/1.8 S are two of Nikon’s greatest lenses, and these are your other options if you want the highest possible image quality at the expense of a greater price (and additional weight). The 40mm f/2 is comparable to the 28mm f/2.8 in terms of weight, cost, and image quality. If you want a wider-angle lens but have a limited budget, the 28mm f/2.8 is another option to consider.
  • The most common Nikon Z kit lens is the 24-70mm f/4 S version of the Nikon Z 24-70mm lens. Even though it “only” goes to 70mm, this lens is fantastic in every other regard, and you can typically get it at a substantial discount if you purchase it secondhand or combine it with your Nikon Z camera. One of the crispest images we’ve ever captured using a kit lens.
  • Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S Given its $1100 price tag, it is obvious that this is a high-end lens, but by going all the way to 120 millimeters, it addresses the Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4’s biggest flaw. It is possibly the most versatile lens that Nikon currently offers.
  • Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR This lens suffers from some image quality degradation because it is a superzoom, particularly at larger focal lengths. At 200 millimeters, the maximum aperture is just 6.3. Therefore, the image is rather dark. However, in terms of performance, it is superior to practically every other superzoom, and its image quality is rather good. If you require a reach of 200mm, this would be an excellent lens to combine with the 40mm f/2 as your first two Nikon lenses. The aperture range of the lens is rather wide.

Lenses for Crop-Sensor Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras (DX):

  • One of the greatest lenses available for Nikon Z users who shoot with DX cameras is the Nikon Z 28mm f/2.8. In addition to being compatible with Nikon’s mirrorless FX cameras, it has a focal length that is ideal for landscape photography and is a distinct advantage. You won’t be able to blur the backdrop as much using an aperture of f/2.8, which is one reason why you might find the 40mm f/2 lens more appealing. In addition, the lens in question lacks vibration reduction (VR) technology. Because Nikon DX cameras do not have image stabilization built into the body of the camera, this means that you need to be extra careful with the shutter speed you use.
  • If you prefer to start with a zoom lens rather than a prime, the Nikon Z 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 VR is an excellent choice. It is sharper than I had anticipated, and it offers a wide variety of focal lengths; nevertheless, it does not allow in a lot of light. When used in conjunction with either the 28mm f/2.8 or the 40mm f/2 lens, you will be able to capture practically any subject that comes into view.
  • The Nikon Z 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR is the typical lens included with the company’s DX-format camera kits. It has a good level of sharpness and is rather compact, but it does not allow in a great deal of light and does not cover longer focal lengths. If you already have this lens and require a focal length of more than 50 millimeters, I suggest purchasing the Nikon Z 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 DX as well.

Lenses for Full-Frame Nikon DSLRs (FX):

  • A practical lens for everyday use, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G offers superb clarity, excellent performance in low-light conditions, and stunning subject isolation when set at f/1.8. It is sharper than the more costly Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, as demonstrated in the post that I wrote comparing the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G to the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. In addition, the price of merely $220 makes this an unbeatable deal. You may get more information about this lens by reading my review of it.
  • Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G VR – A crisp and professional lens that can take photographs of subjects at focal lengths that are wider or longer than those of the 50mm f/1.8G. Even though Nikon’s mirrorless zooms have a higher resolution, this is still one of my favorite zooms in Nikon’s DSLR portfolio. Good results may be obtained by utilizing adjustable focal lengths, picture stabilization, and nanocoating. Check out the review of my 24-120mm lens for further information.


In this post, I have not taken into consideration specialized forms of photography (such as macro or ultra-telephoto), but the lenses that have been discussed are effective for the majority of photographic applications.

Because this post is geared toward novice photographers, I did not include unusual or exotic lenses. If you want to begin using your Nikon camera with a decent lens that allows you room to grow as a photographer, the solutions that I have outlined above will meet the majority of your requirements.

I would recommend beginning with a prime lens if you can only afford to purchase one lens for your camera. This might be the 28mm f/2.8 or the 40mm f/2 lens that comes with Nikon Z mirrorless cameras. When it comes to Nikon DSLRs, the 35mm f/1.8G DX is the lens that I would choose for crop-sensor cameras, while the 50mm f/1.8G is the lens that I would choose for full-frame cameras.

If you have only been shooting with zoom lenses up until now, I highly recommend giving prime lenses a go. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed, and the photos you take will have a whole new appearance and sense of depth.

Zoom lenses are incredibly useful in some circumstances; yet, their frequent use can lead to complacency, and their performance is typically unable to compete with that of prime lenses.

I hope that you found this post to be helpful, and do let me know in the comments section if there are any questions that you have as you look for your first Nikon lens.

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