While you can use any lens to take close-up portraits or macro photographs, only macro lenses provide true 1:1 magnification. This magnification lets you capture every detail about your subject, giving you truly life-like photos.
Fortunately, for Nikon users, there are some great options for macro lenses that are top of the line. Many lens manufacturers produce good lenses for the Nikon brand, offering various additional features to take your photography to the next level. Even better, you can find a few lens models designated for budget photography.
While most low-cost lenses are typically older models, you can find a few new models selling for under $250. These models will not have the features and benefits of the premium macro lenses, but they will still give you great macros.
The following macro lenses fall under the more affordable category. You can use them for great close-ups without breaking the bank. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, but they serve their owners well enough to get high ratings and positive reviews.
1. Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro (Overall Winner)
Loved by professional and novice photographers alike, you will be in awe by what the Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro lens can do. While it does not have the professional quality of more expensive lenses, the Tamron 70-300mm has everything you need to start producing fascinating macro close-up photographs. It even works wonders under any lighting or weather condition.
The auto focus keeps your shot steady regardless of your motion with or without a tripod. It even lets you make excellent bokeh blurs without much effort. You might get the occasional color distortion, but this durable lens just makes macro photography simple.
Despite the few drawbacks, the Tamron 70-300mm is lightweight enough to carry with you on every outing or hike. This means you can have it on hand whenever the right photographic moment presents itself.
The Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens does not have the quality or speed of the other models in its class. However, it is still among the top Nikon macro lenses under $250 for both professionals and hobbyists.
The well-built Sigma 70-300 uses 16 different internal elements to reduce aberration and distortion. These elements make the lens heavy, but you will enjoy the sharp pictures you can make with it. This is a good thing as the front element does not rotate, making the lens compatible with variable ND filters and circular polarizers.
The Sigma 70-300mm also boosts internal image and optical stabilization with both manual and automatic focusing modes. These settings enable low-light and hand-held operation, though the small and slow aperture does not make them viable options.
The Oshiro 60mm Ultra-Macro is a well-built lens under $250 that is perfect for the beginner photographer. It provides great macros for its price. With its fully manual operation, the lens works just fine out of the box. You can adjust it freely to get the focus you need when you need it.
However, the all-manual operation does have its downside. It has a steep learning curve. Sure, this is a good lens to help you learn professional-quality macro photography, but that will take time. You may find yourself fumbling around on your first few shots before you get the hang of it.
Buyers should note that the Oshiro 60mm lens comes in several styles of different metal and plastic construction. Fortunately, all these form factors work the same though with the differences being entirely cosmetic.
While most macro lenses will only give you 1:1 magnification, Zhongyi Optics lets you adjust the magnification of their Mitakon 20mm f/2 lens from 4-4.5 times to get the really close close-ups. Sure, you can find this feature in other lenses, but not at this price.
The Mitakon 20mm Super Macro is also very sturdy with a lightweight construction, but at its low price it does not have some of the important features you’ll find in the more expensive competition. For one, it only functions at macro distances. So, you’ll need to have another lens with you if you want standard portraits as well. The lens also only supports manual focus, though it works well within the extremely thin windows of macro photography.
5. Tamron AF 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Di II LD Macro (Budget Winner)
The Tamron 55-200mm lens is different from the other macro lenses for the Nikon f-mount system. It has no manual operation. It gives crisp, full-color images, but you cannot change its focus setting and rely on what it thinks is the best for the shot. Luckily, the lens’s focus is good enough for most family photos, even with a professional setup.
Still. It is not a low-light lens. The Tamron 55-200mm only works well outdoors in bright daylight. Because of this limitation, you need an indoor lens to go with it, but that is the cost of having cheap glass. You get beautiful and rich outdoor shots either way, making the Tamron AF 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Di II LD Macro a worthy member of this list of Nikon macro lenses under $250.
Final Thoughts on Nikon Macro Lenses Under $250
These Nikon macro lenses under $250 turn your camera into a macro photography powerhouse without a huge cash investment. While they do not have all the features of more expensive Nikon macro lenses, these five lens kits let you take stunning close-ups on the fly. Some of these affordable lenses are even small enough to fit in a pocket for you to use at a moment’s notice, which is always a nice perk!