Nikon has a good choice of dedicated macro lenses. If you want to take professional-grade close-up shots, a specialist macro lens is advisable. In this guide, we look at four of the best Nikon macro lenses under $500 for your benefit.
When choosing a macro lens, there are key features you must look for. Firstly, closest focusing distance and magnification ratio are important. These features dictate how close you can get to a subject and the detail you can capture.
Also, the autofocusing motor and image stabilization are useful. A fast autofocusing system enables you to lock-on to moving macro subjects quickly. Image stabilization helps you use the lens handheld and reduce camera shake.
Nikon lenses typically feature an SWM (Silent Wave Motor) which is their advanced autofocusing system. Also, they may have Vibration Reduction which is Nikon’s form of image stabilization.
1. Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED (Overall Winner)
Our top choice for the best Nikon macro lenses under $500 is the Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED. This is a good lens with a great set of features. It is also a G-series lens which means it has an enhanced build quality and optical construction.
With a focal distance of 60mm, this budget lens is a solid mid-range macro lens and benefits from a closest focusing distance of just 8″. You can get incredibly close to your subjects, which makes it ideal for still-life macro photography. It also has a 1:1 reproduction ratio for close-up images.
This lens can be used for both Nikon FX and DX cameras and when used on APS-C sensor cameras, it has an effective focal distance of 90mm.
The maximum aperture of f/2.8 also gives greater control over depth of field and means this macro lens is suitable for low-light shots too. The lens construction also features aspherical and ED elements, which improves image quality and reduces distortions.
2. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR
If you want a greater focal distance, the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR is another solid option. This lens under $500 has some excellent featured and is available for Nikon DX (APS-C sensor) cameras.
It’s closest focusing distance is 0.9ft but this is offset by the greater focal distance of 85mm. Also, it features a 1:1 reproduction ratio which is great for creating life-size photos.
This lens also excels at wildlife macro photography due to its built-in vibration reduction and SWM technologies. The VR corrects for up to four stops of camera shake when used handheld, and the SWM motor provides fast and accurate autofocusing.
The lens element has various special glass elements including an extra-low dispersion element to improve color correction and image sharpness. Also, the glass has Nikon’s SIC (Super Integrated Coating), which further improves light transmission and image quality.
For macro photography, this lens is lightweight, compact, and has a solid set of features. For APS-C sensor cameras, this is one of the top Nikon macro lenses under $500.
3. Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8
Moving into telephoto territory we have the Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8. This is an older lens, but it is still a good macro option and is available for Nikon F-mount cameras.
This macro lens has a great maximum aperture of f/2.8 which enables you to use it in low-light situations. It also has a closest focusing distance of 1.34ft. The NIKKOR 15mm is larger than other models on this list, but this is counteracted by the greater focal distance of 105mm.
The lens element is made from 10 elements in nine groups, and also features several special elements to improve image quality. The aperture diaphragm also features nine rounded blades, enabling the creation of smooth bokeh effects for backgrounds.
Despite its greater focal distance, this macro lens is still quite lightweight at 515g. It also has a longest length of 3.3 inches, making it comfortable to use handheld.
The downside of this lens is that it does not have vibration reduction, and only has manual focusing operation. Nonetheless, it is still a good budget option and a solid telephoto macro lens.
4. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G (Budget Winner)
Our budget option is the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G. This G-series lens is a steal at just over $250 and means you can shoot macro photography without spending a fortune. Despite the cheap price, this lens is still versatile and has some quality macro features.
It has a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:1 and a closest focusing distance of just 0.53ft. Also, this affordable lens features a Silent Wave Motor for quick and quiet autofocusing, and a close-range correction system for improved stability.
The lens element is made of nine elements in seven groups and features both extra-low dispersion and aspherical glass. The aspherical elements help reduce chromatic aberration and other distortions, while the ED elements maintain image quality and contrast.
As with other good lenses for macro photography, the Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G has a dust and waterproof external rubber sealing. This helps protect the lens from adverse weather conditions and makes it suitable for outdoor usage.
Get Amazing Detail with the Best Nikon Macro Lenses Under $500
You don’t have to spend a fortune to purchase a high-end Nikon macro lens. While some models like the 105mm may have fewer features, each of these lenses listed is a viable dedicated macro lens.
When choosing a Nikon lens, be sure to check which format camera it is compatible with. Some Nikon macro lenses can be used with both DF and FX cameras, whereas some may only be available for full-frame or cropped sensor cameras.
To use your macro lens effectively, you could consider using a tripod for extra support, or external lighting to brighten your macro subjects.