Nobody can argue about the usefulness of a wide-angle lens or something that covers standard focal lengths. But there’s nothing like the fun of a telephoto lens for zooming into a subject from a discreet distance.
Telephoto lenses usually come with a focal length of 85mm and above and the longest lenses can cost a pretty penny. Thus, the reason for bringing the best Nikon telephoto lenses under $250.
At the very top end of the focal range, primes can range into the thousands of dollars. But if you’re looking for something more on a budget that still offers affordability and good optics, there is a decent array of choices available.
All the Nikon telephoto lenses under $250 we’re bringing you today are very good lenses in the right hands. As lens manufacturers want to dazzle you with ever more impressive features, some examples are kitted out with the likes of image stabilization. Overall, there all may be budget options, but they also provide great optics at a great price point.
1. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR (Overall Winner)
The usual caveats apply when we’re dealing with lenses on a limited budget. The main one being that there is always a telephoto lens just out of the budget range and is almost an ideal choice. The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR falls into this category, but with some careful shopping around, you can grab yourself a copy for around our budget point.
The lens itself is produced for the DX-format, providing an 82.5-450mm equivalent focal length. This range is highly useful for anything from portraits to far-off wildlife shots.
One high refractive index and two extra-low dispersion elements have been added to the optical mix along with a Super Integrated Coating to reduce lens anomalies and stray light. The Silent Wave motor is very efficient, with full-time manual override and three stops of compensation stabilization, which is much-needed at the longer focal lengths.
This lens may not have the fastest aperture in the world, but when it’s in good light conditions, there are no complaints about the overall image quality. The lens exhibits plenty of sharpness throughout the focal range, and it’s an absolute bargain considering its asking price. The image stabilization system works extremely well, providing plenty of hand-held stability for those far-off shots.
2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G isn’t exactly in the telephoto range on FX-cameras, but it does offer a 75mm equivalent focal length on DX-models. Plus, there’s nothing like the versatility of a nifty-fifty for any type of photography.
Buying into a prime lens forms a wider aperture than a zoom lens, which in this case is a wide and bright f/1.8 version. Optically, the lens consists of one aspherical element, along with a Super Integrated coating, rounded off by a silent wave motor which also has full manual focus override.
The positive aspects of this lens are that it’s fantastically sharp while also producing very pleasing bokeh. The lens’ all-round versatility and quality means that it’s going to be used far more than any other type of lens out there as the range covers everything from standard viewpoints to very close-up shots.
On crop sensor camera bodies, the 75mm focal length is just long enough for portrait work, plus it can be used as an almost short telephoto prime for close-up wildlife photography or sports events.
3. Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G (Budget Winner)
At this end of the price bracket, it’s really asking a lot of manufacturers to cram in wonderful optics and features. The Nikon AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G is in no way a cheap lens as far as the optics go, but you do sacrifice some build quality at this price point.
The lens itself works equally well on both the FX and DX formats, providing a 105-450mm equivalent focal length on the latter. The optics are arranged around 13 elements in nine groups. Although there aren’t any fancy correction elements in the mix, the lens at least has a Super Integrated Coating to correct for any lens anomalies, flaring or ghosting.
The lens also has a caveat in that if a camera body doesn’t have an autofocus motor, it’s manual focusing all away. Caveats aside, this lens is a bundle of fun throughout its focal range with the lens providing reasonably sharp images, especially in the middle of the focal range.
The 70-300mm f/4-5.6G needs a good deal of light to work at its best due to its variable aperture. But you if don’t mind working within its limited zone, this lens can provide respectable image quality for possibly the lowest price you can pay for a telephoto lens.
Zooming into the Best Nikon Telephoto Lenses Under $250
The Nikon telephoto lenses under $250 above may be a limited list, but considering the focal ranges these lenses cover, they offer a lot of versatility from short to long telephoto images. If it’s a zoom lens you need, you can’t go wrong with the 55-300mm. While the 50mm may seem short on FX models, on DX versions with the 75mm focal length, it’s just long enough to get closer to the action.
Due to all the optical corrections needed in a telephoto lens, Nikon has most of their offerings reserved in the higher-priced bands. However, as shown with the examples above, there are options available which offer top line versatility.
As previously mentioned, you will have to make do with a plastic lens barrel and a more narrow aperture. But as a training ground for the beginner or as a low-cost solution, good image quality is still attainable.
If none of the Nikon telephoto lenses under $250 above will doodle do, there is the option of going down the third-party lens path. These types of lenses can open up possibilities, with added extras such as image stabilization, but they are not everybody’s cup of Darjeeling, especially if you want the peace of mind of a same-make camera and lens.
The main thing to bear in mind with all the examples above is that Nikon understands that there are photographers out there on a limited budget. Therefore, the lenses above will give you a taster of the more expensive options, while still providing the overall fun of a very usable telephoto lens.