To capture the broadest expanse of any scene, you’re going to need some extremely wide-angle optics. Some people opt for a series of stitched images or a fisheye lens to capture the widest of angle shots. But for those scenarios where the cleanest of images are needed out of one single image, an ultra wide-angle option is needed. Today we bring you a list of the best Nikon ultra wide-angle lenses under $500.
As Nikon keeps most of its ultra wide-angle optics in the high price bracket range, we are bringing you today options mostly from the third-party camp. These options are good lenses that are affordable while also providing the widest angles possible for our budget zone.
1. Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (Overall Winner)
The Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM on APS-C format cameras provides a healthy 12-24mm viewpoint which should be wide enough for even the most discerning. This is an extremely well put together ultra-wide lens, weighing in at a reasonable 555g, with a variable aperture and a minimum focusing distance of 24cm.
The lens barrel itself is quite straightforward, with a simple to use focus and zoom ring. The optical arrangement consists of 15 elements in 11 groups, which also features four F Low Dispersion, one Special Low Dispersion, and one aspherical element to correct for any lens aberrations. A super multi-layer coating has also been applied to all elements to minimize lens flare and ghosting.
There is no faulting this lens for its levels of sharpness with a good amount of detail at f/5.6 across the frame. Although the lens has a variable aperture, it still works well in low light conditions while also providing very low shutter speeds.
If you consider the top quality optics you receive for your hard-earned money, this lens provides great images which should be suitable for anything from landscape to architectural photography.
Just like the rest of the third-party lens fraternity, Tokina has gone from a cheap, second choice option to a first-use piece of kit. In this instance, it’s the Tokina atx-i 11-16mm f/2.8 CF which looks every bit the pro-lens and provides a 16.5-24mm equivalent focal length on DX-format cameras.
One of the standout features which puts it in a class of its own in this list, is the f/2.8 aperture. The wide aperture makes the lens a wonderful solution for very low-light photography – even handheld with very low shutter speeds. As the lens has such a wide aperture for this price bracket, it’s entirely possible to achieve reasonable levels of bokeh with close-up subjects.
The autofocus system is reasonably quick and responsive with a built-in one-touch focus clutch mechanism. This allows quick swapping between auto and manual focus by pushing and pulling the focus ring. This feature takes a little getting used to, but once you’re in the swing of things, it’s a nice addition as many wide-angle shots are deliberated over in manual focus.
This Tokina zoom is wonderfully sharp even with the aperture wide open, with plenty of detail where it counts at f/8-f/11 for ultra-wide landscape images. The lens with its wide aperture would be a good solution for night-time photography.
Tamron is another one of the big three third-party makers who produce great quality glass for the money. The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD comes in at a sliver under our budget range, while also offering a still very wide 15-36mm equivalent focal length on DX-cameras.
The lens may have a variable aperture, but one of its standout features is the VC image stabilization system that offers up to four stops of compensation. On a wide-angle lens this means ridiculously low shutter speeds, making the lens a great solution for video work and moody, low-light photography.
Internally, the optics consist of 16 elements arranged in 11 groups, which also includes one XLD, one LD, and a molded glass aspherical element to correct for lens anomalies and increase sharpness. A Broad-Band Anti-Reflection and fluorine coating have also been applied to all elements to reduce the likes of lens flare and ghosting, while also increasing the quality of overall color and contrast.
Wrapped around a fully weather-sealed lens barrel, this Tamron zoom doesn’t just look the part, but also weighs in at a reasonable 439g, making it a more convenient solution to carry around all day long. The lens is very sharp from f/4.5, with the best results coming in from f/5.6-f/8, with plenty of color definition and contrast throughout the frame. The edges of the frame are the sharpest from f/5.6 and above, making this a good all-round solution, with the added benefit of image stabilization.
4. Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR (Budget Winner)
We obviously had to feature at least one Nikon ultra wide-angle lens on today’s list. In this case, it’s the most affordable but still highly capable. The 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR is designed specifically for the DX-format, providing a 15-30mm equivalent focal length, which gives plenty of range from the wide angle to almost-standard viewpoints of a 35mm.
This lens benefits from a vibration reduction system, so it’s not only a good solution for video work, but also for handheld images. An AF-P pulse motor handles the autofocus duties and is reasonably fast to lock into focus, even in low light, with all the lens groups moving internally.
To correct for any lens anomalies, the optics comprise of three aspherical elements, with a super integrated coating applied to each to reduce lens flare and ghosting. Another plus point of the lens is that it only weighs 230g, making it a nice all-day companion for spur of the moment shots.
The main takeaway with the Nikon is that it is extremely good value for money, providing good quality images for the price. On any other type of lens the variable aperture may not seem that wide, but it’s still very usable in low light conditions making it a very good all-rounder lens.
As for the overall sharpness levels, it may be a touch behind in resolution when compared with the options above, but considering the price point, it’s a great step up from the average kit lens.
Summary of Nikon Ultra Wide-Angle Lenses Under $500
Price point will always dictate the level of optics and features, which is why Nikon has stuck most of their ultra wide-angle lenses in the higher price brackets. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy great image quality when there are third-party wide-angle zoom lens options available.
Zoom lenses such as the Sigma 8-16mm provide great quality optics for the money. But if you want the most bang for your buck for the wide-angle side of things, the Nikon 10-20mm is still a great option for a lens under our budget.