When a popular lens manufacturer like Nikon has been steadily building on the success of a certain camera mount for over 50 years, there’s going to be a whole lot of lenses to choose from. Third-party lenses for Nikon F-Mount cameras have been being produced for almost as long, which means we’re not exactly short of options.
After being introduced in 1959, the F-mount is still going strong. As most Nikon users these days will be working on the digital platform, we are going to be concentrating in this area for possible examples, as well as focusing on the most commonly used focal lengths. Let’s dig in, shall we?
1. Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 FF (Overall Winner)
There’s nothing more useful than a standard focal length prime lens for anything from landscapes to street photography. The Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 FF slots nicely into this gap, offering professional-level features and optics. Also, the lens works equally well on DX-format cameras providing a 75mm equivalent focal length.
Three Super-Low Dispersion and one aspherical element have been included in the optical arrangement, along with an Extremely Low Reflection Coating to reduce lens flare and ghosting.
A ring-shaped ultrasonic motor covers autofocus duties, with full-time manual override, bolstered by an electric diaphragm mechanism. The lens barrel has also been given full weather-sealing, rounding off the impressive features in this hefty 950g package.
The Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 FF is incredibly sharp, even with the aperture wide open at f/1.4, producing wonderfully crisp and detailed images. The lens may seem initially expensive, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s competitively priced compared against other top-end 50mm lenses with an f/1.4 aperture.
A 70-200mm zoom has been traditionally the one-stop-shop for covering the medium telephoto range. The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports is firmly in the professional camp, which means it’s not exactly a budget option, and it will deliver everything you need in this focal range.
The lens itself is equally useful on DX-format cameras, providing a 105-300mm equivalent focal length. This focal range is very useful for those who concentrate on wildlife, sports, and event photography.
Optically, the lens comprises of 24 elements arranged in 22 groups, with one Special Low Dispersion and nine F Low Dispersion elements, along with a Super Multi-Layer Coating. The lens also has an 11-blade rounded diaphragm, with a Hyper Sonic Motor for autofocusing and full-time manual override.
Most needed at the longer focal lengths is the Optical Stabilizer system, which does a fine job of keeping everything steady for handheld use. Essentially, if Nikon’s own version of this lens doesn’t take your fancy, then the Sigma should be your next port of call.
For those who want a truly long reach lens without sacrificing detail, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports is an excellent choice. This lens is already ridiculously long, but on DX-models the focal range comes in at 225-900mm, which should satisfy those who need distances as far away as those taken of the space shuttle.
To cover this huge focal range, the lens comprises of 24 elements in 16 groups, with two F Low Dispersion and three Special Low Dispersion elements, along with a Super Multi-Layer Coating. An Optical Stabilizer system has been added for steady hand-held shooting, while the lens barrel has been dust and splash proofed for most environmental conditions.
As you would expect for a lens covering such a wide focal range, it’s not exactly lightweight at 2860g, but what the lens does provide is excellent sharpness throughout the aperture range, with a remarkable amount of detail at the longest lengths. Considering how much ground this lens covers, it’s price point is truly affordable.
For the wide-angle side of things, the Samyang AF 14mm f/2.8 F doesn’t just represent good value for money, but also exceptional optics. The lens features a wide and bright f/2.8 aperture with plenty of high-quality glass for the most discerning.
Internally, the lens comprises of one extra-low dispersion, two aspherical and four high refractive index elements, plus an Ultra Multi-Coating to reduce lens anomalies as well as increase contrast and color definition. The lens is fully weather-sealed for the harshest of environments, which will be very useful for those who need this lens for various types of landscape shots.
A Samyang prime may not be the first thing people think of for providing premium quality, but as shown with the AF 14mm f/2.8, the company is definitely snapping at the heels of the usual go-to brands.
If you need a great all-rounder zoom that covers the most useful focal lengths, you can’t go wrong with a 24-70mm lens. The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens covers not just the most used focal lengths of 35mm and 50mm, but it’s also wide enough for landscape shots and long enough for the likes of portrait work.
The Sigma works equally well on DX-models with an equivalent 36-105mm viewpoint, plus a constant f/2.8 aperture and a very handy four stops of compensation optical stabilizer system. The front lens element has been treated to a water and oil repellent coating, with three Special Low Dispersion and four aspherical elements in the optical arrangement for all the optical corrections.
This lens may not have the full weather-proofing of other models, but it does have a Thermally Stable Composite lens barrel, which is hardy enough for most applications.
After taking this lens for a test drive, you’ll be hard pushed to still want the same-brand version. Especially when the Sigma can also offer image stabilization and be picked up at a more attractive price point.
6. Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD (Budget Winner)
A 50mm prime is generally considered a good standard lens, but if you prefer a slightly wider angle of view then a 35mm prime lens is ideal. The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD balances good quality optics with a respectably fast f/1.8 aperture and Vibration Compensation.
All lens elements have been treated to eBAND and BBAR coatings to improve image definition, while one Low Dispersion and two aspherical elements correct for any lens anomalies. The lens barrel has also been treated to a moisture-resistant construction and to keep away any nasties from the front element, and a fluorine coating has been applied.
The Tamron may be quite heavy for a 35mm lens, coming in at 450.77g, but what the lens can provide is wonderful image definition at this focal length, with a very film-like look of color and contrast.
There may be 35mm lenses out there which go wider to f/1.4, but when you balance out this len’s versatility and price point, it can provide very professional results with some exceptionally low shutter speeds.
Rounding Out the Best Third-Party Lenses for Nikon F-Mount
The shortlist of lenses above covers third-party lenses for the Nikon F-Mount of the most useful focal lengths from both the prime and zoom arena. At the very least, the examples given will provide you with the best lenses available which are a good balance between optical quality, price, and usability.