The Nikon F-mount is a bayonet mount for lenses that has been in existence since the introduction of the Nikon F 35mm SLR camera in 1959 and has been adapted over the years to take advantage of new technologies in SLR cameras. Some of the more substantial changes involved how the camera and lenses “talk” to each other about lens aperture.
One very significant recent change was the elimination of a manual aperture ring on certain newer lenses in favor of all electronic communication and actuation. These lenses are labeled G and are distinguished by an array of electrical contacts on the lens mounts. So, technically these are not G-mount but are electronically controlled F-mount lenses with a G designation. Almost all of the G lenses are also auto-focus (AF) lenses with built-in focus motors.
This change has resulted in a few major differences for SLR and DSLR camera users. One difference is that these newer lenses are pretty much incompatible with older cameras that don’t have the necessary electronic controls for setting aperture such as older film Nikons like the FM2n or F3.
On the plus side, having motors for focus and aperture built in to the lens results in quicker actuation and less mechanical wear, plus most of the G lenses are somewhat smaller and lighter than the older lenses they replace or complement.
Another nice consequence is that many of these G lenses are also less expensive than previous lenses. Finding less expensive glass may not be an issue for someone making a living off of their cameras, but it can be a significant factor in the gear budget of other serious photographers and beginners. Today, we look at the best third-party lenses for Nikon G-mount.
Third-Party Lenses for Nikon DSLRs
We can find less expensive lenses from third-party lens manufacturers, many of which are also making their own version of the Nikon G electronic communication. Some of these are substantially less expensive which makes them great options for Nikon DSLR users with more limited budgets.
We found a few excellent choices of these third-party G-mount lenses for you to consider for your next lens, whether it’s a telephoto zoom, wide-angle zoom, all-in-one lens, or a specialty lens. Please take note, some of these third-party lenses for Nikon G-mount are designed for full-frame cameras, which can be used on APS-C crop format, others are designed solely for use on crop format cameras.
1. Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
For Full-Frame and APS-C
Consistently at or near the top of lists like this, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports lens is a superb example of a telephoto zoom lens that has fast aperture, fast auto-focus and excellent sharpness, and other optical characteristics.
The fast 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens has become a staple of serious photographers in full-frame and APS-C formats and is one of the most used lenses by these photographers. Applying the 1.5X crop factor for APS-C (called DX by Nikon, vs FX for full-frame) results in an apparent field of view (compared to FX) of 400mm at the long end of the zoom.
A large part of what makes this lens focus and operate so quickly is the built-in motors. The HSM in the label refers to a hyper-sonic motor that speedily and virtually silently focuses the lens. This is a boon for any action style of photography such as wildlife, sports, and even portraits. The silent focusing also makes for better video recording since you don’t hear the whirring of the focus mechanism.
With its fast aperture, excellent sharpness, and price up to 2/3rds lower than Nikon’s newest f/2.8 zoom, this lens is one of the top third-party lenses for Nikon G-mount.
Read our full review of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports lens.
2. Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f/2.8 PRO DX
We brought up crop factor in regards to how it affects apparent field of view for telephoto lens, but it also affects the other end of the lens spectrum, wide-angle. In order to get a lens that is substantially wider than the normal range kit lenses, the actual focal lengths have to be very short.
This third-party G-mount lens from Tokina satisfies the need for ultra wide-angle in the DX format and does so with a lens that is fast, relatively compact, and extremely sharp.
Though compact in size, this lens is still pretty heavy due to the large diameter of the elements and also because it’s made to a more rugged standard than the kit style lenses.
A couple of common problems with ultra wide-angle zoom lenses, especially with a fast aperture, are edge light fall-off at the widest end and distortion, either barrel or pincushion as it gets wider. Tokina has solved these issues and still kept the lens very attractively priced, making it a top choice among third-party G-mount lenses.
3. Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
Full-Frame and APS-C
The longest lens in our list of third-party lenses for Nikon G-mount DSLRs, this lens is designed for full-frame format and with crop factor behaves like a 900mm for DX cameras. It has balance and size that allows it to handheld and a tripod mount for using it with a monopod or tripod.
The 600mm focal length is among the longest lenses used by photographers, the VC vibration control is a form of stabilization that can allow you to use this lens handheld making it a great lens for photographing sports, wildlife, or other forms of action, but it also a good choice for isolating aspects of landscapes and cityscapes for a different perspective.
This lens is long and somewhat heavy, but much lighter than other lenses in the focal length range that might be about a stop or two faster. Keeping the maximum aperture modest helps keep down size and weight as well as making the lens reasonably priced for such a long lens.
It is also quite sharp and very well corrected for common super-telephoto issues such as color fringing and chromatic aberration. Tamron has brought the world of super-telephoto lenses to the masses with this fine example of third-party G-mount lenses.
To find out more check out our in-depth review of the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2.
4. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
A very fast, very sharp zoom lens in the wide-angle to slightly telephoto range, this Sigma is a great lens to replace the very slow aperture kit lens that covers the same general range. The kit lens may have a bit more range on the telephoto end, but with that maximum aperture change of 3 stops, this Sigma lens could quickly become your favorite if you shoot with one of the higher level APS-C cameras.
Not only is it very fast for a normal range zoom lens, it is also extremely sharp. The image quality of this lens is superb stopped down about two or three stops and is still very good wide open with just a bit of edge softness. Distortion is very well controlled all throughout the zoom range.
It is a little larger than a standard kit lens and s quite a bit heavier due to the large maximum aperture. The HSM motor focuses the lens rapidly and silently making this lens also very usable for video recording.
If you’re still not sold, read the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art review to learn more about the lens.
5. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD
Full-Frame and APS-C
Macro lenses are a specialty lens due to their being optically corrected for ultra-close focusing. It takes more than physical closeness to be a true macro lens, the lens should be able to resolve the same on the edges as in the center while focused close.
Tamron SP macro lenses are excellent examples of this type of lens. The SP 90mm f/2.8 lens also adds being a full stop faster than many similar macro lenses of this focal length.
Another beneficial feature of the Tamron SP 90mm macro lens is that it close focuses all the way to a 1:1 ratio, in other words, fully life size reproduction on the imaging sensor. A lot of other macro lenses, including examples from the camera manufacturers, will only focus as close and 1:2 or half life size.
The 90mm focal length and fast aperture work well for portraiture as well. In full-frame format, the 90mm and 100mm or 105mm lenses are considered by many photographers to be perfect for portraits. In APS-C format, the crop factor of 1.5X gives and apparent field of view compared to full-frame of 135mm, which is also considered by many as a good focal length for portraits.
Our Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD review will give you the full run-down of the lens in use.
6. Sigma 8mm f/3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye
Circular in Full-Frame format, 180-degree diagonal in APS-C format
Fisheye lenses have long been considered to be a very limited use specialty lens that are also rather expensive. Sigma’s 8mm fisheye is a great exception to this rule, being very affordable and offering a full 180 degrees of view. In full-frame format, the lens gives a circular image that is 180 degrees all the way around, in APS-C it fills up the frame with the corner to corner coverage being 180 degrees.
Newer examples of fish eye lenses such as the Sigma 8mm are great for digital photography with programs that allow you to stitch together multiple exposures into spherical panoramic images and videos.
It’s a heavy lens but very compact in overall size. The huge front element is very curved making it prone to damage if the lens is mishandled. There is a partial lens hood as part of the lens cap but it infringes somewhat into the image area of the lens, reducing coverage to 170 degrees.
The maximum aperture of f/3.5 is pretty fast for a true fisheye and the lens is virtually perfect stopped down two or three stops from maximum. Except for the obvious intentional fish eye distortion, there are no issues with negative optical characteristics common to ultra wide lenses.
At the price point, this lens is generally found at, any photographer wanting to get into spherical panoramas or just wanting to play with the extreme field of view can do so and also gain a superbly sharp lens with an extreme wide view.
To learn more about this fisheye lens, read the full review of the Sigma 8mm f/3.5 EX DG.
7. Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 (Budget Winner)
Full-Frame and APS-C
At a price lower than many nice camera bags, this nifty fifty is a great addition to the rig fitting in that bag. There’s really not much that could go wrong with making a lens form the nearly 100-year-old optical formula that make up so many lenses of this focal length.
Mounted on a full-frame format camera, this lens gives a normal perspective and filed of view, on an APS-C or DX camera it is similar to what a 75mm lens would be on full-frame, making it a good portrait focal length for that format.
Admittedly, it’s not the sharpest example of a 50mm lens when shooting at wide-open aperture, but stopped down two or three stops it is just fine. The only real issues with it wide open is a very small amount of edge light fall off and some edge softness.
Since many APS-C format users would probably be shooting portraits when using maximum aperture, the edge loss of light and sharpness won’t be much of an issue.
Lots of Bang for Your Bucks with Third-Party Lenses for Nikon G-Mount
The reasons for choosing third-party G-mount lenses for your FX or DX Nikon cameras include lower prices, but many of the best third-party lenses for Nikon G-mount also include beneficial features such as fast aperture, close focusing, or a very large focal length zoom range.
If you are a Nikon DSLR user in either full-frame FX or APS-C DX format, you owe it to yourself to take a good look at these excellent third-party G-mount lenses.