No matter what brand you use to shoot, you’re going to have tons of options when it comes to high-quality lenses. Nikon is a brand with no shortage of lenses, with both Nikon-branded and third-party lens options to choose from.
Some Nikon lenses are really affordable, but the better the lens, typically the higher the price. If you don’t want to drop thousands of dollars on a new lens but are in desperate need of an upgrade, a third-party lens is the way to go. Even better, we’ve got a list of the best third-party lenses under $500 for Nikon. If you’re budget-conscious (as most of us are), this is the list for you.
Whether you’re trying photography for the first time or you’re a seasoned professional, upgrading your lenses is one of the most important steps in improving your photography skills.
With tons of options and multiple trusted third-party brand names, you’ll find plenty of solid lenses for your Nikon. From dedicated macro lenses to wide-angle lenses with insanely wide apertures, our list of the six best third-party lenses under $500 for Nikon has it all!
1. Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX II (Overall Winner)
First on our list is the always impressive Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX II (11-16mm f/2.8). This solid lens has an ideal focal range for wide-angle shots, making it the perfect choice for landscapes and architecture photography. With the aperture set at f/2.8, you can also use this lens for some very interesting portraits with stunning bokeh.
The distortion is minimal on this lens, and is actually less than similar Nikon-branded lenses, making it an incredible value for the price. It is on the slightly heavier side when it comes to lens weight (weighing in at 1.21 pounds), but I personally enjoy a heavier lens when shooting.
Heavier lenses give a more professional, high-quality feel. The great news is that at 11-16mm, it won’t be too cumbersome even with the heavier weight. This Tokina lens is compatible with all Nikon DX mounts.
It’s tough to find an aperture as wide as f/1.4 at this price point, making the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 a steal for anyone looking to up their lens game.
The aperture alone is enough to place it high on our list (compare this lens to the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art), but this Rokinon also has the ability to cover full-frame sensors, performs outstandingly well in low-light situations, and is a great weight for its size (1.19 pounds).
The minimum focus distance of just over three feet and prime focal range of 85mm makes this Rokinon a great choice for portrait photography. Not to mention the absolutely stunning bokeh that comes with an aperture of f/1.4! It’s important to note that this lens does not have autofocus as an option.
Those who have researched third-party lenses in the past have almost certainly come across Tamron. Regardless of what brand you shoot, Tamron has always been a trusted source for high-quality third-party lenses. This 18-270mm lens is the perfect introduction to a third-party Nikon lens.
I like to think of this lens as an enhanced kit lens. You get an impressive focal range, decent aperture range, and a fair price point that won’t break the bank. While you can certainly get more dramatic shots with a wider aperture, this lens is perfect for mid-range telephoto shots.
It’s super smooth and has a minimum focus distance of just under two feet, which makes it incredibly versatile in a wide range of photo types (think street photography and wildlife photography).
The second Tokina on our list is a dedicated macro lens that also offers an impressive aperture of f/2.8. If you’ve ever wanted to break into macro photography, the Tokina AT-X M100 PRO D Macro (100mm f/2.8) is the perfect lens to get started.
I really like the wide-open aperture with the minimum focus distance of just under 12-inches. While there are macro lenses out there that can get you closer, the 100mm focal length lets you get a tight macro shot without getting too close.
It’s also compatible with both DX and full-frame mounts, giving you tons of versatility no matter what Nikon body you have. The focus clutch mechanism allows you to seamlessly transition from autofocus to manual focus, giving you complete control over your shots. This Tokina lens is ideal for someone looking to break away from their kit lens, especially if you’re interested in trying out a prime lens.
The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC is a powerful lens that has a unique combination of an ultra-wide-angle focal distance (14mm) and a very small minimum focus point (just over 10 inches). While it isn’t a true dedicated macro lens, you could certainly use it as one. You won’t get nearly as tight of a macro shot as the Tokina macro, but this lens does allow you to jump from macro to landscape photography with ease.
You won’t notice significant distortion like you would with some other ultra-wide-angle lenses, and the nine-blade diaphragm provides super-smooth bokeh. This Rokinon also has an enhanced internal focus chip, providing much faster focus times and accurate white balancing.
6. Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro (Budget Winner)
The Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro, compatible with Nikon F mounts, is a solid telephoto lens that gives you tons of range at an unbeatable price point. There’s certainly room for improvement in terms of aperture size, but this lens is the perfect option for a beginner looking to break away from a kit lens.
The 300mm focal length is perfect for wildlife photography and gives you significant zoom for those tough shots. It also features a macro switch mechanism to get close-up shots with decent bokeh. The minimum focus distance for this lens is an impressive three feet, which is decent for a lens with this focal range.
Finding the Best Third-Party Lenses Under $500 for Nikon
Even if you’ve been shooting Nikon for years, a third-party lens is always a strong option. Versatile, reliable, and affordable, these lenses unlock tons of potential for your photography creativity. There aren’t any wrong choices on this list, just be sure that the lens itself is compatible with your specific Nikon mount before buying.
What I really like about the third-party Nikon lenses is that a lot of them offer autofocus options, which you won’t necessarily find in a lot of third-party Canon lenses. The great news about these third-party Nikon lenses is that they’re truly affordable, making them a must-have for any Nikon photographer!