A wide-angle lens is a vital piece of equipment for almost every photographer, but it’s more popular among architecture, landscape, and event photographers.
Prime wide-angle lenses offer a short focal length with a wide field of view, which enables them to capture significant detail around or in the background of the subject, hence adding more depth to your images.
Also, with these lenses, you will be able to cover more area in the scene while capturing crowd shots or confined spaces with a Nikon camera. Focal lengths of wide-angle lenses can be equal to or wider than 35mm, whereas 24mm or wider are known to be ultra-wide-angle lenses.
However, it’s important to know that the results you get would depend on the sensor size of your Nikon camera. For instance, Nikon’s DX-format camera would display a cropped version of the results that you get with a full-frame FX-format camera.
There is a huge range of wide-angle prime lenses for Nikon designed by the same brand. At the same time, you will also find hundreds of these lenses from Sigma, Tamron, and other third-party manufacturers that can achieve superior results when mounted on a Nikon camera.
Similarly, a number of zoom lenses would offer a focal length of as short as 18mm. However, in our opinion, wide-angle lenses with fixed focal lengths can be ideal for your creative photography needs. So, here are our recommendations for the best wide-angle prime lenses for Nikon cameras.
1. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED (Overall Winner)
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED offers a wider viewing angle compared to the standard zoom lenses for FX-format cameras that use a focal length of 24mm. It’s a compact and lightweight lens despite being a combination of a 20mm focal length and reasonably fast f/1.8 aperture.
This lens’ autofocus uses a ring-type ultrasonic mechanism which is quick and near-silent. However, the physical focus control ring makes accurate manual focusing somewhat tricky.
The optical design includes two aspherical elements and two ED elements, with a Nano Crystal coating applied to the lens elements. Vignetting is very noticeable and sharpness at the corners isn’t quite great while shooting at f/1.8, but stopping down to f/2.8 you will get a reasonable peripheral illumination.
At f/4, sharpness is maintained quite well across the whole image frame. You may observe a little color fringing towards the corners but barrel distortion is kept to a minimum.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED is massive and expensive, but it’s often touted as one of the best wide-angle primes available.
When mounted on a crop sensor Nikon camera, this lens works quite well, offering a 36mm equivalent focal length, however, it truly shows its class on a full-frame Nikon platform.
You can shoot at slower shutter speeds, thanks to the combination of the 24mm focal length and large aperture, meaning you don’t have to boost the ISO settings for cleaner results.
The bokeh on this wide-angle prime is pleasing and buttery smooth. Shooting wide open at f/1.4 delivers impressively sharp results from the center to the corners of the image frame.
Sigma’s competing 24mm f/1.4 Art lens is being offered at about half the price of this wide-angle prime. Although Sigma offers great performance, you get noticeably less sharp edges compared to this Nikon 24mm wide-angle lens.
Landscape and architecture photographers who need a better edge-to-edge sharpness in their results would certainly want to go with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED comes with a decent aperture rating, but it still maintains a reasonable size and weight at just 305g.
Like the other lenses of the same class, it also utilizes a ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system. It’s reliable, fast, and whisper-quiet. Also, it enables you to manually tune the autofocus settings.
Although manual focusing is supported by a distance scale, it’s of limited use as no markings are available between 0.7m and infinity. At wide apertures, sharpness isn’t impressive at the edges, but it’s quite stellar in the center throughout the whole aperture settings. Distortions and color fringing are kept fairly low.
While it may not be a standout lens technically, many photographers prefer it over other competing lenses due to its compact and lightweight construction, and reasonably sharp, high-contrast results.
On the downside, the seven-bladed diaphragm isn’t well rounded, and vignetting becomes more visible at the widest end.
While some of the Art lenses from Sigma with f/1.4 aperture ratings are heavy with bigger dimensions, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is quite manageable yet features the same aperture of f/1.4.
Although it lacks weather-sealing, the build quality and finishing are impeccable. The ultrasonic ring-type autofocus system is fast, accurate, and silent, while it also offers super-smooth and precise manual focusing. The physical focus ring is comfortably large to get the desired focus settings.
In terms of image quality and optical performance, this wide-angle lens goes the extra-mile. You won’t notice any color fringing or distortions while sharpness is very well-maintained across the whole image frame.
5. Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD (Budget Winner)
With a highly reliable image stabilization system and a fairly fast aperture rating of f/1.8, the Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is the widest prime lens being offered by Tamron.
Weighing in at around 480g, this lens is noticeably lighter than the above Sigma 35mm wide-angle lens. Also, in terms of build quality, it’s as good as the Sigma with the additional advantage of weather-sealings.
Tamron’s ‘Tap-in Console’ USB docking station is compatible with this lens, which allows you to connect it with your computer in order to access firmware updates as well as fine-tune necessary parameters like the autofocus.
Overall, image quality and bokeh performance are impressive, but it’s not as sharp as the Sigma across the whole image frame. Barrel distortion and color fringing are well handled. The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD is a solid performer overall and can be an ideal choice, especially for those who want extra features like image stabilization and weather-seals at a reasonable price.
Final Words on Wide-Angle Prime Lenses for Nikon
Wide-angle prime lenses for Nikon cameras are incredibly popular among professional photographers and are available in large numbers. Therefore, we decided to put together the best among them for you.
The reviewed wide-angle prime lenses when fitted on a Nikon camera deliver outstanding performance and image quality and are capable of taking creative shots in a variety of photography scenarios.