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6 Best Lenses For The Nikon D850 (…and 3 to avoid)

The Nikon D850 has been called one of the best DSLRs ever made. You don’t want to waste such a well-made camera with inferior lenses, so to help you fill out your kit, here are my picks for the best lenses for the Nikon D850.

The first lens I would recommend for you is the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 G2 because of its high image quality, versatile zoom range, wide maximum aperture, and affordable price.

Some of these lenses also made my list of the overall Best Nikon Lenses so be sure to check that out as well.

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Top Pick

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2

Tamron’s version of the pro-level workhorse lens is every bit as good as the Nikon version at about half the price. Top-notch sharpness and usability at a more affordable price.

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is one of the best overall lenses you can buy. In fact, it made my picks for the best Nikon lens overall.

To begin with, this lens covers arguably the most useful focal lengths with a range of 24-70mm and it has a wide maximum aperture of f/2.8 that is useful for shooting portraits with a shallow depth of field.

If you’re shooting with a Nikon D850 then you need a lens that can keep up with the 45/7 megapixel sensor. Some lenses, especially older ones, just don’t resolve enough detail to take advantage of that sensor. This lens can handle it.

I recommend the Tamron version instead of the Nikon 24-70mm because it delivers image quality on par with the Nikon for about half the price. Unless you’re a professional that doesn’t mind dropping an extra $1000, the Tamron is going to be a MUCH better value for your money.

Pros

  • Enough detail resolution for the 45.7 MP sensor
  • 24-70mm range covers most needs
  • Well-built, weather-sealed, and durable body

Cons

  • Extending barrel may turn off some photographers compared to the Nikon version

It also boasts excellent image quality with sharpness across the focal length range and minimal distortion. Even when shooting wide open at f/2.8 there is minimal edge softness. As a result, your images are going to be sharp whether you’re shooting portraits at 70mm and f/2.8 or landscapes at 24mm and f/10.

Lastly, it’s about half the price of its 24-70mm Nikon counterpart, so you’ll be getting tremendous value for your dollar with this lens.

But if you’re pixel peeping, you may see a slightly better performance from the more expensive Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 E ED VR, and with a D850, that small difference may mean a lot to you. If that is the case and you don’t mind spending the extra money, the Nikon version is tough to beat.

Budget Pick

Nikon AFS DX 50mm f/1.8G

The 50mm f/1.8 lens is an affordable upgrade from the kit lens that might have come with your camera. The wide max aperture will unlock opportunities to use shallow depth of field in your photography and shoot in low light conditions and the lens is sharp enough, even wide open, to take advantage of the D850.

I always recommend that all my students have a mid-length prime lens like this in their bag. In addition to being one of the most affordable lenses you can find for the D850, it is also incredibly sharp and has a wide maximum aperture of f/1.8.

This 50mm prime is an excellent lens on any Nikon full-frame camera, especially if you are looking for an affordable and compact lens to take with you in a variety of different situations.

Pros

  • One of the least expensive Nikon lenses
  • Pro-level image quality
  • Wide f/1.8 max aperture
  • Light and compact

Cons

  • 50mm prime can be limiting

The 50mm focal length is more versatile than you would think. You can get close and shoot portraits but it is also wide enough that you can get a lot of the scene in the frame as well.

You can leave this lens on your camera and, with a little movement to get the right framing, get a lot of different types of shots. It is also very light and compact at 6.5oz, which makes it great for travel.

This lens makes a great companion to the D850 because it is affordable and compact but still delivers a high end image. This means that while you may be limited by the focal length, you can get very high-quality results in terms of image quality.

But, I am sure many of you are interested in shooting landscapes, so check out this next pick…

Best Wide-Angle

Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di OSD

The focal length of this Tamron lens is perfect for wide-angle scenes like landscapes and cityscapes and the f/2.8-4 aperture is wider than many other lenses in this price range so you can use it for wide-angle portraiture as well.

The D850 is probably one of the best landscape DSLRs you can buy. But some of the popular Nikon wide angle lenses are prohibitively expensive and the very popular Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G lens may have excellent image quality but the large front element makes using filters quite frustrating.

On the other hand, this Tamron lens easily takes 77mm filters which makes it easy to use polarizers and ND filters for long exposures.

But the image quality is quite good as well. It is one of the sharpest wide-angle lenses I have used. In fact, this lens made my overall list of the best wide-angle lenses for Nikon.

Pros

  • Excellent image quality
  • Affordable compared to other Nikon options
  • Uses 77mm filters easily

Cons

  • Variable aperture may annoy some users

Another benefit of using this lens for shooting landscapes is the short minimum focusing distance of 11 inches. This means you can get very close to foreground elements in your images while still capturing the wide scene behind them.

Overall, I think 90% of D850 shooters would love this lens. But if you need the extra 3mm at the wide end, the f/2.8 aperture throughout and the absolute best sharpness are important to you then the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 G is may be worth the added cost.

Of course, not everyone wants to spend their days in the great outdoors shooting landscapes and many of you would rather photograph people. If that’s the case then this next lens may be perfect for you…

Best For Portraits

Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

The 85mm f/1.4G is everything you need in a portrait lens…good focal length for compression, wide f/1.4 max aperture, and razor-sharp focus even when shooting wide open.

If you want to shoot primarily portraits, you may want to have a slightly longer focal length than the 50mm lens above. In that case, this 85mm lens is perfect.

You can use the 24-70mm lens above to shoot portraits, but it just falls short of a high quality 85mm prime lens.

The added reach compared to a 50mm or even a 24-70mm lens will allow you to fill the frame more and step back a few feet while shooting portraits. This gives the appearance of something we call compression. This generally has the effect of making people’s faces look more flattering and also allows you to eliminate background distractions from the frame.

Pros

  • Among the best in image quality
  • 85mm is great for portraits
  • Wide f/1.4 max aperture

Cons

  • 85mm can be too long in smaller spaces
  • f/1.4 aperture is overkill for most situations

The wide f/1.4 maximum aperture allows you to get that shallow depth of field and creamy bokeh look that makes your portrait subjects pop.

But be careful when using such a shallow depth of field with the D850. With all those megapixels, you can’t hide it if you miss getting the eyes in sharp focus by even a tiny bit.

I also recommend stopping down to at least f/2.8 when shooting more than one person. For example, when shooting someone 10 feet away at f/1.4 your depth of field is only going to be about 4 inches!

Lastly, there is the image quality of this lens. Often, lenses with very wide max apertures like f/1.4 can be a little soft when shooting at the maximum. I didn’t experience that when using this lens. Even wide open, I am able to get excellent sharpness.

If you are looking for more options though, check out my breakdown of the best portrait lenses for Nikon.

Best Telephoto

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2

This Tamron telephoto gives you the reach you need for shooting sports and wildlife without the hefty price tag that you’ll find on the Nikon 70-200mm lenses.

If you want to shoot sports or wildlife then you’ll need a telephoto lens. Having a zoom telephoto like this 70-200 f/2.8 G2 from Tamron gives you the ability to cover more area as the action moves closer or farther away.

This is another lens where you’re getting a lot more value for your dollar by choosing a Tamron lens over a Nikon. Don’t be deceived though, the image quality of this lens is top-notch.

Pros

  • Exceptional image quality
  • 70-200mm range is great for sports
  • Well-built, weather-sealed, and durable body
  • Fast autofocus motor

Cons

  • More affordable than Nikon version but still expensive

Just like the 24-70mm above, this Tamron lens delivers image quality and sharpness on par with its Nikon counterpart, but at less than half the price.

You’ll get excellent sharpness throughout the focal range and aperture range. For those of you shooting sports or other action, the autofocus built into the lens is very fast as well so you don’t have to worry about missing the action. Paired with the Nikon D850 and its excellent AF system, this makes a great combination for sports or wildlife photography.

I should also add here that the Nikon version of the 70-200mm is one of the best on the market. The only reason I don’t recommend it here is that it is much more expensive than this Tamron version and only slightly better.

But if you’re shooting with the D850, that small difference is noticeable, especially if you want to make large prints. If that’s the case and you’re not concerned about price then check out the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.

If the 200mm long end of the focal length isn’t enough for you then you can also take a look at the excellent Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens. The maximum aperture is smaller but the huge zoom range and 600mm reach are tremendous.

Best Macro Lens

Nikon 105mm Micro AFS VR IF_ED

With a 105mm focal length to let you work from a safe distance and a 1:1 reproduction ratio, this lens is perfect for macro photography and can also be used as a portrait lens.

The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro lens is a standout in the Nikon lineup when it comes to close-up shooting. Even though it’s getting a little old at this point, it still beats out the competition.

The 105mm focal length combined with a 1:1 reproduction ratio means that you can shoot macro images without having to get super close to your subject. This can be very helpful when shooting live subjects like insects.

This lens is very sharp in the center at f/2.8 which is great for both macro and portraits. When you stop down to about f/5.6 you’ll see that same excellent sharpness all the way to the edges of the frame.

Lenses To Avoid

Not every lens, even if it’s made by Nikon, is worth buying. There are some lenses that trade image quality just to have a huge zoom range. These might be ok for taking snapshots but as your photography skills improve, you’ll easily see the shortcomings.

Instead of these, stick to the ones on the list above. Here are some of the most popular lenses I’ve seen recommended by other sites to use with the D850 that you really should avoid…

Nikon 24-120mm f/4

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this lens. It’s just ok.

I have seen it offered as a bundle with the D850 and it really does not below with this camera. If you are spending over $2000 on a camera with 45.7 megapixels, this lens just doesn’t allow you to get your money’s worth on the camera.

If you’re shooting with 45.7 MP, then you need lenses that are at the upper levels of resolution and sharpness. Otherwise, you should be using a 24 MP camera like the D780 for less money.

The image sharpness is just ok on this lens. If you’re someone that likes to zoom in to your images at 100% and see just how sharp they are, then you’ll probably be disappointed with this lens.

Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E

This lens can be very tempting to those of you that want the extra reach to shoot your kid’s soccer game or something similar. But I think you’ll be disappointed.

If you listened to me and skipped the 24-120mm lens above then this one is going to be even worse on your D850. It just doesn’t have the resolution to be used effectively on a 45.7 MP camera.

It also has noticeable color fringing which adds to the loss of image quality.

While the big 70-300mm focal range can be tempting, I would skip this one altogether.

Rokinon Lenses

These lenses are popular because they are affordable. Unfortunately, they often fall short of expectations when used on a high-resolution camera like this.

I should also include in this category other budget lenses from companies like Mieke, Opteka, or Jintu (most of which I never even heard of until I started researching and trying lenses to create this guide). You generally get when you pay for when it comes to lenses and aside from Tamron and Sigma, very few third-party lenses are worth buying.

What To Look For When Choosing A Lens For Your D850

The D850 is built for exceptional image quality, beautiful color rendering, and high resolution. So while you can put any F-mount lens you want on this camera, using a lens that isn’t up to the same standards as the camera itself is really just a waste of money.

Image Resolution

You know that cameras themselves have specific resolutions, but so do lenses. Some lenses just don’t have the resolution or sharpness to render a sharp image at 45 megapixels.

So when you are choosing a lens for your Nikon D850, it’s important that you stick to the highest quality lenses or you’ll be wasting a lot of those pixels.

This doesn’t always mean the most expensive Nikon lenses (as you can see from the list above) but it does mean you should invest in a quality lens.

If you are looking to build your kit with more budget-friendly lenses, then

Full Frame Compatibility

The D850 is a full-frame lens, which means that lenses made for crop sensor cameras will not cover the entire area of the sensor with an image, leaving a black circle around the outside of your photo.

It’s fairly easy to distinguish which Nikon lenses are made for crop sensor cameras as they are designated with a “DX” but for other brands like Tamron or Sigma, you may need to read into the specs a little bit.

The good news is that the D850 has a built-in autofocus motor so just about every Nikon F-mount lens should work with it. If you have an older Nikon lens, the easiest way to determine whether it is compatible with your D850 is to check this Nikon lens compatibility chart.

Specialization

While kit lenses do usually over a wide focal length range, the lack of a wide aperture and lower image quality often offset any benefits that range gives you.

Instead, look to fill your bag with lenses that do one thing really well. You can use f/1.8 primes for portrait photography, sharp wide-angle zooms for landscape photography, and macro lenses for…well…macro photography, obviously.

The D850 is a high-resolution professional camera, so “do-it-all” lenses just aren’t going to cut it. Stick with the higher-end lenses and have specialized lenses for specific types of photography.

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