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Best Macro Lens For Nikon

You want to explore the world of macro photography, but with all the options out there, it can be hard to pick the best macro lens for your Nikon camera.

So we took a look at all the macro options for Nikon mounts and narrowed it down to these top picks depending on what your specific needs are.

Best Overall
Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G

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Budget pick
Tokina AT-i 100mm f/2.8 FF

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z-mount pick
Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8

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Best Overall | Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G

Important Specs:

  • 105mm long focal length
  • 1:1 magnification ratio, true macro lens
  • Nano crystal coating is useful for suppressing lens flares
  • Image stabilization is built-in for steady shots while hand holding the lens
  • F/2.8 Aperture is wide enough to capture some beautiful background bokeh 
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There are two 105mm macro lenses that I have listed here. One is the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G which also happens to be my personal favorite and the other belongs to the new z mount camera system – the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S. I have discussed the Z mount lens right below. But first, let’s talk about the 105mm f/2.8G.

The 105mm has the longest focal length among all the proprietary Nikkor micro lenses that Nikon still sells. And that is an advantage. You can shoot from a distance, because the minimum working distance is a little more than 1 foot, and yet be able to fill the frame with a small subject like a bug.

The 105mm is a true macro lens because it offers 1:1 life-sized magnification of small subjects. 

But the one thing that I don’t like is the weight. At more than 25 oz this is slightly on the heavier side. 

But on the good side, this lens is sharp, comes with Nanocrystal coating to suppress flares (this is something you will find useful when working against the light), and has image stabilization built-in (Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction or VR).

Z-Mount | Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Important Specs:

  • S series lens, Nikkor’s highest-rated Z mount lenses
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8 will capture a lot of light and also help produce beautiful bokeh
  • Vibration reduction built-in for a steady shot
  • 1:1 magnification ratio
  • OLED display 
  • Focus Delimiter button for controlling focusing distance
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The Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S is a multi-coated S series lens designed primarily for macro photography. This is a newly released lens that adds to the growing Z mount lens line-up.

This lens too offers a 1:1 reproduction ratio, meaning you can capture life-sized reproduction of small subjects. S series lenses are known for their optical superiority and this lens is nothing short of excellent.

It displays very little distortions if any at all and chromatic aberrations are very well suppressed. Even when shooting at f/2.8 when such aberrations are most visible the Z MC 105mm f/2.8 displays nothing at all. 

Budget Pick | Tokina AT-i 100mm f/2.8 FF Macro

Important Specs:

  • An inexpensive macro lens designed for the Nikon F-mount camera system
  • The maximum aperture of f/2.8 captures a decent amount of light
  • The wide aperture and the 9-aperture diaphragm capture beautiful bokeh
  • Focus delimiter button to limit focus hunting and improve focus speed
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Beginners and amateurs on a budget will think twice before investing 800 to 900 dollars on a prime lens. As it usually happens most beginner macro photographers will look for cheaper options. And for them, the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 Macro looks like a great value for money proposition.

However, when it comes to optical performance the Tokina is no push-over. It is almost at par with the F-mount 105mm that I mentioned right at the start of this discussion.

Tokina has worked on the multi-coating layer of this lens and the new lens is now better suited to work with today’s improve CMOS sensor-based cameras.

Crop Sensor (DX) Pick | Nikon AF-S DX 85mm f/3.5G VR Micro

Important Specs:

  • On a DX camera, the effective focal length is the equivalent of a 127.5mm lens mounted on a 35mm camera
  • Built-in image stabilization 
  • True macro lens with 1:1 magnification  
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The Nikon AF-S DX 85mm f/3.5G VR Micro is designed for the smaller image circle of Nikon’s DX cameras. So, if you have the D500 or the D5300 this lens is compatible with your camera. No point using this lens with one of the full-frame bodies. Though the lens will mount you will lose out on resolution. 

Overall image quality is very decent. The fact that it offers an effective focal length that is a short telephoto means you can stay back and shoot from a distance without disturbing small creepy crawlies. 

Wide Angle Macro | Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro

Important Specs:

  • Maximum magnification is 2.5x to 5x. 
  • Minimum working distance 4.5cm.
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Venus Optics manufactures a series of specialist macro lenses including the Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro. 

These lenses are weird in one way or the other because where other OEM macro lenses tap out at 1:1 maximum magnification, lenses like the Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X offer you a minimum of 2.5x magnification and a maximum of 5x! 

That said, there is not much else that you can do with these lenses. So, if macro photography is not something that you are dead serious about don’t buy this lens.

Runner-Up | Tamron SP 90mm F2.8 Di VC USD Macro

important Specs:

  • Works for both full-frame and APS-C Nikon cameras
  • Built-in image stabilization gives very stable imagery when hand-holding the camera
  • A maximum aperture of f/2.8 should be able to collect a lot of light.
  • The extremely sharp lens even when shooting at f/2.8
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Tamron’s 90mm SP f/2.8 Di VC USD is designed for the full-frame camera system. However, you can also use it with smaller APS-C (DX) format Nikon DSLRs as well with an increased effective focal length.

Most macro lenses (except for the Venus Optics Laowa series) are versatile lenses, i.e., they are suitable for shooting more than just macro photography. For example, the 90mm focal length of the Tamron is near perfect for shooting portrait photos.

What To Look For In A Macro Lens

The fact that you are here reading this means you are looking to buy a macro lens for your Nikon camera or at least gathering information about it. You should look at several aspects before finalizing one. We have listed the two major parameters that you should consider when choosing a macro lens:

Reproduction Ratio

You will hear the term reproduction ratio quite often in regard to macro lenses. I have used the term myself in this article. But what is the reproduction ratio? How does it matter to you when you are looking to buy a macro lens? Well, the reproduction ratio determines if the lens can capture a life-sized image of a subject onto the sensor/film. If the lens Is unable to do so, then obviously it is not a true macro lens. please note this is not about how big you can print. You can always print very big and make something very small, larger than life. the reproduction is considered in terms of the sensor size and not the photographic paper.

Close Focus Distance

The focus distance is at times also referred to as the working distance of a macro lens. Please note the focal length of the lens has nothing to do with the magnification capability of the lens. 

Some photographers feel that if the lens is long, they can achieve greater magnification. That is not true. What longer focal length lenses offer you is the ability to stay back and yet capture a 1:1 (life-sized) minimum magnification. 

Staying back is important in some situations. Say, you are photographing a bug. If you use a wide-angle macro like the RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM you will need to step in to fill the frame. In the process, you are highly likely to startle the bug.

On the other hand, if you use a telephoto macro lens like the TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro Tilt-Shift or the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, you can stay back, and yet be able to capture a life-sized image of the bug.

Pete LaGregor

Pete LaGregor

Pete is a photographer in New Jersey and specializes in portraits and commercial photography, but loves shooting landscapes and video for fun. You can check out his work on his website.
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