Best Walk Around Lens For Nikon

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Important SpecsView On Amazon
Top Pick
Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED FX
Max Aperture: f/4
Weight: 25.1 oz
Full Frame
77mm Filter
Budget Pick
Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Max Aperture: f/1.8
Weight: 6.6 oz
Full Frame
58mm Filter
Crop Sensor Pick
Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Contemporary
Max Aperture: f/2.8-4
Weight: 16.5 oz
Crop Sensor
72mm Filter
High-End Option
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8
Max Aperture:
Weight: 31.7 oz
Full Frame
82mm Filter
Z Mount Pick
Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR
Max Aperture: f/4-6.3
Weight: 20.2 oz
Full Frame Z Mount
67mm Filter
Largest Zoom Range
Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Contemporary
Max Aperture: f/3.5-6.3
Weight: 16.5 oz
Full Frame
72mm Filter
Runner-Up
Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4
Max Aperture: f/2.8
Weight: 27.9 oz
Full Frame
77mm Filter

So you’ve got your new Nikon camera and the (probably mediocre) kit lens that came with it.

Now you want to take the camera out on your daily adventures or to that upcoming trip, but you want a lens that you can leave on the camera for walking around and still be able to cover most of the photo opportunities that present themselves.

To help you narrow it down, here are my top picks for the best walk around lenses for Nikon cameras.

Top Picks

Click below for detailed reviews

Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED FX | Top Pick

With a big zoom range in a relatively compact form factor, the 24-120mm lens from Nikon is an ideal walk around lens.

Best Walk Around Lens For Nikon

Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED FX

The 24-120mm makes the top spot as the best walk around lens with a combination of a big zoom range with a consistent f/4 max aperture to give you the ability to handle a wide range of shots.

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens is a high quality full frame lens (which will also work on crop sensor Nikon bodies). It is designed for the advanced amateur or even professional who needs a lot of versatility.

The constant f/4 aperture is a useful feature commonly seen on professional level lenses. It means that as you zoom the lens in and out, the aperture will remain constant so you don’t have to worry about adjusting the exposure.

The best feature of this lens is the big zoom range.

24mm is wide enough for shooting landscapes or wide shots of large indoor spaces while traveling. On the other end, the 120mm focal length is great for tight portraits and getting close to subjects like animals.

For such a wide zoom range, this lens also has very good image quality. It was originally designed with and sold as a kit with the Nikon D750 camera which was a very capable high-quality camera. This lens will hold up even on higher resolution bodies such as the D850. It also works with the new Z series cameras with the FTZ Adapter.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 | Budget Option

The “Nifty Fifty” is an affordable, very high quality lens that every photographer should have in their bag. While it lacks the versatility of a more expensive zoom lens, the 50mm f/1.8 from Nikon makes for a great walk around lens.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8

The 50mm should be in every photographer’s bag and it makes a compact, high-quality option as a walk around lens that also handles low light shots with a wide max aperture.

The biggest advantage the 50mm has over some of the other lenses on this list is the wide 1.8 maximum aperture. This will give you the ability to get well exposed images even in lower light situations.

Prime lenses are much less expensive to design and manufacture and typically deliver much higher image quality than zoom lenses. Of course in exchange for the image quality and the fast maximum aperture, you give up the versatility of a zoom lens.

This lens is also much smaller and lighter (6.6 oz) than any other lens on this list.

50mm is often referred to as a “normal lens.” This is because on a full frame sensor it gives a field of view and perspective that is very close to what we see with our own eyes.

This “middle ground” focal length means that you can photograph a wide range of subjects. You won’t be able to get the magnification of a long telephoto or the wide angle look, but for a prime lens, this will be quite versatile.

Remember, if you have a crop sensor camera body, this lens will have the field of view of a 75mm lens. Which you might find too long to be a useful walk around lens.

The DX (crop sensor) equivalent to this is the 35mm f/1.8 for about the same price. CLICK HERE to check availability on Amazon.

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Contemporary DC OS HSM | Crop Sensor Pick

For those of you that use a Nikon crop sensor (DX) camera, the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Comtemporary model is the lens that you’ll end up leaving on your camera most of the of time.

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4

The wide zoom range and a max aperture that is hard to find on lenses this compact make the Sigma 17-70mm a great choice for crop sensor shooters.

There are more Nikon crop sensor shooters out there than full frame. Now, every Nikon full frame (FX) lens will work on a Nikon crop sensor (DX) camera too. But if you don’t have any intention to ever upgrade to an FX camera, then buying an FX lens is overkill.

Sigma built this lens with a composite material rather than plastic or metal which makes it lighter while at the same time making it fairly durable and rugged.

The image quality is very good in this lens, especially when compared to the kit lenses that are often sold in a bundle with Nikon crop sensor cameras. Even when shooting at f/2.8 or f/4 you’ll get great sharpness, especially in the center of the image.

The lens extends when zoomed in but the front of the camera does not rotate when you zoom in and out or when you adjust focus. This is really useful if you are using a filter on the front of the lens that will affect the image when rotated, such as a circular polarizer or a graduated ND filter.

One thing to be aware of with Sigma lenses is that the zoom ring rotates the opposite direction of Nikon lenses. So if you are a long time Nikon shooter, this takes some getting used to. I used a Sigma lens for a long time on my Nikon camera, though, and it doesn’t take that much time to get used to.

One thing to keep in mind is that the 2.8 aperture is only available at the widest zoom setting of 17mm. Once you zoom in from there it quickly goes up to an f/4 maximum aperture. But for a small and light lens with this much of a zoom range, f/4 is pretty impressive.

If you like to shoot macro photography during your photo walks, this lens has a minimum focusing distance of 2″ from your subject, allowing you to get real close. That is also helpful when you want to shoot a landscape and get real close to something interesting in the foreground.

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 | High-End Option

If you want to invest in a high-quality full frame lens that is perfect as a walk around lens, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is a professional level mid-range zoom lens with amazing image quality that is about half the price as its Nikon brand equivalent.

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

The middle piece of a full-frame lens “trinity,” a fast 24-70mm lens is a workhorse that many photographers use more than any other lens. This is an investment that you’ll never regret.

The 24-70 f/2.8 lens is a common focal length/aperture combination used by all genres of professional photographers. The 2.8 maximum aperture is large enough to create portrait style photos with that beautiful shallow depth of field. In addition, the image quality is good enough to shoot razor sharp landscape images.

So basically you can use this lens for just about anything and get amazing result.

There are two downsides to this lens.

The first downside is the cost. Coming in at over $1000, this is the most expensive lens on this list. However, this Tamron version of the 24-70 is still half the price of the Nikon version.

The other downside to this lens is that it is the heaviest lens on this list as well. Although the overall weight difference isn’t that much more than some of the others here.

If you are willing to make the investment in a lens like this, though, you’ll have one that has the versatility to be everything from the ultimate walk around lens to one that you can shoot professional level work with.

Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR | Nikon Z Mount Pick

The new Mirrorless system from Nikon is really exciting. Smaller size, lighter lenses, great image quality, and advanced technology built in to the cameras and lenses make the Z Mount system (the compatible lenses are designated as “S” lenses) ideal for an everyday camera that you can keep with you for those unexpected photo opportunities.

Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR

The Nikon S 24-200mm is the perfect every day lens for the Nikon Z Mount system. Paired with the Z6, Z7, or even the crop sensor Z50, this lens gives you all the versatility you could need for a walk around lens.

The Nikon S 24-200mm f/4-6.3 has a big zoom range, decent aperture, incredible sharpness, and comes in a light package that makes it ideal as a walk-around lens.

One of the undeniable features of all the Z-Mount lenses is the image quality. The larger Z mount makes it easier to direct the light entering the lens onto the sensor without as many glass elements as may have been needed for the older F-Mount. This means cleaner images and higher resolution. Seeing as the Z7 offers 45.7 megapixels, the Z lenses need to be up to the task.

In addition, the 24-200mm zoom ranges is one of the best on this list, second only to the Sigma lens below. But the Nikon S 24-200mm is superior to the Sigma in image quality. So if you have a Nikon Z camera, this is the clear winner.

Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4 | Runner-Up

The Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4 was a close second to my top pick above. But that doesn’t mean this is a bad lens, in fact there are a lot of reasons you may want to choose it over the Nikon above.

Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4

The Tamron 35-150mm is a less expensive alternative to my top pick above and the longer max focal length plus the wider max aperture at 35mm might even make it the best option for many photographers.

To start with, this lens is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Nikon 24-120mm. It also gives you more reach on the long end with a 150mm max focal length as well as a wider aperture at the 35mm end with f/2.8.

The extra reach is useful if your every day activities include more telephoto intensive types of photography such as shooting your kid’s sports.

One of the downsides to this lens is that it isn’t quite as wide as some of the other options here with the widest focal length being 35mm. If you tend to shoot a lot of landscapes or just like using wider focal lengths, then this lens may not suit your needs as well as some of the others here.

But if your typical photo walk includes more people and details rather than wider shots, then this may be perfect for you, especially if you are able to take advantage of the wider aperture at 35mm.

Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Contemporary DC OS HSM | Biggest Zoom Range

If you are looking for a huge zoom range and maximum versatility, then the Sigma 18-300mm is a great option.

Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3

The Sigma 18-300mm has a massive zoom range and a surprisingly wide max aperture at the wide end to make it the ultimate in versatility (as long as you don’t need to shoot in low light above 18mm).

You’d be hard pressed to find a subject or situation that can’t be covered well with that zoom range.

However, you do give up some image quality and have to contend with a smaller maximum aperture of f/6.3 at the long end of the zoom range. On the plus side, however, the f/3.5 maximum aperture at the wide end is actually better than the top pick above.

What To Look For In A Walk Around Lens

Versatility (Zoom Range)

If you’re looking for a goof walk around lens then the ability to use the same lens in a wide variety of situations should probably be your primary concern.

Build Quality

A “walk around lens” usually means a lens that you can keep on your camera most of the time during your every day travels or even a lens that you would keep on your camera during a vacation just to have with you for unexpected photo opportunities.

That means that the lens will get a lot of use. So you need a durable lens.

All of the lenses above have good to excellent build quality. Higher end models like the Tamron 24-70mm are “pro” lenses and have excellent build quality as well as weather sealing. Pro photographers put their cameras and lenses through a lot of use and sometimes in harsh conditions. So you can feel confident that a lens like that is going to last.

But even below that pro category, every other lens on this list is going to take repeated use and still perform as if it was new.

Image Quality

I listed this factor third because if you are looking for a “walk-around” lens then you’re probably weighing convenience much higher than impeccable image quality.

It’s hard to make generalized statements about image quality, but typically lenses with huge zoom ranges tend to sacrifice a little bit of sharpness in exchange for that versatility. Cost is also a factor as you typically get what you pay for when it comes to lenses.

That being said, modern lenses are all pretty good when it comes to image quality, so unless you are shooting professionally for a very demanding client, any of the lenses on this list are going to give you really sharp crisp images with good shooting technique.

Affordability

Cost and budget is always going to be a factor in every lens purchase. Let’s face it, lenses are expensive.

The good thing, however, is that investing in a quality lens means you’ll have that lens for years or even decades. While camera bodies become outdated in a few years, good glass never loses its usefulness.

So in creating the list above, I did my best to give you a range of price points to choose from.

So if budget is a major concern, check out our budget pick above.

Portability

This factor is usually directly at odds with the versatility and zoom range. In order to get more of a zoom range in a lens, it usually needs to be bigger.

But, something a lot of people don’t consider is that one somewhat larger lens is always going to take up less space than two lenses. It also makes getting the shot a lot easier. So don’t be afraid of a little extra size if getting the shot is important to you.

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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