Like Canon DSLRs, Nikon DSLRs come with sensors in two sizes – APS-C and full frame – and Nikon-fit lenses are designed for these two sensor sizes too. You can use full-frame lenses on APS-C cameras, but it doesn't work so well the other way round because the camera will then only work in 'crop' mode, where you lose the advantage of the bigger sensor.
However, with the exception of one lens, all the lenses in our list are for full-frame (FX) Nikon DSLRs, so they'll also work fine on the smaller (DX) format models. The only difference is that on a DX Nikon, the effective focal length is 1.5x longer. This is fine for macro lenses, though, because it's often an advantage to be a little further from your subject anyway.
Best macro lenses for Nikon DSLRs...
1. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
Redesigned, revamped and remarkable
Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilisation: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 30cm | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions: 79 x 117mm | Weight: 610g
Tamron has developed something of a history in manufacturing popular 90mm macro lenses. This new edition is the second to feature VC (Vibration Compensation) optical stabilisation and USD (Ultrasonic Drive) autofocus but, while it bears the same string of letters as its predecessor, it’s a completely new design. The new stabiliser is a hybrid system that compensates for axial shift as well as vibration, with the optics are engineered to enhance the quality of bokeh. The ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system is optimised for macro shooting but is fast and accurate at any distance, complete with a three-position range limiter. Image quality is stunning, with superb contrast and sharpness.
2. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro
High-end performance at a low price
Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilisation: Yes | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 31cm | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions: 78 x 126mm | Weight: 725g
Often it takes something special to tempt photographers from their camera's own-brand lenses, and this Sigma goes all out for the win. Its pro-spec design includes fast and near silent ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and there's a highly effective four-stop optical stabiliser. Two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements help produce excellent sharpness, even at the widest aperture. Colour fringing is negligible, and distortion is essentially a non-issue. As well as being very quick, autofocusing is good at locking on to targets in all lighting conditions and there are three focus-limiting options. Sublime handling and Nikon-rivalling build quality completes this terrific lens.
3. Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR IF-ED Micro
Nikon's most impressive macro lens
Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilisation: Yes | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 31cm | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions: 83 x 116mm | Weight: 720g
Nikon currently markets several of what it calls ‘Micro’ lenses, including two DX models that are specifically designed for use on APS-C format cameras. This was the world’s first macro lens to include an optical stabiliser, although it’s not a hybrid system. The upmarket build includes a weather-sealed mount, an ED (Extra-low Dispersion) optical element, Nano Crystal coating to reduce ghosting and flare, and fast ring-type ultrasonic autofocus. Autofocus and VR (Vibration Reduction) work well for general shooting but are of no real benefit for extreme close-ups. Manual focusing is more precise than in other recent Nikon ‘G-type’ macro lenses and the image quality is very good overall, but the lens isn’t great value at this price.
4. Samyang 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro
Manual focus, but worth a look
Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilisation: No | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 31cm | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 73 x 121mm | Weight: 705g
Samyang is a very manual affair. Lacking any autofocus ability, the Nikon version at least includes the electronics and mechanics necessary for adjusting the aperture from the host camera. The lens is well engineered and handles beautifully. The focus ring has a long travel and is silky smooth in operation, enabling excellent precision for very fine adjustments. High-quality optical elements include both ED (Extra-low Dispersion) and HR (High Refractive) glass. Sharpness and contrast are good even at the widest available aperture of f/2.8, and remain very consistent throughout most of the aperture range.
5. Tokina AT-X AF 100 f/2.8 Pro D
An old-school but well-built lens
Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilisation: No | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 30cm | Filter size: 55mm | Dimensions: 74 x 95mm | Weight: 640g
Using a relatively old design, the Tokina lacks mod cons like optical stabilisation. There’s no AF motor at all in the Nikon-fit version, which means that autofocus is impossible with bodies like the D3300 and D5500, which lack in-camera AF drive motors. This lens lacks internal focusing, so the inner barrel extends as you focus at closer distances. Even so, it’s physically quite small and the Tokina is well-engineered, with a high-quality feel to its handling. Where available, autofocus is a bit slow and clearly audible. Image quality is very good, although the otherwise excellent sharpness levels drop at f/22, a desirable aperture for macro shooting.
6. Nikon AF-S DX 40mm f/2.8G Micro
It's a mere slip of a thing
Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabilisation: No | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 16cm | Filter size: 52mm | Dimensions: 69 x 65mm | Weight: 235g
Relatively tiny and a real lightweight, this lens measures a mere 69 x 65mm and, at 235g, is only about a third of the weight of some lenses here. This is due to it being a DX-format lens, having a short 40mm focal length, and lacking an internal focusing mechanism. This means the front of the lens is 3.5cm from the subject at the minimum setting for full 1.0x magnification, which often casts a shadow over the subject. Image quality is very good, but autofocus is pretty slow, and manual focusing is hampered by a lack of smoothness and precision in the focus ring.