Best macro lens for Nikons: 8 tested

Tamron 60mm f/2 SP AF Di II Macro - £350/$460

Given the success of Tamron's full-frame 90mm macro lens, it's natural that the brand should try to replicate the winning recipe in a 60mm lens for DX cameras. On bodies such as the Nikon D3100 and Nikon D7000 you get an effective 90mm focal length in a smaller package. A key difference is that this 60mm lens has internal focusing, so its length doesn't increase as focus distance decreases.

The 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di Macro's push-pull focus ring design is replaced here with an AF/MF switch. The autofocus motor is still a basic electric type, so there's no manual override and the switch is more fiddly and time-consuming to use than the push-pull arrangement. Build quality is nothing special, though this is the 'fastest' lens on test, with a maximum aperture of f/2.

Whereas Tamron's 90mm lens is extremely sharp at its maximum aperture, the 60mm is by far the poorest in the group. It redeems itself with good resolution in the f/8 to f/16 range, which is more appropriate for macro shooting. However, the focus ring is horribly stiff and jerky, making fine adjustments tricky when you're focusing manually.

Sharpness

The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.Best macro lens for Nikons

There's a major lack of sharpness when you shoot at f/2 and f/2.8. The lens doesn't get into its stride until f/5.6.

Lab test
Sharpness at f/2.8: 532
Sharpness at f/8: 2346
Sharpness at f/16: 2027

Fringing

The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.Best macro lens for Nikons

Noticeable colour fringing can be problematic outside the centre of the frame, and is quite poor in the corners.

Lab test
Fringing at f/2.8: 0.79
Fringing at f/8: 0.28
Fringing at f/16: 0.3

Distortion

The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.Best macro lens for Nikons

Visible barrel distortion is a flaw, the Tamron delivering lab figures almost as bad as those from the Nikon 85mm.

Lab test
Distortion: -0.55

Image quality verdict

The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.The focal lengths of the lenses in our roundup range from 40mm to 105mm. Unlike some antiquated optics, all modern macro lenses are dual-purpose designs. They're good for close-ups but also as high-quality prime lenses with a fairly 'fast' maximum aperture, typically f/2.8, which is great for portraits or shooting in low light.Best macro lens for Nikons

Disappointing in almost every respect, the Tamron 60mm has the worst all-round image quality of the lenses in our test.