Best macro lens for Nikons: 8 tested

Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S DX ED VR Micro - £415/$500

Downsized lenses for DX rather than full-frame cameras are generally smaller and lighter. Sure enough, this lens is only half the weight of the big, full-frame Nikon 105mm f/2.8G AF-S IF-ED VR Micro, but it's still slightly larger than the full-frame Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di Macro.

Part of this is due to the VR (Vibration Reduction) system fitted to the Nikon, which is a mark II edition that gives a four-stop benefit - at least, it does at medium to long focus distances. For macro shots, there's practically no advantage.

Like the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G AF-S ED Micro for full-frame cameras, this DX optic has no focus limit switch, but the ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system is fast. As usual, there's full-time manual override. Also, as with all Nikon lenses on test (apart from the 40mm), focusing is internal, so the front element doesn't extend at closer focusing distances.

Sharpness is impressive even at the widest aperture, although that's only f/3.5 - this lens is two-thirds of a stop slower than most others in the group. Darkened image corners are noticeable at the maximum aperture. There's also a bit of barrel distortion.

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

Sharpness is good throughout the aperture range, but the maximum aperture is smaller than usual.

Lab test
Sharpness at f/2.8: 2233
Sharpness at f/8: 2372
Sharpness at f/16: 2098

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

As with the Nikon 60mm lens there's practically no visible colour fringing, even towards the corners of the frame.

Lab test
Fringing at f/2.8: 0.17
Fringing at f/8: 0.2
Fringing at f/16: 0.16

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

Barrel distortion is noticeable, and in this respect the lens returned the worst score in the group.

Lab test
Distortion: -0.56

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

Good for sharpness and absence of colour fringing, the Nikon 85mm is let down by a poor level of distortion and noticeable vignetting.