Pairing a wide-angle zoom lens with your Nikon camera allows you to fill the frame with your subject. You can produce a wide perspective that's perfect for landscapes, cityscapes and architecture. Wide-angle lenses are also often nice and small, making them ideal for travel and for shooting situations where space is limited. For example if you’re shooting indoors and constrained by walls and other obstacles, a wide-angle zoom can be a massive help.
Get close to your subjects and you can exaggerate perspective, or back out to cram in as much context as possible. A wide-angle zoom gives you the best of both worlds, and if you're still building your lens collection it's one of the best Nikon lenses you can get. However, whatever kind of lens you’re buying, it always pays to buy a good one. The good news is that you don't have to pay over the odds, and many great lenses are available for knock-down prices.
One thing to bear in mind, however, is that a lens's focal length does depend on the camera you pair it with. FX-format (i.e. full frame) lenses can be paired with Nikon cameras with full-frame or APS-C sensors (known as FX and DX cameras), however, the smaller APS-C DX sensor will change the angle of light entering the camera and extend its focal length. So, a lens that's wide on a full-frame FX camera won't be as wide on a DX-format camera. Always check what kind of camera you're using and make your choice accordingly.
In this guide we've included dedicated FX-format lenses, as well as DX-format lenses designed specifically for APS-C cameras. We've also added a wide-angle zoom for the Nikon mirrorless Z-mount system.
Here’s our guide to the best-buy wide-angle zooms for Nikon on the market.
Nikon F DX
Nearly a decade after Tamron launched its original DX format 10-24mm lens, last year saw the release of the new VC HLD edition, the Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD. It has new and improved optical performance, plus a revolutionary HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus system. Autofocus is faster, quieter and more accurate than in the older lens. Handling is improved because the focus ring no longer rotates during autofocus, while also enabling full-time manual override.
The new lens also features VC (Vibration Compensation), whereas optical stabilization was lacking in the original lens. Electromagnetic aperture control is also new, for improved exposure consistency in rapid-fire continuous shooting, although it makes the lens incompatible with some older Nikon DSLRs. Build quality enhancements include a full set of weather seals, plus a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and grease.
In our tests, the Tamron beat both of Nikon’s upmarket DX format zooms for sharpness across the whole image frame, and produced less colour fringing and distortion. For a DX format wide-angle zoom, the new Tamron is the pick of the crop.
With immense pulling power, this Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM can suck much more into the image frame than most wide-angle zooms. The difference is immediately obvious, and somewhat eye-popping as you look through the viewfinder.
The high-spec optical path includes four top-quality FLD (Fluorite-grade Low Dispersion) elements and Sigma’s Super Multi-Layer Coatings to guard against ghosting and flare. Further defence is offered by the built-in lens hood, but a downside of this is that you can only attach filters to the two-part lens cap, rather than to the lens itself. Try this at anything other than the longest zoom setting and you’ll get extreme clipping of the image corners.
Despite the enormous maximum viewing angle, sharpness is very good across the whole image frame, and both colour fringing and distortions are well controlled. If you want truly epic viewing angles on your DX format DSLR, this Sigma is the lens to buy.
The original edition of Tokina’s ATX 11-16mm was one of the first ultra-wide zooms for DX format Nikon DSLRs. The Mark II edition added an internal autofocus motor, enabling autofocus on entry-level bodies like the D40 and later D3000 and D5000 series cameras, which lack in-body AF drive. This new version is from Tokina’s ‘atx-i’ stable, ‘i’ standing for ‘interactive’ mutual communication between photographer and lens. It’s redesigned with a more streamlined, up-to-date look and feel but retains the original lens’s high standard of build quality. Further similarities include a fast and constant f/2.8 aperture rating, and Tokina’s trademark ‘One-touch Focus Clutch’ mechanism, which enables switching between autofocus and manual focus with a push-pull action of the focus ring. The optical path includes exotic, high-tech elements that help to deliver very good image quality.
Launched about 10 years ago, this was Sigma’s second DX format 10-20mm zoom lens. It’s larger than the original lens, but has a constant rather than variable aperture rating. In this respect, it’s similar to the Tokina 11-20mm lens, although the Sigma is two-thirds of an f/stop slower.
Premium glass includes two ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) elements plus an SLD (Special Low Dispersion) element. Despite costing about the same as Nikon’s budget 10-20mm lens, this Sigma feels much more solid and sturdy. It has a fast and whisper-quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system and, unlike Sigma’s 8-16mm lens, it has a filter attachment thread and removable hood.
Sharpness is impressive, especially in the central region of the frame, while colour fringing and distortions are particularly minimal. For a high-performance, top-value DX format lens, it can’t be beaten.
A recent addition to Nikon’s lineup, this wide-angle zoom is refreshingly small and lightweight. To put it into context, both the competing Sigma DX format lenses are more than twice as heavy as the Nikon. There’s a catch though, in that the mounting plate is plastic rather than metal, and the overall build feels much less robust.
Unlike Nikon’s older DX format wide-angle zooms, this one adds VR (Vibration Reduction), with a 3.5-stop effectiveness in beating camera shake. There’s also a virtually silent AF-P stepping motor autofocus system, which works well for stills and movie capture alike. However, this does make both autofocus and manual focusing impossible with a number of older DSLRs, and there’s no focus distance scale.
Sharpness is very good at the centre of the frame but drops off noticeably towards the corners. Performance could be better in terms of distortion and color fringing but, overall, it’s a neat and very travel-friendly lightweight zoom.
Nikon F FX
Compared with Sigma’s slightly older 12-24mm Art lens, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM | A has a more modest maximum viewing angle but a faster aperture rating. The net result is that both lenses have a practically identical size and weight. The starring optical attraction is an ultra-high-precision moulded glass aspherical front element, which represents a considerable manufacturing challenge. Further optical highlights include three FLD (Fluorite-grade Low Dispersion) and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements.
The consummately pro-grade build has a high-precision yet very robust feel throughout. There’s a full set of weather seals, plus a keep-clean fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements.
Contrast and sharpness are marvellous, the latter being maintained very well out to the corners of the frame, even when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. Even more impressively, colour fringing and distortions are absolutely negligible. Overall image quality beats that of Nikon’s pricier 14-24mm lens, making the Sigma an absolute bargain.
Noticeably smaller than most other FX format lenses, this Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is little more than half the weight of some competitors, thanks to the combination of a relatively modest maximum viewing angle and an f/4 rather than f/2.8 aperture rating. This is also the only FX format lens in the group to feature a filter attachment thread and removable hood.
Two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements in the optical path help to optimize image quality, and a Nano Crystal coat minimizes ghosting and flare. Build quality feels very solid, complete with a weather-sealed mounting plate.
Image quality is particularly good at the short end of the zoom range, although sharpness drops off at bit at the long end. The ‘VR’ optical stabilizer is nice to have, especially for shooting in cathedrals, museums and other locations where you might not be allowed to use a tripod. However, it only has a 2.5-stop effectiveness, and is outclassed by the 4.5-stop stabilizer in Tamron’s newer 15-30mm G2 lens.
We were always fond of Sigma’s 12-24mm Mark II lens, which delivered a monstrous maximum viewing angle along with good overall image quality and performance. The newer ‘Art’ edition from Sigma’s Global Vision range ups the stakes, with a constant rather than variable aperture rating.
The optical path is refined and incorporates an extra-large diameter aspherical element, along with five top-class FLD (Fluorite-grade Low Dispersion) elements. The mounting plate gains a weather seal and fluorine coatings have been added to the front and rear elements. The new lens retains a ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, but it has extra torque for improved performance. Another notable upgrade is that the Art lens is compatible with Sigma’s optional USB Dock for applying firmware updates and fine-tuning. The only downside is that it’s rather bigger and heavier than the previous edition.
Image quality is excellent, despite the extravagant maximum viewing angle, and there’s much less distortion than from the previous Mk II lens, although it’s not as ‘distortion-free’ as Sigma’s newer 14-24mm Art lens. Even so, this is the lens to get for ultra-wide-angle coverage.
The original edition of Tamron’s 15-30mm very nearly matched Nikon’s mighty 14-24mm lens for maximum viewing angle, had the same fast and constant f/2.8 aperture rating, but also added optical stabilization. Further attractions included a full set of weather seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. It also massively undercut the Nikon lens for price.
The new G2 (Generation 2) edition represents a major upgrade. The autofocus system is faster and more precise, and the effectiveness of the optical stabilizer increases from 2.5 stops to 4.5 stops. A new high-tech coating is added to the existing nano-structure and conventional coatings, and even the muck-resistant fluorine coating on the front element is improved.
Overall, the G2 lens is better in pretty much every area. It’s a third more expensive to buy than the original lens, but is still very good value for money.
Best Z-mount lenses
This wide-angle is designed specifically for the Nikon Z series of full-frame mirrorless cameras, and although it has a slightly disappointing maximum aperture of f/4, it does have internal optics that ensure pin-sharp image quality. It has 14 elements in total, split into 11 groups, and the control ring can be assigned to the user's preferred functions such as focus, ISO, exposure compensation, etc.
The stepping motor autofocus system is fast, accurate and practically silent, meaning the lens is a solid choice for videos as well as stills. The lens is also nice and lightweight, suiting the Z-mount mirrorless cameras perfectly, and if you're a user of Nikon DSLRs and would like to give it a try, you can pick up the FTZ mount adapter.
Providing superb sharpness and excellent operability, the Nikon Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S is an extremely solid lens all-around, as long as you can live with that f/4 maximum aperture.
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