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Best lenses for Nikon D850: we pick our top lenses for Nikon's flagship DSLR

Best lenses for the Nikon D850
(Image credit: Nikon)

Aimed at professionals and serious enthusiasts who want to take their photography game up a notch, the Nikon D850 still packs a punch with huge 45.7MP stills and 4K video capture. That’s why it’s important to choose top notch lenses that will attain the clearest, sharpest shots while keeping up with the photographer.

Almost every F-mount lens on offer is compatible with the Nikon D850 but there’s only a few you should lean towards if you want to achieve ultimate image quality. Nikon’s holy trinity of lenses consists of three f/2.8 zooms that cover focal lengths from 14mm all the way up to 200mm in an attempt to negate the requirement for any other lenses in the kit bag. However, there are a few key lenses that are worthy of being in this top lens roundup, including some fast primes renowned for their optical quality.

Things to look for when choosing a lens for the Nikon D850 include specialized coatings that reduce flare, glare, and ghosting – especially when shooting towards light sources such as the sun. Any optical issues will show easily with over 45MP of detail, especially when pixel peeping in the editing stage. Vibration Reduction is important for photographers hoping to shoot in low light conditions, or with longer focal lengths as it stabilizes the frame to attain a sharper image, especially when handholding longer exposures.

Speedy autofocus, controls down the lens barrel, and sleek, lightweight lens designs are equally important in the decent function of a lens so that every moment can be captured, in focus. This usually comes at a price, but there are a few honorable mentions in this guide that perform just as well, if not better, than the most expensive glass you can buy for the D850 that actually don't empty the wallet. 

Best lenses for the Nikon D850 in 2022

(Image credit: Nikon)
Mind-bogglingly optical sharpness, with little distortion and a phenomenal f/2.8 constant aperture throughout the zoom range

Specifications

Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Vibration Reduction: No
Lens Construction: 14 elements in 11 groups
Dimensions: 98 x 131mm
Weight: 1000g
Filter size: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Sharp from edge to edge, low distortion
+
Fast aperture suits low light and astro

Reasons to avoid

-
Big front element need filter adapter
-
Heavy considering it’s not that long

Arguably the best ultra-wide angle lens for Nikon overall, this 14-24mm comes with a handy sweeping focal length range for the D850 that covers everything else the other two lenses in this trinity don’t. A fast maximum aperture and huge field of view make it perfect for astrophotography and wide landscapes, with little to no aberration or optical distortion in any portion of the frame.

D850 owners should be aware that there’s no front filter attachment for this lens because the front element protrudes so much. Instead, filter systems come with a specialised adapter that attaches from the rear of the lens which can be fiddly but comprehensively fits filters without flaring issues.

(Image credit: Nikon)

2. Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

A standard zoom for professionals, this sits with two other lenses in Nikon’s trinity of perfect glass

Specifications

Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Vibration Reduction: Yes
Lens Construction: 20 elements in 16 groups
Dimensions: 88 x 154mm
Weight: 1070g
Filter size: 82mm

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile zoom range
+
Speedy and reliable autofocus
+
Four stops of Vibration Reduction

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest lens in the roundup

A staple in any professional Nikon shooter’s kit bag, this lens is the do-all answer to almost any photography assignment. It’s flexible enough to shoot wide-angle and telephoto with just a twist of the zoom ring, has a fast aperture of f/2.8 for isolating subjects from the background, and is superbly sharp throughout the zoom range from edge to edge.

It’s a little heavy and certainly not cheap, but paired with all 45.7MP of the Nikon D850’s image sensor it produces stunningly clear photos that are almost impossible to surpass. Its autofocus is lightning fast and Vibration Reduction of four stops supports the longer end of the focal length range to maintain steady and clear shots.

(Image credit: Nikon)
A must-have lens for any Nikon D850 owner, this 70-200mm is the third key 'trinity' lens for pros

Specifications

Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Vibration Reduction: Yes
Lens Construction: 22 elements in 18 groups
Dimensions: 88 x 202mm
Weight: 1430g
Filter size: 77mm

Reasons to buy

+
One of the sharpest 70-200mm zooms
+
Autofocus is out-of-this-world fast
+
Enhanced lens coatings minimize flare

Reasons to avoid

-
Certainly not the cheapest telezoom

Portraits, landscapes, concerts, wildlife, sports, this lens can do it all. A fast, constant aperture, powerful four stop Vibration Reduction, and superior lens coatings make this a lens for any event. Extensively weather sealed all round, it can be taken into any environment without worry of ingress from dust, dirt, water, or anything else.

The 70-200mm zoom range is ideal for flattening facial features and isolating subjects from busy backgrounds simultaneously. Studded with lens controls all along the lens barrel it’s easy to recompose whether handheld or on a tripod and even features automatic tripod detection to avoid VR shake blur.

Best lenses for the Nikon D850: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

(Image credit: Sigma)
This semi-wide prime is bright, beautiful, and full of character when shot wide open at f/1.4

Specifications

Maximum aperture: f/1.4
Vibration Reduction: No
Lens Construction: 13 elements in 11 groups
Dimensions: 94 x 77mm
Weight: 665g
Filter size: 67mm

Reasons to buy

+
Wonderful subject isolation wide open
+
Ideal for travel and portraiture

Reasons to avoid

-
No Vibration Reduction
-
No weather sealing in the lens

At nearly one third of the price of Nikon’s own 35mm f/1.4, this Sigma Art lens is an absolute steal and doesn’t compromise on image quality, either. A fast f/1.4 aperture give depth to images when shot wide open despite the wide-angle focal length of 35mm tending to increase depth of field

A very useful lens for environmental portraiture, it’s almost small and portable enough for street or travel photography where a wide field of view and flare-less results are paramount with changing light conditions and compositions. Though, those seeking to shoot in all weathers should be aware there are no weather seals on this lens.

(Image credit: Nikon)

5. Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G

A master lens for portraits, the short telephoto focal length and hair-width depth of field make for evocative images

Specifications

Maximum aperture: f/1.4
Vibration Reduction: No
Lens Construction: 10 elements in 9 groups
Dimensions: 86 x 84mm
Weight: 595g
Filter size: 77mm

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning clarity and image quality
+
Rounded aperture gives smooth bokeh
+
Strong autofocus performance with D850

Reasons to avoid

-
Specialized focal length

Known as ‘the’ portrait lens, its image quality is valued by many Nikon shooters, not just owners of the D850. But it does pair well with this camera thanks to the fast autofocus, great image clarity, and complementary perspective compression.

Long focal length and wide aperture combined gives an extremely shallow depth of field which must be carefully focused when shooting portraits as even the eye can be out of focus if accidentally falling forward on the eyelash, hence there’s a steep learning curve when shooting with this lens. But if properly controlled this lens gives unparalleled quality that has to be seen to be believed.

(Image credit: Tamron)

6. Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2

A versatile hyper telephoto zoom lens that brings the most distant subjects into clear view

Specifications

Maximum aperture: f/5-6.3
Vibration Reduction: Yes
Lens Construction: 21 elements in 13 groups
Dimensions: 108 x 260mm
Weight: 2010g
Filter size: 95mm

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra Sonic Drive gives fast and quiet AF
+
Huge 4.5 stops Vibration Compensation

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite heavy, typical of long lenses

This second-generation (G2) version of one of the best 150-600mm lenses has been rebuilt by Tamron improving autofocusing, stabilization, and flare control. Low Dispersion elements help keep distortion and aberration to a minimum when shooting at either end of the focal length range. Ideal for sports, action, and wildlife the slightly narrower aperture range means it’s best used during the day, or under bright stadium lighting.

Its enhanced Vibration Compensation offers a helpful 4.5 stops of optical stabilization to make it easy to shoot handheld, which ,considering it’s just over 2kg in weight, is plenty achievable if needed.

How we test lenses

We test lenses using both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.

Read more
The best Nikon lenses
Best Nikon telephoto lenses
Best Nikon portrait lenses
Best Nikon wide-angle zoom lenses
The best macro lenses

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Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer,  writer, and former Technique Editor of N-Photo magazine. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and works with many high profile international clients.