In this guide, we will help you choose the best Nikon telephoto lens to pair with your SLR or mirrorless camera.
There are many long focal length optics proposed by the company and these are accompanied by compatible lenses, made by third-party manufacturers (such as Sigma and Tamron ). Below we have selected the most valid options and provided a brief description of the main features for each model.
In the mirror below you will find the list of the best Nikon telephoto lenses currently in the guide. Click on a model name to go directly to the part dedicated to it. If you want to know more about this type of lens or have doubts about compatibility with your camera, we recommend that you read the introductory section of the page.
Best Telephoto Lenses for Nikon 2022
Best Telephoto Lenses for Nikon | Comparison Table 2022
|High-Power 500mm/1000mm f/8 Manual Telephoto Lens for Nikon D7500, D500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D800, D810, D850, D3100, D3200, D3300, D3400, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600, D7000, D7100, D7200||BIG MIKE'S ELECTRONICS||Check Price|
|JINTU 420-800mm f/8.3 HD Manual Focus Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon SLR Digital Camera Lenses D5600 D5500 D5300 D5200 D5100 D3500 D3400 D3300 D3100 D3200 D7500 D7200 D7000 D7100 D750 D90 D850 + Bag||JINTU||Check Price|
|NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 Compact Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras||Nikon||Check Price|
|Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras||Nikon||Check Price|
|Lightdow 420-800mm f/8.3 Manual Zoom Telephoto Lens + T-Mount for Nikon D5500 D3300 D3200 D5300 D3400 D7200 D750 D3500 D7500 D500 D600 D700 D800 D810 D850 D3100 D5100 D5200 D7000 D7100 Camera Lenses||Lightdow||Check Price|
|Opteka 650-1300mm (with 2X- 1300-2600mm) Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon D5, D4, D850, D810, D800, D750, D610, D600, D7500, D7200, D7100, D5600, D5500, D5300, D5200, D3400 and D3300 Digital SLR Cameras||Opteka||Check Price|
|Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 VC USD Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (6 Year Limited USA Warranty)||Tamron||Check Price|
|Meike 85mm f1.8 Wide Aperture Full Frame Auto Focus Telephoto Lens for Nikon F Mount DSLR Camera and Compatible with Nikon APS-C Cameras D610 D750 D780 D810||Meike||Check Price|
|High-Power 420-1600mm f/8.3 HD Manual Telephoto Lens for Nikon D500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D800, D800e, D810, D810a, D850, D3400, D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600, D7100, D7200, D7500 DSLR||BIG MIKE'S ELECTRONICS||Check Price|
Best Telephoto Lenses for Nikon | Products Overview 2022
Best Nikon Telephoto Lens: Which to Choose? The Features to Evaluate
There are about a dozen telephoto lenses for Nikon that are part of this guide, and although they are all in the same category, they are very different from each other. Not surprisingly, their price also varies from a few hundred euros to several thousand, for the most advanced optics.
So let’s try to clarify what are the key characteristics of telephoto lenses , those on the basis of which each model differs from the other.
The most important properties of lenses, in general, are the focal length and aperture. In the case of telephoto lenses, a very important role is then covered by some options and particular optical characteristics.
The focal length, which as you probably already know is expressed in millimeters, is that parameter that indicates the angle of view that you can frame with a lens.
Low values (such as 24mm ) correspond to a wide angle of view, typical of wide angles, which allows you to shoot very large scenes, such as landscapes.
On the contrary, high values ( 100mm, 200mm, 300mm …) allow to frame a narrow-angle of view. This has the effect of concentrating the shot on a particular, which appears all the more magnified as the focal length increases. Exceeding the 70mm focal length, you enter precisely the field of competence of telephoto lenses, the subject of this guide.
In the diagram below we show the shot that would be obtained by shooting from the same point (the terrace of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris) using a different focal length.
Although technically, an 85mm also belongs in all respects to this category, we think that if you are looking for a Nikon telephoto lens you are oriented towards much longer focal lengths, which involve a significant magnification of the subject. For this reason, we have only considered lenses that reach at least 200mm of maximum focal length.
However, most of the lenses we have considered are of the zoom type and offer a remarkable focal range. Many of them also cover more moderate focal lengths, from medium-telephoto, such as the various 70-200mm or 70-300mm, which guarantees considerable versatility.
The second parameter to consider when choosing a Nikon telephoto lens is its maximum aperture.
This value, as well as the focal length, is always indicated in the model name, preceded by “ f / “. As a general rule, a large maximum aperture, which corresponds to a low value (such as f / 2.8 ) is preferable to a narrow one (higher values, such as f / 5.6 ).
The most virtuous lenses, from this point of view, are called bright in jargon, as opposed to those defined as dark. A large aperture has several positive effects on photography. Below, we mention the most significant ones:
- Open apertures allow you to reduce shutter speeds, limiting the risk of finding yourself with blurred photos.
- A wide aperture allows you to keep the background out of focus and focus interest on the subject, an effect normally sought in genres consistent with long focal lengths.
- A very wide maximum aperture makes it possible to use teleconverters (if compatible) without serious repercussions on the performance of the lens.
That said, the brightness of a telephoto lens must always be evaluated in relation to its range. As the focal length increases, it is increasingly difficult (for design reasons) to find oneself with large apertures, if not investing a very high budget.
For a lens that reaches 200mm (we will see many telephoto lenses for Nikon on this cut) an aperture of f / 4 can be considered satisfactory, f / 2.8 excellent, and f / 5.6 mediocre. Going up to 400mm, however, an aperture of f / 5.6 is considered more than appreciable, while the few options available at f / 4 are purely professional in nature. A 400mm / 2.8 complex, on the other hand, would cost more than a small car!
In the case of tele-zoom lenses, two different maximum apertures are often indicated (ex: 70-300 f / 4-5.6 ). In these cases, the widest aperture refers to the minimum focal length and the narrowest aperture to the maximum focal length. At focal lengths between minimum and maximum, an intermediate diaphragm opening can be used.
However, the subject is too broad to be explained in detail here. If you want to know more, we recommend that you read our guide to the lens aperture.
The reproduction ratio is another feature that – depending on your needs – could be important to consider for choosing a Nikon telephoto.
This is the maximum magnification that you will be able to obtain in close-up shots and refers to the ratio between the dimensions of the subject in focus and those of the sensor. In the case of macro lenses proper, the reproduction ratio would be 1x (or 1: 1). You could then fully shoot a subject with the same sensor size.
We have dedicated a separate guide to lenses of this kind (see: best macro lenses for Nikon ), while here we will not deal with such high magnifications. However, some of the telephoto lenses for Nikon that we will analyze have a very interesting reproduction ratio, such as 0.4x or 0.3x for example. In the datasheets of the individual models, further on, we have reported the most performing optics from this point of view.
The ability to obtain high magnifications in the close-up pictures depends, technically, on a high ratio between focal length and minimum focus distance.
Obviously, we advise you to consider this parameter if you are interested in shooting details and close-ups (butterflies, insects, flowers…). If not, it’s a feature that can easily take a back seat.
Among the possible options of telephoto lenses, the image stabilizer is certainly the most interesting. This device makes it possible to obtain perfectly clear photos even using relatively long shutter speeds in relation to the focal length used.
As a rule, to have a good chance of avoiding blurry photos, you should use a faster time than the inverse of the focal length, for example, less than 1/200 when shooting at 200mm or less than 1/400 when shooting at 400mm.
In the case of a stabilized lens, this safety threshold is significantly lowered and makes it possible to shoot at super-telephoto focal lengths even with rather long times (eg: 400mm @ 1/90 ).
The importance of the image stabilizer, especially for telephoto lenses, is such that its presence has become somewhat of a standard on this type of lens. Almost all Nikon telephoto lenses that we will see are in fact equipped with them. Older models generally provide a maximum gain of about 3 stops of time, while the latest generation optics also reach 5.
Telephoto Lens Compatibility with Nikon Cameras (Reflex / Mirrorless, DX / FX)
The choice of a lens must always be made according to – as well as your needs – also the camera in possession: reflex or mirrorless. Each Nikon telephoto lens has a specific amount, which makes it compatible with one of two types of cameras.
Most of the lenses that we will see, in truth, are designed for SLR cameras. Nikon Z telephoto lenses for mirrorless cameras (to which we dedicated the last part of the guide) are in fact available, for the moment, in a very limited number of models.
Considering the considerable commitment the company is showing in this segment, it is easy to foresee that a number of new lenses will be introduced for these cameras shortly.
In the meantime, if you own a mirrorless camera and can’t find a natively compatible model that’s right for you, you can use a telephoto lens designed for reflex cameras using the simple FTZ adapter.
This adapter is often supplied as a kit with the camera itself, but you can also buy it separately. Its use does not alter in any way neither the optical quality of the lens nor the autofocus performance.
Beyond the type of camera, a priori distinction must be made regarding the type of sensor integrated into it. Except in rare cases (appropriately highlighted in the guide), the Nikon telephoto lenses that we will see are suitable for both FX cameras (full-frame) and DX cameras (APS-C).
However, if associated with the latter, their focal length will be 1.5x higher due to the crop factor. For example, a 70-200mm used on a DX camera will behave like an “equivalent” 105-300mm. The range of the telephoto lens will therefore be even more boosted.
In the individual cards, to dispel any doubts, we have written in black and white which types of cameras each lens is suitable for and what its equivalent focal length is.
Tamron SP AF 70-300mm f / 4-5.6 Di VC USD
The first telephoto lens for Nikon that we want to describe to you is one of the cheapest options among those present in this guide.
The Tamron 70-300mm is compatible with both Nikon FX ( full-frame ) and DX ( APS-C ) SLRs. On the latter, it will behave like a 105-450mm equivalent.
Such a high focal length allows you to maintain an appropriate distance when shooting animals in the wild or, in general, unapproachable subjects, still obtaining a good magnification.
Autofocus offers good performance overall, although the difference with high-end lenses is quite noticeable. This makes it possible to approach even fast-moving subjects, such as birds in flight or athletes engaged in a sports competition.
A relatively short minimum focusing distance (150cm) allows for interesting close-up shots, achieving a reproduction ratio of approximately 0.25x.
The image quality is more than sufficient in an amateur context and considerably higher than that which distinguishes the objectives of the economic range, such as the zoom sold-in kit with the camera. A slight decrease in sharpness is observed at the most extreme focal lengths (from 200 / 250mm upwards), situations in which it is advisable to close the diaphragm by a couple of stops to obtain the maximum yield.
The lens has an efficient image stabilizer, which is very useful when shooting in low light, especially when using three-digit focal lengths.
There are several telephoto lenses for Nikon that are placed on this exact focal range. The stabilized Tamron 70-300 is certainly what we suggest to those who are approaching optics of this type and want to do it without excessive expense, still being able to count on a good general quality level.
It is important not to confuse this model with the Tamron 70-300 is not stabilized, model instead strongly advises against. The difference does not lie only in the presence of the stabilizer (however very important on these focal lengths): it is an old project, now obsolete and of very low quality.
Those who demand even more from a qualitative point of view (and are willing to invest a higher budget) can instead consider the Nikkor that we will see in a moment.