Prime lenses are some of the sharpest pieces of glass on any platform. They are fast, lightweight, easy to use for long periods of time, and they come in various focal lengths. Perhaps two of the most used primes are the 35mm and the 50mm.
These two focal lengths are perfect for many different genres of photography. 35mm prime lenses are great for weddings, events, environmental portraits, documentarians and street photographers, where as 50mm prime lenses lend themselves to portrait artists and street photographers as well. Their versatility, great low light performance, fast autofocusing speeds, and sharp images make them firm favorites of many. Here’s a look at a couple of our top choices of each for Nikon cameras.
Nikon 35mm F1.8 G ED
If you want to have a Nikon branded 35mm lens, the 35mm f1.8 G ED is the one you should spring for. It’s light weight, overall build quality, and sharp images make this a firm front-runner. We had fun using it during testing and were quite pleased overall with performance and output.
In our review we said:
“The image quality from Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 G ED is really, really good–enough to make any Canon shooter want to convert right now. For the price point and being an f1.8 lens, the sharpness is better than most things that we’ve seen at this price point that will fulfill the needs and wants of most pixel peepers.”
The Nikon 35mm f1.8 G ED weighs in at just 0.67lbs which makes it easy to use for long periods of time. The overall build quality is good and will survive bangs and bumps with no problem at all. We even shot with it in the rain and it performed just fine despite it not being weather sealed.
Inside the body you will find 11 elements in 8 groups, and 7 aperture blades. The images that the optics produce are tack sharp, even when wide open. Colors rendered are true to life and not overly vibrant, and while bokeh is perhaps a little hazy and not creamy, you’ll still get those nice round bokeh balls that everyone loves. This lens is perfect for wedding and event photographers thanks to the maximum aperture of f1.8, while it’s fast autofocusing speeds will also delight street photographers and documentarians too.
If you’re looking for a relatively cheap way to get your hands on one of Nikon’s prime lenses, and just happen to be looking for a 35mm, you should check out this one. We believe you’ll be elated with it.
Buy now ($526.95): Amazon
Nikon 35mm F1.8 G ED Sample Images
Pro Tip: If you are using a lens and/or a camera body that aren’t weather sealed, you should make sure to carry some inexpensive rain covers in your camera bag. The last thing you want is to be caught off guard in a downpour.
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM
The Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM is perhaps one of the best prime lenses Sigma makes. It’s so good that it also made our list of prime lenses to buy for Canon bodies too. The Sigma 35mm is built like a tank, offers amazingly sharp images, and is under $800.
In our review we said:
“The Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG is extremely sharp wide open; to date it is the sharpest 35mm lens that we’ve seen sans the Zeiss 35mm which doesn’t feature autofocus.”
Inside the well built body of the lens you will find 13 elements in 11 groups, along with 9 rounded aperture blades. Images produced with this lens are quite simply stunning. When shot wide open you will see some slight vignetting but we feel this just adds to the overall quality of the images. In fact the images have a medium format quality about them. Colors are nice and saturated, which is what we have come to expect from Sigma glass, and the bokeh is beautiful and creamy.
This lens is heavier than the Nikon 35mm f1.8. The Sigma weighs in at 1.46lbs but, even after long sessions, it won’t cause any problems. The maximum aperture of f1.4 means you can use this lens in the toughest of lighting conditions and still get great results. The autofocus motors are also incredibly quiet and fast too, even in low light.
If you have a little extra money to spend, and want perhaps the best 35mm lens around then you owe it to yourself to take a look at this offering from Sigma.
Buy now ($799): Amazon
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Sample Images
Pro Tip: If you want extra comfort while out shooting, use a camera sling instead of the neck strap that comes with your camera. Camera slings take all of the weight and disperse it evenly across your upper body, which is much better than being on your neck.
Nikon 50mm f1.8 G
When it comes to primes lenses, the 50mm (or the ‘nifty fifty’ as it is affectionately known) is one lens every photographer should have in their camera bag. Like Canon, Nikon offer a very affordable way to break into the world of prime lenses with their 50mm f1.8. These little marvels may be low in price, but they rate highly when it comes to image quality and overall bang for your buck.
In our review we said:
“This lens is for the elder statesman photographer or the newbie. It can tackle pretty much every situation on any Nikon digital camera.”
While you aren’t getting a premium lens here, you are getting a lens that can deliver some outstanding results for little outlay. The internals of Nikon 50mm f1.8 are comprised of 7 elements in 6 groups, with 7 aperture blades. Image quality overall is impressive with sharp images when shot wide open. Stop the lens down just a hair and you will find edge-to-edge sharpness.
Colors rendered are nice and natural, with skin tones in particular looking remarkable. This is a key point as many photographers like to use 50mm prime lenses for portrait work. Bokeh produced is really quite nice (not Sigma nice, but then again you’re not paying for that), and pleasing to the eye – not distracting in any way. Fast focusing speeds and light weight (0.41lbs) make this a great lens for street photography, or just a great walk around lens.
The nifty fifty is often a photographer’s first prime lens because of their low price and great performance. If you have been thinking about trying one out on your Nikon body, this is where you should start.
Buy now ($196.95): Amazon
Nikon 50mm F1.8 G Sample Images
Pro Tip: Keep your lenses looking like new by carrying a quality lens cleaning kit in your camera bag. The last thing you want is dust, grease, or finger prints ruining your images. Be prepared to clean your glass while out and about.
Zeiss Milvus 50mm F2
The Zeiss Milvus f2 is a premium lens in every sense of the word; premium build quality, premium image quality, premium price point. That pretty much sums up this lens. I could’ve listed the Sigma 50mm f1.4 here, just like I did in the Canon edition of this article. The Sigma is cheaper, offers outstanding performance, and is available with a Nikon mount, but I would be remiss not to mention the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f2.
In our review we said:
“These lenses are a work of art. They’re built well, they deliver incredible image quality, and they perform exactly how you expect them to. A lens like this is best left in the hands of a very experienced shooter though.”
As mentioned above, the Zeiss Milvus series of lenses are masterpieces. The build quality of the lens is outstanding. The premium metal body will make all other lenses feel cheap in comparison (even the newest Sigma Art lenses), and the weather sealing means this lens can shoot in just about any weather condition. Inside the lens you’ll find 8 elements in 6 groups. Images produced are ridiculously sharp, colors are beautiful and vivid, and the bokeh produced is a joy to behold. There is nothing about the image quality you won’t love.
The Zeiss Milvus 50mm f2 is a manual focus lens, so while it may not be great for street photography, it is perfect for those who are serious portrait photographers, landscape photographers, and for those who like to shoot relatively still subjects.
Yes, the Zeiss Milvus 50mm is at the other end of the spectrum when compared to the Nikon 50mm, but you are getting a special lens here. A lens that (when in the right hands) will produce images that will make your jaw drop – a lens that is a work of art in itself.
If you want one of the very best 50mm lenses on the market, and do not mind that it’s manual focus, the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f2 is one of the prime lenses you should definitely consider putting on your Nikon body.
Buy now ($1,012.79): Amazon
Zeiss Milvus 50mm Image Samples