Best lenses for the 24-Mpix Nikon D7100: Telephoto primes and zooms

By Kevin Carter - Thursday October 10 2013

Lens Recommendations
Introduction | Best Super Zooms for the D7100 | Best 70-200mm lenses for the D7100 | Best telephoto primes for the D7100 | Best telephoto zooms for the D7100

As we mentioned earlier, prime telephoto lenses aren’t known as being particularly flexible; it’s not uncommon to see professionals with several long telephoto models at a single event. This, coupled with advances in optical design along with increases in performance, has seen the popularity and range of telephoto zoom models expand enormously.

Examples are available for both the working professional and the general consumer, though it comes a no surprise to see the AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II at $6,999 top our rankings. With a DxOMark score of 17 points, it comes close the optical performance of a prime lens.

 
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II69991710
Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED196168
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO-M DG Macro Nikon209159
Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED669159
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR2700159
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR999159
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR365148
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS Nikon359149
Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM Nikon16591410
Tamron AF 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical [IF] Macro Nikon1334137
Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM Nikon999137
Nikon AF VR Zoom-Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED1665137
Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM Nikon529128
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR1050127
Tamron AF 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical [IF] Macro Nikon 600116
Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Nikon649117

In second and third place, it is not at all surprising to see the less extreme AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6D ED and Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO-M DG Macro models, with DxOMark scores of 16 and 15 points respectively. 

The older iteration achieves a higher overall score for IQ, but the new model has slightly higher sharpness levels and also features stabilisation and an ultrasonic type AF motor

What is a surprise, perhaps, is the Nikkor 70-300mm lens has been superseded by the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED. It’s a good performer and boasts both stabilisation and an ultrasonic type AF motor but, although it has slightly higher sharpness, it can’t quite match the overall image quality, nor the price, of its predecessor. If budget is a consideration and if the older model can still be found on dealer’s shelves, it may be worth looking at more closely.

Although it has a moderate-to-slow variable aperture, the Sigma performs well and is modestly priced.

A special mention must also be given to the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO OS HSM. As the equivalent to a 75-750mm on the D7100, this full-frame model is typical of modern designs and glass types. With a DxOMark score of 14 points it’s an impressive performer given the zoom range, stabilisation, ultrasonic type AF motor and accessible price.

In the final part (IV) of this guide, we’ll be looking at the best performing primes and zooms covering wide-angle focal lengths.

If you have a Nikon D7100 and a favorite lens, we would very much like to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, stating what lens it is and why you like it.