Best lenses for the 24M-Pix Nikon D7100: Best standard and portrait primes and zooms

By Kevin Carter - Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Lens Recommendations
Introduction | Best short telephoto for the D7100 | Best standard prime lenses for the D7100 | Best Standard zoom models for the D7100

It comes as little surprise to see modern lens designs occupying the top slots in this group of focal lengths.

If autofocus and image quality are paramount the choice is a costly one; $2199 will secure you the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G, which also achieves the highest overall sharpness score of 16P-Mpix. If you’re looking for a bargain, the new f/1.8G version is promising.

Although it has a slower maximum aperture, obviously, it’s more compact, significantly cheaper and nearly as sharp. There are still some savings to be when compared to the modestly priced f/1.4 Sigma, and it’s sharper, and has less troublesome chromatic aberration.

 
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G21993016
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G6903015
Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon9692712
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon3282614
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF12302514
Carl Zeiss Planar T 85mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon12802514
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D3292414
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon4992413
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D4602414
Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD Nikon7492413
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G4482313
Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Nikon4992311
Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 50mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon12802214
Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO Nikon4602211
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G2192214
Tamron SP AF 60mm F/2 Di II LD [IF] MACRO Nikon4992114
Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D4602113
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D1342013
Carl Zeiss Planar T 50mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon7252012
Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR5001710

The Samyang must also be worth considering. It’s not an AF model but it’s solidly made, has a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture and costs just $328. With that specification it would make a good choice for outdoor portraits and, as a manual focus lens, it will likely appeal to budding movie-makers as well.

The three best performing short telephoto lenses on the Nikon D7100

Bear in mind on the D7100, 85mm lenses have a similar field of view to a 130mm focal length on a 35mm full-frame body, and are typically more suited to outdoor portraits than in a small studio. It’s one of the reasons why the shorter 50mm lenses (which approximate the field of view of an 80mm) are enjoying a renaissance. 

The newer AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G has lower levels of CA but most of the refinements were made with regard to autofocus (with the inclusion of an integral AF motor). The older film era AF-D model is a slightly better performer optically.

At $329 the older AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D, if it can be found, is a (very) slightly better performer optically overall and marginally better at full aperture than the newer, more expensive SWM (ultrasonic motor) equipped AF-S Nikkor version.  The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is another fine performer though, somewhat surprisingly; at $499 it’s the dearest of the three.

The full aperture performance of the Nikkor models is very close, though the older AF-D is marginally ahead. The Sigma performs well at the periphery, only to have less definition in the centre.

If the range of models offered wasn’t complicated enough, Nikon also offers a modestly priced ($229), lightweight AF-S 50mm f/1.8G model as well as an older film-era AF-D type at just $134. There are also some attractive macro lenses, which, if you don’t need the faster maximum aperture, can be a better all-round choice for their consistently high image quality.  Of those, the Sigma 70mm is the best performer overall but the Tamron 60mm and the Nikon equivalent are both technically sharper.

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A good proportion of the primes in this focal length range (50-90mm) are $500 or less.