Best lenses for the Nikon D5300: Part 2 - portrait and landscape

By Kevin Carter - Thursday January 23 2014

Lens Recommendations
Introduction | Best Portrait primes (moderate telephoto) | Best Landscape primes (wide-angle) | Best wide-angle zooms

The best performing wide-angle prime is the manual focus Zeiss Distagon T* 2/25 (25mm f2) ZF.2, which very narrowly improves on Nikon’s own highly regarded AF-S Nikkor 24mm f1.4G ED. Both lenses are extraordinary performers, but keep in mind the Nikkor is a stop faster. 

Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZF.2 Nikon17002616
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED22002415
Sigma 20mm F1.8 EX DG ASP RF Nikon6292318
Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical Nikon4092118
Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D5702013
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2.8 ZF2 Nikon10051913
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZF.2 Nikon29501912
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 21mm f/2.8 ZF2 Nikon17321911
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 18mm f/3.5 ZF2 Nikon13951712
Nikon AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED18001610
Sigma 14mm F2.8 EX Aspherical HSM Nikon749139

In third place is the high-speed Sigma 20mm (31mm equivalent) f1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF. It’s not quite so well corrected as the Zeiss and Nikkor 24/25mm lenses but it has very high sharpness and is priced quite modestly (around $629) given the maximum aperture. 

Best performing model

The best performing wide-angle on the Nikon D5300 is the manual focus Zeiss 2/25 (25mm f2) though as the equivalent to a 35mm it’s really only moderately wide, and quite an expensive option. Nevertheless, it’s a superb performer optically with very low chromatic aberration and excellent sharpness from the initial aperture.

Uniformity and chromatic aberration are also impressive wide-open Corner sharpness dips a little on stopping down, but improves again at 5.6 making it a good choice for low-light photography (at f2.0 especially). Slight barrel distortion is noticeable and vignetting doesn’t clear till f4 but the high image quality and rugged build is compelling.

Value Option

In third place is the more modestly priced Sigma 20mm (31mm equivalent) f1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF. With a DxOMark score of 23 points and high peak sharpness (measured at 18P-Mpix) the Sigma is a very good performer optically from f2.8 onwards at least, but it’s quite a large lens and weighs in at fairly substantial 1.14 lb (520g).

If the focal length appeals, the film era AF Nikkor 20mm f2.8D is a good deal smaller and lighter 9.52 oz (270g), but keep in mind it’s a stop slower and it doesn’t quite have the sharpness or uniformity of the Sigma when stopped down. It also has fairly high levels of lateral chromatic aberration.

Although it seems a little bizarre to use something as extreme as a 14mm on APS-C Samyang’s 14mm f2.8 is quite compact and at $409 is relatively inexpensive. It’s a good performer as well, with high sharpness from f4 onwards though it has quite high levels of distortion and chromatic aberration as you might expect from an full-frame ultra-wide like this.