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

While there are plenty of wide-angle primes that can be put to good use on an APS-C body like the D5300, Nikon users can take comfort in the knowledge that there’s always the option of the AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8G ED zoom instead. At $2,000 it may sound expensive but this lens can replace four focal lengths (and everything in between) and still offer a fast f2.8 maximum aperture. It’s also good performer. In fact it heads our rankings with a DxOMark score of 20 points and a very good 15P-Mpix peak sharpness rating. 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED20002015
Tokina AT-X 11-16 PRO DX Nikon6591912
Tokina AT-X PRO SD 11-16 F2.8 IF DX II Nikon6551813
Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM Nikon6491812
Tokina AT-X 12-24 AF PRO DX Nikon4001810
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED8001611
Tamron SP AF11-18mm F/4.5-5.6 Di II LD Aspherical [IF] Nikon499169
Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Nikon699149
Tamron SP 10-24MM F/3.5-4.5 Di II LD Aspherical IF Nikon499148
Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM II Nikon1400136
Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 EX DG Nikon840126
Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Nikon479116

In second and third place in our rankings is the ultra-wide Tokina AT-X 116 (11-16mm f2.8) PRO DX and its brand new replacement the, 116 PRO DX II. Although as APS-C only models they can’t achieve the image quality or sharpness of the Nikkor zoom, they come quite close for around a third of the price.

Best performing model

One of the most highly regarded lenses of recent times, the full frame AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm (21-37mm) f2.8G ED is the best wide-angle zoom in our database. With a DxOMark score of 20 points it ranks alongside many of the wide-angle primes and even out-performs a good many, such as Nikon’s own $1,800 AF Nikkor 14mm f2.8D.

It is a remarkable performer at 14mm with very good center sharpness wide-open though it tails off towards the longer end. However, stopped down to f4 sharpness is very good at every focal length and that continues to f11 where diffraction effects start to become noticeable. Lateral chromatic aberration; usually an issue in a high-speed ultra-wide like this is surprisingly well controlled and the same can be said for vignetting, in fact the latter is less in the 14-24mm f2.8 than equivalent primes.

Value Option

Although the two Tokina ATX 116 PRO models qualify as a value option, the wider range Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 EX DC HSM is close in image quality and price, at around $650. In fact, wide-open the Sigma is sharper than the Tokina particularly at the longer end, though once stopped down to f5.6 they’re very similar.

At $400, the now discontinued Tokina AT-X 124 (12-24mm f2.8) AF DX is another good value option, if it still can be found. Like a lot zooms it’s sharper at the shorter end of the range but it has quite high levels of chromatic aberration.

The Tamron SP AF 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 Di II LD Aspherical could also be a contender. It’s around $150 less than the Sigma though keep in mind it has a slower variable maximum aperture, slightly lower sharpness and no sonic type AF actuator.

If you have a new Nikon D5300 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.