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

As we’ve seen in our previous reviews the new full-frame Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD has very high image quality, and on the D7100 it holds the highest DxOMark lens score for a standard zoom at 21 points. The DxOMark lens score is an overall mark, however, and sharpness is just one of the criteria that contributes to the ranking. 

Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD Nikon12992111
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED18002012
Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM Nikon6692014
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED7502011
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED1329199
Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC Macro HSM Nikon4191911
Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC MACRO OS HSM C Nikon4991910
Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF] Nikon4591812
Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM Nikon8991812
Tokina AT-X 16-28 F2.8 PRO FX Nikon8491811
Tamron SP 17-50mm F/2.8 Di II XR VC LD Aspherical IF Nikon6491813
Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF700179
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR 630168
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED379169
Sigma 18-50mm F2.8-4.5 DC OS HSM Nikon200169
Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM Nikon4601610
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR12601611
Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED2991610
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR5991610
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR185158

Mounted on the D7100 both the full-frame $1,800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and the dedicated APS-C format Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens are sharper, mostly at the longer focal lengths. In fact, the Tamron doesn’t perform that well at 70mm until stopped down to f/8.

Of the top three, the Sigma is the more consistent performer over the range of focal lengths on the Nikon D7100. At just $669, and with an arguably more useful range, equivalent to a 26-77mm on a 35mm camera, the Sigma stands out as being exceptional value for money.

Although lacking the constant, fast f/2.8 maximum aperture of the top three models, the new Nikon AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED also achieves a DxOMark score of 20 points for image quality (in effect making it joint second), albeit with a lower average sharpness score of 11P-Mpix. The slower variable aperture makes for a much smaller and lighter weight lens, and offers a good balance between image quality and portability.

At $750, it’s slightly more expensive than the Sigma but it is a full-frame lens and could be a very worthwhile addition if you use both DX and FX bodies regularly.

Also worth looking at are the modestly priced Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC Macro HSM and 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC MACRO OS HSM C models.

Both those offer similar overall image quality to the professional grade AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED (although not the same durable build). All three achieve a DxOMark lens score of 19 points and are tied in third place, but the Sigma models outperform the Nikon in our Sharpness (P-Mpix) scores.

This is mostly all due to the lack-lustre performance of the Nikon at the 55mm focal length. That’s not just the performance at full aperture, even stopped down the Nikon has low levels of sharpness at the longer end of the zoom range. At all other focal lengths, the Nikon performs well in comparison, at least in the centre of the image field.

In part III of this guide, we’ll be looking at the best performing primes and zooms covering wide-angle and telephoto 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.