Best Primes on a budget for the Nikon D3300

Introduction

Best primes for the Nikon D3300

It will come as little surprise to regular readers that the best performing prime lens is the recently introduced Otus 1,4/55 ZF.2 from Zeiss, but at $4,000 it’s intended for serious photographers. With a DxOMark lens score of 21-points it leads by quite a comfortable margin, and only the Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ranked in third place comes close in terms in sharpness.

 

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* Otus 1.4/55 ZF.2 Nikon 3999 35 21
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G 690 32 15
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Nikon 899 32 15
Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZF.2 Nikon 1600 31 19
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G 2199 31 16
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED VR II 5899 29 16
Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1840 28 12
Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon 969 28 12
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon 328 27 14
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G 195 27 12
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm F2.8G ED VR 8999 26 16
Carl Zeiss Planar T 85mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon 1280 26 14
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZF.2 Nikon 1700 26 14
Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM A Nikon 499 26 14
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1005 26 13
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon 1843 26 13
Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Nikon 599 26 10
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D 329 25 14
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF 1230 25 14
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1283 25 14
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED 2200 25 13
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G 1797 25 13
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II 5900 24 14
Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Nikon 600 24 14
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D 460 24 14
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G 1700 24 14
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G 448 24 13
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon 499 24 13
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED 890 24 12
Tokina AT-X M100 AF PRO D AF 100mm f/2.8 Nikon 500 24 12

In joint second place are two favorites, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f1.8G and the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art-series. All four lenses are full-frame and are relatively pricey, the Zeiss especially. However, there are plenty of high performing models at more accessible prices.

Best standard prime for the Nikon D3300

 

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Nikon 899 32 15
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G 195 27 12
Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM A Nikon 499 26 14
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1005 26 13
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon 1843 26 13
Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Nikon 599 26 10
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1283 25 14
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G 1797 25 13
Sigma 28mm F1.8 EX DG ASP Macro Nikon 449 23 14
Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D 365 23 12
Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G 280 22 14
Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM Nikon 440 22 9
Tokina AT-X M35 PRO DX AF 35mm f/2.8 Macro Nikon 599 21 13
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G 699 21 12
Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D 280 20 11

Budget standard prime selection (less than $500): 

Some of the best value lenses are made for APS-C size only sensors. Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 35mm f1.8G DX is around $199. Although not a great performer on older camera bodies such as the 12-Mpix Nikon D300s, on the D3300 this lens is surprisingly good even at maximum aperture (although it does show some slight softening to the borders of the frame). Optimum performance is achieved at f5.6.

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G Versus Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM A Nikon Versus Sigma 28mm F1.8 EX DG ASP Macro Nikon:

Sigma’s revised 30mm f1.4 DC HSM Art series model is of course emulating the high-speed standard and at $499 it’s not inexpensive however, it can boast slightly higher peak sharpness than the Nikkor particularly at wider-apertures albeit not that model’s uniformity.

Slightly wider and designed originally for full-frame the Sigma 28mm f/1.8 (42mm equivalent) has quite low sharpness and poor corner performance till f2.8 where it suddenly improves. After that most gains are made in the outer field. At $449, it’s not as good value as the other two but it’s well worth considering if you intend to complement the D3300 with a full-frame body.

Best portrait prime for the Nikon D3300

As the equivalent to a 85mm the full-frame Zeiss Distagon T* 55mm f1.4 doubles as a great portrait lens on an APS-C camera, but at $4,000 it’s unlikely to be seriously paired with a Nikon D3300. The same can be said for the full-frame AF-S Nikkor 85mm f1.4G  (ranked in third place). While it has slightly higher sharpness than the 85mm f1.8G at $2,199 it’s not inexpensive. However if the field of view is appealing, as the equivalent to a 135mm, then the more modestly priced 85mm f1.8G is a marginally better performer in second place in our rankings.

 

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* Otus 1.4/55 ZF.2 Nikon 3999 35 21
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G 690 32 15
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G 2199 31 16
Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon 969 28 12
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon 328 27 14
Carl Zeiss Planar T 85mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon 1280 26 14
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D 329 25 14
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF 1230 25 14
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D 460 24 14
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G 1700 24 14
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G 448 24 13
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon 499 24 13
Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD Nikon 749 24 12
Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Nikon 499 24 11
Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 50mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1280 23 14
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G 219 23 13
Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO Nikon 460 23 10
Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D 460 22 12
Tamron SP AF 60mm F/2 Di II LD [IF] MACRO Nikon 499 21 13
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D 134 21 12
Carl Zeiss Planar T 50mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon 725 21 12
Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR 500 17 10

Budget portrait selection (for $500): Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon Versus Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D Versus Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D

Budget options include the old Nikkor 85mm f1.8 AF-D version, if it can still be found new. It lacks the sonic-type AF motor of the newer model but it’s still fast to focus and is a very good performer optically.

Samyang’s manual focus only 85mm f1.4 has that alluring, ultra-fast maximum aperture and, at $349, the bargain-basement price is very tempting.

Depending on your point of view, the 50mm is, arguably, more versatile and as a 77mm it’s more suited to indoor portraiture than the 135mm equivalents. All three are close in IQ, but somewhat surprisingly, the modestly priced Samyang is slightly ahead. Given this Nikon mount model has an active (part-electronic) mount and an automatic diaphragm – features that are missing on rival mount versions – the Samyang is particularly appealing.

Best wide-angle prime for the Nikon D3300

At $1,700 and sitting in first place in the wide-angle category, the best performing model on the Nikon D3300 is the manual focus only Zeiss Distagon T* 25mm f2.

It’s closely followed by the AF-S Nikkor 24mm f1.4G ED, which is not only a stop faster but offers autofocus as well. Opinions differ on the value of autofocus at this focal length (and shorter), but if manual focus isn’t high on your list of priorities then the Samyang 24mm f1.4 ED AS UMC at $600 including an auto-diaphragm and an active mount is good value. 

Keep in mind though that a 24mm is the equivalent to only a moderately wide 35mm on an APS-C format model like the Nikon D3300.

 

Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZF.2 Nikon 1700 26 14
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED 2200 25 13
Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Nikon 600 24 14
Sigma 20mm F1.8 EX DG ASP RF Nikon 629 23 16
Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical Nikon 409 22 16
Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D 570 20 12
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2.8 ZF2 Nikon 1005 19 12
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZF.2 Nikon 2950 19 11
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 21mm f/2.8 ZF2 Nikon 1732 19 10
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 18mm f/3.5 ZF2 Nikon 1395 17 11
Nikon AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED 1800 16 9
Sigma 14mm F2.8 EX Aspherical HSM Nikon 749 13 8

Wide angle prime selection for $600: Sigma 20mm F1.8 EX DG ASP RF Nikon Versus Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical Nikon Versus Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D:

Our value choices for wide-angle lenses include the Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG ASP RF – a full-frame model the equivalent to a 30mm on the Nikon D3300. At  $629 or so it’s not an expensive option, but it has high sharpness and very low distortion and chromatic aberration. It will of course serve double duty on a full-frame body, but in terms of value most users will be better served by a dedicated APS-C format zoom (see part I for model choices). Samyang’s 14mm f2.8 IF ED UMC is another good performer, but it has quite high levels of field curvature at wider apertures and the $409 looks pricey against more versatile zoom options. Nikon has yet to upgrade the AF-D version of its once popular Nikkor 20mm f2.8, however the optical design remains unchanged from the previous manual focus AI-S model from the early 1980s and while relatively good it’s someway behind the Sigma, especially in sharpness. At $570 it’s not a cheap option.

If you have a Nikon D3300 and a favourite 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.