Nikon Film SLR Lens Kit Recommendations
last update: 07/24/07
Digital SLR users should click here instead

Note: Some of the lenses I recommend are no longer available new. If you're looking for a reputable place that sells used Nikkors, try KEH.

Sharp and Light Manual Focus Lens Kit

These underrated lenses share the 52mm filter size, and coupled together with an FM-10, FE-10, FM2n, or FM3a, make for a super light kit that gives you two distinct, useful focal lengths. This was my basic backpacking kit (with an FM2n body and a small flash), although sometimes I substituted a 24mm f/2.8 if I thought I'd be doing a lot of people photos. For macro work, I simply use extension tubes on the 100mm.

You could supplement this kit with any number of additional lenses, depending upon your primary shooting interest. For landscapes and photojournalism, add a 24mm f/2.8 or a 35mm f/2. For portraits or telephoto work, substitute a 75-150mm f/3.5 E or add a 180mm f/2.8 if you don't mind the weight and extra filter size.

Top of the Line Manual Focus Lens Kit

All these lenses have wide apertures, which helps with focusing, since the viewfinder image will be bright. They also have well-deserved reputations for sharpness (though not necessarily at full aperture). Unfortunately, you’ll end up with a range of filter sizes, be carrying a lot of weight, and have an empty bank account if you decide to carry this kit. But you'll also have some of the best Nikkors ever made and the ability to shoot under just about any lighting conditions. Couple this kit with an F4 and you’re in Nikon MF heaven. (Some would argue for the inclusion of the 35mm f/1.4 or the 50mm f/1.4, but I've never found those focal lengths useful.)

Top of the Line Autofocus Heavyweights

This kit is built to allow lenses to share the extenders and 77mm filters (except for the 300mm f/2.8, which requires drop-in filters; if you don't need the extra speed, the 300mm f/4 AF-S takes 77mm filters and fits into this package perfectly). With these lenses, you've got some of Nikon's best glass and can go from 17mm to 600mm with great sharpness, and only a gap in the 35-80mm range, which many photographers avoid, anyway. When I'm not hiking, this is what I like to carry with my F5, F100, or D1x, though I often substitute the workhorse 300mm f/4. I also sometimes carry a 14mm Sigma for fun.

Alternatively, perhaps the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens can replace both the 80-200mm and the 300mm if you don't need fast apertures. Amazingly, this new lens is about the same size and weight as the 80-200mm. The VR lens uses 77mm filters, though it cannot use the E teleconverters. It's much slower in autofocus than the AF-S lenses, and the slower maximum apertures make it difficult to pull off shallow depth of field, especially at the wide end. Finally, the 80-400mm VR is really only edge-to-edge sharp at f/8 and f/11; diffraction makes the lens soft at smaller apertures, corner sharpness is a bit soft at wider apertures.

 Lightweight Utility Autofocus

This kit is destined for travel, as it takes you from 20mm to 300mm without a lot of weight or bulk, provides flexibility with the zooms, sharpness with the fixed focals, low-light capabilities with the 85mm. In a pinch (and bright light!) you can leave the 85mm behind. This is my in-between kit, which I use for supported long treks (usually with the F100 or D100 as the camera body). You'll need larger filters with a step-up ring, though.

This kit is destined for travel, as it takes you from 20mm to 300mm without a lot of weight or bulk, and provides flexibility with the zooms.

 Other Lenses to Consider to Extend Your Kits

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