Full Frame Lens Recommendations for Nikon Cameras: What We Shoot.
Time to choose some lenses for your full-frame sensor digital camera? Don't know where to start? Here are some of the lenses we like to shoot underwater, categorized by type.
In this article we will cover various lenses for Nikon FX cameras. FX refers to the size of the digital image sensor. Its dimensions are about those of the 35mm film format (36mm x 24mm).
- Macro Lenses
- Long Macro Lenses
- Other Macro Lenses
- Mid Range Lenses
- Wide Angle Zoom Lenses
- Fisheye Lenses
Ideally a macro lens should be able to reproduce subjects as much as life size on the camera sensor (fill the frame with 1.3” subject on full frame camera) and be able to grab hard-to-get shots of elusive creatures like anthias and damsel fish. Macro is pretty unforgiving when it comes to sharp focus with the relatively shallower depth of field that is found on full frame cameras, so choosing the right glass is essential.
#1 Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
This is our absolute favorite macro lens for full frame Nikon shooters. Fast AF, extremely sharp and nice bokeh are all a nice step up from the older Nikon 105 f/2.8 D. Crop sensor shooters who embraced the Nikon Micro Nikkor 60mm will feel at home with the 105mm on a full frame, as the field of view will be similar. The 105 makes a fine small fish portrait lens on a full frame camera and gives some reasonable reach on shy macro subjects. The 105 has a minimum close focus that can also benefit from external close focus wet-lenses for “super macro” (greater than 1:1 reproduction). More...
Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G ED
The Nikon 60 is a superb, easy to use lens that covers a nice intermediate fish portrait range as well as close focus macro capability. For larger critters like frogfish and stargazers, this is a great choice. Because maximum reproduction is closer than we normally shoot – almost on the port glass – this isn’t the best macro lens for full frame cameras. More...
Nikon Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D
The predecessor to the 105VR is still enjoyed by some who like it’s slower, more progressive AF and might not feel the upgrade to the new 105 VR is worth it.
Because a full frame camera has a larger angle of view at any given focal length than a crop sensor camera, there may be situations where a longer focal length is desirable – garden eels and shrimp gobies are common examples. These long macro options will generally require more patience in use and may not suit every photographer.
#1 Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro
This Sigma is not a light lens, but does offer excellent auto-focus and image quality in this focal length. The 15” minimum focus distance is a bit long for some macro work, but a high quality close focus lens (like the Canon 500D) installed on the filter threads can help reduce this and improve reproduction ratio (although the lens will no longer focus past about three feet – not a big limitation for most macro/portrait use). In the right macro environment this lens can be a lot of fun as a stealth lens reaching subjects normally too shy to photograph well. More...
Sigma 150mm lens
AF Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4D IF-ED
At 200mm and 19” minimum focus distance (from the sensor) this lens is probably pushing what is practical, but with the right configuration it can produce impressive results.
Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300 DGX for Nikon and Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-17E II (1.7x)
When used with a high quality macro lens like the Nikon 105VR these type of teleconverters maintain autofocus and can provide a relatively inexpensive increase in focal length and an increase in maximum reproduction ratio. This comes at a slight loss in image quality and light gathering ability, but generally provides acceptable macro results. More...
Nikon 105 VR with 1.7x Teleconverter
Nikon Micro-Nikkor 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6 D AF ED
A discontinued, but much loved (by some) macro zoom - full frame short macro to long macro in one lens.
Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X M100 AF Pro D
An affordable 1:1 macro option.
This is the most challenging range for Nikon Full Frame shooters to select a good lens underwater. Fortunately it is also probably the least useful range for underwater shooting.
Nikon Micro-Nikkor 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6 D AF ED
This lens, mentioned above, is certainly still a good choice here.
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
A nice lens topside, but not very close focusing and requires a +2 diopter for use in a dome. More...
These are the go-to lenses for larger wild animal encounters where we aren’t likely to get right next to the subject. Sharks that aren’t baited in, turtles, rays, dolphins and other cetaceans are prime examples. Schooling fish and reef “vignettes” with models are also typical uses. On a trip to the Galapagos, Cocos, or Socorro (known big animal locations), we will typically shoot this category of lens 75% of the time or more.
Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR II AF-S IF SWM
The 16-35mm is the sharpest, best performing rectilinear wide angle lens for underwater use on a Nikon full frame camera that we have tested. It is a surprisingly good value. Any lens in this category benefits from the largest high quality dome you can employ (230mm / 9” is optimal). This is a fairly close focusing lens and generally doesn’t need a close up diopter in a large dome that is properly positioned. More...
Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S
This excellent topside zoom is an older design than the Nikon 16-35mm and not as close focusing. It still does a respectable job in a large dome with a minimum of a +2 diopter to assist in corner sharpness.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S
The 14-24mm is Nikon’s finest wide angle zoom for topside, but does suffer the same edge/corner softness that all super-wide rectilinear lenses display to varying degrees underwater – even in a large dome. This will be most noticed in the 14mm -17mm focal range. More...
Fisheye lenses have long been one of our favorite underwater tools. They take some discipline to master – always get closer and keep your lighting and extremities out of the frame – but the rewards can be substantial. Fisheye lenses work extremely well in a compact port with edge to edge sharpness and often are capable of focusing nearly to the port surface. This allows for amazingly creative close-focus wide angle photo opportunities along with traditional super wide photography techniques. Because of the close proximity of the photographer to his or her subject, the water clarity often appears much better than it really is.
#1 Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye
The Sigma is a high quality, close focusing contemporary fisheye that has gained a reputation for image quality with underwater photographers. It doesn’t fit in the smallest 100mm/4” domes, but works well in everything from a 4.33” dome and larger. Close focus wide angle capabilities are excellent with 180 degree diagonal FOV. The lens is also a staple for reef scenics and large animal encounters. More...
#2 Nikon 16mm F/2.8D AF Fisheye Nikkor Lens
This older Nikon lens design is plenty sharp, but is not as close focusing as the newer fisheye designs like the Sigma so it is not suitable for use in mini-domes. Those photographers that already own the lens might consider using it in a larger 8-9” dome. More...
#3 Tokina AF 10-17mm for 3.5-4.5 AT-X 107 DX/FX
Yes – this is a DX lens! But this modern Tokina actually does quite well across the 15mm-17mm focal length range on a full frame camera. There is an “FX - Hoodless” version of this lens that is exactly the same optics with the lens hood removed. This allows a slightly wider zoom range without vignetting. The Tokina works well in a 100mm mini-dome or larger port. More...