Any photographer worth his weight in camera gear has undoubtedly spent numerous hours researching the perfect set of lenses for a reasonable price. I’ve had a chance to use numerous lenses and was recently asked which Nikon lenses I’d prefer if I were putting together a quality kit to tackle most everything for under $2,000.
What to Consider
When you have a budget you need to stay under but you still want to get some high quality lenses to cover most of your needs you’ll need to make a pretty big decision right off the bat. For under $2,000 you won’t be able to go from 14mm to 300mm and maintain great quality. You’ll have to decide what your favorite type of photography is and work from there. For this list I put together a kit for someone who really enjoys Landscape photography, travels a lot, and wants to take advantage of the full frame of the D600 (thought this kit would work great on the D800, D610, Df, etc.). I started at 16mm and ended at 85mm with the recommendation to get the 70-200mm f/4 when there is a budget for it.
Arguably the sharpest wide zoom lens on the market right now, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 is a superb lens with the flexibility to shoot indoor architecture, landscapes, astrophotography landscapes and portraiture. Distortion is the biggest issue you’ll run into (expected with any wide-angle lens) with this lens as it’s sharp all the way out to the edges.
If you don’t already have a 50mm lens then you need to run, not walk, and purchase this 50mm lens right now. This lens (reviewed here) is one of the sharpest lenses I’ve used and it’s so cheap they practically give them away. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens is a superb fast lens that is great for indoor natural light shooting as well as just about anything else you can think of.
Medium Zoom / Walk Around Lens
This is an underestimated kit lens that came with the D600 when it was initially launched. The lens is sharp, small, light, and won’t break the bank. You can read a quick review here. I like to leave this lens on while traveling to far away places, mainly because it takes great shots and I won’t cry terribly if something happens to it during transit (unlike the 16-35mm lens I baby).
There you have it, this combination of lenses will give you professional quality images for a fraction of the cost. Sure, the zooms aren’t f/2.8 constant zooms but they don’t weigh 500 pounds either. With the advancement of camera technology you can easily increase your ISO on some of the newer full frame cameras to compensate for the slower zoom lenses.
Lastly, if you find that you’ve got a little extra cash at the end of the day and would like to round out your superb lens selection you can spring for the professional quality Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens and be able to tackle most anything.
This lens has the same if not better image quality as the faster, heavier, and twice as expensive Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G .
What are your favorite lenses? Nikon, Olympus, Canon, it doesn’t matter, share below in the comments section what your go-to lens is. I’m a huge fan of my Nikon 16-35mm f/4.