Recommended Lenses for Nikon D700 D3 full frame

by Enche Tjin on March 18, 2009

If you invest on full frame camera like Nikon D700, theoretically you are ready to invest on excellent lenses. If not then I will ask you to reconsider getting a full frame camera because with the average or cheap lenses, you will get average image quality which can be achieved by regular or even entry-level DSLRs.

Unfortunately, most of the lenses designed for Nikon full frame cameras are expensive, There are: Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8, AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8, and AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II

The total purchase of the lenses roughly costs $5800 USD. That is quite amazing! Unless you are highly paid professional photographer that have a lot of assignments, there are slim chance that you will get your money back from your investment.

Fortunately, there are some “frugal” alternatives

sigma-24-70mm-hsmStandard zoom Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 HSM
This new lens (announced late 2008) has professional grade image quality and also has fast and silent auto focus. The length (133mm vs 94.7mm) and weight (900g vs aprox. 500g) are significantly lower than Nikon 24-70mm. The downside is the filter diameter is 82mm instead of the usual 77mm. If you use filter a lot, you might need to buy new filters. Your copy might be front or back focus, but in full frame camera you can adjust the AF by AF fine tune. The lens significantly cheaper than of Nikon’s 24-70mm AF-S f/2.8 ($1900 vs $900). So I will conclude by saying that this lens is very cost effective.

For telephoto zoom, there are no alternative if you like to get Vibration Reduction/Image stabilization type lens, but if you can live without VR (which I do), then there are two good alternatives.

First, it is the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8. According to lab test, this lens are very sharp, close to Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. The price is superb, $650 compare to $1700 of Nikon’s. The downside is the Auto Focus speed is sluggish, and the built quality is not as good as competitors. If you are shooting mainly for studio, portraits, and still life, which you can repeat the shooting as many times as you like, this lens will be the best for your buck.


Second, it is Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM II. This lens is not as sharp as Tamron and Nikon, but center sharpness is very good, image quality is satisfactory, built quality is excellent, and the bokeh/background blur is smooth and creamy. The strength of this lens is in the AF speed. It tracks fast moving sport action very well. The price is also reasonable at $700 USD. Check out my impression about this lens.

For wide angle lens, unfortunately there are not many bargain alternative. But I will recommend you to look at prime lenses, such as Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 or Sigma 14mm f/2.8 HSM

For general all-purpose lens or super zoom, I recommend $325 Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di AF. This lens is good for full frame or crop frame sensor. Don’t get the VC (Vibration Compensation) version because the image quality is not good and it is more expensive. Besides, you will less likely to need VC when you are traveling during the day. In low light condition, you can bump up ISO to compensate, full frame camera like D700 or D3 can handle noise in high ISO setting.

For street photography Nikkor 35mm f/2D and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D will serve you well. Why not the new 50mm f/1.4G? Because 1.4D is sharper in max aperture, focus faster in full frame body, and the most important of all, it is significantly cheaper ($335 vs $500+). You can also get 50mm f/1.8D ($115) which is also very good, but the built quality is fragile, and in street photography, many times, f/1.4 is needed.

Other lens that I recommend is the classic 85mm f/1.4D aprox $1000. This lens are ideal for portrait or wedding photography. Check out my review here. Finally, for macro photography, Sigma 70mm f/2.8 ($400).

In conclusion
There are two way to save money: First there are many alternatives outside Nikon brand lenses that provide close or similar performance with half the price. Not many third party lenses are good, some of them are optimized based on the price or other variables so beware.

The other way to save money is to invest on fixed focal length prime lenses. Even it is not as versatile as zoom, they are significantly smaller and lighter, They have big maximum aperture, sharp and relatively cheap. With the same amount of money, you can get five or six primes instead of one zoom. The downside of these prime lens, of course you need to change lens and move around more often.

Good luck!

Comments from old blog platform

For those who already upgraded to Fulframe bodies. I personally think that they will definitely have better larger , brighter View Finders. Why not consider using any manual focus lenses only…they will more or less bring your pictures to another higher state rather than using Zoom auto focus lense.

Af lenses is no doubt has its own benefit but cost more. Unless you are sport shooting or newbiews, you shoulda buy it .
For Portrait, Wedding, normal life i would use Nikon AIS series or CARLZEISS series rather than by 14-24-70-200= 5500 USD.To sump, manual lenses inspire you more in what so-called Photography

Jackson Wallace
I found this article pretty informative, not owning a full-frame dSLR yet.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Tbuzz October 31, 2009 at 11:06 am

I recently purchased the D700 (going full frame from the D80). I found this blog VERY informative and useful. I only wish there were more lenses to choose from. I would like and alternative to the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8. Even options for Quality 3rd party primes.

Andy Stockglausner December 30, 2009 at 12:04 am

I just moved into a new office and I have a studio that is about 16 feet deep. My primary business is a school and youth sports photographer, but we just got the studio and are doing a lot more studio work. I’m thinking I should get a full frame camera, like the D700, but what is the best lens(s)? Do I get a prime lens? I am thinking of renting the D700 for a weekend with a couple of lenses to see what they feel like in the studio. Any pointers? Feel free to email me.

Enche Tjin December 30, 2009 at 1:24 am

The best lenses for D700 or Nikon FX cameras are 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. You might not need prime lenses, unless you want really dramatic / shallow depth of field of 85mm f/1.4.

Andy Stockglausner December 30, 2009 at 2:28 am

I just moved into a new office and I have a studio that is about 16 feet deep. I am a photographer in San Diego and my primary business is as a youth sports and school photographer, but we just got the studio and are doing a lot more studio work. I’m thinking I should get a full frame camera, like the D700, but what is the best lens(s)? Do I get a prime lens? Right now I have 5 Fuji S5’s, 2 S3’s, 2 D200’s and a couple of Canons. Do I need the D700 for just studio work? I love the video on the 5d but the Nikon seems to have a slight edge on some of the other features. I am thinking of renting the D700 and maybe the 5D for a weekend with a couple of lenses to see what they feel like in the studio.

Or, am I just fine shooting with the S5’s, which are great portrait cameras, but I am a little limited with the 16 foot deep studio. 16 total feet, meaning once you get a tripod and backdrop stands, etc, it is even smaller. Any pointers?

segun ajayi March 10, 2010 at 8:29 am

This very informative place to be i look forward to get more info from your site.thanks

saidoe July 4, 2010 at 5:55 am

Thanks for your recommendation..I got NikonD700. i m looking for wide angle lens for Fx camera.. i saw Sigma 12-24 would b the best for me. What do you think of sharpness with Nikon 14-24 f2.8 ? not so much different or???
thanks you :D

Enche Tjin July 4, 2010 at 6:47 am

Price won’t lie, the Nikon 14-28mm f/2.8 is far superior in sharpness edge to edge and consistent throughout focal length and aperture, while Sigma 12-26mm is nice value for money. You decide! :)

you’re welcome! :)

Rick October 20, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Hi Enche,
I’m contemplating the 24-70 but I’m curious as to why this lens does not come with VR? My kit includes the 16-35 which I love and the new 70-300 VR which is surprisingly sharp for this relatively low cost lens. My workhorse lens is the 24-120 and I’m just not happy with it. Even at F22 in good light on a tripod, the image is seldom sharp from corner to corner. As a working pro, probably time for me to step up. but i have gotten used to VR and wondering about handholding the 24-70 without it. Thanks!

Enche Tjin October 20, 2010 at 7:20 pm

yeah I got what you mean. I am in almost the same situation like u. I own 24-70mm but I prefer taking 16-35mm VR nowadays.

Depending what kind of images you want to make, lack of VR in 24-70mm may be not a problem, for example for portraits or candid.

However, if you demand a tack sharp image edge to edge for landscape or still life photography, you might want the new Nikon lens, 24-120mm f/4 VR lens. ( I assume your 24-120mm is the older f/3.5-5.6 one).

Steve Echols December 9, 2010 at 5:38 pm

How well would my AF-S Zoom-NIKKOR 28-70mm f/2.8D IF-ED Lens work with the D700 body?

Enche Tjin December 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm

It is lens optimized for full frame camera, so, it will work well.

Robin March 18, 2012 at 6:52 am

As a wedding photographer I’ve had quite a lot of experience trying lots of different lenses on different settings. I’ve come to a very strange conclusion.

The Nikon 24-70 is a great lens you can do almost anything with. It makes you a bit lazy as you can take 90% of all photos with this lens (indoors, outdoors, portraits, wide angle, wide angle stitches, group shots, evening shot with flashes, straight into the sun and little flare). I’ve decided to use it a lot less and possibly keep it as a spare backup lens in my car.

Why? I often miss that “special thing” when it comes down to taking pictures of people. The quality of the shots is essential for me for my clients. It doesn’t have much bokeh and doesn’t extract the people in the foreground much from the background. The 50m f1.4 does do this. In addition, the colors coming out at low light are astonishing on the 50m, whereas they are ok/good on the 24-70.

Yes, it more work to get the shots, but the pros are:
- A lot cheaper (almost 1000 euros cheaper)
- Better / more bokeh
- A LOT lighter and smaller (2xD700 + flashes + the 70-200 f2.8 + some other stuff is already a lot of weight to carry around all day)

In conclusion: the 24-70m is an EXTREMELY practical lens and perfect for landscape and architecture. For portraits and wedding I’d recommend the 50m in most cases.

camera lenses explained nikon d80 May 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm

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