Shooting macro is a great way to spice up your photos. Getting in close is a great way to show people a different side of the world, one that’s obliquely visible to the naked eye, but seen in detail takes on whole new dimensions and meaning.
We’ve put together the ten best products (seven lenses and two alternative options) for shooting macro images with a Nikon camera. Good macro glass is on the expensive side, but the alternatives here offer slightly reduced quality, but at starkly cheaper prices.
Here’s our top ten favorite Nikon macro lenses and macro lens alternatives in order of most to least expensive.
1. Nikon 105mm f2.8 VR
For those who need the best of the best, this Nikkor 105mm f2.8 with vibration reduction is praised as insanely sharp, clear, and easy to use for macro photography. While it can be challenging to use for portraits, the vast majority of users report it as an excellent, high-quality lens for both purposes. The focus is very fast for macro, but it can be wonky on longer distance shots (as generally used for portraits). The images speak for themselves, however, for those who need outstanding optics, there’s no macro lens better.
- Excellent for beauty and portraiture shots
- Stunning macro sharpness quality and color
- Great clarity and contrast
- Excellent build quality
- Vibration reduction praised for shot-steadying
- Minimum focus distance of one foot
- On the heavy side
- Some users say it’s easier for macro than portrait
2. Nikon 60mm f2.8
For a significant discount and a very comparable level of optical quality, this 60mm f2.8 offers a great value to Nikon shooters looking to take close-ups of tiny things. Here’s the catch: on a DX lens, 60mm isn’t all that tight and with a minimum focusing distance of 8 inches, you’ll be able to be snug, but perhaps not extremely close. This lens is best for APS-C shooters where it will provide plenty of reach and insanely close shots at a great value. One minor tradeoff from the top lens on our list: there’s no vibration reduction. A minor drawback, that could affect users who want to shoot in the dark or low light situations. For most, this lens is the best way to go if you need outstanding images.
- Effectively 90mm on APS-C
- Close minimum focusing distance of eight inches
- Silent wave motor for quiet focusing
- Praised as superb value
- Fast autofocus
- No vibration reduction
- On full frame (DX) 60mm isn’t that close
3. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro
This Sigma lens is known for its ability to capture true 1:1 size imaging as far away as 12.3 inches. It allows for decent aut-focus, image stabilization, and includes a hood adapter to shield your images from glare. Another perk is that it doesn’t extend; some people find that for portraiture moving lenses back and forth can be distracting for models. While this lens is praised for its high-quality and speedy autofocus, for corner cases where one needs manual focusing, it does allow for manually overriding the autofocus, meaning you can get the exact, sharp look you want without switching settings.
- Option of full-time manual override in Single Autofocus mode so you don’t have to toggle back and forth if you want to tinker with focal point
- Lens comes with hood adapter and hood
- Image stabilization option functions well
- Autofocus speed is fast
- Doesn’t extend (some find that extending lenses can be distracting)
- Autofocus is slower than Nikkor lenses, doesn’t hit mark in low light
- Heavier than competing brands
4. Nikkor 85mm f3.5 Macro
While it’s not quite as close or as fast as the first lens on our list, the Nikkor 85mm f3.5 still offers a lot of value for the price. At f3.5 the bokeh is actually quite creamy and noticeable. Its focusing distance of .9 feet isn’t the closest in the game, but it’s more than acceptable. Users praises this lens for sharpness, light weight, and adjustable vibration reduction.
- Praised as sharp as a tack
- Minimum focus distance is a mere 5.4 inches
- Vibration reduction helps in certain cases, and can be turned off when it doesn’t.
- LIghtweight yet doesn’t feel cheap
- Some users had issues with the autofocus
- One user found the build quality to be cheap
5. Tokina 100mm F2.8
This budget version of the top lens on our list makes some minor compromises with image quality, but at a significant cost reduction. It may not be sharp as the Sigma or Nikkor, but it delivers solid focus speed, and very nice macro and portrait images. It’s praised for its low distortion and very decent minimum focusing distance: one foot.
- Praised as great lens for portrait and macro photography
- Focus speed is acceptable at variety of distances
- Minimal distortion
- Very sharp with a solid, sturdy build quality
- One user said lens broke after 1.8 years of use
- One user found the focusing speed too slow
- Some users found the overall focusing quality on the soft side
6. Sigma 18-300mm f3.5-6.3
If you’re looking for a more versatile option than a macro specific lens, the optical quality may be a bit less and the depth of field a bit less shallow, but there are many benefits. This lens is great at all focal lengths and is solid for macro photography. It’s optically stabilized with a short minimum focusing distance of 15.3 inches. Users say it’s consistent at all focal lengths with solid sharpness and contrast. For those who don’t need the best possible optics, this lens offers great range and is great for telephoto shots; 300mm is a lot of reach!
Price: $399.00 (31 percent off MSRP)
- Excellent all-around lens
- Solid sharpness and contrast
- Users say consistent across all focal lengths
- Optically stabilized
- Minimum focusing distance of 15.3 inches
- Not for DX (full frame cameras)
- Adjustment ring is too rigid for some users
7. Tamron 90mm f2.8
For those who need an affordable DX lens, the Tamron 90mm f2.8 poses a viable alternative. While some users swear that it’s sharper than Nikon’s official offering, it looks a bit less colorful and contrast-y to my eyes. Still, the quality is clearly present and at almost one third of the price, it’s hard to call it anything but a good deal. It’s certainly worth taking a thorough look at.
- Some users claim it’s sharper than the Nikon 105mm f2.8
- Solid autofocus
- Bokeh is great
- Build quality only adequate
- No internal focusing
- No optical stabilization
8. Sigma 70-300mm f4-5.6
At a dirt cheap price with solid range from telephoto to distant telephoto, this 70-300mm may be the budget winner. Sure, it lacks fancy features, but with decent quality optics, a solid build quality, and results that speak for themselves, it’s not the sharpest of the bunch but for beginners, it’s a great piece of kit.
- Excellent range with solid build quality
- Dedicated macro mode helps with autofocus accuracy
- Dirt cheap
- Autofocus can be slow
- Motor on the noisy side
- On the heavy side
9. McoPlus Nikon Macro Extension
For those looking for a budget option, there are cheap ways to shoot macro photography that still look great. While autofocus is basically out of the picture here, these tubes will allow you to attach Nikon lenses you already own to get the look you want. Boasting a variety of sizes, one can get as close as one needs (and no closer). For this price, they’re the option to beat.
- Very affordable way to shoot macro pictures of a decent quality
- Praised as sturdy and reliable
- Has a variety of parts for different degrees of closeness
- No autofocus
10. Opteka Lens Adapter
For the shooter who absolutely needs as much light as possible, the Opteka lens adapter offers a nice macro solution. At this price, the tradeoffs are neglgible. The adapter can be somewhat annoying to attach and reattach, but beyond this, it allows one to use lenses they already own (be sure to double check compataibiltiy) to shoot macro photography, with no concomitant loss of light. It’s a great deal and a great value.
- Easy to attach and use
- Compact attachment
- Great low cost alternative to expensive macro lenses
- Praised as better option than extension tubes since it doesn’t decrease light
- Doesn’t fit some lenses
- One will have to remove and reattach adpater with each use and re-use
- With some lenses, one will get vignetting
- Adds to weight
Still looking for the right Nikon macro lens? Browse more top-rated Nikon macro lenses on Amazon.