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 visible to the naked eye, sure, but that no one may want to get close to, like pictures of bees or praying mantises.
We’ve put together the five best products (three lenses and two alternative options) for shooting macro images with a Nikon camera. Good macro glass is on the expensive side, but the alternative here offer slightly reduced quality, but at starkly cheaper prices.
Here’s our top five favorite Nikon macro lenses and macro lens alternatives in order of most to least expensive.
1. 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
2. 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
3. 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
4. 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
5. 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.