This is an attempt to find out the best lens for the Nikon D5500. But, instead of zeroing in on just a single lens we shall be looking at 5 lenses, just to give you a few options to choose from.
The Nikon D5500 is an entry-level APS-C DSLR camera. It is built around a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor with a Multi-CAM 4800 DX 39-point TTL phase-detection autofocusing system. It has no built-in auto-focusing motor.
That means older D lenses or any lens that does not have a built-in auto-focusing motor will not auto-focus with this camera. Most recent lenses will, however, work, including anything that is marked as ‘G’.
|AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G||AF-S Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8G||AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G||AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II||AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR|
|Best Usage||Portraits & Low Light||Every Day Use||Portraits & Wildlife Photography||Sports, Wildlife, Travel, Portait Photography||Landscape|
|Focal Length||50 mm||35 mm||85 mm||70-200 mm||16-35 mm|
|1.5 Crop Factor on Nikon DX DSLR||75 mm||52.5 mm||127.5 mm||105-300 mm||24-52.5|
|Minimum Focus Distance||17.71 inch
1. The Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
A true gem of a lens, this 50mm f/1.8 G, that is.
When mounted on a Nikon D5500 it gives a 35mm focal length equivalent of 75mm due to the 1.5x crop factor. 50mm is widely considered to be a standard focal length. So is this lens, when it is mounted on a full-frame camera. But on a crop camera like the D5500, the focal length becomes the equivalent of a medium telelens.
The AF-S Nikkor 50mm has been designed keeping in mind full frame Nikon cameras. Thus, it has an image circle much larger than the APS-C camera in question.
Resultantly, there is very little vignetting, if any at all. Image sharpness of the AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is also more than satisfactory. There are photographers who would swear by its performance.
What makes this lens special is its maximum wide aperture of f/1.8.
It is 2 stops faster than a traditional f/3.5 – 5.6 kit lens, something like the 18-55mm that we are going to read about below.
In low light situations that translates to up to 2 stops of shutter speed leverage. Meaning, you could shoot at the same shutter speed you would normally shoot with a kit lens and yet get two stops of extra light.
Extra light means better exposure and less noise, even in low-light situations. Alternatively, you can consider having two stops of shutter speed leverage at your disposal.
Meaning you can choose to shoot at a faster shutter speed in a situation where every other photographer is dragging the shutter speed to compensate for the lack of light. That means less image blur and sharper images.
This is an inexpensive lens, retailing at just under $220. It is certainly not the best in the business but is very good given the price tag.
2. Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
The AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G is designed exclusively for the smaller crop sensor powered Nikon cameras, like the D5500 in question.
Just like the 50mm f/1.8 discussed above the AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G also has a fast wide aperture of f/1.8. The focal length becomes the equivalent of a 52mm lens when mounted on a crop camera like the D5500.
The 35mm is just as equally versatile as a 50mm f/1.8. It is widely considered the APS-C format’s standard focal length, given the fact that the angle of view is roughly the equivalent of a 50mm lens when mounted on a full-frame camera.
Personally, I prefer the 35mm more than the 50mm, despite the fact that the 35mm has more barrel distortion and is generally considered unsuitable for portraits.
I love the 35mm lens because of the great environmental portraits that I can shoot with it. The trick is as long as your subject is close to the center of the frame distortion is negligible.
Plus, you can easily correct distortion related issues by using the lens profile correction option in Lightroom and Photoshop. At the end of the day, that isn’t so much of an issue.
The 35mm f/1.8G retails at price lower than the 50mm we discussed above. Thus, the 35mm is a great contender for the title of the best lens for Nikon D5500.
If I had to choose between the first two this would have been my choice. But we have a few more lenses to check out.
3. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
Many times you would think you have nailed focus only to realize that your focus is off when you have returned home and finally had a chance to see your images in full size on your computer. Better the f/1.8 than the more difficult f/1.4.
The AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is a full-frame lens, which means it has an image circle larger than that of an APS-C sensor.
On an APS-C sensor powered camera, the lens gives a 35mm equivalent focal length of 127mm. This, as a result, transforms into a medium telelens.
Medium telelenses have the effect of sucking more of the background in. It would appear that the background is closer than it actually is. That means with these lenses your background is going to appear considerably larger than say a 35mm lens.
The 85mm is arguably the best portrait lens for full-frame Nikon cameras. So would I make sense buying this for a crop camera? Well, the 85mm does what it has been designed for, produce ultra-sharp images. 127mm focal length on a DX (Nikon APS-C) camera is a fairly good focal length for portraits.
4. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
Now for something that would need a serious budget. The Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II would get a place on any list that features Nikon lenses.
It is that kind of a lens. It’s ultra-sharp and extremely quick. If you are into serious photography this is one lens you must have. It is widely considered as one of the three Nikkor lenses that make up the f/2.8 Nikkor dream team. The other two being the 24-70mm f/2.8 VR and the 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S.
This lens is designed for the full-frame FX type cameras made by Nikon. It has a wide maximum aperture of f/2.8.
This is a G lens, meaning it would auto-focus without hassles on the D5500. The focal length becomes a 35mm format equivalent of 105 – 300mm. Thus, this is a handy portrait as well as wildlife lens, especially because of the wide f/2.8 aperture.
In many ways, this could easily be the greatest lens for Nikon D5500.
A single lens that covers a wide focal length range and something that you probably shoot the year round, never needing another lens.
Plus, it works with all the Nikon teleconverters giving you better range at a decrease of a stop or two in the maximum aperture. The overall construction is brilliant and performance is extremely sharp.
This lens is the most expensive of all the lenses we have discussed thus far. No doubt a strong contender for the title of the best lens for Nikon D5500.
5. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
Some readers would have probably hoped for the 14-24mm f/2.8G ED here. It is undoubtedly a fantastic lens. But for all practical reasons the16-35mm f/4G ED VR is more than enough.
The slight difference in focal length will not make a world of difference to me. I can simply take a couple of steps back. Both these lenses are landscape lenses. So, I don’t need a very wide aperture.
I would rarely be shooting either of these two lenses at their widest aperture. I need a vast depth of field so, I will probably be shooting at f/8 or even f/11 majority of the times. The 16-35mm f/4G ED VR with its vastly cheaper price tag (compared to the 14-24mm f/2.8G ED) is more than sufficient for me.
The 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is a well-built lens. This is an FX format lens, meaning the 1.5x crop factor ultimately makes it a 35mm focal length equivalent of 24 – 52mm.
Plus, it has VR which the other lens does not. Hand-held shooting all of a sudden looks a lot more promising. This is one of the sharpest lenses that Nikon has ever made. Being a zoom lens it is versatile and is sharper than the sharpest of prime lenses in the business.
To round up: Which one is the Best Lens for the Nikon D5500?
It is hard to tell. It all depends on the type of work that you do, the budget you have and what you expect from a lens. For my money, it would be the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II.
The crop factor of the camera extends to the focal length to the equivalent of a proper telephoto. If you wish to shoot with a teleconverter you can always use the latest teleconverters and the lens becomes a super-telephoto, albeit with a drop in maximum aperture.