Lenses are far more important then the camera you use, especially in this age.
The Nikon D5500 with 24 megapixels is no exception, it’s a got an advanced sensor that can show a ton of details, yet without doing a little bit of research on what lenses to get, you won’t really see its full potential.
Why You Need a Good Lens
If you used the same lens on a cheap and expensive Nikon DSLR, you would hardly notice a difference in most situations. However, by simply using a lens with a different focal length or maximum aperture, that change would be huge, as well as improved image quality and background blur.
We have zoom and prime lenses, telephoto, macro, wideangle, you name it. But with so many different choices it’s not always easy to find good lenses, which is why we wrote this guide.
Types of Lenses:
- Wideangle – Useful for capturing a lot in your scene (usually from 8 to 35mm)
- Standard – Where most photography happens (from 35 to 85mm)
- Telephoto – For subjects far away (85 to 600mm, only a few lenses that go higher)
- Macro – 1:1 ratio that magnifies your subject to real life size (usually from 60 to 180mm)
Mostly used for photographing landscape, nature, architecture, indoors, group shots and the sky (day and night).
This is what most of us have and use on a daily basis, as 35 to 85mm is a range that’s perfect for people, streets, traveling, weddings, food, you name it. Prime lenses in this range are affordable and have a big aperture so you can easily blur the background; check out the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G if you want to make your subject stand out.
These allow you to get really close to your subject, and are great for sports, concerts, wildlife. Sure you can move closer to your subject, but sometimes that’s impossible or not worth the risk. The Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G is the cheapest Nikon zoom and gives you the ability to really get close. Telephoto lenses can just as well be used for other types we mentioned though, don’t let the numbers limit your creativity.
Want to shoot bugs, small products, details or just want to explore the world that we don’t usually see? Macro lenses make your subject appear as big as it is in real life.
Zoom and Prime
- Zoom lenses – Focal length can be changed
- Prime lenses – Fixed focal length, can not be changed
Simply put, a zoom lens allows you to get closer to your subject by rotating the zoom ring (like the 55-200mm that goes from 55mm, everything between, and 200mm).
A prime lens on the other hand is always at the same focal length (for example, 50mm). Quality is usually better and the maximum aperture can be bigger without making the lens huge in size.
List of lenses we recommend for the Nikon D5500:
We cover these lenses in depth below, but in case you’re looking for full specifications and reviews, here’s an organized list. Prime and zoom lenses, from widest to longest.
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Because the D5500 is DX camera, it can accept both DX and FX lenses (FX stands for full frame) so you don’t have to worry about a lens not fitting.
However, it doesn’t have an AF motor built-in, which is why you’ll need to make sure the lens you’re buying has ‘G’ in its name. The majority of lenses have that today, but this is just in case you ever want to buy a really old Nikon lens.
How to tell if a lens fits and focuses on the D5500:
Nikon -> If there’s “DX” in the name, it’s good
Sigma -> “DC” stands for crop cameras, which the D5500 is.
Tokina -> Also uses “DX” in their names
Tamron -> “Di-II” made for only crop cameras, “Di” works on all Nikon DSLRs
You can also ask us directly if you’re still confused after reading this lens guide.
Best Lenses for Portraits, Weddings, Low Light and General Photography
Using a lens with a big aperture allows you to shoot in low light and makes your background look blurry, giving you a really professional look because your subject stands out so much.
Why do we recommend prime lenses here? They’re sharper, cheaper, smaller than zooms and are simply the most (cost) effective way of reaching that high quality feel of your shots. Your skills and experience do play a big role of course, but it’s all so much better when you got the gear capable of delivering.
1. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX
The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is the most affordable Nikon prime lens, offers superb image quality and fast auto focus. If you’re looking to buy your first lens after the kit 18-55mm, you’ll be amazed by the quality as prime lenses are top notch!
Thanks to aperture f/1.8 it will make your portrait shots look more professional due to the shallow depth of field and lovely bokeh. Colors and sharpness are also really good for a lens this price. It’s a perfect choice for a whole lot of different styles, from night time, portraits, kids and pets running, nature to traveling and wedding photography.
2. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S
Right after the lens above, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is our second favorite prime for both newcomers to photography and more advanced users looking for quality in a lightweight lens.
If you often find yourself using the 18-55mm lens more or less near 50mm, this lens was made for you. Not only is quality years ahead of the kit zoom, it also focuses faster and lets you go all the way to f/1.8! Their prices are almost identical, yet we recommend you to go with the 50mm if you prefer a little bit tighter shots (15mm difference between the two lenses) and want slightly better looking bokeh.
3. Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S
We’ll keep it simple. If you’re into wedding, concert, portrait or night time photography, get the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S and you’ll never look back.
Why? It’s the focal length, there’s just something magical about 85mm for shots of people. Then there’s the awesome bokeh with fast f/1.8 aperture and sharp results. It’s more expensive but definitely worth it if you’re looking for that one lens to take your shots to the next level. Because it’s noticeably longer, it’s not as good for street, indoor and walk-around purposes, but is ideal if you can’t always be close to your subject.
Best Lenses for Wildlife, Sports, Birds and Action Photography
Nikon offers quite a few telephoto lenses for DX users and we really like their Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G because it’s cheap and gets the job done. For less than $150, it even comes with Vibration Reduction, an ED element for improved sharpness and auto focuses normally on the D5500.
Because telephoto lenses tend to be a bit heavier and also get you close to the subject, you’ll want to make sure you get one with Vibration Reduction. Basically, if you’re not totally stable the lens compensates for slight movements and makes the shot less blurry, but this won’t help if your main subject is moving fast, only a faster shutter speed will.
Cheaper telephoto lenses also don’t have large apertures and are usually between f/4 and f/5.6. This is not good for indoor action so remember to raise the ISO up to 1,600 – 3,200 to get acceptable shots, mainly for viewing on an computer monitor.
1. Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II DX
The lens is so affordable you can even get it as a gift! The Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G goes for $150, features VR and has a minimum focus distance of 3.7 feet.
Its Vibration Reduction system helps you up to 4 stops, which can mean a difference between 1/250 and 1/15 in extreme cases. VR also makes your videos look less shaky which you’ll want if you record Full HD videos with the D5500. In short, the 55-200mm is perfect if you want to start wildlife and sports on a tight budget.
2. Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR DX
More money more problems. Well, not in this case. The Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G does cost more, but offers better image quality, colors and contrast, and 100mm more zoom.
Bokeh also looks better due to 9 diaphragm blades compared to “just” 7 on the 200mm above, and it also focuses quicker and more silent. However, both lenses will often hunt in low light so be ready to do a bit of manual focusing from time to time. Outdoors, this is rarely an issue. Build quality has also been improved and feels a lot less cheap/plastic, but in return the lens weighs more.
3. Sigma 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 DG OS HSM
Want to photograph wildlife, the moon or anything far far away? The Sigma 150-600mm DG OS HSM, released back in 2014, is your cheapest way of ever reaching 600mm with acceptable quality.
Since the D5500 has a 1.5x crop factor, this telephoto monster gets you even closer; it’s equivalent to a 225-900mm. No bird is safe from you, and with HSM for focusing you can count on getting sharp results even when your subject is running. OS (Optical Stabilization) is a must, especially if you’re not using a monopod.
Anything bad? The f/6.3 makes it unusable for indoor sports, and it’s relatively heavy to carry around (68.1 oz/1930g). The downside of this downside is that it’s actually the lightest zoom that reaches 400mm. If you don’t have any trouble carrying around and love photographing in the nature, you’ll easily get over these negatives.
Best Lenses for Landscape, Wideangle, Architecture and Indoor Photography
As we talked about above, the D5500 is a DX camera (1.5x crop factor) which means that any lens you put on acts as if it was 1.5x longer than it actually is (ANY lens, even those made for FX models). This happens because the sensor is 1.5x smaller than full frame and is a standard for all DSLR cameras under $1,500. You can read more about the crop factor here.
How does this affect you? Well, telephoto photography is awesome with the 1.5x factor because you can get closer without buying more expensive lenses, but for wideangle this isn’t good because extreme wide angles become… not so extreme. You can try Nikon’s lens simulator to see the difference.
To counter the crop factor, Nikon and third-party companies make super wide lenses with the 1.5x in mind, so when you put them on they’re still wide enough for whatever it is that you require. They’re also cheaper and lighter than comparable FX lenses. The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is our favorite affordable wideangle lens, because it’s still wide when mounted on the D5500 (11-16mm acts as if it’s a 16.5-24mm lens, just multiply the numbers by 1.5x).
1. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX II
It looks cool, it feels solid, it’s got an f/2.8 aperture and most importantly, gives good results for wideangle photography. The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX II is a popular choice, mostly for Nikon because their wide zoom is more expensive and slower. No issues with auto focusing or anything since it uses an AF-S motor.
Not only is the lens good for nature, real estate and indoor photography, the f/2.8 also allows you to use it for long exposure photography at night. It features two aspheric and two low-dispersion elements to reduce the amount of ghosting and flare, a common issue with wider lenses.
2. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM
To have a zoom lens with f/2.8 is awesome. To have f/1.8… that’s just asking for too much. Luckily, Sigma listened.
The Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM is designed for DX cameras like the D5500 and gives you a length that’s excellent for any wide to standard situation, even in low light. That includes weddings, traveling (still good as a kit lens), streets, indoor and general photography.
Instead of owning 3 separate lenses that might not even have f/1.8, you’re able to zoom through all in less than a second. Best part, the max. aperture doesn’t get smaller at 35mm. This Sigma fine piece of glass also delivers optically excellent images with top colors and sharpness, and has a HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) to make it better for focusing on moving targets as well. The only downside is that it’s relatively heavy at 28.7 oz (809g). Price? $800. It’s worth far more though.
Best Lenses for Traveling, Walkaround, Zoom and Everyday Photography
An all-around lens does exactly what you think; it’s something you can take with you regardless of where it is that you’re going. A lot of people prefer owning one do it all lens, and sometimes that’s a better choice if you often travel and can’t carry around a bunch of different lenses. When traveling, you might not always have the time to switch between them, and you can also risk getting your gear wet/dusty.
But there’s one drawback; the quality of do it all zoom lenses is not as good as primes. We’re not saying they suck or anything, but their apertures are nowhere near as big and quality differences can be seen when viewing bigger prints. A zoom lens needs to have so many different elements inside, even for moving, that you can’t expect to get the highest quality.
However, we found a lens that simply tops every other Nikon all-around lens! That’s the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM. Check out the ePhotozine review that also for more detailed charts, but to give it to you short, the lens is worth every dollar.
1. Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM
Continuing from above, the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 DC OS HSM is the perfect travel lens. Take it out for walks, or use it as your only lens when travelling all over the world.
It does get softer at 300mm as expected, but stopping down to ~f/8 greatly improves sharpness. Unfortunately this means it’s not good indoors at ~300mm because you have to shoot with really long shutter speeds. This can be “fixed” by enabling the Optical Stabilization or using a higher ISO speed, but yeah….noise and all, you know. If only life was that easy. We used to really like Nikon’s 18-140mm lens, but for the same price you don’t nearly get as much value.
2. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art DC HSM
A walk around lens doesn’t always equal a long zoom. Sometimes, all you need is a small, fast prime with excellent optics. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 has a field of view equivalent to 50mm on the D5500, which is an excellent length for day to day stuff, traveling and taking pictures when it gets dark.
Yes, you can’t zoom but in return you get amazing quality, better bokeh, a large f/1.4 aperture and tack sharp shots. Having a fixed lens also forces you to be more creative and you sort of already know what to expect, even before taking a shot. You start moving better, you think more, you take better pictures.Not to mention, you stand out less with a prime lens compared to a superzoom.
Best Lenses for Macro, Product and Bugs Photography
If you want to look at the world from another perspective, there’s no better way than to use a macro lens. Their glass magnifies the subject so it’s just as big as it is in real life (1:1). If you ever see a lens with ‘macro’ in its name, check the magnification ratio first, if it’s under 1 then it’s not a true macro.
When buying a macro lens, there’s one thing you never have to worry about and that’s sharpness. We couldn’t find a single lens that would be bad here and that includes a ton of third-party options as well.
For bugs and live creatures, longer focal lengths are preferred so you don’t scare them away.
1. Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX Micro
This macro lens is perfect if you’re not too serious about macro photography, but just want to shoot from time to time. That’s not to say you can’t use the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G Micro as your only lens of course, but it’s the price that makes is such a good deal.
For a macro lens, its focal length isn’t too long, which makes it better for product photography or even as a casual choice for outdoor activities. Forget the term macro and don’t the numbers limit your creativity.
|Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art DC HSM||Amazon||DX||2013|
|Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX||Amazon||DX||2001|
|Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX Micro||Amazon||DX||2011|
|Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S||Amazon||DX+FX||2011|
|Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S||Amazon||DX+FX||2012|
|Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX II||Amazon||DX||2012|
|Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM||Amazon||DX||2013|
|Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM||Amazon||DX||2014|
|Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G DX ED VR||Amazon||DX||2010|
|Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G DX ED VR||Amazon||DX||2015|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM||Amazon||DX+FX||2015|
Which lens to buy first?
We like keeping things simple, so if you’re unsure what lens to buy first it all comes down to whether your current gear allows you to take pictures like you want.
These are the 4 most important factors to consider before buying a new lens:
- Better quality
- Better low light performance
- Wider or longer focal length
If you own the 18-55mm kit lens, there’s no reason to buy something new with just a little bit more zoom range and same aperture sizes. However, if you’re looking for a drastic change in how much light you receive, the image quality and the background blur you can get, buying the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S is your best option.
You should get a lens when you want better performance at what you’re already shooting (sharpness, length, zoom, aperture etc.), or to start taking pictures that excite you but are hard to get with current equipment.