If you are a Nikon shooter who is considering wedding photography as a part of your repertoire, or currently shooting weddings and looking to add a new lens to your kit, there is no shortage of options, from the tried and true to the exotic. Let’s look at what’s available.
The workhorse zoom lenses often found on the cameras of wedding pros—as well as photographers of all stripes—should be mentioned up front. The venerable 24-70mm f/2.8 is now available in two versions, the most recent iteration, the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens, provides Vibration Reduction with up to 4 stops of compensation, an electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism, and fluorine-coated front and rear elements. The non-VR version is the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED and, with its Silent Wave AF Motor and wide maximum aperture, is as durable and capable as they come. The 70-200mm tele-zoom is also available in different versions. The AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens is the feature-heavy model, with an Electromagnetic Diaphragm Mechanism, Image Stabilization, fluorite lens elements and fluorine-coated front and rear elements. Also, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens will save you some money and weight compared to the other two, but while it does offer image stabilization, its f/4 maximum aperture is not as advantageous when shooting in interiors and low-light situations.
Regarding wide-angle zooms, the first that comes to mind is the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, which is optimal for working in cramped locations and crowded dance floors. Its physical design, optical qualities, and wide-angle versatility make it almost a must-have for wedding work. Other more inclusive options would be the AF-S Zoom NIKKOR 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED lens and the AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR lens.
For those working with DX format cameras, the AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED lens and, especially, the AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED lens with 18-36mm equivalency are the way to go for wide-angle; the fixed-aperture AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED is the perfect choice for a standard zoom, with its 25.5-82.5mm full-length equivalency.
The advantages of prime lenses are found in their optical performance, including simpler designs and wider maximum apertures, and in their compact size and lower weight. Obviously, they don’t offer the all-in-one flexibility of a zoom lens, but many wedding photographers prefer to stick with a fixed focal length when possible. Top-notch wide-angle examples include the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED lens, the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G lens and the AF NIKKOR 14mm f/2.8D ED lens, but many other options are available in the Nikon lineup.
For standard focal length lenses, the AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G lens is a favorite, and a more interesting choice is the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens. Again, there are many options, up and down the price range and in auto and manual focus, for lenses between 50mm and 60mm.
Medium telephoto lenses, often used for portraiture, include the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G lens and the AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED lens. The 105mm features as the Electromagnetic Diaphragm Mechanism and protective fluorine coatings. The wide f/1.4 apertures enable shallow depth-of-field focusing, which is ideal for wedding portraiture. Again, options abound, including a selection of Nikon D series lenses in medium telephoto lengths and for the very popular 85mm focal length, a more affordable f/1.8 version is also available.
Telephoto and certainly super telephoto are not normally found much in the bags of wedding photographers, but there are times and occasions when one might be useful or just a welcomed creative option. All of Nikon’s latest technologies are in play on the AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR lens, including a phase Fresnel element and the electromagnetic diaphragm. It is also a very lightweight and compact lens, considering its focal length reach.
Lenses with macro capability are a must for a wedding shooter needing to capture close-up details of rings, flowers, place cards, and the like. Fortunately, macro lenses in a wide variety of focal lengths are available and lenses with a 1:1 magnification ratio include the AF-S Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED lens, the AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens, and the AF-Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF-ED lens.
Fish-eye lenses offer the opportunity to have fun with group photos, include the entirety of an interior space, or just exaggerate perspective for creative ends, and Nikon offers the AF Fisheye-NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8D lens with 180˚ angle of view that fills the image frame on a full-frame sensor (is not a circular fish-eye). The Nikon AF DX Fisheye-NIKKOR 10.5mm f/2.8G ED lens is designed for DX-format cameras and offers the same non-circular 180-degree angle of view (16mm equivalency) and on those crop-sensor cameras. Expanding the utility of these fish-eye lenses, Nikon’s proprietary ViewNX 2 software offers “Fisheye Image Transformer,” which converts images taken with diagonal fisheye lenses to appear as if they had been captured by an ultra-wide-angle lens.
Defocus Control Lenses
A potentially very useful effect for wedding photography, especially portraiture, is selective focus or defocus, in which a lens ring enables control of the placement of out-of-focus areas within the frame. The AF DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D lens and the AF DC-NIKKOR 135mm f/2D lenses are Nikon’s two offerings in this regard, and they are both D-series lenses with Auto-Manual Focus Mode Switch Rings, manual aperture control rings and autofocus compatibility with only the more advanced Nikon digital cameras, so check to be sure your camera is fully compatible before you make your purchase.
Tilt-shift lenses (or PC-E in Nikon parlance) are manual focus lenses that provide exacting control over perspective and focus placement. They are specialty items but, in wedding photography, they can be very useful for close-ups of rings, for selective-focus portraiture, and even to prevent distortion in group shots and architecture photos. Nikon makes four such lenses and they are available from wide-angle to medium telephoto focal lengths. They are the PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED Tilt-Shift lens and, going up the ladder, the PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED Tilt-Shift lens, the PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 45mm f/2.8D ED Tilt-Shift lens, and the PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D Tilt-Shift lens—the last two also offering 1:2 macro magnification.
Despite the numerous links included in this article, Nikon makes and markets many, many more lenses than just the ones noted here. I focused this piece on the higher-end DX format lenses because that is the best of what the company offers and not because the more moderately priced lenses cannot produce wonderful photos—they can. I suggest you search Nikon lenses on the B&H website or click here and use the filtering tools to find just the lens that fits your needs and budget.
Also, please post a comment or question about your favorite lenses for wedding photography, in the Comments section, below.