The Nikon D7200 is a great value camera which can produce stunning images, however many overlook the importance of lens choice. Your lens is what sits between your camera and your subject or scene, and serves a critical role in getting the light to your camera sensor. Wondering what the best prime lens for Nikon D7200 is? Below I’ve compared all the compatible prime lens options and compared their price, focal length and aperture to list out my best recommendation for your specific genre of photography.
Prime lens benefits
Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths and wide apertures. These come into their own in low-light conditions where they let in a lot of light to the sensor. They are also a great choice for when separation of your subject from your background is important (shallow depth of field). This is often how they get their nickname “portrait lenses”.
Prime lenses typically provide the best-in-class image quality and sharpness. They also typically have low levels of chromatic aberration. This can often be significant for superzoom lenses but also can be corrected in post.
Prime lenses also can come at a reasonable price and have a compact lightweight design. However, depending on the focal length and aperture the price, size and weight can vary significantly. As an example, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 comes in at £400 / 350g. Whereas the same focal length 85mm lens, with a wider f/1.4 aperture, comes in at over four times the price at £1,699 /595g.
For wildlife, long focal length prime lenses are an excellent lens choice, but for many, these are outside of an acceptable price range. The reason these are the perfect lens for wildlife photography is for a few reasons. Firstly the wide aperture allows for faster shutter speeds, with less need to increase ISO to maintain shutter speed. The other main reason is their exceptional image quality. The combination of long focal lengths and wide aperture is the best combination to isolate the subject from the background.
Prime lens limitations
In terms of the limitations, a fixed focal length can limit flexibility, especially when you’re used to a superzoom lens like the Tamron 16-300mm where you can cover both wide-angle and long telephoto focal lengths.
Also, prime lenses, unless high end often do not come with vibration reduction. This is something to consider, especially for medium focal length prime lenses such as the 85mm. The long focal length prime lenses such as the 300mm f/4 and 500mm f/5.6 both come with VR. This helps at these extended focal lengths, but this comes at a price.
Although prime lenses can come at an affordable price, for example, less than £220 for the 35mm & 50mm f/1.8 if you’re looking for a focal length below 35mm (wider angle) or above 105mm (longer focal length) these will come in at above £500.
If you’re then looking for wider apertures of f/1.4 vs. f/1.8 this increases both the cost and weight substantially. However, the most expensive lenses are in the long focal length range, as shown in the chart in the next section, there is a significant step up in cost/weight when looking at lenses in the 300-800mm focal range. See this post on aperture to learn more.
Prime lens options
In terms of good value for money, the 35mm and 50mm f/1.8 prime lenses from Nikon are hard to beat. I would go as far as saying that one or both of these are a must-have for anyone with the Nikon D7200 or similar crop sensor DSLR camera. Especially as this provides a focal length increase of 1.5x, e.g 52.5mm & 75mm for the 35 & 50mm lens options.
These are also some of the best lenses for a beginner getting into photography and can produce far higher-quality images than a standard kit lens.
If you’re looking for something more advanced to enhance compression and subject separation from the background, then a lower aperture or longer focal length lens may be right for you. For example the 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.8.
However, there are many more prime lens options outside of the 35, 50, and 85mm f/1.8.
The chart below summarises the cost and weight of all Nikkor AF-S lenses, which are compatible with the Nikon D7200. This is shown together with focal length and aperture along the x-axis.
Chart of prime lens focal length and aperture vs. cost (20-800mm)
This chart shows the significant increase in cost when moving to long focal length lenses and how wider apertures for the same focal length add both cost and weight. However, the 500mm f/5.6 does stand out as a good value option at a long focal length. This is a lens I have my eye on to take my wildlife photography to the next level.
A number of the lenses in the above chart are likely far outside a reasonable price range for most, e.g. £2900-18,999. Therefore I’ve included a chart below which only shows lenses in the 20-105mm range, excluding 300-800mm prime lens options. This makes it easier to compare lenses across a more reasonable price range.
Chart of prime lens focal length and aperture vs. cost (20-105mm)
If you’re looking for further information on any of the above lenses to assist you with any comparisons I’ve compiled a table which includes the following information. This will be available soon.
- Lens Description
- Length & Width & Height
- Focal length
- Maximum aperture
- Filter size
- Link to website with further information
Cost of aperture
Professional photographers who require excellent low-light performance will often use low aperture prime lenses, for example, f/1.4 instead of a more standard f/1.8, these come at a much more significant price point. These can be up to 2-3.5x more expensive than their f/1.8 equivalents and also up to double the weight, as shown in the table below. Therefore it’s important to pick the right lens for your situation, as standard prime lenses at f/1.8 may be sufficient and the best option for most situations.
cost / weight
|% Price increase
|AF-S NIKKOR 35mm
|£529 / 305g
|£1,699 / 600g
|AF-S NIKKOR 50mm
|£220 / 185g
|£459 / 280g
|AF-S NIKKOR 85mm
|£489 / 350g
|£1,699 / 595g
Prime lens usage
With a fixed focal length prime lenses can take some getting used to, however for certain genres of photography they can produce some extremely rewarding results.
Since purchasing my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens in 2015 I’ve taken over 25,000 photos with it. Some of my favourite portraits of people, pets and animals have been taken with this lens, it’s also served us very well for food photography for Somebodyfeedseb.com.
This could be surprising, but prime lenses can also work very effectively for landscape/seascape shots. The wide aperture and shallow depth of field can be used to create interesting leading lines in your foreground, without them detracting from your main focal point. Also at narrow apertures, to ensure the full scene is in focus the achievable image quality is excellent.
In 2021 I purchased the Nikon 50mm f/1.8, as in some situations I found the 35mm was too wide in terms of the field of view, even with a crop sensor camera. Since 2021 I’ve already taken over 15,000 shots and continue to use it almost every day for food photography, and it’s also my go-to for portraits. Given the small size and low weight, I wouldn’t go anywhere without it.
Prime lens usage top tips
Some of my top tips for getting the most out of these prime lenses are included below:
- Limited focal length: If your subject is far in the distance you will struggle with a relatively short 35/50mm focal length. For this a longer telephoto zoom is preferred or an expensive and high-quality long focal length prime lens.
- Subject isolation: To maximise Bokeh (background blur) to isolate your subject from the background try to reduce the distance between your camera and your subject, but increase the distance between your subject and the background and of course use a wide aperture.
- Aperture, how wide is too wide? Although tempting to always shoot at f/1.8, consider your depth of field to ensure your aperture is adjusted to get your subject in focus. If you’re close to your subject the depth of field can be minimal and therefore needs to be carefully considered.
- Maintain shutter speed: When using a prime lens in low light situations, don’t be afraid to increase ISO to maintain an acceptable shutter speed. A noisy higher ISO photo can be improved upon in post processing but a blurry photo due to low shutter speed is difficult to save.
- Focal point location accuracy: This may be obvious, but with wide apertures, your focal point position is especially critical. I prefer to use AF-C (Continuous AF) combined with a single focal point, this gives me the best control, especially for portraits to make sure it’s exactly on the eye closest to the camera.
- Capture action with fast shutter speed: Although somewhat limited by a fixed focal length, 35 & 50-mm prime lenses can be a good choice for action. This is facilitated by the wide/low aperture letting in more light and achieving better performance in terms of fast shutter speed while maintaining low ISO.
- Adjust your composition with your feet! As prime lenses have a fixed focal length it’s important to move around to adjust your composition.
Which prime lens is best for your genre of photography?
For travel, the last thing you want is to lug around a big, heavy and expensive lens. Therefore it’s usually best to stay away from the long focal lengths or wide f/1.4 apertures. I’ve found that on my crop sensor D7200 or older D3200 a 35mm or 50mm f/1.8 is a great choice for the diverse range of subjects for travel photography. I also have my eye on the 85mm f/1.8, which still doesn’t break the bank or weigh you down.
Another aspect to consider is low-light photography through glass, this can be common at observatory decks and high buildings. When coupled with trying to take photos at night reflections from the window can cause challenges. A prime lens can help to increase the amount of light getting to the camera sensor, giving you the ability to use lower ISO for reduced noise. For further tips on shooting through glass see the last section of the article about the best photography spots in Tokyo.
The disadvantage of a crop sensor camera is the crop factor reduces your field of view. For Astrophotography a wide-angle lens is preferred therefore it’s best to use a lens in the 20-28mm range, or below.
However, for a crop sensor camera such as the D7200 I wouldn’t recommend a prime lens, this is because there isn’t a wide enough Nikon option.
For this genre I would suggest the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, even at 11mm I often use a panorama approach to stitch multiple images for an even wider view. An example image is shown below. Note that this used my older D3200 body which cannot handle higher ISO levels as well as the D7200.
Indoor and low-light
This is where prime lenses excel, the wide aperture lets in more light, which allows for lower ISO and reduced noise when lighting is poor. For these situations the widest possible aperture is preferred, however, this depends on your available budget given the differences explained previously on f/1.8 vs. f/1.4 in terms of cost and weight. Regarding focal length, this depends on the environment and your subject, there may be insufficient space to fit everything in using a long focal length. Also, bear in mind that longer focal lengths require faster shutter speeds to ensure sharp images.
For me, the 35mm f/1.8 works best for in-door environments as the wider field of view gives increased flexibility.
Lightweight and compact lenses are ideal for carrying around all day while also not drawing too much attention to yourself. To avoid getting too intrusive faces I’m considering purchasing an 85mm f/1.8 (Equivalent to 127.5mm on the D7200). However, currently, my 50mm f/1.8 is working well, as I can always crop in for a slightly tighter field of view.
When not using a prime lens, I also find myself using my Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 as I can zoom in from a distance, and even with a relatively narrow aperture the longer focal length helps with background separation.
Wildlife / Sports / Action
If you’re able to get up close, Prime lenses can work well for wildlife, sports and action photography. Even at 35mm & 50mm as shown in the shots below. The wide aperture enables fast shutter speeds, even in relatively low light enabling you to freeze the action. If you’re able to get close enough, then shooting wide open allows great Bokeh.
For these genres, the longest focal length you can afford is certainly preferred. Great options, especially on crop sensor cameras such as the Nikon D7200 include the Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR and Nikkor 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR. The Vibration Reduction (VR) and effective focal length on a crop sensor body provide an impressive combination.
Professional sports/news/ wildlife
If you’re a professional, you’re likely to be spending a significant amount on gear and therefore may be using a higher-end camera than the Nikon D7200. High-end prime lenses (wide apertures and long focal lengths) are extremely expensive, and unless you’re a professional these lenses are unlikely to be a good fit for your needs.
The 300mm and beyond focal range are best suited to these genres, and may even suit the huge 800mm f/5.6 which comes at an eye-watering £18,999!
Wide aperture (f/1.8) zoom lenses
Wide f/1.8 apertures are typically only available on prime lenses, however, Sigma has a couple of options in their Art lens lineup for APC-C DLSR cameras which are zoom lenses coupled with an f/1.8 aperture:
Unfortunately, the zoom range is limited to 18-35mm and 50-100mm, however, if you have the budget and can handle the additional size and weight these are great options.
As you can imagine, it’s difficult to build a lens with a wide contact aperture across a zoom lens, if it wasn’t there would be many available, which there are not.
Therefore these lenses do have a few limitations, for example, the absence of both image stabilisation and weather sealing, both of which come in handy when combined with the Nikon D7200 camera body. Also, these lenses only have coverage for the smaller APS-C sensors (fine for the Nikon D7200) but if you were thinking of moving to a full-frame sensor camera, then these options would not be compatible
Wide aperture (f/2.8) zoom lenses
Often referred to as the “Holy Trinity” set of lenses the f/2.8 14-24mm, 24-70mm & 70-200mm are typically aimed at professional photographers. These offer a fairly wide aperture of f/2.8 but with zoom capability. The set of all three lenses covers a focal range of 14-200mm.
With a wide aperture, exceptional build, and image quality, these lenses come at a high cost, weight, and relatively large size. But for those who need the flexibility of a zoom lens, but with a wide aperture these are the go-to lenses.
Specific to crop sensor cameras the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 is another great lens. This is a decent upgrade from the basic Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.
In summary, to get the most out of your Nikon D7200 a prime lens is an essential addition. There are a wide variety of compatible lenses on the market from low-cost and lightweight options to those that cost thousands and weigh a few kilograms.
I would suggest getting started with a 35mm or 50mm f/1.8. You’re then almost certain to get hooked into the world of prime lenses and be looking to invest in both wider aperture and longer focal length lenses to maximise isolation of your subject and background bokeh.
Read this article if you have an interest in the best wide angle lens for the Nikon D7200.