Best Nikon Lens For Bokeh Photography + Camera Settings
"Bokeh photography" is on-trend in today's world of photography. YouTube influencers, bloggers, wedding photographers, and many more are always on the search for the best bokeh lenses.
When it comes to bokeh lenses, Nikon knocks it out of the park. It's a famous and reliable brand in general, and you probably already own some photography equipment that's Nikon-branded.
I'm Stefan, a cinematographer for ten years. And in this article, I'll choosing the best Nikon lenses for bokeh.
WHAT IS BOKEH EFFECT?
If you’re new to photography, you may have heard the word ‘bokeh’ being tossed around. But what does it mean? Simply put, bokeh is an effect or a photographic technique that refers to a soft, defocused background when you’re shooting an object with a fast lens (wide aperture lens).
Bokeh is a very pleasing visual effect that many photographers tend to favor, although assessing its quality and whether it works for you is quite subjective. It depends on your style.
If you like the out of focus blur effects that bokeh produces, we can help you out. The lens you’re using matters a great deal when it comes to capturing a bokeh-centric image, as bokeh is largely determined by the shape of the diaphragm blades of the lens.
If the blades are circular, the bokeh effect will reflect that with soft circles in the background. Also the lens needs to have a wide aperture if it needs to deliver the best blur effects.
LIST OF BEST NIKON LENSES FOR BOKEH
BEST macro LENS FOR NIKON FX CAMERA
NIKON AF-S VR 105MM F/2.8G IF-ED
BEST portrait LENS FOR NIKON FX CAMERA
NIKON AF-S NIKKOR 50MM F/1.8G
BEST telephoto LENS FOR NIKON DX CAMERA
NIKON 70-200MM F/2.8G ED VR II AF-S
BEST wide angle LENS FOR NIKON z CAMERA
NIKON NIKKOR Z 20MM F/1.8 S
BEST telephoto LENS FOR NIKON z CAMERA
NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200MM F/2.8 S
REVIEW OF THE BEST NIKON LENSES FOR BOKEH
CHOOSE YOUR CAMERA TYPE
BEST BOKEH LENSES FOR NIKON FX CAMERAS
1. NIKON AF-S VR MICRO-NIKKOR 105MM F/2.8G IF-ED LENS
This is a macro lens with very good optics. The internal AF system is accurate and pretty quick with Nikon’s SWM. It’s good for both indoor and outdoor shoots and does very well in low light. It uses new VR technology that’s quite effective, which makes this lens a good choice for beginners who are worried about taking bad shots.
The lens isn’t zoomable, so there are no moving external parts and it’s relatively compact, although not light.
This lens has a mostly metal make, so it’s going to last you a long time. It’s a hefty bit of equipment, and you may need a tripod occasionally, but shooting handheld is easy with some practice. The Nano-Crystal Coating and ED elements help to reduce any chromatic issues.
You shouldn’t experience much flare either. The rounded blades of the diaphragm will give you something akin to circular bokeh. This is a great lens for getting clean and natural results.
A great mid-range option, and a nice standard lens to have. It works very well as a macro lens and is particularly good for traveling with because it’s so easy to handle. It’s also pretty sharp and is great for close-up framing.
It’s a great portrait lens as well, so it’s quite versatile. The durable construction is a bonus, so it’s well worth the dollars. This is one of the best lenses for bokeh Nikon has produced in its macro lens line.
2. NIKON AF-S NIKKOR 50MM F/1.8G LENS
Another great Nikon lens that blurs background objects is this Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens which is also very budget-friendly. The f/1.8 aperture is wide enough that you get great results in low light, and Nikon’s SWM means you get very silent AF operation.
The lens is light and has a rubber gasket to keep the dust off. AF is pretty fast and spot-on, so there’s very little to complain about here. The bokeh results you’ll get will be quite pleasing; soft and just the right amount of blurry. All in all, you should consider getting this if you’d like a good all-rounder that works very well for bokeh.
3. NIKON AF-S FX NIKKOR 85MM F/1.4G LENS
This is a more high-end option if you’re willing to invest in it, and the defocusing effects are lovely. This lens is particularly suited to portraiture and is great for studio use. The AF in particular is very effective, and almost noiseless.
It’s also very accurate and has a good amount of speed. When you’re shooting with this, your foreground will be very sharp while the background will fade away pleasantly into a blur. Bokeh is truly excellent with this lens. For FX cameras, this is the best Nikon lens for bokeh effect at this price point.
4. NIKON AF-S NIKKOR 14-24MM F/2.8G ED LENS
This is an ultra-wide zoom lens that’s super-sharp. It’s a great mid-range candidate for the best Nikon lens for blurry background effects, and it has a minimum focus distance of 0.9ft. It’s a well-crafted, solid piece of equipment, and is great for wide-angle shots.
AF is near-instantaneous, helped along by Nikon’s SWM which boosts its performance. This is one of the sharpest 14mm lenses out there, so it’s worth considering.
This lens is built like a tank, and it’s both large and heavy, with a metal alloy make. It has a rugged build and will deliver a consistent performance when used regularly, as it’s crafted to last you a very long time.
Coatings on the lens will prevent issues with flare, ghosting, color inconsistency. While the weather-sealing encourages outdoor use as well.
The zoom ring is well-placed. This lens doesn’t take filters, but it’s quite specialized, so you have to buy it depending on whether you’re interested in taking wide angles. It comes with a nylon case.
This lens is brilliantly constructed and sharp edge-to-edge. The bokeh results you’ll get will be simple, but natural. You’ll get great results with landscapes and architecture particularly.
You’ll be stunned by the quality of images this lens can produce. This is possibly one of the best 14mm lenses Nikon has produced, and one of the sharpest out there.
BEST BOKEH LENSES FOR NIKON DX CAMERAS
5. NIKON 70-200MM F/2.8G ED VR II AF-S - BEST NIKON LENS FOR BLURRY BACKGROUND
This is another of the premium bokeh lenses Nikon has on offer, and it’s an excellent telezoom lens. The zoom range gives you a lot of scope, and it makes this lens a great choice for event photography and photojournalism.
The f/2.8 speed will perform well in low light, and there’s instant manual-focus override. You should get some great results when experimenting with shallow depth-of-field.
As you can expect at this price tag, this is largely metal, so it’s a long-term investment. It has coatings to reduce ghosting, flare and allow better light transmission. Also the internal focus system is quiet and accurate.
Nikon’s SWM makes the AF work like a charm. The VR feature means this lens is great for shooting handheld, and you don’t have to drag along a tripod. There are also three useful AF-Lock buttons to lock focus in place, which really do come in handy. You also get the HB-48 lens hood as a bonus.
This is a very popular Nikon lens among professionals, and it’s no surprise. It’s a staple for wedding photographers and has a lightning-fast AF system. With natural and beautiful color and contrast, your shots will look like a dream.
If you can afford it and you’re looking for a DX lens specifically, this is the best lens for bokeh at this price.
6. NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 35MM F/1.8G - BEST NIKON LENS FOR BOKEH EFFECT
This is one of the best Nikon lenses for bokeh, particularly because it’s at such a good price. Amateurs and beginners can easily buy this without breaking the bank, and even pros can get a lot out of this lens.
It’s light and very sharp, and also quite fast so getting that soft blurred effect with a defocusing background is a piece of cake. If you’re shooting at f/1.8, you’ll get really good results when experimenting with bokeh. You can also get a lot of use out of this lens when shooting in low light.
Easily one of Nikon’s most ergonomic lenses at this price point, this lens is a pleasure to handle. It’s got a plastic and metal construction, and it’s light but sturdy. The perfect companion for a nice nature walk or a late-night drive.
Shooting handheld with this lens is pretty easy, and Nikon’s SIC helps cut down on flare issues and boosts color consistency. This lens accepts 52mm filters and comes with a lens hood too.
This is a great buy if you’re looking to perfect the art of bokeh, but don’t want to spend too much on a single lens. It’s well-built and compact, works great in low light, and has a decent, silent, and speedy focusing system.
If you’re looking for a solid and affordable Nikon lens for blurred background effects, this is one to consider for sure.
BEST BOKEH LENSES FOR NIKON Z CAMERAS
7. NIKON NIKKOR Z 20MM F/1.8 S LENS
This is a good lens for action or news shoots, and also particularly good if you’re looking for a Nikon lens that blurs background objects. It’s also great for vlogging. The stepping motor (STM) is electronic, which means you get fast and accurate focus.
Shooting in low light is a dream using this lens, and the Multi-Focusing System is a huge plus, and also cuts down on any aberrations you might experience while shooting. You should expect natural and soft, round bokeh effects when using this.
This is a solid, weather-sealed lens (and also has a rubber gasket) so it can be used in rain or shine, and it’s built of both metal and plastic elements.
It’s pretty tough and durable and has a large metal focus ring which is also programmable. It’s compatible with 77mm filters, and it comes with an HB-72 bayonet hood.
As a mid-range Nikon prime lens, this is a stellar performer. It’s great for wide shots, and although there’s no VR, it’s not needed as Nikon’s Z-cameras tend to have sensor stabilization.
So you won’t have to sit through countless blurry shots. The lens has a pretty wide aperture so you get some pleasing bokeh effects - not dramatic, but natural and circular, and very good quality.
8. NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200MM F/2.8 S LENS
This was Nikon’s first telezoom lens for Z-cameras (full frame), and it’s still one of the best bokeh lenses Nikon has produced. The lens has a speedy AF system and allows you to get very close focus shots. The Vibration Reduction system reports up to 5.5 stops of improvement, so that makes shooting handheld much easier.
The bokeh is excellent with this lens and particularly good at f/4 where the effects take on a nice round shape.
The lens is very well constructed, with a metal barrel and sealing to protect the internal elements. It has fluorine anti-smudge coatings and an aspherical element to enhance image clarity. The lens has three control rings (zoom, focus, and a third programmable one) and an OLED panel.
The rings are large and tactile. The lens also has a focus limiter switch, and the manual focus system is very responsive. You also get several programmable Function buttons.
This is a premium lens that performs stunningly, particularly in low light. It’s a favorite of event photographers and journalists. It’s very well-finished and gives a solid optical performance.
AF is fast and focus breathing is minimal. Bokeh is a real winner here as well, especially if you’re a fan of circular effects. The fact that it’s a telezoom lens means you can get really tight, close-focus shots as well.
9. NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70MM F/2.8 S LENS
A zoom lens from Nikon’s Z series, this is a sharp lens with an electronic diaphragm (so it functions quietly). It has three control rings (focus, zoom, and programmable), along with a programmable function button and a handy little OLED display.
ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings help to cut down on flare and ghosting, and the fluorine coating repels dust and water, so this lens performs beautifully outdoors in all weathers.
The lens is very well-built and produces excellent results as well. Shooting at 70mm gives you more dramatic, circular bokeh, but it’s brilliant even at 24mm.
10. NIKON NIKKOR Z 85MM F/1.8 S LENS
Lastly, this is a solid mid-range option if you’re in the market for a prime lens that can also produce some great out of focus blur effects. This is part of Nikon’s S-Line and has a Multi-Focus System to enhance optics.
It’s protected from dust and moisture and has a metal focus ring. You can expect crisp, sharp results with this, and the Nano Crystal coating helps improve image quality. When it comes to bokeh, this lens is truly excellent.
You’ll see beautiful, light circles in your shots, and they’ll look quite smooth overall. This lens shines when shooting portraits (particularly if you like a softer background), and is quite good with low light and action photography as well.
BOKEH CAMERA SETTINGS
When shooting bokeh, there are a couple of things to be kept in mind. Bokeh doesn't depend on the camera. It's all on the optics of the lens and how you use it. Let's look at a couple of factors that you need to keep in mind when shooting bokeh on your camera.
When you increase the focal length of the lens, you get a shallower depth of field. Use the maximum focal length available to you (if you have a zoom lens) to create a separation between subject and background and allow bokeh effects to blossom.
The perspective compression will give you more background blur. On the other hand, if you decrease the focal length, you'll be highlighting the background more. This type of effect is great for shooting landscapes, but if you want to create beautiful bokeh, your focal length should be cranked up to the max.
You can also try using a zoom lens if you want a good focal range, as when you zoom in, you get larger bokeh circles.
Set your lens to its maximum aperture when aiming for smooth bokeh effects. You can change your camera mode to 'Aperture Priority'. Decrease your f-stop to the lowest possible setting (known as shooting at the widest aperture).
This will decrease the depth of field as well and highlight the object while giving you a smooth background blur. It'll also let a lot more light into the sensor.
Go with a long lens
The longer your lens is, the more focal range you get. However, be careful when opting for a long lens, and make sure it's a quality one. Because, shooting with a low-quality lens will yield bad bokeh, even if it is a long lens.
Positioning the camera
Keep your subject relatively close to your camera. This will bring it more into focus and let the background melt away, and you'll be able to get those picture-perfect bokeh highlights.
The closer you stand to the subject, the closer the lens will focus, giving you a shallow depth of field.
If you’re photographing a subject that’s too close to the background, you won’t get good results when it comes to bokeh, as you won’t be working with a shallow depth of field.
If you find you’re not getting a good bokeh effect, try and increase the distance between the subject and the background for the best results.
Go for a fast lens
Working with a large aperture and great optics will give you a good amount of speed when you’re shooting bokeh.
Any dust or moisture on the lens body will affect the quality of the shot. Don’t shoot bokeh without checking that your lens is spotless first.
If you have an old lens, you may have to check it for dust or fingerprints more frequently.
This article has covered some of the best Nikon bokeh lenses. To produce a nice-looking bokeh effect, your lens should be fast, with a wide aperture. Although you can get a great lens for as low as $138 on this list, more premium options can cost you upwards of $2k, although it’s well worth the money!
You may be shooting at a narrower aperture. Shoot at f/2.8 or lower, or if your lens won’t stop down that low, shoot while you’re closing the gap between yourself and the object.
You’ll get particularly good results during golden hour or in the evening.
Shoot close to the foreground you want to capture. You can also try a shot from a lower angle, and that will help to blur the foreground.