7 Best Nikon AIS Lenses Reviewed – Find out Which One of Them Wins

Old is gold – goes an old quote. And when it comes to NIKKOR lenses, this saying rings true. The Nikon AIS lenses, in particular, are known for having re-defined the industry in the 70s and 80s.

In fact, it’s the AIS lenses that introduced greater freedom of aperture control taking over from the AI lenses.

And, therefore, this lens category remains relevant to-date. Today, we’d like to list down some of the well-made glasses selected from this particular breed. We’ll also talk about the kind of options available at your disposal and which one you may need to pick (and why).

Best Nikon AIS Lenses

Nikon AIS Lenses – Comparison

Want to save time? The comparison table below contains a shortened table which is adapted from the in-depth reviews located further below.

RankingProduct NameLens TypeMaximum Focal Length
1Nikon AI-S 50mm Prime Lens
2Nikon f/2.8 24mm AI-S LensWide Angle24 Millimeters
3Nikon 105mm AI-S f/2.5 LensTelephoto105
4Nikon 50mm AIS Lens f/1.8Standard50 Millimeters
5Nikon 55mm AIS LensMacro55 Millimeters
6Nikon 50mm Manual Focus LensNormal, Wide Angle50 Millimeters
7Nikon 50mm NIKKORStandard50 Millimeters

1. Nikon AI-S 50mm Prime Lens

If you’re looking for a well-made lens with a wide aperture, you’ve got to fall in love with this one. We particularly featured it on this list all thanks to its ability to offer great results even in poorly lit environments.

What’s more? It’s made up of high-quality parts which means it’s also meant to last long. And to top it all up, the gadget is protected by a 1-year warranty.

It, however, seems to struggle with image softness issues at around f/2.8, although it posts a stellar performance for all other focal lengths.


  • Great low light performance
  • High-quality finishing
  • 1-year warranty


  • Images get soft at around f/2.8

2. Nikon f/2.8 24mm AI-S Lens

You can never go wrong with a wide-angle lens especially if outdoor photography is your forte. This particular lens provides you with this wide lens along with a remarkable aperture.

So, it can be a decent choice for those sunset shots or early morning game-drive shots. The only problem is that this being a prime lens has limited zooming power.


  • Wide angle view
  • 5-year warranty (USA)
  • Great manual focus


  • Lacks zooming power and may therefore not work well for distant subjects

Also Read: Top 10 Best Minolta Lenses Reviewed – Latest Updated List

3. Nikon 105mm AI-S f/2.5 Lens – Best Overall

If you’re an experienced photographer, then the opportunity to experiment with this lens’ manual focus would be a dream come true. And what’s more? This rig provides you with some pretty sharp images if you get the focus right.

As such, the Nikon 105mm is a perfect, go-to classic portrait lens. And at f/2.5 its aperture does an incredible job for PJ among other low light uses.



  • Recommended for folks who know how to use manual focus

4. Nikon 50mm AIS Lens f/1.8

If you would like to learn how to use manual focus quick, this is the lens we’d recommend for you. Provided you get the manual focus right, this lens doesn’t disappoint.

Generally, its build quality is quite awesome and its focus is very nice and smooth. It, however, seems to struggle a lot when the sun is in the frame. And, therefore, we’d recommend it for indoor photography or outdoor shots, away from the sun.

Another thing we really liked about this lens is that it’s light in weight and incredibly compact. So, we found it quite practical to use.


  • Sharp images
  • Awesome saturated colors
  • Well-made and durable
  • Good value for money


  • Struggles with contrast when pushed to the limits

5. Nikon 55mm AIS Lens f/2.8

Launched in 1979, this beast has remained popular for close to 4 decades. And it’s easy to see why. First off, it is one of the sharpest macro lenses available out there.

On top of that, the lens is pretty well made, simple and also compact. It boasts a close-range manual focusing system which does an incredible job when precision is needed.

Lastly, we liked its focus ring. It’s quite well-made and easy-to-turn making it a lot of fun to use for long hours.


  • Great manual focusing power
  • Awesome performance in low light
  • Compact design
  • Durably built
  • Awesome for macro photography


  • Not ideal for shooting small, moving critters

Check out our another related article: Best Camera Under 700 Dollars – Buying Guide

6. Nikon 50mm Manual Focus Lens f/1.4

This classic lens has been making headlines since the 1960s. And it excels quite a bit when it comes to manual focus. Plus its standard 50mm focal length makes it a perfect choice for general-purpose photography.

It has a fast and wide-aperture meaning that it’s perfect for shooting in low light situations. And on top of that, it handles a wide variety of situations pretty well.

For instance, its ring focus is incredibly smooth plus you also get to lay your hands on infinity focus marks. And considering that this lens was made before most of us were born, it still impresses with quality, proving that this piece of equipment represents the best from back in the day.


  • Great handling
  • Awesome build quality
  • Sharp and rich images


  • Weak performance at maximum aperture

7. Nikon 50mm NIKKOR f/1.4 AI-S

This particular lens is reputed for its ability to provide consistent quality, especially in low light situations. And for that reason, we’d recommend it for travel or even portrait work.

In other words, it’s a perfect match for tasks where extremely limited depth of field is required.

The Nikon 50mm boasts an incredible manual focus although it starts out a little weak when wide open. In our view, the best performance kicks in at past the f/2.0 mark.


  • Exceptional performance in low-light
  • Awesome for -situation when a limited depth of field is required
  • High-quality manual focus
  • High resolution


  • Moderate distortion

The Buying Guide For Nikon AIS Lenses

So, how do you go about buying your best Nikon AIS lenses? Well, you first need to think about the kind of use you prefer. Are you look for a sharp depth of field or not? Are you planning for low-light shooting?

Another factor that can influence your choice is the budget. Normally, because these lenses are from the same manufacturer, the more you can fork out, the better the quality you can get.

Why Buy Nikon AIS Lenses?

Nikon AIS lenses are known for outstanding optics as well as the satisfying focus feel they have to offer. Also, they are built to produce exceptional image quality at various apertures and at all distances. Besides that, these lenses offer other benefits including:

Close-Range-Correction system (CRC)

Nearly all Nikon AIS lenses come with this feature. The CRC system is designed to ensure superior picture quality when shooting at very close focusing distances. Also, the system can help increase the focusing range for optimal lens performance. Therefore, you can expect great image quality at all distances while using most Nikon AIS lenses.


Another reason to buy Nikon AIS lenses is that nearly all of them are built to accept filters. The filters help protect the lenses from scratches, cracks or dust during normal shooting. Also, these filters can help ensure you achieve accurate exposure in difficult lighting conditions.

What’s more? Nikon AIS lens filters may improve your images in different ways including eliminating glare and enhancing contrast in an image.

However, you need to use the right filter size to enjoy all the benefits it has to offer. For DSLR cameras, you can use a filter ranging from 46mm to 82mm but most Nikon AIS lenses accept 52mm filters.

Compatible with most Nikon Cameras

Nikon AIS lenses can easily be mounted on all Nikon cameras featuring the popular F-mount including the FX. Some are also compatible with DSLR and SLR cameras with DX crop mode.

However, lower-end cameras like the D3xxx and D5xxx lack the aperture feeler. Therefore, you may lose light metering. As for higher-end models such as the D7xxx, you can use the AIS lenses with light metering but in automatic and manual modes.

Automatic Aperture control

Last but not least, these lenses allow the camera to automatically control the aperture. Therefore, you don’t need to manually select the aperture so the camera can measure the aperture and choose the shutter speed. This ensures you get the precise aperture without having to do a lot.

What’s more? These lenses have colored aperture numbers located on the aperture ring for added convenience. This helps in determining the depth of the field with ease. As such, the Nikon AIS lenses are very ideal for both beginner and experienced photographers.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we’re going to address some of the questions we came across while writing this Nikon AIS lens review. Read on.

What mount do Nikon cameras use?

The majority of them use the Nikon F-mount system which is a type of interchangeable lens. This makes the Nikon AIS lenses fully compatible with all Nikon cameras featuring this type of mount.

What is the difference between Nikon AI lenses and AIS lenses?

Generally, AI lenses are manual focus. This means that the photographer will manually choose the aperture. AIS lenses, on the other hand, allows you to automatically control the aperture.

Can lens adapters affect image quality?

It depends on the lens, camera, and the adapter you are using. However, if you’re using the right ring adapter that holds the lens in the correct position, image quality won’t be affected.

Which One Is The Best?

If we were to pick just one lens, we’d go for the Nikon AI-S 50mm Prime Lens with a fixed zoom. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come cheap although we feel that it has quite some awesome features worth looking forward to.

Final Thoughts

Only the best Nikon AIS lenses can help you relive the best moments from the past. So, be sure to grab one of the best ones available. Hopefully, the guidelines provided above will help you in that quest.

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