Q: I want to buy a second lens. What should it be?
A: It depends
What lens you should buy depends on you, your budget, and what you want to shoot. If you want to ask folks for lens recommendations, make sure to talk about these things. Do you want to shoot portraits or wildlife? Do you need to shoot in low light without flash? How do you feel about manual focus?
Another popular suggestion which comes up is the recommendation of a flash.
If you don't like manual focus check the lenses which AF page to see all of the lenses which will autofocus on the D40/x and D60 bodies. We also recommend you check out the the Nikon Nomenclature section on that same page if you don't understand some of the more obscure jargon used here.
Table of Contents
Most popular lens suggestions
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8 G
This lens will offer a normal field of view, autofocus, and excellent close focusing. This is a classic fast prime updated for DX shooters. This lens has several advantages over the older 35mm f/2.0 AF-D, as it adds autofocus and offers far better wide open performance (f/1.8). It's also much cheaper than the AF-D, but that is an FX lens.
The field of view offered by this lens is about the same as that offered by a 52mm lens on a full-frame camera. This is more or less a classic "normal" focal length, which is said to approximate the field of view of most people's vision.
This lens is quite reasonably priced starting at $199 USD though still not as cheap as the AF 50mm f/1.8D.
Downsides? Won't work on film or full-frame bodies, and it has no DOF scale or distance scale. If those two things are significant, go for a 35mm f/2 AF-D or an older 35mm lens, bearing in mind these will not AF on a D40/x/D60.
Nikon AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm 1:3.5-5.6 G
This is a reasonably-priced slow telephoto-zoom lens with Vibration Reduction. It's a very popular second lens for people who want a little more reach than they can get with the kit lens. This lens doesn't have the same construction qualities as the more expensive lenses, but still has very reasonable performance. This lens can be only described as a 'longer kit lens' as it retains nearly all of the same characteristics. For those who want to shoot wildlife should scroll down to the 70-300mm, 100mm in this realm makes all the difference.
Most users and reviewers agree that the VR version of this lens is substantially better than the non-VR version.
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 D
This is a more-than-reasonably priced fixed focal length ("prime") lens. It won't autofocus on the D40/x or D60, but it will meter and autoexpose.
One advantage that this lens offers is its large maximum aperture of f/1.8, which allows you to shoot with much less light than the kit lens. This also allows you to throw the background far out of focus, an effect which can be very pleasing. This lens is regarded as one of Nikon's sharpest and is one of the most produced lenses. 50mm is the traditional "standard" focal length so Nikon has had nearly 40 years of development on it. This was also the first AF-D lens which includes a CPU to allow the lens to talk to the body. This allows for better metering and TTL (through the lens) to be possible. The field of view of a 50mm on a DX crop body makes it more suitable as a short portrait lens than as a "normal" prime for general photography. It should also be noted that Nikon's 50mm lenses do not focus as close as Nikon's 35mm lenses; for example, the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D and 35mm f/1.8 AF-S focus to 1.5 ft vs 1ft for 50mm and 35mm, respectively.
It's also exceptionally good value, given its speed, sharpness, and small size. One can be bought new for about US$125, and under $100 if used. Every photographer should have one of these in their bags.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 G
This lens is for those who want to pay more for having autofocus and a lens 2/3 of a stop faster than the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-D. This lens has the advantage of having the AF-S motor which provides fast autofocus on the D40/x/D60 bodies. This lens is also a full frame lens so in a few years when you've upgraded your camera to an FX body it will work beautiful. This lens has had very good feedback and is regarded as being very sharp. This lens is expensive though, roughly double the price of the AF-S 35mm f/1.8.
Other commonly suggested lenses
Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 HSM
This is a popular choice for landscape shots requiring a wider focal length than the 18-55 kit lens can provide. This lens is also defined as a super-wide angle. They are among the most difficult lenses to tame as they require a different thought process when taking an image. The lens does have a great deal of distortion between 10-14mm and some use this distortion as part of the photo. At 10mm the corners are very stretched and there is a great deal of pincushion distortion. This is a DX lens so any full frame camera must be set to DX crop mode. Competing lenses would be the Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor ED 12-24mm 1:4 G, Tokina 12-24 1:4 and Tokina 11-16 1:2.8. The Nikon version cost over twice as much as the Sigma though it has a constant aperture and better build quality. The Tokina has similar qualities of the Sigma, but it costs less since it doesn't have an AF motor (possibly a new revision in 2009). The Tokina 11-16 1:2.8 is the fastest ultra-wide of the group, it's also the sharpest. It costs around the same as the Sigma but lacks an autofocus motor. It's also got a much tighter focal range.
Sigma 30mm 1:1.4 HSM
This lens is 2/3 of a stop faster than the Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 and will autofocus on the D40/x and D60. This lens has a wider field-of-view, closer to that the field-of-view of the human eye when on a cropped sensor DSLR such as the D40/x and D60. Sigma has had focus issues with this lens, some copies having the problem, others don't. It's critical to test the focus before you buy it, or if you buy it blind online, make sure that you get there warranty (they can have up to 10 year warranty depending on region).
Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor ED 70-300mm 1:4.5-5.6 G
This is the 55-200 VR's big brother. It costs nearly twice as much as the 55-200mm, but if you're going to be shooting wildlife, the extra focal length may be critical. This lens has a serious advantage over the 55-200mm as this isn't a DX designed lens. This lens contains the newest of Nikon's VR technology the VR II allowing for better image stabilization performance. This lens has good optics, fast AF, ED glass to lower chromatic abbreviation but suffers in it's construction (all plastic (including mount) compared to more expensive lenses), slow (aperture could be larger) and lack of a tripod collar (this is a large lens when zoomed in tripod may fall over). Some may wish to skip this lens if they wish to invest in pro glass (70-200mm f/2.8) then can simply use a teleconverter to get the added focal length and still have a faster aperture.
Nikon AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor ED 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6
and Sigma 18-200mm 1:3.5-6.3 HSM
These lenses are for those who want to travel light, have the "one lens that shoots all" or cover a huge focal range. The range covers most shooting circumstances so the amount of lens required to carry are greatly reduced. When the Nikon 18-200mm came out, the were back stocked for months and, if you could find one, a nearly $300 premium was put on them. This is one of Nikon's most popular AF-S lens sold outside of a kit package. The Nikon 18-200mm is the most expensive of the three lenses and has very respectable performance. The lens is on the expensive side but you get far better quality both in the image and construction than the Sigma. Sigma is the cheapest and falls under the saying "you get what you pay for". It is also slower at the telephoto end (f/5.6 vs f/6.3) The lens is considerably cheaper than the Nikon version so those who are on a budget and aren't worried about mediocre image quality may look into it.
Nikon AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-70/105/135 1:3.5-5.6
These are the equivalent kit lenses for the bodies greater than then D40/x/D60. They offer longer performance than the original kit lens while maintaining a reasonable price. Though these lenses aren't really recommended to replace your current kit lens (as they offer little performance gain and most of there range is already covered), these are attractive for those who buy body only. They offer reasonable performance at a low-cost.
If you want more information, scour the many threads on the discussion pool.
Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor ED 60mm 1:2.8 G
This superb micro lens is for those who want to get into macro photography. Featuring blistering fast autofocus and fantastic image quality, this is a highly recommended lens. This lens has top notch construction and feels great on the D40/x/D60. There is an older AF-D version (will not autofocus), which features some of the same optics but does not include the Crystal-Nano coating layer which the AF-S version does. Many regard the AF-S version to be better, and usually goes for a few hundred dollars more.
For more range, see the Micro-Nikkor 105mm 1:2.8 G
Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor ED VR 105mm 1:2.8 G
If you want extra reach than the AF-S 60mm micro this is the lens. This gives the photographer more working distance between the subject, good for photographing bees and poisonous spiders, for example. This lens also features VR which allows you to hand hold though it's still highly recommended that you do the macro work with a tripod. The addition of the VR really makes this a great portrait lens. This lens has superb optics and construction but it comes at a cost. This lens is quite expensive and is also quite large and heavy. It does not balance so well on the D40/x/D60 body so be prepared to be nose heavy.
Sigma 50-150mm 1:2.8 HSM
This is a moderate telephoto zoom, like the 55-200, but with a constant f/2.8 aperture, meaning you can shoot at faster shutter speeds in low light, more easily freeze motion, and have better AF performance.
Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor ED 17-55mm 1:2.8 G
This lens is a Pro lens replacement of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. This lens is also far more expensive but offers fantastic performance and blistering fast autofocus. This lens is a DX lens but is much cheaper than the next FX lenses (below this one). This is a professional grade lens with superior build quality, optics and has all the bells and whistles you'd expect. This lens is an incredibly popular option for those with D90/D300 as they are much cheaper then FX equivalent lenses. The lens is highly recommended if you cannot spend the extra money for the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8.
Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED 24-70mm 1:2.8 G
and Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED 28-70mm 1:2.8 D
Want something more than the kit lens? These two lenses are flat-out dead sharp, even when comparable to Nikon prime lenses in this range. These lenses produce breathtaking image quality and superior build quality. The autofocus is incredibly fast. These lenses are very expensive but if you're looking for pro glass in this range look no further. This lens is also highly recommend for wedding photographers. The 24-70mm is the newer version which also adds crystal nanocoating. Many regard this lens to be one of the best normal zoom lenses ever made. This lens is unmatched in this focal range. This is also a full-frame lens so those with FX bodies in the future and have the money should invest in this lens. The single downside to this lens is that it's quite large and heavy. For those with heavier cameras (D700/D3/x) the lens is well balanced but on lower bodies not so much. The AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8, though large, is much smaller and better balanced on the D40/x/D60/D90/D300 bodies.
Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor ED 70-200mm 1:2.8
If you're looking to get something either more professional or faster than the standard 55-200mm or 70-300mm, look no further. The 70-200mm is a legendary lens known for it's amazing image quality and fast aperture. It's a very large lens (21.5cm in length) but is built like a tank. It's also fully weather sealed. All of these items come at a price as this lens is quite expensive but very worth it. It's said to be one of Nikon's best lenses and is one of the most popular amount professional shooters. This lens can also be paired up with a teleconverter making it a fantastic long lens.
Older manual focus lenses (pre-AI, AI, AIS) are also popular among D40/x and D60 users. These lenses are manual focus only and can only be used in manual mode; they also won't meter, so you'll have to guess the shutter/aperture/ISO combo. This isn't as hard as it sounds, with a little practice.
Manual-Focus 50mm Lenses
50mm lenses are usually quite inexpensive, except for the 50mm f/1.2. f/2, f/1.8, and f/1.4 are all affordable — don't overlook the f/2 just because it's slower; it's reputed to be the sharpest of the lot.
Nikon Micro-Nikkor 55mm 1:3.5
This is a very affordable and extremely popular macro lens. Pairing it with an extension tube (like the M2) will provide 1:1 magnification. This is regarded as one of Nikon's sharpest lenses and it's full manual on the D40/x and D60 so be prepared. This lens can be had for under $100.
Nikon Nikkor 105mm 1:2.5
On the D40/x/D60 this is a slightly longer lens then the 85mm but it still falls within the portrait range. This lens is fantastic to use and tack sharp.
Nikon Nikkor 135mm 1:2.8
This is usually the cheapest ($30-50 at the low end) way to get a telephoto lens with an f/2.8 aperture. Available in pre-AI (Nikkor-Q), pre-AI with multi-coating (Nikkor-Q.C), and AI/AI-S.