Lens for Nikon d3100

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by lynn_h|1, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. Seeking a lens to supplement 18-55mm kit lens for my Nikon d3100. Am interested in portraits - both people and pets - and nature
    photography. The Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 with AF, Zoom and Macro looks like a nice contender and the price is very reasonable. My hands have a slight tremor so a tripod might be helpful although I'm not very familiar with them. Would be best - I think - to find one that is not too heavy, easy to assemble and user-friendly.

    Thank you for reading this; all ideas/recommendations are appreciated.
  2. Dear Lynn,
    The Sigma on paper looks a fine candidate, but I think there are better choices - a lot, though, will depend on your budget.
    The main problem with the Sigma you found is that it will not have autofocus with your D3100. There are other lenses available, though, that do have AF and may fill your needs just fine:
    • Nikon 55-200VR: this is a relatively small and cheap lens, it does not have the same reach, which could be a pity for wildlife, but optically it's a very decent lens. If the long reach isn't a big concern, this makes a good choice.
      It has vibration reduction, which can help against a slight tremor.
    • Nikon 55-300VR: Somewhat bigger and more expensive than the above, longer reach and surprising good quality in my view. Also has VR.
    • Nikon 70-300VR: Bigger again, more expensive as well but very good value. Also has VR, and a better build quality than the others mentioned, but as a result it is also heavier.
    • Tamron 70-300VC: Much like the Nikon above, slightly lesser build quality according to reviews, optically as good or better, cheaper than the Nikon.
    Note that there are Nikon, Tamron and Sigma 70-300 lenses that cost little ($100-$160) - these are older generation lenses that do not AF with your camera, and they're optically not very good. It is well worth spending the extra money for any of the above lenses!
    As for a tripod, with a tripod it really will save you a lot of headaches getting a good, solid tripod from the start. Good solid tripods tend to cost quite some money, though. The biggest problem with good solid ones is: they either cost a lot for a lightweight one (carbon fibre, think 1.5kilos, $300 and up), or they cost a lot less but weigh a lot more (alumunium, think 2.5 kilos and $100 and up). The lightweight tripods you find in many large stores are a waste of money usually, they're not sturdy enough to hold a camera with lens in even a slight wind steady, so I would not bother with any of those - the only thing they're good for is convincing you to buy a proper tripod.
  3. I was actually quite impressed by the Apo version of Sigma's cheap 70-300 zoom (look for the red ring). Much better than the low-priced Tamron equivalent, and I suspect Sigma's non-Apo model. However, build quality is absolutely rock bottom, and there are numerous reports of jammed or broken zoom mechanisms on these lenses. Still, if you treat it gently....
    Tamron's SP 70-300mm VC lens has better image and build quality. It's also more expensive, bigger, heavier and unfortunately doesn't focus anywhere near as close as the Sigma. In other words it's not a lens that I'd immediately grab for portrait shooting, but for landscapes and casual wildlife shots it would fit the bill very well. The VC (Vibration Control) feature works extremely well, and would obviate the use of a tripod in most situations. You might also consider a monopod instead of a tripod to give a bit more mobility for chasing pets and children around.
  4. The Nikon 55-200mm VR is lightweight, easily affordable, and will likely do what you want.
    Kent in SD
    geoff_radkoff likes this.
  5. I've just bought a 55-200 VR. So far it seems fine and the VR helps since I'm not too steady either. If you don't mind the plastic mount (and the 18-55 has one too), there are a few advantages over the 55-300 VR:-
    1. It takes 52 mm filters, the same as the 18-55 and the same as the well regarded 35mm f/1.8 DX.
    2. The front does not rotate when zooming or focussing making polarizing filters easier to use. On the 55-300 it rotates during focussing.
    3. It is very small and light.
    The 55-300 is supposed to have better VR but I've not seen any reviews that show this to really be the case. Most seem to say the gain is about 3 stops on both.
  6. My son has been using the 55-200 on his D3100 and D3200 and it has been a very good performer. If you're not banging
    your camera around, the plastic mount is fine for average use. I think especially for the money it's a good candidate.
  7. The 70-300 seems a bit long for portraits. Have you considered the Nikon 50mm f/1.8. It is a really good lens and a great value at only $125.
    It may help if you can give us an idea of how much you are looking to spend. There are other amazing lenses such as the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 but it may be above your budget.
  8. It is a really good lens and a great value at only $125.​
    That is the old AF-D 50mm f/1.8, which does not AF on a D3100.
  9. i wouldnt recommend using a non-stabilized 70-300 w/out a tripod. the lightweight build of these lenses tends to contribute to camera shake at longer focal lengths, which will rob you of sharpness. though some are actually decent optically, the stabilized versions are so much better. but do you need a telephoto? what about the 35/1.8, which is just long enough on DX for full-body portraits, and would really add improved low-light capabilities? you'd gain more than two full stops from the 18-55's max aperture, which would enable low-light/indoor candids without flash, for more natural-looking shots. a 1.8 aperture is fast enough to create subject isolation, which is probably at least 50-60% of the portrait 'look' at any focal length. and, the 35/1.8 is only $200. if you're set on adding more reach, the 55-200 would be the easiest, least-expensive way to add VR and get more reach, although that lens isn't really bright enough for indoor shooting.
  10. Thanks again Friends,
    Am currently considering another (thoroughly enjoy the 35mm 1.8 for a walk-around daily lense) lense for architecture/ landscape photography. Leaning toward the 55 - 200 VR lense. Would sure appreciate your feedback!

    With appreciation
    ~ Lynn
  11. steve_g|2

    steve_g|2 Posting to strangers is just a hobby of mine.

    One of the best bang for the buck lenses these days is a used 18-105. Under $150 in most places.
    Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR ED Nikkor Lens

    I've got several lenses that cover some or most of this range but keep going to it for walk around.
  12. Lynn
    I suggest looking at the 18-105 or 18-140. Both are VR lenses.
    I have the 18-140 on my D7200, as my standard lens.
    The 18-105 and 18-140 are heavier than the 18-55, but a lot more flexible, and you don't have to change lenses as much.
    You can keep the 18-55 to use when you want a lighter/more compact camera to carry, like for birthday parties.
  13. Check 70-200mm f/4 VR nikkor and accessory tripod collar. Much more expensive choice than 55-300mm VR, but near perfect compromise of tele zoom.
  14. What's changed since 2013 then?

    Did you ever buy a 70-300 lens?
  15. You might review YouTube reviews and consider some older non AF glass. Do your homework on what is available and compatible, some nice glass can be had for reasonable cash if you can live with manual focus.
  16. The big caveat to that is that you have no metering at all on a D3100. Of course, you can guess(or use an external light meter) and then use the histogram to verify but it is strictly a manual operation otherwise.

    Of course, AI-P lenses do meter correctly, as do older lenses that have been "chipped." Chipped lenses carry an additional caution, though, that exposures will likely be incorrect with lenses that are not AI-S.

    A person who wants to use MF glass is much better served these days by a D500 or FX body, or if buying used a D300 or D7000 series lower than the D7500.(The D200 and all single-digit D bodies do meter with AI lenses also, but the D200 and non-FX Ds are getting a bit long in the tooth).
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2017
    Moving On likes this.
  17. I'd also caution that random people on Youtube have very different ideas of what "a good lens" consists of - there's usable stuff, but be realistic. Plus trying to use a manual lens with a small and relatively dim pentamirror and with low-end digital rangefinder abilities isn't going to be as fun as it would be further up the range.

    Lynn: You mentioned the 55-200. Is that the range you're after? Do you think you might want more reach, or more flexibility, in an alternative? How much is the size of the lens relevant to you?

    This may not help Lynn much, but the recently-released 70-300mm DX AF-P VR is affordable and has very good reviews. Unfortunately it won't autofocus on a D3100, but if others are reading this thread...
  18. That is very, very true.

    I would say that back when these lenses were current, very few photographers were shooting film or shooting it in such a way that that they could achieve all the resolution of which the lens was capable. The common B&W films of the day like Plus-X and Tri-X certainly couldn't do it, and color negative films were pretty much in the same boat. The only "common" films that might have come close with the average lenses were films like Pan-X and Kodachrome 25. Tech Pan was pretty unforgiving, but also cantankerous and slow enough that it wasn't in common use.

    By contrast, even low end DSLRs now have sensors that outresolve films that most folks would actually, and can do it at unprecedented sensitivities.

    My D800 puts a lot of well regarded MF lenses, along with a lot of older AF lenses, to shame. Modern designs are pretty much in every way better-things like ED glass are now common and inexpensive, and there are ways to make aspherical elements that don't involve hand-grinding the glass. Consequently, you'll see these things in common use in everything from $100 kit lenses up to $10,000 super-teles. About the only lenses that don't get them are primes with "normal" focal lengths(I'd say roughly 28mm-135mm) that are only moderately fast. Even then, computer aided designs allow much better optimizations than ever before, and coatings are better than they ever have been.

    I don't mean to trash MF lenses. In fact, I use them a lot, and I'm disappointed that my D300s and D800 only have 9 or 10 banks for storing non-CPU data. I much prefer the implementation on the D2 series and D200 where you could tie non-CPU data to the function button and then just dial in the focal length and max aperture to the lens mounted. It's slower than picking from pre-entered data(which, I'll add, I also access via the Function button and rear dial), but is offset by the fact that I'm constantly having to dig into the menus to swap lenses in and out.

    It's worth mentioning also that all current DX cameras have higher pixel densities than even the D850. The difference between the D850 and D500 is splitting hairs(19.6 vs 20), and truthfully even the 15mp crop mode of my D800 is not THAT different from something in the 20-24mp range. Of course, the D3100 is a bit further down, but it's still in the resolution/pixel density range where you can see limitations of some lenses. I've seen it speculated that the reason the Df is "only" 16mp is because it was targeted for use with older/manual focus lenses.
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  19. I don't think that was speculation, that was in official interviews as a started argument. Speculation would be suggesting that Nikon had a backlog of D4 sensors that they wanted to get rid of (like the D3 sensor and D700). :) I'm not holding my breath for the D5 sensor to appear in anything else soon, but you never know.
  20. I guess the 'new' VR II version of the 55-200mm is such a bargain they're almost giving it away. Great VR for handheld stuff and pretty good IQ.

    If it's pixel density you're after in current nikon cameras, the Nikon J5 is a clear winner.

    Sadly the accountants/lawyers made it so you couldn't put a long lens on it. I just said "NO, get a different lens"

    A very sharp mid-zoom is the Sigma 50-100mm 1.8. It's not cheap and pretty heavy. It's a bit limited in zoom range, just x2, but if you're trying for shallow DoF or need a fast lens for sport, it's great.

    Ah yes, Technical Pan was such a double edged blade, when it behaved, it was amazing, but it didn't always behave nicely!

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