Macro Lens for D3100

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by brendan_ferguson, May 15, 2015.

  1. Hi,
    I am fairly new to photography and am currently enjoying struggling with the basics.
    Anyhow, I would love to start shooting macro with my Nikon D3100. I have already done a fair bit of research and will purchase some extension tubes, but understand that that is only part of the picture. A macro lens is really ideal for the best pictures. People tend to think a 100mm lens (or there about) is fairly good for general use, so I thought I would start there.
    I am on a budget and really can't afford the Nikon Macro Lens up on the Nikon website right now, (about $500) But have heard that auto focus is not needed anyhow, and from my limited experience with macro, I do concur. Manual is IN!
    So I don't want to loose metering and what ever else the lens is doing, but would like to know how to find these lenses on eBay, or what ever camera website I am looking at. Has a list of compatible lenses, but I honestly have a hard time figuring out what ones will work.
    When I try to understand this chart, type G or D lenses will work so long as they are AF compliant.... But I don't need an Auto Focus.... Can someone help me in understanding what less expensive lenses might work and how I can tell if they will maintain functionality aside from Auto Focus? Its not not clear to me if any other lenses other than G and D types will suffice. Some have footnotes and I don't really understand the implications of how it may effect my photography.
    I do appreciate the help.
  2. It happens that AF compliance also coincides with the electronic chip being present, except for a few expensive exceptions, and it is the chip that determines whether a lens will meter with the D3xxx family. A few lenses, such as the 85/2.8 PC D, and the 400/4 P, are manual focus, but chipped, and will work. Most of the footnotes can be ignored as far as basic compatibility is concerned.
    If a lens does not have electronics, it won't meter. If you use extension tubes they must pass the electronic connection to the lens, or it won't meter, and in the case of a G lens, it won't operate the aperture at all.
    With that said, do not entirely discount the idea of going meterless. This family of cameras will accept and work with just about any Nikon f mount lens and extension tube that exists, and once you're used to using the histogram to set exposure, it's pretty easy, and widens your capabilities greatly.
  3. For metering, the lenses that will work are Ai-P (rare), AF, AF-D, and all AF-S lenses; this includes all G lenses.
    Given your budget, however, I would take a look at the other brands than Nikon; the available options from Tokina, Tamron and Sigma are all excellent performers and cost quite a bit less. Some of those will AF, and even though with macro work AF isn't always ideal, having a lens that can auto focus can still be nice for portraits. The viewfinder of the D3100 isn't such that manual focus with shallow depth of field is always going to be easy. I'd have a look at the Tamron 90mm f/2.8, for starters - fits your budget, can AF, very good performer.
    Extension tubes are not really necessary with these lenses (unless you want to go beyond 1:1 magnification, but that is not easy). They're more a 'cheap way' to get good macro results with non-macro lenses.
  4. Wow. Very helpful responses. I am
    trying to push my understanding of
    photography, and have been doing a
    little of my own metering and such, but
    it still makes my head hurt. Sometimes
    I just want to take a shot without
    thinking about it a whole lot. I will
    certainly look into the Tamron lens and
    look around at the other options. With
    the G type lenses not being able to
    control the aperture, I think I will opt for
    something that is able lend that control.
    My understanding if macro photog is
    however that one is often trying to get
    more light. I suppose if the lens works
    that it is only able to open the aperture
    fully, which would often be the setting
    one might choose.

    Anyhow. I thank you for your replies. I
    now feel confidant that I can make a
    good decision on what to purchase,
    and look forward to seeing all the
    options available.
  5. "I suppose if the lens works that it is only able to open the aperture fully, which would often be the setting one might choose."
    Not entirely sure what you mean here, but you wouldn't usually use large apertures for macro. You would use small apertures like f/8 to f/16. That is why the available light is often an issue.
  6. Just to clarify, a G lens without its connection will be stuck at its smallest aperture, not its largest. Most lenses will be past their optimal sharpness there, and the viewfinder will be too dark to use. Live view will also probably be too dark to allow accurate focus on anything but a very brightly lit subject.
  7. SCL


    It is unusual that macro lenses are used wide open, as the depth of field is often too narrow to successfully get much of the subject in focus. Light is, therefore, critically important, as is stability of the camera. Much macro work is conducted from tripods. especially with focusing stages. On the lighting side, there are special light tents for even illumination of small subjects and also strobes designed for macro work which attach a small circular ring (containing the strobes) to the front of the lens ...these strobes not only provide sufficient light, but because of their short duration, also freeze movement. But back to your initial tubes vs macro lenses...before sinking money into a decent macro lens, you should try to get familiar with the extension tubes you plan to buy and the nuances of how light diminishes as the distance between the lens and film/sensor plane increases.
  8. It really depends on what you actually want to photo, and I haven't seen where you told us that. Photo'ing bugs is a LOT different than photo'ing moss & flowers. What you want to photo makes a huge difference in what I'd suggest.
    Kent in SD
  9. Brendan, you have a lot of irons in the fire here. A couple of clarifications are in order. First off, your D3100 does not have a focus motor in the camera body itself. In order for your camera to autofocus with any lens, the lens will have to have its own focus motor. A 'D' series lens does not have a focus motor in it and will only autofocus with a camera that can drive the focus mechanism within the lens. The 'G' series of lenses with a SWM (silent wave motor) listed as AF-S, will autofocus with your camera. Either type lens will meter with your camera but the older 'D' series lenses have a manually adjustable f-stop adjustment ring on them if. Typically, you lock a 'D' series lens on its minimum aperture and set the f-stop from the menu when in Manual mode. You can still control a 'G' series lens aperture with a D3100 but can only do so from the camera's menu and not the lens itself. Hang in there... it gets easier as you go along.
    Hope that helps
  10. Tom, on the D3xxx series it is not ever possible to control any AF lens from the aperture ring. There is no setting which allows this. It must be locked at minimum and set from the camera.
    This is very easy in A mode, since the single wheel controls aperture. In M mode, the wheel by default controls shutter speed, and the [+/-] compensation button plus the wheel controls aperture. In M mode that replaces exposure compensation, which is not available at all.
  11. Thanks for the clarification, Matthew.
  12. If you don't have to work quickly then the fact that older lenses won't meter on your camera doesn't matter.

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