Sam Kacey

Sam's expertise is in Landscape, Portrait, and Travel photography. He and his team also review the best Cameras and Lenses on the market in 2022 for B&H Photo.

You don’t need to break the bank to bring your blockbuster ideas to life. But you might need to consider investing in new Nikon D3100 lenses. Nikon D3100 is an excellent camera with all the features you’d want. But, its base lens isn’t going to meet your expectations.

After all, your needs might involve taking bokeh shots or capturing images from far and close locations. A base lens isn’t dynamic, and that’s why most DSLR owners turn to different lenses for different purposes.

lake and clouds photo snapped from Nikon D3100 lens

For instance, you might be limited to a single focal length if you have a prime lens. While a prime lens isn’t inferior to any other DSLR lenses, it’s a bit limited in capturing images in different styles. However, if you want to capture shots from different angles and distances, you’ll probably buy a zoom lens. These are some of the reasons why photographers choose to buy additional lenses.

If you’re in a hurry, you can jump to our number #1 pick here.

What Should You Look For in Nikon D3100 Lenses?

Before you spend your money, take some time to think about the main features of a Nikon D3100 lens. Knowing what to look for in a lens helps you streamline your search. Think of what you want to do with your new lens, like recording videos and taking pictures. The type of lens you choose will make a huge difference in your photography or videography.

Criteria #1: Focal Length

Most beginner photographers misunderstand the concept of focal length. They assume it has to do with the dimensions of a lens, but that’s not the case. The focal range length of a lens is its optical property. It is the distance between the optical center of the lens and the camera’s sensors. The focal length ranges anywhere from 8mm to 2000mm. There are a wide variety of focal lengths to choose from.

Each lens has a different focal length used for various types of photography. Lenses with short focal range lengths provide a much larger view of the subject and the background. Hence short focal length lenses are better used for landscape photography.

If you want to focus on a single subject, you’ll need a high focal range length. Most fashion photographers use high focal length, while nature photographers choose the short focal length. Depending on your photography and the aim behind it, you can choose a lens that best fits your requirements.

photo taken using Nikon lens for D3100 camera

Criteria #2: Quality and Durability

In general, DSLR lenses tend to be very expensive. However, some lenses are comparatively cheaper. But when you invest in an expensive lens, you need to make sure it’s made from premium quality. The glass in front of the lens has to be scratch-resistant. Otherwise, your pictures will be blurry. Moreover, the body of the lens needs to be strong to withstand the constant pressure of connecting with your camera.

On the other hand, if a lens seems frisky and of low quality, it’s best to avoid them. The life of cheap lenses is around 2 years max. After that, the lens glass will get scratched, and your lens’s ability to capture beautiful images would be affected.

Criteria #3: Aperture Scale

Besides focal length, the aperture scale is the second most important aspect of buying a lens. Aperture controls the amount of light allowed inside the camera. As the aperture gets higher, your lens needs more light to capture sharp images. For example, a lens with f/1.4 will produce better low-light images compared to a camera lens with f/5.6.

Additionally, aperture also defines the depth of field of an image, otherwise known as the area of sharpness in the photo. Lenses with maximum aperture produce a small depth of field, which adds a soft blur to the background focusing on the subject. This means the higher the aperture, the better pictures you can take in bright light settings. However, low light photography requires a lens with a low aperture.

Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Nikon D3100 Lenses

Determining which lenses for Nikon D3100 are the best was not an easy process. We measured the specifications of the top products and compared them with our choices. We then ran rigorous tests to see if the specification mentioned on the product were true. After testing the lenses, we researched and ran across several customer reviews online. We also went through blogs and articles about “the best Nikon D3100 lenses” to figure out what industry leaders had to say.

After 20 hours of research, we have listed down the best Nikon D3100 lenses to help you make the right choice. Our list caters to different price points and niches so everyone can find a product for themselves. So without further delay, here is our list of the best lenses for Nikon D3100.

#1: Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8G Lens (Best for Portraits)

Weighing only 200g and 52.2mm in length, the Nikon DX 35mm lens comfortably sits in your kit when traveling. Its small size and lightweight make it excellent for carrying around, plus it comfortably sits on the Nikon D3100 frame. This lens can also be used on DX-format cameras where it gives a ‘normal’ perspective similar to that of a 50mm lens.

It has a faster focus because the motor is built inside the lens. You can quickly shift to manual focusing by moving the ring. This feature provides additional support to the photographer during a fleeting scene’s final moments where using manual focus becomes necessary.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is much sharper and produces a better image quality than most other expensive lenses. Therefore, you won’t need to increase the ISO under low light. Optically, this lens is perfect. It’s a lot better than most Nikon 35mm lenses as it delivers faster and sharper results. Despite its high aperture, this lens takes excellent low-light pictures. You won’t need to buy a different lens for low-light photography with this lens on your side.

It supports a silent motor for autofocus. You can quickly override to manual focus if you want. The focus ring is light and easy to move, but sometimes, it is too slippery. Even so, fine adjustments aren’t challenging with this lens, and saying it doesn’t apply manual focusing will be overstating a minor issue.

Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Lens Construction

One of the best features of this product is its lens construction. It’s made from high-end material that retains the picture quality of this lens. It’s coated to prevent lens flare and ghosts. It has a single “Extra Dispersion” lens element that’s usually found in a premium Nikon D3100 lens. ED boosts sharpness and improves the color quality of your shots. It also has a single aspherical lens to correct spherical aberrations.

Nikon D3100 lenses

The Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8 lens has similar qualities as the Nikon D3100 prime lens. It has a hard plastic exterior, metal-bound, and a rubber gasket that prevents dust from entering the camera lens sensors. Its lens is perfectly placed in the camera body, and you won’t find any wobbling. In addition, the focus ring is quite thick, making the lens very convenient and easy to use. In summary, its lens construction is exceptional compared to its price tag.

Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Autofocus Performance

The lens is impressively fast when it comes to autofocus. We noticed that it took the lens less than a second to focus on the subject. It’s faster than most lenses in its family and in the price tag. Since it takes fewer turns to move an f/1.8 than an f/1.4 aperture lens, we noticed that the Nikon 35mm didn’t take long to shift between close and distance focus.

Thanks to its silent motor, autofocusing is less noisy. This might not seem much to a beginner photographer, but noise-reducing helps take pictures in a quiet environment. Nature photographers want absolute silence when they are shooting. The slightest noise can ruin their perfect shot. In summary, the Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8 is undefeated when it comes to autofocus, even in low light conditions.

#2: Nikon 55-300mm Lens (Best for Telephoto)

Before this lens was introduced, photographers had to compromise between 70mm-300mm and 35mm to 55mm lenses. They had to carry two different lenses in their kit. Photographers would super zoom an image with a 70mm to 300mm lens, hold their breath to take a picture, and spend hours editing. However, there was a gap between 55mm to 70mm. This gap was met by a 55mm to 300mm lens introduced by Nikon called the AF-S DX.

The new optic motor is a silent motor like the Nikon 35mm lens. Still, it promises shots taken up to shutter speed four stops slower. This zoom lens has an ED glass element that reduces color fringing, often associated with a telephoto lens. A telephoto lens allows you to take pictures of subjects farther away. This feature comes in handy when you want to snap pictures of things you can’t or don’t want to get close to.

Wildlife photographers often have an arsenal of telephoto zoom lenses because they don’t want to be caught by a lion or a tiger. However, nature photographers also use telephoto lenses to take breathtaking pictures.

Another feature of the Nikon 55mm-300mm zoom lens for Nikon D3100 is its ability to blur backgrounds. The crisp foreground and blurred background are achieved at the highest focal length, for example, about 200mm, where the aperture is f/2.8. Remember, the higher the focal length, the more aperture you need to capture high-quality images. Because when the focal point increases, you have to decrease the light that enters the camera lens. Therefore, this zoom lens for Nikon D3100 can focus on the subject, which is achieved through a higher aperture.

flying bird snapped using Nikon D3100 lens

The build quality of this optic is excellent. We used this lens under harsh conditions and tried to wobble it as much as possible. The body of this zoom lens is made from high-quality plastic, but the connector is made from metal to grip it in place on the Nikon D3100. No matter how hard you try, you won’t wobble this lens out of place. This ensured us that this zoom lens would last several years and won’t give up on you until you upgrade.

Generally, with lenses covering this much range, performance is bound to decrease as you increase the focal range length. The Nikon 55mm-300mm lens for your Nikon D3100 captured crisp images at its lowest focal point. However, as we zoomed in the picture quality started to distort. Still, it was compensated when we increased the aperture. At around 135mm, the best results were taken at f/5.6. For more zoomed pictures, the lens gave its peak performance at aperture f/8, where the picture quality was acceptable and not too bad.

The lens has an acceptable image stabilization quality when you’re still. However, if you are moving, the zoom lens will take at least a second to stabilize the image quality. This might not seem much to beginner photographers, but a second is more than enough to miss an excellent shot.

#3: Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC Lens (Best for Low Light)

The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 has a reputation for delivering astonishing quality. It’s a crop sensor lens. It has a wide-open sharpness and takes excellent pictures at apertures f/2.8 and f/10. No lens will deliver crisp pictures at f/1.4, and the Sigma 30mm is not an exception.

Moving on to the internal mechanism, the Sigma 30mm is a champion at autofocus. It can quickly target the subject as if the lens can read your mind. It has a Hyper Sonic Motor, which means it can autofocus on even entry-level DSLRs. Plus, its autofocus is fast and very accurate. It quickly focuses the subject like a lion capturing a gazelle.

sun and clouds shot using Nikon lens

The Sigma 30mm for your Nikon D3100 camera has exceptional contrast and color rendition, so you won’t need to spend hours editing your shots. The bokeh is fantastic, and its chromatic aberration is good. If you capture outdoor shots, chromatic aberration isn’t a problem because you have plenty of light.

This lens for Nikon D3100 is by far the best choice for low-light photography. While photography fans generally love Nikon 50mm lenses, this one is only for those who know the value of a quality lens. You can capture breathtaking pictures under low light, and this lens will focus on the dim light coming from the corner. It will highlight the subject and the subtle light coming from the corner, adding a unique touch to your picture.

While you might believe that this lens interferes with your picture, it doesn’t. You can control the light entering your camera through ISO settings. In summary, the Sigma 30mm is an excellent lens for low-light photography and capturing breathtaking walkaround shots.

#4: Nikon AF-S Micro 40mm Lens (Best for Wide-Angle)

Nikon Micro 40mm lens for Nikon D3100 camera

The Nikon AF-S 40mm is an exclusive lens for Nikon D3100, D3200, and D3300 cameras. It has an attractive price point with a silent motor for autofocus. The DX 40mm micro has a super integrated coating that drastically reduces lens flare and ghosting. It’s a small and lightweight lens which makes it easy to carry around. This lens has other features like the 0.53ft distance for focus, 1.0x reproduction ratio, and 7 diaphragm blades for breathing-taking bokeh.

The lens also houses a focus limiter switch to boost focus speed, 3 distinct focus modes with autofocus override, and a 52mm filter size. If you are wondering whether DX lenses need to be multiplied by a crop factor of 1.5x to benefit from their true quality, we can answer that. It doesn’t matter if you use a full-frame or a DX lens. The focal range length never changes being used on different-sized sensors. Only the viewing angel does.

Beginner photographers are often confused when they read “micro” on a lens. Nikon’s micro means “macro.” This lens has the capability of doing something most lenses aren’t able to – focus on a subject at close length. If you want to take mesmerizing macro photography shots, the Nikon AF-S 40mm is the lens for your Nikon D3100. It takes macro shots like it has a built-in microscope. The picture quality is perfect without any grains or distortion. The focus is prime and doesn’t show any signs of jittering or movement.

image shot using Nikon lens for d3100 camera

This 40mm lens is slow when trying to focus between close and far objects. After all, the lens is designed to capture macro photography shots, so don’t expect it to be an all-rounder. It can take exceptional wide-angle lens pictures without reducing the picture quality. It’s 40mm focal range length makes it perfect for wide-angle photography, and its maximum aperture is picture-perfect.

The autofocus of this lens isn’t as sharp as its counterparts, but it does the job. Under low light, you can’t expect this lens to take brilliant pictures for its price point.

In summary, the Nikon AF-S micro 40mm for your Nikon D3100 camera is a treat for those looking to capture macro photography pictures of plants, insects, and trees. It’s also a good choice for product photography if you have a small subject. To sum it up, this lens is your number one choice for wide-angle lens shots.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Focal Length do you Need for Close Subject Photography?

Ideally, 35mm focal length is enough for close subject photography, but it depends on what you are capturing. If you’re a fashion photographer looking to upgrade your kit, then a 35mm focal length is suitable for your needs. 35mm lenses are incredible for capturing portraits, and these lenses are often referred to as storytelling lenses.

Is High Aperture Good?

Aperture levels determine how much light is entering the camera. As the aperture goes up, less light enters the camera, meaning your lens can focus entirely on the subject. High aperture is good for wide-angle photography where you aim to capture the scenery. However, you want a low aperture for single subject portraits so the lens can ignore the light and focus on the subject. Aperture is the depth of field for your photos.

Verdict: Your Best Nikon D3100 lenses

As we reach the end of our review, we hope you have figured out which lenses for Nikon D3100 are the best for your project. However, if you lost track of everything you read above, then don’t worry. We will summarize and recap everything for you so that you can make an informed decision.

For best portrait shots, go with the Nikon DX 35mm.

It’s lightweight with a built-in motor for autofocus. By far, this lens captures the best portraits shots thanks to its focal length and aperture setting. It can quickly focus on the subject, and you can also override autofocus. It has an excellent lens construction, and its autofocus mechanism is silent and fast.

If you’re looking for the best Telephoto lens pick the Nikon 55-300mm.

It has an excellent build quality and delivers peak results at 200mm with f/2.8 reducing the light that enters the camera lens delivering crisp images. This zoom lens has exceptional image stabilization quality for this range, making it an ideal choice for distant shots.

For the best low light and walkaround lens, check out the Sigma 30mm f/1.4.

It’s a crop image camera lens and not meant for wide-angle shots. It gives the best results at f/2.8 and f/10 aperture. It’s excellent for low-light photography and has a strong fanbase among Disney photographers.

If you want the best wide-angle shots, go with the Nikon AF-S Micro 40mm.

It has a super integrated coating that reduces lens flaring and ghosting. With a focus limiter switch to boost focus speed, 3 distinct focus modes with autofocus override and 52mm filter size. It’s a feature-rich lens with a special focus on wide-angle lens shots.

We hope our review for buying lenses for your Nikon D3100 camera has been educational and informative. Our goal is to help our readers buy the best lenses that help them shoot top-notch pictures and videos.

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