Guide to the 6 Best Nikon D3100 Lenses

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: November 4, 2021
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Guide to the Best Nikon D3100 Lenses

If you don't want to read, you can check out the best Nikon D3100 lenses for each category below.

  1. Best Zoom Lens for Nikon D3100 - Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
  2. Best Wide Angle Lens for Nikon D3100 - Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II
  3. Best Telephoto Lens for Nikon D3100 - Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
  4. Best First Prime for Nikon D3100 - Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
  5. Best Macro Lens for Nikon D3100 - Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G
  6. Best Kit Lens for Nikon D3100 - Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR

Best Nikon D3100 Zoom Lenses

The kit lens the D3100 came with, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, is the best Nikon D3100 lens in terms of price and performance. However, it is not included below because if you have a D3100, you likely already have that lens.

Wide zooms will not be covered here. They are discussed in their own section further down.

The remaining groups of lenses are telephoto zooms. They are great for a variety of outdoor photography, such as sports, wildlife, action, and portraits.

A Nikon D3100 telephoto lens is going to perform best in full sun. You'll be able to capture far away action, unless the sun shines right at you. To avoid a situation like that, make sure any lens you purchase comes with a lens hood.

Not only with the lens hood block direct sunlight, it can also help to protect the front of the lens.

A zoom lens is not the best lens for low light situations with the Nikon D3100. Zooms often have a small aperture range that is variable. That's because zooms with a f/2.8 aperture are quite expensive.

Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR for D3100
  • Fast and Quiet Autofocus
  • Vibration Reduction (VR) optical stabilization
  • Excellent lens for shooting handheld.
  • 1 High Refractive Index (HRI) Lens Element.

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One of the biggest advantages of the Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G is the ability to zoom to 300mm. That range is going to be useful whenever you are not able to move closer to your subject.

Another great thing is that the lens is not expensive and easily found used. There are so many copies available because it was a second kit lens bundled with the Nikon D5600, D5500, and D3400.

While the focal length range is useful, a downside is that the lens is larger than other lenses that have already been recommended.

In terms of optics, the lens has 17 elements in 11 groups. To ensure sharp images with less distortion, optical coatings are used which also reduce chromatic aberration.

There are smaller and lighter lenses, but the lens is still reasonable. It weighs 580g (18.7oz) and is 4.8" (123mm) long and has a diameter of 3" (76.5mm).

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR

Nikon Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6 G telephoto lens
  • Excellent Value When Purchased Used.
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for Accurate Autofocus.
  • Great for Wildlife, Sports, & Portraits.
  • Excellent all purpose Nikon D3100 lens.
  • Vibration Reduction (VR).
  • 15 Lens Elements in 11 Groups.

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The Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G is a lens that was sold in a two-lens bundle with the D3100, D3200, and D3300. It is an outstanding deal when purchased used. Blur free handheld shooting is made possible by the vibration reduction image stabilization built into the lens.

To put some perspective on how good this deal is, a copy in excellent condition can be found for half the price of a used Nikon 55-300mm.

The only thing you lose out on is the extra 100mm of reach. The 55-200mm has vibration reduction and has ED glass elements, just like the 55-300mm.

A benefit of the lens is that it weighs 335g (11.8oz). The length is 3.9 in. (99.5 mm) with a diameter of 2.9 in. (73. 6mm), so it will not take up much space when you carry it around with your D3100.

Tamron Auto Focus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD

Tamron Sp 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Nikon D3100 telephoto zoom lens
  • Ultra Silent Drive (USD) Autofocus Motor
  • Extra-Low Dispersion (XLD) Glass Element
  • Broad-Band Anti-Reflection (BBAR) Lens Coating
  • 13 Lens Elements in 9 Groups
  • 9 aperture blades
  • Minimal focus distance 59.1"

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The Tamron is the best zoom lens to get the 300mm focal length on the D3100. It is similar in price to the 55-200mm Nikon above.

The lens does not have any kind of stabilization. That drawback is one of the reasons it is a great low budget lens for the Nikon D3100. Not having stabilization is going to make it challenging to get sharp images at 300mm when hand-holding the lens.

Using a tripod or bracing yourself on something will allow you to get a good image. Just like the Nikons, Tamron has made the lens with an extra-low dispersion element and anti-reflective coatings.

Don't purchase this as a new lens. That money can be put towards other options the have been previously mentioned. However, this lens is one of the top picks to purchase used for the Nikon D3100.

In terms of size, it isn't small weighing in a 458g (16.1 oz) with a diameter of 3.2" and length of 5.6".

Best Wide Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses are often the first choice for landscape photography, astrophotography, group photos, real estate, architecture, night photography, and other kinds of photography. Often, for those types of photography, slower shutter speeds and manual focusing will be needed.

Keep that in mind as you may want think about getting a tripod for your Nikon D3100, if you don't already have one.

A wide field of view makes it possible to capture entire rooms, spanning vistas, or a subject where you can't move further back.

They can also be used for creative effects as they can distort an image. The classic example of this is taking a headshot of a person and their nose will appear to be huge. Barrel distortion can often be seen, especially at the shorter end of the focal length range on a zoom lens.

The Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, is not compatible with the Nikon D3100. It will only work with the Nikon D3300 or newer camera models.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II wide angle zoom lens for Nikon D3100
  • Fast f/2.8 Maximum Aperture
  • 77mm Front Filter Threads
  • Focus Clutch Style M/A Selector
  • Great wide angle for low light conditions.

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The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens is fast and sharp. Though the focal range is small it makes up for it with a good build quality and excellent value. The large aperture does make it a good choice for astrophotography and landscapes.

One of the unique features of the lens is how you switch between manual and auto focus. There is a focus clutch mechanism that is attached to the focus ring. Push or pulling the ring is how you move the clutch to control the focus mode.

Personally, I like lenses that have a focus clutch. The reason is that you do not have to take your eye off the viewfinder to find the switch to change focus modes.

The autofocus motor in the lens is loud. For shooting video or use at events the noise could be an issue.

There is quite a bit of glass in the lens. It weighs 550g (1.21 lbs) with dimensions of 4.02 x 4.02 x 4.02 in (L x W x H).

Tokina also makes a version for Canon EF and Sony A lens mounts. Make sure you buy a lens for the Nikon F-mount.

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Aspherical

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 zoom for Nikon D3100
  • Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM)
  • Ultra-wide angle lens
  • Internal Focus
  • Super Multi-Layer Coating

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The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 has a similar price to the Tokina listed above. It has a bigger zoom range, but the maximum aperture is smaller.

At the wider end of the focal range, especially at 10mm, anything near the lens is going to have an exaggerated perspective. There will be distortion, which should be expected with a lens this wide. You can reduce some of the lens distortion through post-processing.

This Sigma lens has an impressively wide focal range for a zoom lens. It is slightly lighter than the Tokina at 520g (18.3 oz). In terms of size, it has a diameter of 3.4" (87.3mm) and length of 3.5" (88.2mm).

Keep an eye on the lens mount if you buy one. Sigma also made the lens for the Canon EF, Sony A, and Pentax K mounts.

Best Telephoto Lenses

Telephoto prime lenses for the Nikon D3100 are going to be the topic of the section below. Low light performance will be superior when compared to zooms, because primes have a larger maximum aperture so faster shutter speeds can be used. You'll also get nicer bokeh from the shallower depth of field.

Either the 55-300mm or the 55-200mm camera lenses covered earlier would be a great option for a telephoto lens. The two are economical telephoto zooms that are some of the best lenses for Nikon due to their excellent value when purchased used.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G portrait lens
  • Perfect lens for portraits.
  • Internal Focus (IF).
  • Autofocus is driven by a SWM.
  • High end quality lens.
  • Professional portrait lens.

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The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is impossible to go wrong with. This telephoto lens is such a sought after choice due to its impressive image quality and shallow depth of field.

Designed for the needs of a professional photographer, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 is an FX camera lens. The build quality is a step up from DX lenses. The wide aperture produces beautiful portraits. The fast autofocus has excellent low light performance.

The 85mm f/1.8 is an FX camera lens and designed for use by a professional photographer. You will see two important differences between FX and DX lenses.

First, full-frame lenses are often higher priced than DX lenses as the optics are large and more expensive as they need to cover a larger imaging area.

Dimensions are another main difference, with the 85mm f/1.8 being bigger than numerous DX lenses. While not being a very large problem, if you plan to take more than one lens around, you will probably need to have a bag.

Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G All around camera lens
  • Fast Aperture, great for low light situations.
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM).
  • Small and Lightweight.
  • FX lens for full frame.
  • 7 Elements in 6 Groups.

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The Nikon 50mm is not really considered a telephoto lens. However, this is one of the D3100 lenses that shines due to the crop factor. Used on the Nikon D3100 it has an equivalent focal length of 75mm compared to full frame cameras.

You can use it to take portraits. For shooting in low light situations, the lens can perform well due to the large max aperture of f/1.8.

Excellent results can be had in all kinds of lighting conditions because of the ultra fast focusing speed.

Nikon hasn't released very many prime lenses specifically for crop sensor cameras, like the D3100. Compared to the DX Nikon 35mm f/1.8, the 50mm has more reach.

It weighs 185g (6.6 oz) and has dimensions of (Diameter x Length) 2.83" x 2.01".

Best First Prime

The best prime lens for the Nikon D3100 will depend on the focal length that best suits the type of photography you do. Primes make a great all around lens because they are excellent for low light situations. They generally have a large max aperture which allows for a fast shutter speed so you can shoot handheld.

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

DX Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G prime lens
  • Small size and a lightweight lens.
  • Engineered specifically for Nikon DX cameras.
  • Super Integrated Coating (SIC).
  • Perfect choice for street photography.

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For a first prime lens, the Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G is an excellent choice to use with the Nikon D3100. The lightweight lens is perfect for everyday photography.

The large maximum aperture of f/1.8 is great for low light shooting. This is a lens you'll be able to use indoors. Plus, shooting it wide open will allow you to isolate your subjects, have beautiful bokeh, and superb image quality.

While longer focal lengths are more commonly used as portrait lenses, the 35mm can work well for half and full body portraits. For the same reason it is also a popular video lens.

As the Nikon D3100 is not a very heavy camera, the 35mm is a great choice when you want an everyday lens you can carry around with you all day. That will allow you to capture what you see when you find yourself in the right place at the right time.

In terms of 35mm film, the lens has an equivalent field of view of 52.5mm. This is close to the field of view of a standard lens, which has a similar perspective that is seen by the human eye.

The prime lens is not large, weighing only 200g (7oz). Dimensions are 2.8 in (70mm) diameter with a length of 2.1" (52.5 mm). You can easily carry the lens in a coat pocket.

Best Nikon D3100 Lenses for Macro Photography

Macro lenses allow you to take images at life-size or higher magnification. Life-size meaning a magnification ratio of 1:1 or 1X magnification. That means the area of the subject you are photographing is the same size as the sensor in your camera.

Popular subjects of macro photography are insects, flowers, coins, academic subjects, product photography, and copy work.

Macros are also the best lenses for close up photography. The minimum focus range won't be an issue when you frame close ups.

While there are other ways to do macro photography, such as by using extension tubes, I find using a macro lens with the Nikon D3100 is a better choice for taking photos and videos.

One important thing of note is that Nikon Micro-Nikkor lenses are just Nikon's branding of macro lenses.

Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G

Nikon DX Micro 50mm f/2.8 G macro lens for Nikon D3100
  • Close-Range Correction System (CRC)
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Maximum Reproduction Ratio of 1X
  • Rubber Sealing Mount Protects Against Dust and Moisture
  • Super Integrated Coating (SIC)

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If you're looking to get started in macro photography, the Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G is an excellent first lens.

The 40mm Nikon lens is the ideal lens that won't break the bank, while still retaining modern features like a high-quality autofocus motor and excellent image quality.

One shortcoming is that the minimum focusing distance can be quite small at 1:1 magnification. Longer focal length lenses will make taking pictures easier.

In addition to close-up and macro, the lens can be used for general photography. This is not the case with vintage macros, as their image quality will not produce sharp results until stopped down several stops.

The lens weighs 235g (8.3 oz) with dimensions (diameter x length) of 2.7 in. (68.5 mm) x 2.5 in. (64.5 mm).

Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G ED VR

Nikon DX Micro 85mm F/3.5 G Telephoto Macro Lens
  • Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
  • Maximum Reproduction Ratio of 1X
  • Internal Focus (IF)
  • Vibration Reduction (VR)
  • Has 1 Extra-Low Dispersion Glass Element (ED)
  • 14 Lens Elements in 10 Groups

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Working distance is always an issue with macro photography. That referrers to the distance from the front of the lens to the subject.

At 1X magnification, the minimum focus distance of the 40mm lens may be too close to the subject and cause problems. For example, an insect or another living subject may become skittish.

Another common problem is being able to position lighting. Without enough room, the lens can block the bright lights or flash needed to get a correct exposure at a fast shutter speed. Optical stabilization will help in low light conditions.

The Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G solves these problems by having a larger working distance than the 40mm. The downside is that you're going to end up paying more for the lens and it is not as well suited for general photography.

Best Lenses for Nikon D3100 Criteria

There are so many Nikon lenses to choose from. It can be difficult to know what will be the best lens for your Nikon D3100 camera.

The criteria used to narrow down

  • Image Quality
  • Overall Value
  • Range of Focal Lengths
  • Lens Features

There are many important factors to decide on when figuring out what the best lens for your needs will be. Working with a good camera lens is much more important for photo quality than a brand new camera. Lenses don't wear out, and you can expect to have the option to hold on to your lenses if you ever decide to upgrade your Nikon D3100.

That doesn't imply that price is not a concern. It does not make sense to recommend lenses with relatively high prices compared to the D3100, even if they are of the highest quality. Just because a recommendation is an affordable lens does not mean you have to pass on built-in image stabilization or sacrifice image quality.

All of the most commonly used focal lengths on the Nikon D3100 are covered. If you're looking for a super telephoto lens for indoor sports events or

Pro or specialized niche Nikon lenses such as perspective control, specialist macro lens, fisheye lens, and fixed aperture mirror lenses have not been covered. Those are expensive lenses that will be better paired with high end Nikon DSLRs.

When to Upgrade Your Camera

Make sure to have more than a kit lens before you think about switching cameras. Updating your camera, but not replacing the kit lens, is not going to lead to a big difference in your images. If you're looking for options take a look at the best Nikon D3100 upgrades.

Having access to different focal lengths will do more for your photography than a new mirrorless or DSLR camera.

The Nikon D3100 was released in 2010. The camera is still capable of taking great pictures.

However, the value of a second-hand Nikon D3100 camera is a fraction of the cost when the camera was new. That same drop in price also is applicable to more recent camera models.

Guide to Types of Lenses

Keep in mind that the best lenses for one type of photography may not be the best for all types of photography. The best choice will be the Nikon D3100 lens that meets your specific needs.

Focal Lengths

  • Wide Angle - Captures a large angle of view of a scene.
  • Standard - Has a field of view that looks "natural" when viewed by people.
  • Telephoto - Lenses with a narrow field of view, useful for subjects that are far away or small.
  • Macro - Has the ability to take images close up to a subject at a 1:1 magnification ratio of subject to sensor size.
  • Fisheye - Ultra wide-angle lenses that produce distorted circular images.

Zoom vs Prime for Nikon D3100

  • Zoom - The focal length of the lens can be changed.
  • Prime - Lenses with a fixed focal length. Usually, have larger apertures than zoom lenses. Larger apertures are better for low light and creating blurry backgrounds.

Compatible Nikon D3100 Lenses

Nikon F-mount Lenses

The D3100 uses Nikon F-mount lenses. The F-mount has been around since 1959. There are several different variations of the lens mount.

Early autofocus Nikon lenses relied on a motor drive built into camera bodies. The D3100 does not have a motor drive. As a result, autofocus will not work with those lenses.

Third Party Compatible Lenses

Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina all manufacture Nikon D3100 compatible lenses. The lenses all use the F-mount that includes all the features to take high quality images. It depends on the specific lens if it was designed for exclusively APS-C sensors or is an fx lens, designed to be used on a full frame camera.

Full Frame Compatibility

Full frame, FX lenses, can be used on the Nikon D3100. Full frame compatibility is supported by Nikon because the F-mount is used on the D3100.

The Nikon D3100 camera has an APS-C sensor, which is smaller than a full frame sensor. As a result the field of view that is capture has a 1.5x crop factor.

Nikon D3100 Bundles

The Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR was the kit lens originally included with the D3100. This is the lens most commonly bundled with used D3100's for sale on eBay or Amazon.

If you don't have this lens, it is an excellent first choice for the camera. The focal length and performance are good, especially considering the low price of a used copy of the lens.

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