Nikon D3100 Lenses that Are a Great Value

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: November 4, 2020
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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. Zoom Lens - Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
  2. Wide Angle Lens - Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II
  3. Telephoto Lens - Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
  4. First Prime - Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
  5. Macro - Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G
  6. Kit Lens - Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR

Nikon D3100 Lens Selection Criteria

  • Image Quality
  • Value
  • Range of Focal Lengths

Working with a quality lens is much more important for photo quality than a brand new camera. Lenses don't wear out, you can expect to have the option to hold on to them if you 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.

All of the most commonly used focal lengths are covered.

Pro or specialized niche lenses such as perspective control, specialist macro, fisheye, and mirror lenses have not been covered. Those are better suited for a much more expensive camera body and budget.

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.

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

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

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

An upgrade will cost less than you assume if you are prepared to sell your current camera after you replace it. Several cameras that are reasonably priced if purchased used are:

Types of Lenses

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 Lens vs Prime Lens

  • 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 Lens Mount

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

Early autofocus 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.

Nikon D3100 Kits Lens

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.

Best Nikon D3100 Zoom Lenses

The kit lens the D3100 came with, the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, is a good zoom lens. 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. There are options in the section about wide zooms.

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

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

  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for Fast and Quiet Autofocus
  • Vibration Reduction (VR) for Handheld Shots
  • 2 Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) Elements
  • 1 High Refractive Index (HRI) Lens Element
  • 17 Lens Elements in 11 Groups

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.

In terms of optics, the lens has 17 elements in 11 groups. To ensure sharp images, two extra-low dispersion and one high refractive index elements were used.

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).

Check current prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

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

Nikon 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6G lens
  • Excellent Value When Purchased Used.
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for Accurate Autofocus.
  • Great for Wildlife, Sports, & Portraits
  • 2 Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) Lens Elements.
  • Vibrations Reduction (VR).
  • 15 Lens Elements in 11 Groups.

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.

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 a glass ED lens element, 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.

Check current prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

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

Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.-5.6
  • 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"

The Tamron lens earned a place on the list because it is a cheap way to get 300mm of reach 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 the lens is cheap. 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.

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".

Check current prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

Best Wide Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses are often the first choice for landscapes, astrophotography, group photos, real estate, architecture, and other kinds of photography.

A wide field of view makes it possible to capture entire rooms, spanning vistas, or a subject where you can 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.

The OEM lens that Nikon makes, the Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, is not compatible with the 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
  • 2 Aspheric and 2 Super-Low Dispersion Lens Elements
  • Fast f/2.8 Maximum Aperture
  • 77mm Front Filter Threads
  • Focus Clutch Style M/A Selector
  • 13 Elements in 11 Groups

The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is fast and sharp, though the zoom range isn't very large. The large aperture does make it a good choice for astrophotography.

An interesting feature 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 focus ring is how you 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.

You can check current prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

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

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5
  • Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM)
  • Ultra-wide angle lens
  • Internal Focus
  • Super Multi-Layer Coating
  • 13 Elements in 10 Groups

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 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.

Sigma put a bunch of advanced optics in the lens as it has 3 low dispersion and 4 aspherical lens elements. These are included to reduce distortion and eliminate aberrations.

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.

You can check current prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

Best Telephoto Lenses

Both the 55-300mm as well as the 55-200mm camera lenses covered earlier will also work. The two are economical telephoto zoom lenses. The zooms are worth considering.

Telephoto prime lenses are going to be the topic of the section below. Low light performance is superior because of the larger maximum aperture. You'll also get nicer bokeh from the shallower depth of field.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

  • Popular Portrait Lens Among Professional Photographers
  • Internal Focus (IF)
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
  • 9 Elements in 9 Groups

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is impossible to go wrong with. The lens is such a sought after choice due to its impressive image quality.

The 85mm 1.8G is an FX camera lens. You will see two important differences between FX and DX lenses.

First, full-frame lenses are often higher priced than DX lenses. They have bigger lens elements, which usually translates to extra cost.

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

Check the current price of the lens at Amazon, eBay, or see more reviews.

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

Nikon FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G
  • Fast Aperture, Great for Low Light
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Small and Lightweight
  • Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
  • 7 Elements in 6 Groups

The Nikon 50mm does not be considered a telephoto lens. However, it should still be considered as it is a fast prime.

You can use it to take portraits. For shooting in low light circumstances, the lens can perform well due to the large aperture.

Nikon hasn't released very many prime lenses specifically for crop sensor cameras. Up against the DX Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, the 50mm has more reach.

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

You can check the latest prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

Best First Prime

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

Nikon DX 35mm f/1.8G
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Small Size
  • Engineered specifically for Nikon DX cameras
  • Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
  • 8 Lens Elements in 6 Groups

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

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 and have beautiful bokeh.

In terms of 35mm film, the lens has an equivalent field of view of 52.5mm. This is considered a "standard" field of view as it is similar to the perspective seen by the human eye.

The 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.

You can see current prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

Best Macro Photography Lenses

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, and copy work.

While there are other ways to do macro photography, such as by using extension tubes, I find macro lenses have a better user experience.

Nikon Micro-Nikkor lenses are just Nikon's branding of macro lenses. There is nothing special about them, they are macro lenses.

Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G

Nikon Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G Macro Lens
  • 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)
  • 9 Lens Elements in 7 Groups

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

Macro lenses can be quite expensive. The 40mm is an option that won't break the bank, while still retaining modern features like a high-quality autofocus motor.

In addition to close-up and macro, the lens can be used for general photography. This is not the case with vintage macro lenses, as their image quality is poor 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).

You can see current prices at Amazon, eBay, or read more reviews.

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

Nikon Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G
  • 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

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

At 1X magnification, the front 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 light and make getting an exposure difficult.

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.

See the latest prices at Amazon, eBay, or read reviews.

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