The Best Nikon D5100 Lenses for Incredible Photography

There are many great lenses available for the Nikon D5100 at a variety of price points. The D5100 is still an excellent camera that can take high quality photographs when paired with the right lens.

The best lens for the Nikon D5100 is going to depend on your specific needs and budget. It is compatible with most Nikon F-mount lenses, but there are some caveats. The easiest way is to just stick to AF-S and G lenses.

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  1. Best Zoom Lens - Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
  2. Best Wide Angle Lens - Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II
  3. Best Telephoto Lens - Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
  4. Best First Prime - Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
  5. Best Macro Lens - Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G
  6. Best All in One Lens - Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR
  • Overall Image Quality
  • Price to Performance
  • Focal Length Range

Having a high-quality lens is of more value for image quality than a pricey camera. Lenses don’t wear out, you will be able to keep your lenses if you ever decide to upgrade your Nikon D5100.

That doesn’t mean that price is not a factor. It wouldn’t be sensible to suggest expensive professional lenses, even if they are the best quality. They can go for many times the value of the current value of the Nikon D5100.

All the most commonly used focal lengths have been included.

Professional or niche lenses such as perspective control, specialist macro, mirror, and fisheye lenses have not been included. Those are high-priced enough to also recommend a camera upgrade.

  • Wide Angle - Captures a large angle of view of a scene. These have a short focal length.
  • Standard - Has a field of view that looks “natural” when viewed by people. Any focal length between 35mm to 50mm.
  • Telephoto - Lenses with a narrow field of view, useful for subjects that are far away or small. Wildlife photography is a popular use for this type of focal length.
  • 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 - With a Nikon D5100 zoom lens, the focal length can be changed. The zoom range covered will vary, but manufacturers are always trying to make larger zoom ranges.
  • Prime - Lenses with a fixed focal length. Usually, they have larger apertures than zoom lenses. Larger apertures are better for low light conditions and creating blurry backgrounds with a telephoto lens. Better ones will have razor-sharp image clarity.

Nikon D5100 compatible lenses will use the Nikon F-mount. Nikon has been employing the F-mount since 1959. There are a number of different variants of the lens mount as it has been updated over time to work with DSLR cameras.

The first lenses with autofocus employed a focus motor built into camera bodies. The Nikon D5100 is one of the only entry level digital SLR cameras to have the focus motor built-in. As a result, autofocus will work with early autofocus lenses. These lenses will be referred to as AF, AF-D, or D series lenses.

The Nikon D5100 mount does not have a meter coupling ridge or EE servo coupling post. Light metering won’t work correctly for manual lenses without electrical contacts. AF lenses with physical aperture rings will likely need to be stopped down to their smallest aperture.

The Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR was originally bundled with the Nikon D5100. This was most commonly included with used D5100’s for sale on eBay or Amazon.

It is one of many dx nikkor lenses that have been sold with cameras over the years. These make up the right lens option for a majority of the required needs of a Nikon D5100 owner.

In challenging low light conditions using fill flash from the camera will help. Compatible lighting equipment like Nikon’s creative lighting system will be helpful if you can find pre-owned flashes that are inexpensive.

If you don’t have this lens, it is an excellent first selection for the camera. The focal length, image stabilization, and performance is solid, especially taking into account the affordable cost of a used copy. The one undesirable aspect is the f/5.6 aperture at the long end.

One of the most useful and common zoom lens is the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, which was the kit Nikon D5100 lens. The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is going to be excluded as it is already attached to the camera.

Wide zoom lenses are included in the wide angle section.

Telephoto zoom lenses are awesome with the Nikon D5100 for sports,wildlife, portraits, action, or anything involving subjects at a distance.

Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Telephoto Zoom Lens
Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G
  • Silent Wave Motor for Fast and Quiet Autofocus
  • Vibration Reduction Image Stabilization for Outstanding Handheld Shots
  • Gives You a Wide Focal Length Coverage
  • Great Lens for Action Photography with the Nikon D5100

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The main draw of the Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G is the reach the lens has combined with image stabilization. It is a great sports lens as it can be difficult or impossible to move closer to the action.

You will not have to break the bank to get this piece of glass. There are lots of pre-owned copies on the market as it was bundled with the Nikon D3400, D5600, and D5500 cameras.

The huge zoom range of the lens is made-up of 17 elements in 11 groups. Two of the elements are extra-low dispersion and one is a high refractive index element to ensure sharp images.

It weighs in at 580g (18.7 oz), with dimensions of (Diameter x Length) 3.0 in. (76.5 mm) x 4.8 in. (123 mm). While not small, it can still easily be carried around on the camera or in your bag.

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Zoom Lens
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G
  • Excellent Value When Purchased Used
  • Silent Wave Motor for Accurate Autofocus
  • Excellent for Wildlife, Sports, Action, & Portraits
  • 2 Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) Lens Elements
  • (VR) Vibration Reduction Image Stabilization

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The Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5. 6G was commonly sold with the D3300, D3200, and D3100 dslrs. It is a outstanding deal when bought second-hand.

One in great cosmetic condition are available for not even half the going rate a used Nikon 55-300mm.

The only drawback of the 55-200mm is the loss of 100mm of reach. It still has VR image stabilization and to help you get sharp images when hand-holding the camera.

One positive thing about the lens is that carrying it around won’t be a problem. It weighs 335g (11.8 oz) with dimensions of (Diameter x Length) 2.9 in. (73.6 mm) x 3.9 in. (99.5 mm).

Tamron 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Super Zoom Lens
Tamron 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
  • 9 Aperture Blades for Beautiful Bokeh
  • Minimal focus distance 59.1"

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The Tamron 70-300mm is a great Nikon D5100 lens if you want 300mm of reach, but want to save some money by choosing a third party lens.

One big drawback is the absence of image stabilization. This will make it challenging to get sharp images hand holding the lens.

Similar optical image stabilization is included in the Tamron as found in the Nikons. All of them have extra-low dispersion elements and anti-reflective lens coatings.

The lens weighs 16.1oz (458g). It has a length of 5.6" and diameter of 3.2".

A wide angles lenses for the Nikon D5100 are great for landscapes, astrophotography, architecture, group photos, real estate, and many more types of photography.

One thing to watch out for is the wide angle lenses on the Nikon D5100 can cause image distortion. Portraits can be an issue as noses or any body part close to the front of the lens will appear unusually large.

A benefit of a wide angle lens is that image stabilization is significantly less critical. Tiny movements or vibrations are not as likely to cause blur in an image.

Having a fast maximum aperture is vital for astrophotography. {In order to get the optimal results, you want at least a f/4, if not f/2.8 maximum aperture.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II Wide Angle Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
  • Perfect Nikon D5100 lens for night photography
  • Fast f/2.8 Maximum Aperture
  • 77mm Front Filter Threads
  • Focus Clutch Style M/A Selector

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The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is fast and sharp. With a large aperture, this lens is an excellent pick for astrophotography.

One key feature of the lens is the focus clutch that controls changing between manual focus and autofocus. To switch focus, the entire focus ring is either pushed forward or pulled back.

There is a built-in autofocus motor, but it is loud. This is an issue if you want quiet operation when shooting at an event.

The lens is quite large, weighing 550g (1.21 lbs) with dimensions of 4.02 x 4.02 x 4.02 in (L x W x H)

Take care when you go to get the lens. Tokina also makes versions that use a different lens mount like the Canon EF or Sony A mounts. Double check to make sure the lens you decide to buy is compatible with Nikon cameras.

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Aspherical Wideangle Zoom Lens
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5
  • Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM)
  • Ultra-wide angle lens
  • Internal Focus and Very Good Build Quality
  • Super Multi-Layer Coating
  • Built with Aspherical Elements that Reduce Distortion

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The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 falls into the same price range as the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. The large zoom range makes this a contender for the best Nikon D5100 lens for real estate photography.

At 10mm the lens is going to produce an exaggerated distorted perspective. You’re likely going to see distortion, which you can reduce through post-processing.

4 aspherical elements have been employed to help reduce distortion and aberrations. In total there are 13 lens elements in 10 groups to ensure the best image quality possible.

All that glass doesn’t make the lens too heavy, coming in at a weight of 520g (18.3 oz). Dimensions are diameter of 3.4" (87.3mm) and length of 3.5" (88.2mm).

Be careful if you are looking to purchase this lens. Sigma also made copies of the lens for other DSLR camera mounts including, Canon EF, Sony A, and Pentax K mounts. Make sure the one you buy uses the Nikon F lens mount.

The 55-300mm & 55-200mm lenses reviewed in the zoom section are also the lenses to look for first if you need a telephoto lens.

This section is going to take a look at Nikon D5100 telephoto lenses for sports, action, wildlife, and portrait photography. There is no shortage of these lenses available for the Nikon F-mount.

However, telephoto prime lenses tend to be expensive because the amount of optics that need to be utilized. The weight of the lens and ergonomics when mounted on a camera body need to be taken into account. The right lens the one that is easy to handle and use so you can capture memorable pictures.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Prime Telephoto Portrait Lens
Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
  • Best Lens for Portraits
  • Internal Focus (IF)
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Superb Color Reproduction

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The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is one of the best Nikon lenses for professional photographers. It is a fast lens that delivers excellent images and pleasing bokeh.

The 85mm 1.8G is a full frame lens. You’ll notice two differences when comparing it against a DX lens.

First, full frame lenses are usually more expensive than DX lenses. They have larger lens elements, which translates to additional cost.

Second, the lens is larger than many DX lenses. While not a huge issue, if you plan to carry it around with another lens, you’ll definitely need a bag.

Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Standard Prime Lens
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
  • Great Lens with a Fast Aperture
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Small and Lightweight
  • Excellent Pick for Low Light Photography

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Taking the crop factor focal length multiplier into consideration, this lens could be looked at a short telephoto. It’s a cheap fast prime that can be utilized for portraits and indoors.

The FX 50mm f/1.8G provides more reach than the DX 35mm f/1.8G, while still having a similar price.

There won’t huge differences between the lenses. With the 50mm, you’ll get a bit more reach and blurring the background will be easier.

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

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G Standard Prime Focal Length Lens
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G
  • Very Accurate Autofocus Performance
  • Takes Very good Pictures in Tricky Lighting Situations
  • Excellent Nikon D5100 lens for street photography
  • High Build Quality
  • Best option for an all around lens

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The Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G is the single best lens for the Nikon D5100.

A maximum aperture of f/1.8, means you’ll be able to isolate your subjects and create beautiful bokeh. Indoors the lens is fast enough to where you will not need to use flash.

This 35mm lens for the Nikon D5100 has an equivalent field of view of 52.5mm. That means you’ll have a “standard” field of view. Your photos will have a perspective that is similar to what is seen by human eyes.

Weighing just 200g (7oz), there’s never a reason not to have the lens with you. With dimensions of (Diameter x Length) 2.8 in. (70 mm) x 2.1 in. (52.5 mm), you can easily keep it in a coat pocket or bag.

Macro photography starts with a reproduction ratio of 1:1. That 1:1 ratio can also be referred to as life size or 1X magnification.

Those terms all mean that the subject being photographed is the same size as the camera’s sensor. Popular subjects are insects, coins, flowers, copy work and academic subjects.

There are other ways to achieve macro magnification, such as extensions tubes. Personally, I find that a macro lens easier to use and gives better results. That’s because a macro lens has a large minimum focus distance.

As a quick note, Nikon branded their macros as Micro-Nikkor lenses. This is a constant source of confusion as micro and macro have opposite meanings.

Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G Macro Lens
Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G
  • Close-Range Correction System (CRC)
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Maximum Reproduction Ratio of 1X
  • Well Built with a Rubber Sealing Mount Protects Against Dust and Moisture
  • Excellent option for Close Ups

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The Nikon Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G is the best pick for getting started with macro and close-up photography with the Nikon D5100.

As far as modern macro lenses for the Nikon D5100 go, the lens is relatively inexpensive. It also has a high-quality autofocus motor and uses current optics.

This means the lens can also be made use of for general photography. That’s not the case with older macros, as their image quality only becomes good after the aperture is stopped down.

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 Telephoto Macro Lens
Nikon Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G
  • Super Integrated Coating (SIC) to reduce Chromatic Aberration
  • Maximum Reproduction Ratio of 1X
  • Built with Internal Focus (IF)
  • VR - Vibration Reduction Image Stabilization

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The important benefit of the 85mm macro lens over the 40mm is a longer working distance. That’s the distance from the front of the lens to the subject.

At 1X magnification, the front of the lens is going to be close to the subject. If you are trying to photograph an insect, this may cause them to try to get away.

Another issue could be properly lighting a subject. Depending on your light source it could be hard to get it setup without the lens blocking it.

The downside is that a little more working distance adds to the cost of the lens.

While not the primary purpose of the lens, it can be used for portraits, but the f/3.5 maximum aperture might not create the best background bokeh.

The Nikon D5100 was released in 2005. It should be come as no surprise that there are many Nikon D5100 upgrade options available. One of the nice things is that you can still use the same lenses with a more recent camera, the bulk of with seamless compatibility.

Having access to different focal lengths, a fast prime, or a recently released lens will do more for you than a new camera. However, it is difficult to overlook the high resolution available from a recent APS-C camera body as well as fast continuous shooting speed and more white balance options.

The price of a used Nikon D5100 replacement is a fraction of the price when the camera was just released. That same drop in price also applies to recent camera models.

An upgrade that is a perfect fit for your requirements is likely more affordable than you would think if you’re prepared to sell your D5100 camera once you have an upgrade.