Guide to the 6 Best Nikon D5100 Lenses

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: January 23, 2022
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If you already know the focal length of lens you need, take a look at the best lenses for the Nikon D5100 below.

Best Zoom Lenses for Nikon D5100

The most affordable and useful zoom lens is the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G, one of the kit lenses for the Nikon D5100. The 18-55mm lens is going to be omitted as many people likely already own it.

Wide zoom lenses are discussed further down.

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

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

  • Fast and Quiet Autofocus
  • Vibration Reduction Image Stabilization for Sharp Handheld Shots
  • Gives You a Massive Focal Length Range
  • Terrific Lens for Wildlife Photography with the Nikon D5100

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The biggest attraction of the Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G is the range the lens has packaged with image stabilization. It will be a great choice anytime you cannot move nearer to your subject. Like other zooms mentioned, the aperture of f/5.6 at the far end of the focal length range is a little small, better alternatives will cost substantially more.

You will not have to break your budget to get this zoom. There are plenty of second hand lenses available as it was included with the Nikon D3400, D5600, and D5500 digital cameras.

The large 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

  • Excellent Value When Purchased Used
  • Silent Wave Motor for Accurate Autofocus
  • Fantastic 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 quite often sold with the D3300, D3100, and D3200 digital SLR cameras. It is a amazing deal when purchased secondhand.

One in decent condition is found for half the cost of a second-hand Nikon 55-300mm.

The only downside 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 advantage of the lens is that hauling it around won't be a challenge. It only 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 Auto Focus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD

  • 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 good pick if you want 300mm of reach, but don't want to pay as much for the 55-300mm from Nikon.

One big downside is that there is no image stabilization. This will make it harder to get sharp images hand holding the lens.

Equivalent optical image stabilization is integrated 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".

Best Wide Angle Lenses

A wide angle lens is very useful for landscapes, astrophotography, architecture, group photos, real estate photography, and more.

One thing to watch out for is the wide angle causing strong distortion. Portraits can be a challenge as body parts such as a nose close to the front of the lens will appear deformed.

One advantage of a wide angle is that image stabilization is less critical. Small vibrations of movements are unlikely to be noticeable in a photo.

Having a fast maximum aperture is useful for astrophotography. {In order to get the best photos, you want at least a f/4, if not f/2.8|To get the absolute best results, you want the max aperture to be a minimum of f/4.

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

  • Perfect pick 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 a very good 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.

The built-in autofocus motor is noisy. This will be a big problem if you want quiet operation when shooting at an event.

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

Be aware when you look to order 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.

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

  • Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM)
  • Ultra-wide angle lens
  • Internal Focus and Superb 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. It has a larger zoom range, but a slightly smaller maximum aperture.

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 used 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.

Best Telephoto Lenses

The 55-300mm & 55-200mm lenses gone over 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 telephoto prime 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 implimented. 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

  • 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

  • Great Lens with a Fast Aperture
  • Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Small and Lightweight
  • Excellent Choice for Low Light Photography

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Taking the crop factor focal length multiplier into consideration, this lens could be regarded as a short telephoto lens. It is a budget friendly fast prime that can be utilised for portraits and indoor photography.

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

There aren't huge differences between the lenses. With the 50mm, you'll get a bit more reach and blurring the background will be less difficult.

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

Best First Prime

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G

  • Very Accurate Autofocus Performance
  • Takes 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 best first prime lens to get 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.

With a 35mm equivalent field of view of 52.5mm, 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 Best Nikon D5100 Lenses

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

  • 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 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 utilised for general photography. That's not the case with older macros, as their image quality only becomes crisp 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

  • 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 main 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 tricky 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.

Lens Selection Criteria

  • Overall Image Quality
  • Price to Performance
  • Focal Length Range

Having a high-quality lens is of more importance for image quality than a high priced 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 doesn't seem sensible to advise using high price professional lenses, even if they are the best quality.

All the most commonly utilized focal lengths have been gone over.

Niche or professional lenses such as perspective control, macro, mirror, and fisheye lenses weren't covered. They are expensive enough to also advise a camera upgrade.

When to Upgrade Your Camera

The Nikon D5100 was released in 2011. 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 current camera, the vast majority 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 impossible to overlook the high resolution available from a more recent APS-C camera body as well as fast continuous shooting speed and more white balance options.

The price of a pre-owned Nikon D5100 replacement is a fraction of the cost when the camera was brand new. That same drop in price also applies to newer camera models.

An upgrade that is a perfect match for what you want is most likely much less than you think if you're prepared to sell your D5100 camera shortly after you have a replacement.

Types of Lenses

Focal Lengths

  • 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, effective for subjects that are far away or small. Wildlife photos are 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 vs Prime

  • Zoom - The focal length spans a range. The zoom range covered will be different, but Nikon is always trying to make better zoom ranges.
  • Prime - Lenses with a fixed focal length. Usually, they have larger apertures than zoom lenses. Larger apertures are better for low light condition and creating blurry backgrounds with a telephoto lens. Better ones will have razor sharp image clarity.

Compatible Lenses

Nikon F Mount

The D5100 camera is compatible with Nikon F-mount lenses. Nikon has been employing the F-mount since 1959. There are several variants of the lens mount as it has been altered over time to accommodate digital SLR cameras.

Initial lenses with autofocus were powered by a focus motor built into camera bodies. The Nikon D5100 doesn't have the focus motor built-in. As a result, autofocus will not work with early autofocus lenses.

The Nikon D5100 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.

Nikon D5100 Kit Lens

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

It is in a growing crowd dx nikkor lenses that have been included together with cameras over the years. These make up the right lens selection for a large percentage of the probable needs of a Nikon D5100 owner.

In difficult low light conditions using fill flash from the camera will help. Compatible lighting equipment like Nikon's creative lighting system can be beneficial if you can purchase second-hand flashes that are inexpensive enough.

If you don't have this lens, it is a very good first selection for the camera. The focal length, inclusion of image stabilization, and performance is adequate, 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.

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