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Best Lenses for Nikon D3100 Camera in 2023

Rajib Mukherjee Avatar
Rajib Mukherjee
26 April, 2023 • Updated 28 days ago
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Nikon D3100 Camera
The D3100 is an entry-level DSLR from the Nikon stable aimed at first-time buyers looking for a budget camera to get started in professional photography. It’s also an excellent option for smartphone users looking to upgrade to a proper interchangeable lens camera. Whatever your requirement may be, you’re looking at a camera with decent features and a handy full manual mode that allows full control over your exposures.

The benefit of using Nikon’s DX mount camera systems (the D3100 is a DX-format camera with a crop sensor) is that you can use lenses designed for the full-frame system as well as those designed for the smaller DX system. Having said that, there are some disadvantages to using a crop sensor, such as the crop factor and the loss in the amount of light you can capture.

The D3100 is often paired with the Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. This lens has a decent focal length range that is good for a range of photography purposes. However, you will quickly tire of that lens as you continue to improve as a photographer. Below we have covered a range of lenses that could help take your photography to the next level. We have selected these lenses based on various parameters – including compatibility, image quality, handling, and price.

QUICK OVERVIEW

Products Features
BEST WIDE-PRIME LENS
4.7
+460
+460
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G EDNikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED
  • Nano crystal coating
  • Very sharp wide open
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $900
  • Nano crystal coating
  • Very sharp wide open
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $900
Check price
at Amazon
BEST WIDE-ZOOM LENS
4.6
+2000
+2000
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSMSigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM
  • A large number of specialized glass elements
  • A constant aperture of f/3.5 across the focal length
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $450
  • A large number of specialized glass elements
  • A constant aperture of f/3.5 across the focal length
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $450
Check price
at Amazon
BEST STANDARD PRIME LENS
4.8
+13500
+13500
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8GNikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
  • Fast maximum aperture of f/1.8
  • One aspherical element
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $300
  • Fast maximum aperture of f/1.8
  • One aspherical element
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $300
Check price
at Amazon
BEST STANDARD ZOOM LENS
4.7
+3100
+3100
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM ArtSigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
  • Effective focal length of 27-52.5mm
  • Very capable of working in low-light situations
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $1000
  • Effective focal length of 27-52.5mm
  • Very capable of working in low-light situations
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $1000
Check price
at Amazon
BEST MACRO LENS
4.7
+1500
+1500
Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
  • Effective focal length of 60mm
  • Lightweight lens
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $300
  • Effective focal length of 60mm
  • Lightweight lens
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $300
BEST ALL-IN-ONE ZOOM LENS
4.6
+1100
+1100
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR
  • Three aspherical elements
  • Nikon’s second-generation VR II technology
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $800
  • Three aspherical elements
  • Nikon’s second-generation VR II technology
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $800
Check price
at Amazon
BEST PORTRAIT LENS
4.8
+4700
+4700
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8GNikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
  • Full-time manual focusing override
  • Seven rounded aperture blades
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $250
  • Full-time manual focusing override
  • Seven rounded aperture blades
  • PRICE RANGE: Under $250
Check price
at Amazon

Best Wide-Prime Lens

1. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED

This lens has been designed for full-frame Nikon cameras. That said, it also works with Nikon’s DX-format cameras like the D3100. Due to the sensor’s crop factor, the lens’s effective focal length becomes 30mm, making it a wide-angle lens.

This lens is suitable for shooting various photography subjects, including but not limited to landscape and architecture. It can also produce stunning street photography, but may capture too much of the scene for some.

There are other areas where a wide-angle lens can come in handy, such as when shooting weddings, environmental portraits, group shots, parties, and events.

The construction of the lens includes 13 elements arranged in 11 groups. These elements include two extra-low dispersion glass elements that take care of chromatic aberrations and color fringing. The lens also features a nanocrystal and a super-integrated coating that ensures that the lens can handle the effects of harsh lighting. These coatings help the lens to perform without the effects of internal reflections, flares, and ghosting.

The rear of the lens, where the mount is, has a rubber gasket that suggests the lens can withstand the effects of bad weather and a dusty environment. I would still recommend using a clear filter with a filter diameter of 77mm to ensure that you have the front of the lens protected from water and dust. Despite the weather sealing, it’s always best not to exchange lenses in dusty environments.

I love the manual focusing ring on the lens. It’s chunky and turns very precisely. This ensures that I can make precise focusing adjustments. Although, with a wide-angle lens, one would be hesitant to use manual focusing. Say you’re shooting landscapes or nature photography, you would mostly use autofocusing and a small aperture to capture a large depth of field.

Speaking of focusing, Nikon’s silent wave motor technology powers autofocusing on the lens. The autofocusing is near silent and very accurate. Full-time manual focusing override is also available.

I am very happy with the 20mm f/1.8G ED regarding sharpness and overall performance. It’s sharp and wide open, but stopping down the lens improves sharpness even more. The lens is at its sharpest at f/4.

Pros
  • Fast maximum aperture of f/1.8
  • Nano crystal coating
  • Super-integrated coating
  • Weather-sealed construction
  • Very sharp wide open
Cons
  • No image stabilization

Best Wide-Zoom Lens

2. Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM is designed for the smaller image circle of APS-C camera systems. There are compatible versions for Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Pentax cameras.

This is considered an ultra-wide angle lens designed for APS-C camera systems. The effective focal length, however, becomes 15-30mm when the lens is mounted on a D3100. That’s still a pretty wide angle of view that can be used to shoot landscapes, architecture, and interior shots. Just like the 20mm f/1.8G ED discussed above, the 20mm focal length of the 10-20mm f/3.5 can also be used for shooting street-, architecture-, and interior photos.

The lens has a constant aperture of f/3.5 across the focal length. It’s not the fastest in the business but, with a wide-angle lens like this, you are unlikely to need anything faster. The best shooting setting for this lens is stopped down so that a large depth of field can be captured.

The constant f/3.5 aperture, however, has some advantages. One such advantage is that it retains the same exposure across the focal length. Usually, when you zoom in with a kit lens like the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, the maximum aperture will close as the lens zooms in. That means the exposure will also change, and you must adjust the exposure on the fly. As a videomaker, this can be a significant problem. If you’re shooting with the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5, you don’t have to worry about that.

That said, the absence of image stabilization is a notable problem, especially when shooting in low-light conditions. But that’s only when you’re hand-holding the lens. As I have noted above, the ideal shooting conditions for this lens involve capturing wide panoramic vistas using a tripod to stabilize your gear and using the lens stopped down.

The construction of the lens includes 13 elements arranged in 10 groups. The lens contains a range of special glass elements. It has two extra-low dispersion (ELD) elements and one special low dispersion (SLD) element for suppressing the effects of chromatic aberrations and color fringing.

In terms of weight and construction quality, this is a substantial lens. Weighing in at 520 grams will add noticeable weight to your D3100.

Four aspherical elements take care of spherical aberrations, improving sharpness and clarity. The lens also features a super multi-layer coating that suppresses the effects of flare, ghosting, and internal reflections. This coating ensures the lens can produce sharp results even when working in difficult lighting conditions.

Pros
  • A large number of specialized glass elements
  • A constant aperture of f/3.5 across the focal length
  • Effective focal length of 15-30mm
  • Solid build quality
Cons
  • No image stabilization

Best Standard Prime Lens

3. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G

My favorite standard prime focal length with a crop sensor camera is always 35mm. This lens converts to a 52.5mm focal length when mounted on a crop camera such as the D3100, meaning you can use the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G to do anything you would do with a normal 50mm prime lens mounted on a 35mm camera.

The lens’s construction includes a total of eight elements arranged in six groups. This includes one aspherical element. This element is used to suppress the effects of spherical aberrations. Additionally, the lens has also been coated with a super-integrated coating that takes care of issues resulting from working in harsh lighting conditions—specifically, flares, ghosting, and internal reflections.

One perk about the lens is the fast and accurate autofocusing performance driven by Nikon’s silent wave motor technology. The lens also features a full-time manual focusing override. This allows you to adjust the focusing manually even when the lens is engaged in auto mode.

Among the many advantages of the lens, there are also a few disadvantages. One of those disadvantages is the absence of image stabilization. The lack of image stabilization means that when you hand-hold the lens, you risk inducing image blur. This is most prevalent when you’re shooting at slower shutter speeds, though, which will rarely be the case with this lens.

Slower shutter speeds are typically induced by a slow lens. With the 35mm f/1.8G, however, this is seldom the case. This fast lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 and can work in any lighting situation. The fast aperture allows the lens to be used at a minimum shutter speed of 1/35 sec, which practically takes care of any hand-shake.

The overall performance of the lens is excellent. It’s optically sharp across the frame, even when shot wide open. Stopping down the aperture slightly improves sharpness until f/5.6, at which point the lens no longer gets sharper. Sharpness also starts to drop beyond f/8.

Pros
  • Fast maximum aperture of f/1.8
  • The field of view matches that of a 50mm prime (on a 35mm camera)
  • One aspherical element
  • Full-time manual focusing override
Cons
  • No image stabilization on the lens

Best Standard Zoom Lens

4. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

This is a very beautiful, solid, and high-quality lens designed for APS-C cameras with options available for Canon’s APS-C cameras and Nikon DSLRs. There is, of course, also a version on the market for the Sigma SA mount camera systems as well.

With this being an APS-C lens, you’ve got to consider the crop factor. On the D3100, because of the 1.5x crop factor, the lens’s effective focal length becomes 27-52.5mm. That’s still a great focal length for anyone looking for a lens to shoot everyday photos.

What can you shoot with this range? Street photography, landscapes, nature, architecture, and cityscapes are all plausible options for this lens. You can also shoot parties and get-togethers and vacations and getaways – there’s no lack of versatility here.

The fast aperture of f/1.8 is constant across the focal length. When this lens was launched, this was a one-of-a-kind design because of the fast wide aperture across the focal length.

This design means that any focal length is suitable for any kind of lighting and that stunning images can be captured in a range of environments. However, shooting at a wide focal length means you cannot always shoot with the widest aperture. Your depth of field will be shallow if you do so. But on those rare occasions when you’re shooting at the longest effective focal length of 52.5mm, you can experiment with f/1.8.

Sigma’s hypersonic autofocusing motor powers autofocusing. Although a decade old, this technology works to produce beautiful results. The lens is sharp, autofocuses accurately, and comes with a full-time manual focusing override.

Lack of image stabilization may be an important factor to take note of for someone who shoots hand-held for the most part. But I don’t think you will miss image stabilization if you often shoot with a tripod or in good lighting conditions.

Pros
  • Effective focal length of 27-52.5mm
  • Versatile genre options
  • Has a fast constant aperture of f/1.8 across all focal lengths
  • Very capable of working in low-light situations
  • Features Sigma’s hypersonic autofocusing motor
Cons
  • An old design that lacks some of the new refinements

Best Macro Lens

5. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G

Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G

The Nikkor AF-S 40mm f/2.8G is now Nikon’s shortest macro lens for their DSLR cameras. Especially the DX format F-mount cameras. On the D3100, the lens’s effective focal length becomes 60mm (35mm format equivalent).

Macro lenses are versatile because they can shoot macro photos at close range, while also being able to capture objects at a distance. This makes them suitable as both regular and macro lenses.

With a short focal length lens, the biggest problem is that you must get close to your subject. This isn’t a problem when shooting inanimate objects, but when shooting small bugs and crawlies, there is a high chance that you could scare your subjects away.

Also, when you’re focusing close to a subject, the front of the lens extends way beyond the barrel. You can check this by rotating the focusing ring to infinity and then focusing back to the closest focusing distance.

That said, the 40mm f/2.8G is an inexpensive lens and a great tool for someone just getting into the wonderful world of macro photography. I have used this lens extensively with a crop camera, and I know the results can be excellent.

Don’t forget this is a true macro lens, meaning it can capture a life-sized subject representation on the image sensor.

The construction of the lens includes nine elements arranged in seven groups. A close-range correction system has been used to ensure the lens can handle focusing and sharpness without any issues across the focal range.

The lens features a super-integrated coating as well. This coating ensures that the lens can handle harsh lighting conditions, which result in internal reflections, ghosting, and flares. This allows for some creativity, as the light source can be within the frame without any issues.

Pros
  • True macro lens with 1:1 (life-sized magnification)
  • Effective focal length of 60mm
  • A fast aperture of f/2.8
  • Lightweight lens
  • Inexpensive
  • Built-in focus delimiter switch
Cons
  • The short focal length often means you’ve to get in close to your subject

Best All-In-One Zoom Lens

6. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR

There were a few options that I could have gone for as my choice for the best all-in-one zoom lens. Of all the possibilities, I shortlisted two lenses and chose the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR as my preferred. The other option was the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. I chose the first one because of the longer optical zoom. The 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR does lose out one-third stop of light at the tele-end, but the 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR has a lot more specialized glass elements.

There are 16 elements in the lens arranged in 12 groups. The construction of the lens includes three aspherical elements and three ED elements. The first elements suppress spherical aberrations and distortions, and the second suppress chromatic aberrations and color fringing. A super-integrated coating is also used in the lens, which ensures that the lens can handle harsh light.

The lens features Nikon’s second-generation VR II. This technology can handle up to four stops of image shake correction. This is very useful when shooting hand-held and especially in low-light conditions. The image stabilization system has two different modes – Normal mode and Active mode. As a photographer, you can choose the mode you need according to the shoot’s requirements.

The main reason I like this lens is for its versatility. It can shoot landscapes, street photos, portraits, sports, and wildlife. Yes, at the tele-end, the lens slows considerably to f/6.3, but then the four stops of image stabilization come in handy to ensure that you can compensate with a slow shutter speed without inducing image shake. If you’re planning a weekend trip and want to pack light, this is a great lens to go with your D3100.

Pros
  • Three aspherical elements
  • Three ED elements
  • Super-integrated coating
  • Nikon’s second-generation VR II technology
  • Chunky zoom ring
  • Cost-effective
Cons
  • Maximum aperture drops down to f/6.3 at tele-end

Best Portrait Lens

7. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

My favorite portrait lens for smaller crop sensor cameras is always the AF-S 50mm f/1.8G. The fast aperture of the lens and the effective focal length of 75mm on a D3100 make it ideal for capturing beautiful portrait images.

The lens comes with a seven-rounded-blade aperture diaphragm, which ensures stunning bokeh.

The lens’s construction consists of only seven elements arranged in six groups. That includes one aspherical element that ensures the lens can handle the effects of spherical aberrations and distortions. Additionally, the lens comes with a super-integrated coating.

The 50mm prime is a great lens to work with. It’s lightweight, weighing only 185 grams, making it extremely easy to shoot with for an extended period. But on the flip side, the lens does not have excellent build quality. The lens does not have weather sealing either. If you often shoot in inclement weather, this isn’t the lens I would recommend.

The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G is a G-series lens, meaning it comes with an autofocusing motor. Nikon’s silent wave motor technology powers autofocusing on this lens. The lens also comes with a full-time manual focusing override. I don’t quite like the manual focusing ring, which appears very thin. For precise manual focusing adjustments, I prefer a chunkier ring. But then, considering the available real estate, there isn’t much room to put a thicker focusing ring.

I love the autofocusing capability of the 50mm lens. It’s very accurate and sharp for the most part. The lens produces excellent images that are very sharp across the frame and wide open.

Pros
  • Fast maximum aperture of f/1.8
  • Aspherical element
  • Excellent autofocusing
  • Full-time manual focusing override
  • Seven rounded aperture blades
  • Very lightweight
  • Inexpensive lens
Cons
  • Not fully weather sealed

Explore the world of lenses for different Nikon D series cameras with these comprehensive guides:

Rajib Mukherjee Avatar
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. The first time he ever clicked an image was with an Agfa Click IV back in 1984. A medium format film camera. From that auspicious introduction to photography, he has remained hooked to this art form. He loves to test and review new photography gear. Rajib travels quite a lot, loves driving on Indian roads, playing fetch with his Labrador retriever, and loves photography. And yes, he still proudly owns that Agfa Click IV!