The Nikon D3400 is an entry-level camera with an APS-C sensor powering it. Paired with the sensor is an EXPEED 4 image processor. The native ISO range of the camera is 100 to 25600. The camera’s continuous shooting speed is 5 fps, decent for everyday photography but not quite the best for shooting sports, fast action, and wildlife photography. You could get one or two keepers if you fire enough measured bursts of frames, but if sports and wildlife is your forte, you’re looking at the wrong camera. This camera is best for still life, portraits, product, weddings, and everyday photography.
No camera can work alone. It requires a compatible lens to reach its full potential. This discussion will examine some of the best lenses to complement the Nikon D3400.
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The best lenses for Nikon D3400
- Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
- Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5 – 6.3G ED VR
- Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
The first lens I would like to discuss is the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G. The thing I like about this lens is that it’s very uncomplicated and one of the best prime lenses out there. This lens has been optimized for the smaller image circle of Nikon’s crop sensor cameras. The effective focal length of the lens when mounted on the D3400 is 52.5mm making it a 50mm prime equivalent of a 35mm format.
With a lens with an effective focal length that almost matches the angle of view of the human eye, you could shoot images with a natural-feeling perspective. The best application cases are street photography and everyday photography. You could capture a whole day’s worth of shots without swapping out your lens. Due to this, this lens is also perfect for travel photography.
The bright f/1.8 aperture promises to capture a lot of light. However, it would help if you took the f/1.8 aperture value with a pinch of salt. The actual light transmission value, as tested by DxOMark, is 2.4 (T-stop), which is the value you should consider when using the lens, especially when shooting in low-light conditions.
What I like about the lens is the fantastic bokeh quality – the background blur. This is useful for subject separation, as we have seen in movies and when cinematic stills are captured. The fast wide aperture produces a shallow depth of field that obscures anything in the foreground and background.
The lens is built well and has some weather sealing. A lot of plastic is used in the lens construction, but it feels solid in the hands. If you plan on using this lens in inclement weather, a slight drizzle will not impair the lens. At 200 grams, the lens weight is practically nothing, and you can walk around with this lens strapped to the front of your D3400 without discomfort.
The front element does not extend while focusing, so focusing is smooth on the lens. There is a manual and an auto mode; you can turn the manual focusing ring at any time without any issues. There is no focusing distance indicator on the lens. Speaking of focusing, there is a tiny bit of focus breathing on the lens, which can be an issue if you’re shooting videos. Also, the sound the focusing mechanism makes when engaging will be an issue when shooting videos.
In terms of image quality, the best performance of the lens comes from stopping down the lens by a stop. At f/2.8, the lens is sharpest at the corner of the frame and the middle. f/2.8 is also the aperture at which your lens can handle barrel distortion the best and overcome any corner darkness.
I don’t always talk about the prices of lenses because they keep changing, and during major festivals and shopping seasons, the price can fluctuate drastically. Therefore, quoting just a single price can be difficult. But I want to refer to the price of this lens to drive home the point that whatever you spend for it will be no match for the benefits it would give you back. This lens is a bargain no matter what price you pay for it.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
This lens was designed with the full-frame Nikon cameras in mind. Nikon makes many telephoto lenses, but none find the sweet spot of performance and pricing like the 70-200mm f/4G ED VR. Yes, there are faster 70-200mm lenses, and telephoto lenses offer more extended focal length reach than this. But 70-200mm is a great practical focal length. It’s excellent for portrait photography, sports, weddings, and travel photos. The slightly longer focal length makes it difficult to work in tight spaces, but you must grow into it and use the lens according to its strengths to get the best out of it.
This is a dated lens considering that it launched back in 2012. But it’s one of those lenses that is still very much relevant regarding performance and demand. The first thing about this lens is that it’s an inexpensive variety of the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR lens that Nikon also sells. The f/4 version is less expensive and bulky than the 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. It was a long time coming, and with the launch of this lens, Nikon answered the calls of its dedicated followers who were looking for an inexpensive alternative to the pricey f/2.8 version.
The crop factor of the D3400 makes the lens’s effective focal length 105-300mm. This means the lens is capable of tighter compositions of distant objects. Thanks to that, you can use this lens for shooting wildlife, sports, and fast action. Though at f/4, the aperture will be a little slower, which means poor low-light performance – especially when taking action shots.
The most obvious compromise Nikon made to accommodate users’ budgets is the build quality. The lens is significantly lighter than the f/2.8 lens. Being lighter means it goes well with the D3400, a light camera. The entire set-up does not feel too front-heavy.
Considering that the lens is mostly plastic, this is a well-built lens and feels solid in the hands. That said, the lens does have some metal components, such as on the lens mount and the zoom ring with rubberized components.
Image stabilization is a must-have on long lenses; in that regard, the 70-200mm f/4 does not disappoint. The lens comes with four stops of image shake correction. That will allow you to handhold the camera and lens combo for slower-than-normal shutter speeds without the risk of image blur creeping into your shots.
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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
Considering that the D3400 shoots only 5 fps in continuous burst mode and has 11 phase-detection AF points that are used for tracking subjects, there is only a limited possibility for shooting sports and wildlife photography with this camera. If you plan on shooting wildlife photography, e.g., you’ve got to have the right lens. And in that sense, the 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is one of the best lenses you can have. That’s if you can find the lens. There is a massive market shortage of this and other Nikon lenses.
This lens is designed for the larger image circle of full-frame camera systems, which means when you mount this lens onto your D3400, the crop factor will make this lens 300 to 750mm. Thus, you get a super telephoto lens at your disposal.
The most significant advantage of using a zoom lens like this is that you can change your composition without having to move. With a prime lens, you get the advantage of image quality and a wider aperture which is excellent for low-light compositions. But with a zoom lens, you can change your composition without giving away your position. You can get close to your subject and capture breathtaking details without scaring it. This is handy when shooting wildlife and also sports.
The constant aperture of f/5.6 gives no visual jerk as you zoom in and out of the frame. You don’t have to adjust for changes in exposure when you’re zooming in and out.
This lens doesn’t offer the fastest autofocusing in the market. I found the 300mm f/2.8 to be faster for autofocusing. Sometimes the lens’s autofocusing does seem to go haywire when a subject is moving straight toward the camera, such as a bird flying toward you. Then again, the D3400 isn’t the best for subject tracking and has only 11 AF points. So you have to try and fire enough shots and hope they’re in focus.
Long lenses need image stabilization, and the 200-500mm comes with 4.5 stops of image stabilization. This helps the lens’s hand-held shooting abilities, especially when working in dark conditions.
The build quality of the lens is good. There’s no need to worry about a drizzle when shooting with this lens. However, if the lens is going to be exposed to a torrential downpour, you may have to cover it. One thing that I am worried about is the dusty environment. Mind you; the lens extends quite a bit when zooming in and out. This means this isn’t an internally zooming lens. If you’re working in a dusty environment, the lens will suck in a fair amount of dust.
Overall I love this lens, and the image quality is excellent. For such a long lens and the benefits it brings to the table, the lens is reasonably priced. I would love the weather sealing to be more robust, especially considering that wildlife photographers would use this lens in all kinds of conditions; there is a real chance of dust and dirt making their way into the interior of the lens. Apart from that, there is nothing much not to like about this lens.
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5–6.3G ED VR
This is an all-purpose compact zoom lens that ranges from 18mm to 300mm. This lens is designed for the smaller image circle of Nikon APS-C cameras; therefore, the crop factor will be applicable. When you mount this lens onto the D3400, the effective focal length becomes 27mm to 450mm. That means you can shoot a wide range of genres with this lens. You can shoot portraits, weddings, travel photography, sports, etc.
I feel the maximum utility of this lens will be for everyday and travel photography. Once you mount this lens onto your camera, you won’t have to exchange it any time soon. This lens covers every photography genre you could think of except macro photography. And if you’re traveling and you need to pack light, having one lens that does it all makes excellent sense.
Fast action and sports photography, plus wildlife photography, would be a bit difficult to shoot in the practical sense. The lens’s maximum aperture drops to f/6.3 when shooting at its telephoto end, which means it will struggle when shooting action, especially in low-light conditions.
The lens does come with Vibration Reduction or Nikon’s version of image stabilization. Image stabilization is rated at up to four stops, ensuring the lens can handle slow shutter speed shooting, especially in low light conditions. The vibration reduction technology is the second generation of the technology. It comes with two modes – Normal and Active, and you can choose which mode to work with under a given set of conditions.
The build quality of this lens is on the heavier side. The lens weighs 550 grams. For a camera that weighs only 395 grams, this lens is heavier than the weight of the camera body itself. Some users have pointed out that this lens’s build quality and looks are very similar to that of the 28-300mm and the 18-200mm lenses. The real problem is that if you’re lugging a heavy lens, you will find the weight of the entire set-up leaning forward.
There is no weather sealing on this lens. Even if the lens feels solid in the hands and some metal is used underneath the plastic and all that rubber, weather sealing is still absent. The plastic means the lens will not expand significantly in heat and will not contract under cold, which happens with many metal-made lenses. But this lens will not be able to survive a torrential downpour, and if you’re going to encounter dusty environments, we suggest that you don’t expose the lens to it. The long-extending barrel will trap dust and dirt if you’re not careful.
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
This lens revamps the original NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. The difference between these two lenses is the presence of an effective zoom lock that prevents the lens from dropping under its weight.
The build quality of the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II and the 18-300mm f/3.5 – 6.3G ED VR are very similar. They look similar, except this one is shorter when fully zoomed out. When fully zoomed in, the 18-200mm is the shorter of the two. Yet another lens is very much in the same mold as these two lenses, and it’s 28-300mm. That lens is shorter than the 18-300mm but longer than the 18-200mm when fully zoomed in and fully zoomed out.
You’ll find a weather-sealing gasket on the lens mount, which prevents the lens from absorbing moisture and dust when shooting. Especially when you’re zooming in and out, however, I don’t think the lens can withstand very harsh weather.
Both this one and the 18-300mm f/3.5 – 6.3G ED VR are very versatile lenses, but I would rate the 18-300mm f/3.5 – 6.3G ED VR slightly better because it has that extra focal length. That said, the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II is also a handy lens. Considering the crop factor, the lens’s effective focal length is 27mm to 300mm, making it suitable for landscapes, portraits, weddings, and everything in between.
Autofocusing on the lens is powered by a ring-type ultrasonic autofocusing system. This system is designed to be quiet and precise. Autofocusing is internal, and the front element does not rotate. This is handy when using a variable ND filter or a circular polarizer. Also, the lens offers a full-time manual focusing override. You can grab the focusing ring and turn it to precisely lock focus anytime.
The lens features 3.5 stops of image stabilization. There are two modes to this VR. One is the Normal mode, and the other is the Active mode. Long lenses are always susceptible to image shakes and blurs due to hand movement when the image is being captured. Image stabilization is a must-have feature for long tele-lenses, so this feature is definitely a plus.
Considering that the D3400 is a creative camera, that’s how I would like to describe it, there is a bunch of lenses that you can use to explore your creativity. In this discussion, I have only mentioned a handful of those lenses. You can add a macro lens and a tilt-shift lens to the list, and suddenly, you have two new lenses that add an entirely new dimension to your photography.
The D3400 is a good camera – there is no denying it. It reaches its full potential when it’s paired with the right lens in the right hands. It’s a RAW shooter, allowing you to change your perspective by simply changing the glass.