One good thing about Nikon’s camera systems is that you can use FX- and DX-format lenses interchangeably on the two camera types. When using a DX-format lens on an FX-format camera, the camera automatically switches to the DX format. On the flip side, you can effortlessly use FX-format lenses on DX-format cameras with the resulting extended focal length.
In this discussion, however, we’re going to limit ourselves to the DX-format camera, the D7100, and compatible lenses. We’re going to discuss both OEM and third-party lenses, as many third-party lenses offer competitive quality and value.
Related Post: Best Lenses for Nikon D7000
The Best Nikon D7100 Lenses
1. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
I love the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. I have fond memories of using this lens while photographing birds. The best thing about this lens, when paired with the D7100, is that the crop factor extends the effective focal length to 300-750mm, making this a super-telephoto lens.
This 200-500mm has a fixed f/5.6 aperture across the focal length. In low light, this lens will struggle a bit, especially when photographing birds perched within tree foliage or animals hidden within their natural habitat. But the lens performs superbly in good light with little subject obstruction.
Tele-lenses are prone to image shake, making image stabilization a must. Thankfully, this lens features 4.5 stops of built-in vibration reduction, so hand-held shooting won’t be an issue.
Long lenses can compress the background and make certain elements appear more prominent in proportion to the subject. This is what happens with the 200-500mm f/5.6 lens. You can compress the background and isolate the subject thanks to the f/5.6 aperture working in tandem with the long focal length. It’s pertinent to mention that it’s not always necessary to use the widest aperture for background blur. As long as there is sufficient space between the subject and the background, you can create background blur with a smaller aperture like f/5.6.
2. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
This 35mm prime is designed for the smaller image circle of Nikon’s DX-format cameras. Because of the crop factor, the effective focal length becomes 52.5mm when mounted on a D7100. Thus, it offers the same focal length as a 50mm prime lens when mounted on a full-frame camera.
There are many uses for this focal length. One of the recommended genres is street photography. Because the 52.5mm focal length is close to a standard 50mm prime’s field of view, you can capture images from a similar perspective as the human eye.
This focal length can be used for environmental portraits, as you can capture some of the scene around your subject, also known as negative space. The 50mm is also a good lens for shooting travel photography. You can mount this lens to your D7100 and shoot to your heart’s content.
One of the main features of this lens includes Nikon’s fabled silent wave technology powered autofocusing. This is a very quiet and precise autofocusing technology. The lens also features a full-time manual focusing override which ensures that you can manually adjust focus as per preference by turning the manual focusing ring. Personally speaking, this is a better manual focusing system than something like the Tokina focus clutch mechanism.
Another important feature is the fast wide aperture of f/1.8. This allows the lens to collect a lot of light in different lighting conditions. This lens performs admirably even in low light conditions where other lenses struggle.
3. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sports DG OS HSM
If you’re using a D7100 and want a better focal length range than the 200-500mm f/5.6 I mentioned above, this is the lens you should be looking for. This lens is the Sports version and directly competes with the contemporary model. Both these lenses have similar focal lengths and maximum apertures. However, there are some differences between the two that make this lens worth the higher price tag.
For starters, the sports version of the lens has a larger manual focusing ring that allows for more precise control over manual focus correction.
The second significant difference is in the build quality of the Sports version. This lens is significantly heavier and sturdier. The construction is visibly more rugged and includes weather sealing, ensuring that the lens can be used in inclement weather without any issues.
One issue with this lens is the maximum aperture that drops down to f/6.3 when the lens extends to 600mm, causing the lens to struggle quite a bit when shooting in low light conditions. But regardless, the lens’s focal length is simply superb. With the crop factor of the D7100, the effective focal length becomes 225-900mm, making this a super-telephoto lens.
The applications are profound. You can shoot wildlife, do stunning birding photography, shoot candid photos from a fair distance and even use the magnification properties of the lens to shoot landscape photography.
4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR
The 24-70mm is by far one of the most popular focal lengths among photographers. Wedding and street photographers use this focal length to shoot a variety of different styles. Travel photographers also use this lens because it offers prime focal lengths, such as 35mm, 50mm, and 24mm, which are great for environmental portraits, street photography, landscape photography, and everything in between.
One thing to note is that this lens is optimized for the larger image circle of FX-format camera systems. When this lens is mounted on a DX-format camera such as the D7100, the effective focal length becomes 36-105mm. You can still shoot landscapes and all the other genres of photography that I mentioned above with this focal length.
One of the major USPs of this lens is the fixed aperture of f/2.8 across the focal length. Although not as fast as some f/1.4 and f/1.8 apertures, this lens is still great for shooting in low light and capturing shallow depth of field shots.
This lens stands out amongst Nikon models as a truly well-crafted piece of equipment. It feels excellent in the hands and provides weather sealing, making it possible to use in inclement weather. This makes the lens a perfect companion for a photographer who spends most of their time outdoors.
Optically, the lens tends to perform superbly. However, under certain conditions, the sharpness across the frame can be inconsistent.
See also: Best Lenses For Nikon D3400
5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
The versatile 50mm f/1.8 is one of the best lenses for street photography due to its human-eye perspective. When mounted on a 50mm prime, the lens offers an effective focal length of 75mm, making it possible to shoot portrait photography as well.
The fast f/1.8 aperture is excellent for shooting images with a shallow depth of field. You can use this lens for shooting portraits, as mentioned above, and use the fast wide aperture to blur out the background and create a smooth bokeh effect.
The build quality of the lens is also note-worthy. The lens feels solid in the hands and a rubber sealing around the lens mount ensures that the lens does not suck in moisture and dust through the lens mount area.
Autofocusing is powered by Nikon’s silent wave motor, ensuring sharp and precise performance. The lens also features a full-time manual focusing override. This ensures that you can easily adjust the focus by precisely turning the focusing ring even when autofocusing is engaged.
The lens has no rotating front element, meaning there is no movement while focusing. This is ideal when using a circular polarizer or a variable ND filter. The barrel length of the lens also does not change.
6. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
The 70-200mm, when mounted on a D7100, offers a focal length of 105-300mm and therefore offers a combination of standard and portrait telephoto focal lengths, all rolled into one barrel.
In its default state, you can use this lens to shoot portraits, weddings, fashion, and even wildlife and sport. The lens is also compatible with many teleconverters, including the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III and the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III. This gives the lens added focal length reach, albeit with a few stops of loss in light.
This is one of Nikon’s best lenses in terms of build quality. The lens features fluorite elements, ensuring that it’s a little lighter than previous versions. Despite the lower weight, it is sturdier than previous models and built to last. The weather-sealed magnesium alloy construction also means the lens can withstand the vagaries of nature and ensure that it delivers no matter the environment.
The construction of the lens includes 22 elements arranged in 18 groups. These include six extra-low dispersion elements combined with one fluorite element. Also included is a high-refractive element that suppresses the effects of color fringing and chromatic aberrations.
7. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
This 85mm is ideally suited for shooting portraits. Some might argue that a 135mm is the better focal length, and others will even point at a 105mm lens. The 85mm, when mounted on a crop camera such as the D7100, becomes a 127.5mm (35mm format equivalent), a medium telephoto lens. The effective focal length is then closer to 135mm than 85mm. The smaller angle of view means the magnification will be higher and the facial features will be better proportioned than with a short focal lens.
Overall, this is a very compact and well-built lens. Yes, plastic has been used in the lens construction; however, metal reinforcement has also been used under the plastic and the rubberized outer shell.
The 85mm has a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture, allowing the user to easily isolate the subject from the background. One of the critical attributes of a portrait lens is that it can offer that background separation option, which this lens does.
One of the shortcomings of this lens is the lack of image stabilization. But I don’t feel you would miss this feature as you can comfortably shoot at a shutter speed of 1/100 or less in most lighting conditions thanks to the wide-open aperture.
The lens features Nikon’s silent wave motor technology. This is a tried and tested technology and the precursor of the modern AF-P autofocusing technology. The lens also features a full-time manual focusing override.
8. Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR
Designed for the smaller image circle of Nikon’s APS-C or DX-format sensor-powered cameras, the Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR is a wide-angle zoom lens. Economically priced and with decent optics, this lens serves the need of entry-level photographers looking for a better option than the 18-55mm kit lens for shooting landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, interiors, and other wide-angle photographs. However, the lens’s effective focal length isn’t 10-20mm when mounted on a DX camera like the D7100. When mounted on the D7100, the effective focal length becomes 15-30mm, which remains a wide-angle zoom lens.
Although this lens has been designed for Nikon’s APS-C cameras, it’s not fully compatible with all cameras. With the D7100, for example, you cannot switch off the VR function. If you’re shooting handheld, for the most part, I don’t think you would mind the VR staying on for the whole time.
Don’t try this lens on the older D7000, however, as the lens doesn’t support that camera. You would be better off using the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM. I have recently written a similar article on the best lenses for the D7000, and you can find my recommendations there.
You can shoot wedding photography with this lens and take advantage of the wide angle of view. It’s also possible to shoot environmental portraits taking advantage of the 30mm effective focal length in the long end.
For some reason, Nikon has not provided a manual switch to flick between manual and autofocusing. You will have to use the internal menu of your camera to switch between manual and autofocusing modes. The manual focusing ring is also very thin and not to my liking. It works, however, and you can precisely control the focus.
9. Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
The 40mm may not be an excellent choice regarding professional-quality macro images because the focal length is tighter than would be ideal. But if you’re a beginner macro photographer and have the D7100 as your primary camera, this lens will give you a foothold in the wonderful world of macro photography. The 40mm is the perfect tool for your journey into macro photography because it’s an inexpensive lens to own, and the image quality is excellent.
This lens features a less complicated design with nine elements arranged in seven groups. The lens includes a super-integrated coating to ensure that the effects of internal reflections, flares, and ghosting do not affect the quality of the lens.
This is a true macro lens. True macro lenses offer a 1:1 magnification of a subject onto the image sensor. This means the image of the subject occupies the same amount of space in the frame as in real life due to the focusing capabilities of the lens.
The minimum working distance of the lens is 6.42 inches. This ensures that the lens can capture stunning images of small objects such as flowers, small products like watches, and anything else that catches your interest. Macro photography is such a broad genre that you can never get bored or run out of possible subjects to shoot.
Autofocusing on the lens is powered by Nikon’s silent wave motor technology. Though the system offers precise autofocusing performance, photographers rarely use the autofocusing feature in the case of macro lenses. Macro lenses are almost always used in manual focusing mode.
What I like about this lens is that it features a full-time manual focusing override. You can switch to manual focusing even when autofocusing is engaged. This ensures you can grab hold of the manual focusing ring at any time and ensure precise focusing.
10. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
This excellent Sigma Art series lens is designed for the APS-C format camera system. You can use this lens on the D7100 with an effective focal length of 27-52.5mm. This makes the lens a standard focal length to wide angle lens and suitable for a wide range of photography genres.
Travel photography is one of the most ideal genres for this lens. Apart from travel photography, you can also use this lens for shooting landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, interiors, weddings, and more.
The construction of the lens includes 17 elements arranged in 12 groups. This includes five special low-dispersion elements that help to suppress the effects of color fringing and chromatic aberrations. This results in increased sharpness and clarity and better color accuracy across your images.
Along with these, the lens also features four aspherical elements which help suppress the effects of spherical aberrations and contribute to the overall sharpness of your images.
The lens has been constructed using thermally stable components, ensuring endurance in a range of climates and weather conditions.