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12 Best Nikon D3100 Lenses in 2021: The Ultimate Guide & Reviews

March 2, 2021

As a professional photographer, I started my journey into photography with the Nikon D3100. It was the first DLSR I’ve ever gotten, and a great beginner’s camera to learn the ropes of photography with.

Like you, I had scoured the internet for the best Nikon D3100 lenses. So to make your life easier, I’ve put together this detailed guide based on my 15+ years of photography expertise. There’s an incredible amount of top-notch lenses compatible with Nikon D3100, but this article will help you identify the best lens for you.

I’ll also share insightful tips on what you should look for before making your decision, and you can find that section after all the individual lens reviews. You’ll find lenses suited for all kinds of photography in this guide, including portrait, street, macro, and wildlife. So without further ado — here are the top 12 Nikon D3100 camera lenses in 2021!

A Nikon D3100 Camera Lying on Some Fall Foliage

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can learn more about this in my disclosure policy.

⭐ The Best Nikon D3100 Lenses: Our Top Picks ⭐

The Best Lenses for Nikon D3100: A Comparison

IMAGEPRODUCTLENS TYPEIDEAL FOR 
Sigma 17-50mm F2.8
Top overall lens
Standard zoom
$
Everyday,
landscapes,
low-light

Sigma 10-20mm F3.5Wide-angle
$$
Landscapes,
architecture

Nikon 50mm F1.8
Top portrait lens
Prime
$
Portraits,
low-light

Nikon 85mm F1.8Prime
$$
Portraits,
close-ups,
low-light

Nikon 35mm F1.8
Top value lens
Prime
$
Everyday,
portraits,
low-light,
beginners

Sigma 150-600mm
F5-6.3
Telephoto
$$$
Wildlife,
sports,
close-ups

Nikon 55-200mm
F4-5.6
Telephoto
$
Travel,
wildlife,
beginners

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8
Top telephoto lens
Telephoto
$$$
Sports,
wildlife,
events,
low-light

Rokinon 8mm F3.5Fisheye
Prime
$
Creative
photos,
low-light

Nikon 105mm F2.8
Top macro lens
Macro
Prime
$$$
Close-ups,
insects/bugs,
portraits,
flowers

Nikon 40mm F2.8Macro
Prime
$
Close-ups,
food,
flowers

Nikon 18-140mm
F3.5-5.6

Top zoom lens
Superzoom
All-in-one
$$
Everyday,
landscape,
portraits,
wildlife

The Best Lenses for Nikon D3100: A Quick Overview

Click on the links below to jump to the detailed review section of each lens

The Best Nikon D3100 Lenses in 2021: Reviews

⭐ Top Pick – Best Overall Lens: Sigma 17-50mm F2.8

An affordable high-quality lens perfect for everyday shots & shooting in low light

Weight: 565 g (19.9 oz.)
Size (WxL): 8.3 x 9.1 cm (3.3 x 3.6 in)
Filter diameter: 77 mm (3 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.28 m (0.91 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.2x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): Yes
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed review
📸 What makes it the best overall Nikon D3100 lens:

The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM is the overall best lens for Nikon D3100 for several reasons: it delivers incredibly sharp results, it has a fast f/2.8 aperture so you can get excellent photos in low light conditions, it is very easy to use, offers quiet and fast autofocus, and above all that — it’s also affordable. For its price, it’s truly hard to find a lens with better value!

You might be familiar with the standard kit lens (the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5 – 5.6G) that’s usually bundled with the Nikon D3100. The Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 is a big upgrade from that in many ways. It lets you shoot with a wide f/2.8 aperture throughout its focal range, which will give you a shallower depth of field and breathtaking bokeh (a dreamy blurred background).

This lens also allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds in dim lighting thanks to its wide aperture. So if you’re planning to do some nighttime photography, you’ll be in good hands. You’ll also benefit from its vibration reduction (VR), which allows you to create sharp and blur-free photos and videos even when shooting handheld in low-light situations.

While this lens has impressive central sharpness throughout its zoom range, the edges are soft when shooting wide open (at f/2.8). As you stop down, the corners do get sharper, and there’s excellent edge-to-edge sharpness at f/5.6. You’ll also see some distortion and vignetting when shooting at 17mm (although that’s very easy to fix both in-camera and via post-processing).

Pros
  • Impressive central sharpness
  • Great for low-light situations
  • Stunning bokeh & depth of field
  • Fast & quiet autofocus
  • Vibration reduction (VR)
  • Very well-priced
  • Excellent value for money
Cons
  • Some distortion & vignetting at 17mm (easily fixable)
  • Edges are soft when shooting wide open

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you want an affordable standard Nikon D3100 zoom lens to take everyday shots with; you value high image quality and great low-light performance.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


🏞 Best Wide-Angle Lens: Sigma 10-20mm F3.5

A top-value lens perfect for sharp, high-quality landscape & architecture shots

Weight: 520 g (18.3 oz.)
Size (WxL): 8.7 x 8.8 cm (3.4 x 3.5 in)
Filter diameter: 82 mm (3.2 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.24 m (0.78 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.16x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): No
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it the best Nikon D3100 wide angle lens:

The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM offers fantastic value for money: it is known for its excellent image quality and beautifully sharp and clean results. In fact, this lens was built to correct distortions, reduce flare and ghosting, and compensate for color aberration — allowing you to create stunning, high-contrast wide-angle shots throughout the entire zoom range. It’s also a great choice for low-light photography and astrophotography.

I also love this lens’s fast, precise, and near-silent autofocus. Its wide fixed aperture of f/3.5 across the zoom range also allows you to take high-quality photos and videos even when zoomed in, and it delivers very impressive central sharpness. Moreover, this lens’s close focusing distance of 0.24m (0.78 ft) comes in really handy when shooting in tight spaces; allowing you to frame grandiose landscapes and architecture without having to back out far.

It’s worth noting that this lens doesn’t come with vibration reduction (VR), so if you plan on shooting handheld in low light, you might see some blur if you slow down the shutter speed too much. With that said, a good tripod + remote control will fix the issue. While central sharpness is excellent throughout the focal range, the edges are somewhat soft when shooting wide open (at f/3.5). This improves as we stop down, though, with corners looking very sharp at f/5.6.

Pros
  • Very impressive central sharpness
  • Excellent image quality
  • Very little to no distortion
  • Good low-light performance
  • Great flare control
  • Fast, accurate & quiet autofocus
  • Close focusing distance
  • Fantastic value for money
Cons
  • No vibration reduction (VR)
  • Corners are a bit soft when shooting wide open

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you’re looking to take breathtaking, high-quality wide-angle shots without breaking the bank.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


👧🏻 Best Portrait Lens #1: Nikon 50mm F1.8 G

A very small & affordable lens that delivers top-notch quality & breathtaking bokeh

Weight: 185 g (6.6 oz.)
Size (WxL): 7.2 x 5.3 cm (2.8 x 2 in)
Filter diameter: 58 mm (2.2 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.45 m (1.5 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.15x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX + FX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR)No
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it one of the best Nikon D3100 portrait lenses:

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G is an incredibly lightweight and affordable prime lens, and hands down one of my top favorite lenses of all time. It is my absolute go-to lens for portraits, and one great thing about it is that it’s an FX lens, so it works with both crop sensor (DX) cameras like the Nikon D3100 and with full-frame cameras. This means that if you plan to upgrade to full-frame in the future (like I did), you can still use this future-proof lens with your new camera!

What I love most about this lens is that it delivers razor-sharp results and absolutely breathtaking bokeh thanks to its wide f/1.8 aperture. This is perfect for those of you who want to take dreamy portraits with a shallow depth of field (for beginners, this means that the subject is in focus while the background is blurry). Take a look at some examples:

Another great thing about this lens is that it performs incredibly well in low-light situations. Compared to any f/2.8 zoom lens, this lens essentially quadruples your ISO — allowing you to shoot in dimmer conditions without any increase in noise. Moreover, the autofocus on this lens is very fast, accurate, and easy. It also tracks moving subjects really well, allowing you to create fantastically sharp and in-focus portraits even at f/1.8.

On the downside, this lens doesn’t have vibration reduction (VR), although thanks to its f/1.8 aperture, I honestly never needed to reduce the shutter speed enough for that to be an issue at all. Barrel distortion (straight lines appearing curved) is sometimes visible on this lens, but that’s very easy to fix in post-processing or in-camera. Overall, given the fantastic image quality it offers and its very inexpensive price, the value for money here is simply incredible.

Pros
  • Razor-sharp results
  • Great low-light performance
  • Breathtaking bokeh
  • Fast & accurate autofocus
  • Lightweight & compact
  • Very low flare/ghosting
  • Works with full-frame cameras too
  • Very inexpensive
  • Amazing value for money
Cons
  • No vibration reduction (VR)
  • Visible barrel distortion (easily fixable)

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you want to take sharp and beautiful portraits with stunning bokeh; you travel light and have a low budget.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


👧🏻 Best Portrait Lens #2: Nikon 85mm F1.8 G

The sharpest Nikon lens ideal for close-up portraits, headshots & the smoothest bokeh

Weight: 350 g (12.4 oz.)
Size (WxL): 8 x 7.3 cm (3.1 x 2.9 in)
Filter diameter: 67 mm (2.6 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.80 m (2.63 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.12x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX + FX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): No
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it one of the best Nikon D3100 lenses for portraits:

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G is another incredible lens for portraits, and whether you should choose this one or the previously mentioned Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G depends on several factors. First of all, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G is arguably the sharpest lens Nikon has ever made. With that said, it is only marginally sharper than the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G, and you’ll barely notice any difference. The 85mm is also slightly heavier and more expensive than the 50mm.

More importantly, though — are you planning to take more close-up or zoomed-out portraits? Because of its longer focal length, the 85mm is a better lens for very close-up shots, such as headshots. You’ll get amazingly sharp and rich details on your subjects’ faces. If, on the other hand, you plan to take more zoomed-out or full-body portraits, then the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S G is the better lens for you as won’t need to be too far away from your subject in order to do that.

Last but not least, how “creamy” do you want your backgrounds to be? The 85mm allows you to create smoother bokeh than the 50mm, so if that’s your preferred style, then it’s something to consider. On the other hand, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G gives you more control over how blurry your background is. So if you’d like your bokeh to be more defined, then that’d be the lens to go with. Both lenses perform amazingly in low light thanks to their f/1.8 aperture, and both of them are compatible with full-frame cameras too if you decide to upgrade one day.

Pros
  • The sharpest Nikon lens
  • Incredibly smooth bokeh
  • Excellent for headshots/close-ups
  • Fantastic low-light performance
  • Fast & accurate autofocus
  • Works with full-frame cameras too
Cons
  • Long minimum focus distance; great for portraits but not a multi-purpose lens
  • No vibration reduction (VR)

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you plan to shoot a lot of close-ups & headshots and not too many full-body shots; you want the smoothest and creamiest backgrounds/bokeh.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


👧🏻 Best Portrait & Everyday Lens: Nikon 35mm F1.8

A must-have all-purpose lens for stunning everyday shots & environmental portraits

Weight: 200 g (7 oz.)
Size (WxL): 7 x 5.2 cm (2.8 x 2.1 in)
Filter diameter: 52 mm (2 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.3 m (0.98 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.16x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): No
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it one of the best portrait lenses for Nikon D3100:

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX is one of the most portable, affordable, and top-value lenses that you can get for any Nikon DX camera. It’s hands down one of the must-have lenses for Nikon D3100 especially if you’re a beginner looking to experiment with your first prime lens. This lens is super easy to use and very versatile. Its fixed 35mm focal length makes it perfect not just for portraits but also for street photography and general everyday shots. Given its incredibly low price, it’s really a no-brainer.

Personally, I really love how easy it is to travel with this lens. It is super compact, easily fits into any small bag, and you’ll barely feel its weight. On top of that, the results are simply spectacular, especially for its small size and budget price. You’ll get very sharp photos even when shooting wide open (although the other two pricier portrait lenses are even sharper). You’ll also get stunning bokeh and beautifully blurred backgrounds thanks to its wide f/1.8 aperture.

Autofocus on this lens is fast, smooth, and quiet. When using the optical viewfinder, it tracks moving subjects well too. This lens also performs really well in low-light situations thanks to its f/1.8 aperture. If you’re looking for the most affordable low-light lens and want to take more zoomed-out environmental portraits & street shots, then there’s really no better lens for you.

On the downside, unlike the other two portrait lenses above, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G only works with crop sensor (DX) cameras like the Nikon D3100. So if you choose to upgrade to a full-frame camera in the future, this lens will be rendered useless. There’s also some barrel distortion (straight lines appearing curvy) and mild vignetting, both of which can be easily fixed in post-processing.

Pros
  • Versatile & multi-purposeful
  • Very lightweight & compact
  • Beautifully sharp
  • Excellent low-light performance
  • Stunning bokeh
  • Fast & quiet autofocus
  • Very inexpensive
  • Fantastic value for money
Cons
  • Some barrel distortion
  • Minor vignetting
  • No vibration reduction (VR)

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you want a budget, entry-level prime lens for environmental portraits and everyday shots; you want to shoot in low-light without spending too much.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


🦉 Best Telephoto Lens: Sigma 70-200mm Sports F2.8

A top-notch lens for sports, wildlife, and portraits with fantastic low-light performance

Weight: 1,805 g (63.7 oz.)
Size (WxL): 9.4 x 20.2 cm (3.7 x 8 in)
Filter diameter: 82 mm (3.2 in)
Minimum focus distance: 1.2 m (3.9 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.25x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX + FX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): Yes
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it the best Nikon D3100 telephoto lens:

The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Sports DG OS HSM lens truly has it all. Even though it has the word “sports” in its name, it is extremely versatile and suitable for a variety of situations. In fact, it’s also a fantastic lens for wildlife, portraits, events, stage performances, and even close-up landscape & architectural shots! On top of all that, its wide f/2.8 aperture allows it to tackle tons of low-light situations, making it one of the best Nikon D3100 lenses for sports and stage events.

This multi-purposeful lens also comes with very effective vibration reduction (VR), which will help you create sharp and blur-free photos and videos even when shooting handheld in dim lighting. Moreover, if you love blurry backgrounds and shallow depths of field, then that’s another reason to get this f/2.8 lens. As for image quality, you’ll get incredibly sharp results even when shooting wide open (at f/2.8), and fast autofocus performance throughout the focal range.

If you enjoy candid street photography, this 70-200mm lens also lets you take intimate shots of your subjects while staying discreet and not having to get close to them. As you can see, you can really use the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 for almost any kind of close-up shots. While it’s not a cheap nor lightweight lens, it’s very much worth the money and the weight if you value a large focal range, strong low-light performance, and top-notch image quality.

Pros
  • Very sharp even wide open at f/2.8
  • Amazing low-light performance
  • Suitable for a variety of situations
  • Vibration reduction (VR)
  • Creamy & smooth bokeh
  • Fast & silent autofocus
  • Strong build & weather-sealed
  • Amazing value for money
Cons
  • Quite heavy & bulky
  • Minor chromatic aberrations
  • Somewhat visible vignetting

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you’re looking to shoot a variety of close-ups such as sports, wildlife, street, events/performances; you value low-light performance and stunning bokeh.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


🦉 Best Super Telephoto Lens: Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3

The best top-value lens for extreme close-ups of wildlife and sports events

Weight: 1,930 g (100.9 oz.)
Size (WxL): 10.5 x 26 cm (4.1 x 10.2 in)
Filter diameter: 95 mm (3.7 in)
Minimum focus distance: 2.8 m (9.1 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.2x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX + FX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): Yes
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it the best super telephoto lens for Nikon D3100:

The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM is the best choice for you if you’re looking to get the ultimate close-up wildlife and sports shots without spending a fortune. Of course, given its incredible focal range, this definitely isn’t a budget lens, but its value for money is truly impressive. First of all — the obvious strength is its max focal length of a whopping 600mm, which will allow you to get detailed, sharp photos of subjects that aren’t closely approachable.

Image quality is definitely a big strength of this lens. You’ll get very sharp photos at 150mm with a wide-open aperture, and the results remain impressively sharp all the way until 500mm; getting only slightly softer afterward. This lens also comes with vibration reduction (VR), which will help you create blur-free photos and videos even when shooting handheld at 600mm.

Autofocus on this lens is fast, quiet, and up to the task. Aside from wildlife and sports, you can also use this lens for creative close-ups of landscapes and architecture, and you might find sunsets and mountain peaks especially fun to shoot with it! With that said, don’t expect incredibly good low-light performance; with a max aperture of only f/5-6.3, you’ll most likely have to bump up the ISO to noisy levels under dim lighting.

Pros
  • Very sharp throughout the zoom range
  • Capture subjects from really far away
  • Vibration reduction (VR)
  • Fast, accurate & silent autofocus
  • Low levels of distortion
  • Very reasonably priced
  • Excellent value for money
Cons
  • Not the best in low light
  • Somewhat visible vignetting
  • Not weather-sealed

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you plan to take very close-up wildlife and sports shots; you don’t mind getting somewhat noisy low light shots (if you do, then the previously mentioned Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 is the best telephoto lens for you).

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


🦉 Best Budget Telephoto Lens: Nikon 55-200mm F4-5.6

The most affordable, compact & travel-friendly telephoto lens for the Nikon D3100

Weight: 300 g (10.5 oz.)
Size (WxL): 7 x 8.3 cm (2.7 x 3.2 in)
Filter diameter: 52 mm (2.1 in)
Minimum focus distance: 1.1 m (3.6 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.23x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): Yes
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it the best budget telephoto lens for Nikon D3100:

The Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II AF-S is a very lightweight, compact, and travel-friendly telephoto lens that’s also really affordable. In fact, it offers excellent value for money. Of course, being a budget option, you can’t expect it to deliver earth-shattering image quality. However, if you’re simply looking for an affordable entry-level telephoto lens and don’t require professional-level performance, then this is the lens for you.

To help you get an idea of what kind of image quality you can expect: when shooting wide open at 55mm, you’ll see excellent central sharpness and slightly soft edges. At 105mm, central sharpness is still very good, but the edges are much softer. At the max focal length of 200mm, central sharpness is decent, and the edges are slightly softer than at 105mm. Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a plastic lens, so it can be more easily damaged.

While the autofocus on this lens isn’t as fast or silent as that of the previous two (much more expensive) telephoto lenses, it’s still really good considering how small and inexpensive this lens is. You’ll also benefit from this lens’s vibration reduction (VR), which will help you get blur-free photos and videos even if you take them handheld at slower shutter speeds. With that said, this isn’t the best lens for low-light photography; with a maximum aperture of only f/4-5.6, you’ll most likely need to venture into noisy ISO levels.

Pros
  • Very lightweight & compact
  • Amazing central sharpness
  • Great autofocus for its price
  • Vibration reduction (VR)
  • Minimal distortions
  • Very inexpensive
  • Great value for money
Cons
  • Not the best in low light
  • Weak edge sharpness
  • Plastic build

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you want a budget & travel-friendly beginner’s telephoto lens; you aren’t seeking professional-level image quality or strong low-light performance.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


🐠 Best Fisheye Lens: Rokinon 8mm F3.5

An affordable lens perfect for creative everyday shots & astrophotography

Weight: 411 g (14.5 oz.)
Size (WxL): 7.5 x 7.4 cm (2.9 x 2.9 in)
Filter diameter: N/A
Minimum focus distance: 0.3 m (0.98 ft)
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX + FX
Autofocus: No
Vibration reduction (VR): No
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it the best Nikon D3100 fisheye lens:

If you’re looking to get creative and have some fun with your Nikon D3100, then the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 HD Fisheye lens is a great option to explore. As suggested by its name, this ultra-wide-angle lens helps you create visuals from a fish eye’s perspective using strong distortions. It’s suitable for a variety of photography niches such as architecture, landscape, events, and sports. It also offers fantastic image quality at a very low price.

With this fisheye lens, you’ll get great central sharpness and beautiful color rendering. It also has excellent flare and ghost control. Thanks to its ultrawide focal length and fixed aperture of f/3.5, many photographers also use this lens for astrophotography and creative night shots. If you’re looking to take more “unusual” photos and enjoy creating visual distortions, then you’ll get impressive value with this multi-purposeful lens.

One thing to note is that this lens doesn’t come with autofocus, so you’ll have to be comfortable with focusing manually (even if you’re a beginner, this is easy and useful to learn). Due to the shape of this lens, it’s also not compatible with any filters, as you’ll see black corners in your shots if you use them. Moreover, vibration reduction (VR) isn’t built into this lens, so if you plan to shoot handheld in really dark situations, a good tripod or video stabilizer kit will come in handy.

Pros
  • Versatile & multi-purposeful
  • Beautiful color rendering
  • Excellent image quality
  • Great central sharpness
  • Good for astrophotography
  • Good flare & ghost control
  • Very inexpensive
Cons
  • No autofocus
  • No vibration reduction (VR)
  • Not compatible with filters

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you want to explore your creativity and take more “unusual” shots without spending too much.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


🐝 Best Macro Lens #1: Nikon 40mm F2.8 G

The best Nikon D3100 lens for capturing food, flowers & other medium-sized objects

Weight: 235 g (8.3 oz.)
Size (WxL): 6.8 x 6.4 cm (2.7 x 2.5 in)
Filter diameter: 52 mm (2 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.163 m (0.53 ft)
Maximum magnification ratio: 1.0x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): No
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it one of the best Nikon D3100 lenses for macro photography:

The Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX is an excellent macro lens (FYI, Nikon refers to macro as “micro” — they’re the same thing) if you’re looking to take some stunning close-ups of flowers, food, and other medium-sized objects. It is not the best lens for shooting insects, bugs, or other small-sized objects, though. For that, I recommend the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 G mentioned below (I explain why in that section).

With that said, the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G is a very lightweight, compact, and affordable macro lens that offers excellent value for money. It delivers incredibly detailed and sharp results throughout its aperture range, as well as stunning bokeh and gorgeous colors. It also has great control over distortions and chromatic aberrations. Autofocus is fairly fast when shooting non-macro subjects, but its speed and accuracy can drop when focusing on very close subjects. To be honest, this isn’t a big deal because macro shots usually come out best when you use manual focus anyway.

You might be wondering how this lens compares with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G since they have similar focal lengths. The simple answer is that the Nikon 40mm f/2.8G, with its 1:1 magnification, is specialized for capturing details and macro, whereas the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is more of an all-purpose lens for everyday needs. Both of these lenses demonstrate excellent low-light performance, although the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G has a slight advantage thanks to its wider aperture.

Pros
  • Very detailed & sharp results
  • Stunning colors & bokeh
  • Strong low-light performance
  • Really lightweight & compact
  • Great flare & ghost control
  • 1:1 magnification
  • Very affordable
  • Excellent value for money
Cons
  • No vibration reduction (VR)
  • Not good for small-sized subjects

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you want very sharp and detailed macro shots of food, flowers, and other medium-sized objects; you plan to shoot in low-light situations.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


🐝 Best Macro Lens #2: Nikon 105mm F2.8 VR G

One of the sharpest & fastest Nikon lenses ever — perfect for capturing small-subjects

Weight: 750 g (26.5 oz.)
Size (WxL): 8.3 x 11.6 cm (3.3 x 4.6 in)
Filter diameter: 62 mm (2.4 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.314 m (1 ft.)
Maximum magnification ratio: 1.0x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX + FX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): Yes
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it one of the best Nikon D3100 lenses for macro photography:

The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR G is the most ideal lens for serious macro work and for capturing small objects such as insects, bugs, and water droplets. The reason you’re much better off with this lens for small subjects rather than the previously mentioned Nikon 40mm f/2.8 G is that the longer 105mm focal length allows you to stand further away from small subjects. With the 40mm lens, you’d have to go very close to them, which can block out light and create unwanted shadows in your shots. Plus, bugs tend to get scared and fly away if you get too close to them.

The best thing about the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 is that it is one of the sharpest Nikon lenses on the market. It also comes with vibration reduction (VR), which, paired with its wide f/2.8 aperture, makes it an incredible lens for low-light photography. Being a top-notch macro lens, it’s of course also equipped with 1:1 magnification, meaning your subject will be depicted on the image sensor in its actual size. (This is a very important thing to look for in a macro lens.)

On top of that, this lens is also great for capturing flowers and portraits. Even when shooting wide open, you’ll get absolutely stunning details even at the edges. Its autofocus is also incredibly accurate and one of the fastest among Nikon’s macro lenses. You’ll also be able to capture some breathtaking bokeh. The only downside of this lens is that it’s leaning towards the pricier side. However, if you’re serious about macro photography, then you’ll get incredible value for money.

Pros
  • One of the sharpest Nikon lenses
  • Incredibly fast & accurate autofocus
  • Strong low-light performance
  • Stunning details even at the edges
  • Excellent bokeh & colors
  • Vibration reduction (VR)
  • 1:1 magnification
  • No distortions
Cons
  • A bit pricey

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you’re serious about macro photography and want to take stunningly detailed photos of small subjects such as insects, bugs, and water droplets.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


⚙️ Best All-In-One Lens: Nikon 18-140mm F3.5-5.6

A very sharp & versatile telephoto lens that’s good for capturing just about anything

Weight: 490 g (17.3 oz.)
Size (WxL): 7.8 x 9.7 cm (3 x 3.8 in)
Filter diameter: 67 mm (2.6 in)
Minimum focus distance: 0.45 m (1.48 ft) 
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.23x
Compatible mountings: Nikon DX
Autofocus: Yes
Vibration reduction (VR): Yes
Sample photos: Click here

🛒 See price on Amazon

Detailed Review
📸 What makes it the best all-in-one camera lens for Nikon D3100:

The Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is a very versatile, multipurpose everyday lens that lets you minimize having to switch between several different lenses in one shoot. In fact, its large focal range allows you to capture everything from landscapes and portraits to wildlife, making it a fantastic lens to travel with. Of course, if you want to specialize in wildlife or portraits, you’re much better off with a proper telephoto or portrait lens. This lens is most suitable for those of you who want to do a bit of everything rather than zeroing in on a specific niche.

The first thing to love about this lens is its edge-to-edge sharpness throughout the entire focal range, even when shooting wide open. It delivers incredible image quality and also has vibration reduction (VR) for blur-free handheld shots. Its autofocus is also very fast and accurate, and manual focusing with this lens is effortless — you can move the focus ring with just a fingertip. You’ll also get beautiful bokeh, especially when shooting at 140mm. This lens is pretty lightweight given its long focal range, and it’s also priced very reasonably — offering excellent value for money.

One downside of this lens is that it has plenty of distortion, which is quite normal for lenses of its type. However, the Nikon D3100 can actually automatically correct distortions in-camera (so long as you have the latest camera firmware installed), so this won’t be a real problem. The other downside is that this lens is made of plastic, so it can be more easily damaged.

Pros
  • Versatile & multi-purposeful
  • Minimize switching between lenses
  • Incredibly sharp across the focal range
  • Fast & accurate autofocus
  • Stunning bokeh
  • Vibration reduction (VR)
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Excellent value for money
Cons
  • Plenty of distortions (easily fixable)
  • Made of plastic

📸 In short, this lens is for you if: you want a high-quality “do-everything” telephoto lens; you don’t enjoy switching lenses every 5 minutes.

🛒 Check latest price on Amazon


A Guide to Choosing the Best Lens for Nikon D3100

Now that you know what the best compatible lenses for Nikon D3100 are, let’s talk about some important factors to consider when deciding which lens(es) are the best for you.

🌺 What Kind of Shots Are You Planning to Take?

This may sound obvious (after all, this guide is divided by different photography niches), but generally speaking, here are the focal lengths and things to look for in each niche.

☀️ Everyday shots: A zoom lens with a minimum focal length of at least 17-18mm. This will allow you to capture your immediate surroundings and also give you the flexibility of zooming in to shoot what’s further from you. Typically, a 17-50mm or 18-55mm lens would do the job perfectly, but you can also go higher (like an 18-140mm) if you want to include wildlife in your repertoire. ⭐ Top Picks: Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 or Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 G

🏞 Landscapes & architecture: While you can definitely take great landscape and architecture shots with an everyday lens, consider getting a wide-angle lens so that you can capture details closer to you and create more epic, majestic-looking photos. Wide-angle lenses have a maximum focal length of 24mm. ⭐ Top Pick: Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5

A Photo of Iceland Shot With a Prime Lens

👧🏻 Portraits: Generally, the best portraits have a shallow depth of field. For beginners, this means the subject is in sharp focus while the background is blurry. To be able to do this well, you’ll need a prime lens. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length (e.g. 50mm rather than 17-50mm), and typically, an aperture of f/2.8 or wider. A very wide aperture like f/1.8 will help you get a shallower depth of field. ⭐ Top Picks: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G or Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G

🏙 Street photography: While you can definitely take great street photos with a standard everyday zoom lens, if you want to create better separation between your subjects and their backgrounds, go for a prime lens with an eye-level focal length: 30-35mm. Prime lenses will also perform better in low-light situations. For discreet street shots of people further away from you, consider some telephoto lenses. ⭐ Top Pick: Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G

An Environmental Portrait Shot With a Nikon Prime Lens
Street photography with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G @ 50mm, 1/1000, f/1.8, ISO 160

🥘 Food photography: If you want detailed, close-up food shots that’ll make your audience drool, consider a macro lens with a medium-range focal length such as 40mm. Macro lenses can achieve 1:1 magnification, meaning your subject will be depicted on the image sensor in its actual size. This makes food shots look especially mouthwatering. ⭐ Top Pick: Nikon 40mm f/2.8 G

🦉 Wildlife: To shoot birds and other animals in the wild, you’ll need a telephoto lens, which has a minimum focal length of 70mm. This allows you to capture subjects very far away from you, especially if you use a super telephoto lens, which is longer than 300mm. To shoot insects/bugs, you’ll need a macro lens of preferably 65mm or above so that you won’t need to get too close to them (and possibly scare them away).
⭐ Top Picks: Nikon 105mm f/2.8 G for bugs | Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Sports for larger wildlife

A Photo of a Flower Shot With a Shallow Depth of Field

✂️ How Much Does Sharpness Matter to You?

You might be wondering, who doesn’t want sharp photos? Well, there’s a bit more to it. First of all, I want to preface this by saying that most of the time, sharpness largely depends on the photographer rather than the lens itself. For example, you could have the sharpest lens in the world, but if you don’t hold the camera still or don’t know how to focus manually in certain situations, you won’t get sharp results.

With that said, sometimes, you might not even want everything in your shot to be razor-sharp. For example, if you’re mainly shooting portraits or wildlife, you don’t need a lens with edge-to-edge sharpness wide-open because you most likely want your edges to be softer anyway. In fact, these kinds of photos typically look much better when there’s good subject-background separation, meaning the subject is in sharp focus while the background is actually blurry.

Where edge-to-edge sharpness might matter more to you is if you’re planning to capture landscapes and architecture. In these kinds of shots, you might want the entire frame to be razor-sharp to bring out more details. Because some of the lenses in this guide tend to deliver softer edges when shooting wide open, keeping in mind what you’ll be shooting will help you decide how much that actually matters to you.

A Photo of a Cat Taken With a Prime Lens
Edge-to-edge sharpness isn’t always preferred; taken with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G @ 35mm, 1/640, f/1.8, ISO 100

🌙 How Often Do You Shoot in Low Light?

If you plan to shoot in a lot of low-light situations, then you should strongly consider getting a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or below — the wider, the better. The best options for this are prime lenses because they will capture a lot more light than standard zoom lenses, allowing you to create noise-free and blur-free photos in dim light.

If you want a zoom lens and it has a max aperture higher than f/3.5, then keep in mind that you might see some noise when shooting in low light. You might also want to get a good tripod or check if your lens is equipped with vibration reduction (VR). This will reduce blur or shakiness when shooting handheld at slower shutter speeds. Keep in mind, though, that if your subject is moving, VR won’t do much. Prime lenses, even the ones without VR, are still the better choice ultimately.

⭐ Top Picks: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G or Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G

A Candle on a Table Shot in Low Light
Taken with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G @ 35mm, 1/25, f/2.5, ISO 400

🍨 Do You Like Bokeh & Creamy Backgrounds?

If shallow depths of field and bokeh (the out-of-focus parts of an image) are important to you, then you should strongly consider getting a prime lens. Prime lenses are essentially bokeh kings — they allow a lot more light into your shots thanks to their wide apertures. Generally speaking, a wider aperture will help you get a shallower depth of field. So if you want to absolutely maximize bokeh in your shots, go for an f/1.8 lens.

If you want your background and bokeh to be very creamy and smooth, then go for a prime lens with a very wide aperture and a very long focal length, such as 50mm or above. In contrast, a 35mm lens is likely to get you bokeh that’s more defined and less creamy (providing the aperture is the same), although of course, this also depends on a lot of other factors such as how far away you’re standing from your subject.

⭐ Top Picks: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G or Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G

A Portrait of a Woman Taken With the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G Lens
Stunning bokeh taken with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G @ 50mm, 1/2000, f/1.8, ISO 100

🏋🏻‍♀️ Do You Mind Lugging Around Heavy Gear?

While prime lenses are generally lightweight, some zoom lenses — especially telephoto lenses — can be quite heavy. If you want to reach long focal distances (such as 200mm or above), make note of the weight of the lens. With that said, there are definitely some great lightweight and travel-friendly telephoto lenses out there. It all depends on what your needs and preferences are.

⭐ Top lightweight telephoto lenses: Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 or Nikon 55-200mm F4-5.6


⏫ Will You Be Upgrading to a Full-Frame Camera?

For each lens in this guide, I’ve included its compatible mountings. For beginners, if a lens is compatible only with Nikon DX mountings, then that means you can only use it on crop sensor (APS-C) cameras like the Nikon D3100, but not on full-frame cameras (like the Nikon D780, for example), which generally speaking, offer higher image quality and better low-light performance.

A lot of photographers (myself included) start out with a crop sensor but upgrade to a full-frame once we have gotten the hang of things. If you’re serious about photography, you might find yourself doing the same thing one day. If that’s the case, then I recommend choosing a lens with FX compatibility so that you can still use it with your full-frame camera in the future.

⭐ Top future-proof lenses: Nikon 85mm F1.8 G or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Sports

A Comparison of Full-Frame Cameras vs. Crop Sensor Cameras
Full-frame cameras have larger image sensors, leading to higher image quality and better low-light performance

🎥 Are You Planning to Shoot Videos?

If you’re looking to shoot videos with your Nikon D3100 in addition to taking photos, then there are two key things to look for in a lens: a fixed aperture and vibration reduction (VR). With a fixed aperture lens, your aperture is able to stay constant even as your focal length changes. This means that if you want to zoom in on your subject (or zoom out) while filming, the exposure level of your video will remain consistent. Both prime and zoom lenses can come with fixed apertures.

You’ll also want a lens with vibration reduction (VR) if you’re shooting handheld because this will prevent your videos from coming out shaky or blurry. If your preferred lens doesn’t come with vibration reduction, though, you can always pair it with a video stabilizer kit.

⭐ Top videography lens: Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8

A Blogging Camera With A Fully Articulating Screen

🔮 A Note About Distortions & Your Nikon D3100

You might have seen me mention distortions a lot, as some of the lenses in this guide can produce them. I’d like to add that in reality, this really isn’t that big of an issue because first of all, your Nikon D3100 can actually automatically correct distortions in-camera, so long as you have the latest camera firmware installed.

Alternatively, you can also easily correct distortions in Adobe Lightroom or in Photoshop. In Lightroom, it’s oftentimes just a one-click fix in the Lens Corrections settings! If you’d prefer to do it in Photoshop, you can follow this quick guide.

Get Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop

A Video of Using Adobe Lightroom to Correct Lens Distortions
A one-click distortion fix on Adobe Lightroom

Final Thoughts on These Nikon D3100 Compatible Lenses

I hope this Nikon D3100 lenses guide was helpful and that you’ve found some great options for your photography endeavors! If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email at [email protected] I’ll try my best to help you! 🙂


I hope this comprehensive guide on the best lenses for Nikon D3100 has been helpful!

For other photography tips, discover:
📸 Best Cameras for Bloggers in 2021: The Ultimate Guide
⚙️ The Best Nikon D3400 Lenses in 2021: The Ultimate Guide
🔮 The Best Lenses for Sony a7III in 2021: The Ultimate Guide
🔭 Best Lenses for Sony A6400 in 2021: The Ultimate Guide
📷 The Best Sony A6000 Lenses in 2021: The Ultimate Guide

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Welcome to my travel + photography blog!

I'm Jiayi, a Chinese-Italian photographer who's been on the move since age 6. With this blog, my goal is to provide you with invaluable tips to help you plan epic trips to both popular and unpopular destinations, and to photograph them the way you'd want to. Happy Travels! :)

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