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Best All Around Lens Upgrade

edited September 2016 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
I have been using the 18-55mm kit lens and have had good results. However, I have replaced it since I dropped it, and now I've dropped it again. It seems to be getting more blurry photos again and I'm afraid I need to replace it. Wondering what the best upgrade would be for everything - family, portraits, outdoor, etc? I have a friend's wedding this weekend that would be family pictures, ceremony, etc. I read on your website that the 17-50mm is a good upgrade. Wondering if this would be the best option for all my needs so I don't have to be changing lenses all the time. I've been using my D5100 for several years and love it, but I would say I'm still a beginner, so I need auto focus for sure. Or I have the 18-300mm or something like that, which was part of the offer when I bought the camera. It seems to take crisper photos, however you have to be standing so far away to get everything in.


  • edited September 2016
    The more range of zoom you get the harder it is to maintain quality, so when you go to a super duper zoom you may compromise image quality some. What compromises are acceptable remains a bit a matter of taste. But if you had good results from the 18-55mm, which is a decently sharp lens despite its cheap construction, one thing you might consider is the 18-140mm, which is often a kit lens on the D7100. It's good and sharp, has some degree of weather sealing, VRII, manual fine focus adjustment (you don't need to turn off AF to make manual adjustments) and a non-rotating front element which makes it good for graduated ND filters and polarizers. My wife has one of these on her D7100, and it's quite nice. It's said to have a fair amount of linear distortion, but this is rarely seen, and often can be corrected when it is. It's no faster than the existing kit lens, but it's a nice range, and it's decently built. This lens can be a bit expensive bought separately, a better bargain when bundled as a kit lens. However, you might find a good used copy from or other reputable dealers.

    There's also a 16-85mm, also not terribly fast, but said to be very nicely made. It's usually a little more used than the comparable 18-140mm, but it goes wider. Between the two, the 18-140mm is preferred by some for sharpness, so I'd base the choice on whether you expect to need the extra width.

    If you want that range and have lots of moolah, there's a 16-80mm f/2.8-4 E zoom, that many people rave about, but it costs about a thousand dollars!

    If you're traveling and need the convenience, the 18-300mm is a possibility, but you will pay some penalty in sharpness at the long end.

    If you are on budget and find the 18-55mm satisfactory, check out or B&H for used bargains on these. Be careful of different versions, as this kit lens has gone through many iterations, starting with no VR, then VR, then VRII, and the latest an E version. The VRII version that came with the D3300 and its ilk, which has a retracting button and a non-rotating front element, might be a good replacement if that's a size of lens you like.

    If you want faster aperture, there are a variety of 17-55mm f/2.8 lenses out there, including a very expensive Nikon, which has no VR. If you want that range and speed, I'd look at the third parties, such as Tamron and Sigma. Tamron makes a 17-50mm. They are likely to be much cheaper, and optically quite decent, but may be harder to repair if they are dropped or damaged. Some people have also reported that the sample variation is greater, so if at all possible it would be best to get one in person rather than by mail. Reputable vendors such as B&H or Adorama will almost certainly exchange one that does not perform up to expectations, but the transaction may take some time, and you may have to eat the return shipping. That's a matter only you can address.

    Here's a link on the current choices from people who are usually pretty good judges of quality. I think the reviewer forgot what brands he was talking about, though, and wrote "Canon" instead of "Nikon".

    I'm still waffling between the 16-85mm and the 18-140mm, checking the used listings. I'd jump on the 16-80mm if it showed up used at a cheaper price.
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