Lens for D3100

edited September 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I'm new to the photography world and have been using the D3100 for 2 years. I've spent a few days looking for a new lens, and I'm thinking of getting the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Nikkor zoom lens, but I also came across the Nikkor Lens AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6G.

It's just my hobby, so I like talking photos of every thing except sports.

Was this the right choice considering the price?
Which one of them is the best for capturing in dim light and will give me the ability to get a good photo?



  • edited September 2015
    Make sure when you're shopping for lenses that you keep track of whether you're getting the most recent VR versions. Some of these lenses come in more than one version.

    The more expensive 70-300mm is a full frame lens, which works fine on DX too, and it's said to be faster focusing and better made than the DX lenses. It's also, of course, heavier. If you are expecting to need fast focusing for sports and the like, this is the recommended lens. Even though it is not optically very fast, it is said to behave very well. If you can afford it, I doubt you'll be sorry to have it.

    The 55-200mm is said to be optically very good, lightly made and to have a plastic lens mount, all helping to make it a great bargain if you don't need professional robustness. An alternative to that is the similar 55-300mm, which is quite similar in design except for having a metal mount. That extra reach can be nice, even though it softens up a little at 300mm. It's quite sharp well past 200mm, and acceptable for most things at 300mm. If you don't need the reach, then the 55-200mm is the best buy, but the 55-300mm (which is the one I have, by the way) is very versatile. It may depend on what sales are in effect. When I bought mine, there was a lens sale and a new-camera tie-in that basically made the extra 100 millimeters free.

    By the way, I should mention that I have dropped my 55-300mm now twice - once when it rolled out of the bag onto a dock, and a second time when my camera fell out of an unzipped bag, lens and all. It's held up well, despite its plastic construction.
  • edited September 2015
    I think I'm stuck now with the 55-200mm/55-300mm :)

    One last question, what is the difference between AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED 3.6x, and AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II?

    Thanks for the last advice, it helped in choosing the right lens.
  • edited September 2015
    The newest VRII version of the 55-200mm has been updated to include a collapsing feature similar to that on the latest 18-55mm that is provided with the D3300 and others. This makes it very compact to store. On later models there is an error message if you forget to open the lens correctly, but I don't know whether or not this applies on the D3100. It might. I presume you'd see in the viewfinder anyway, so I would not worry. On the newer 18-55mm, a nice feature is that the front element does not rotate, and it is thus possible to use a polarizer or a graduated ND filter while auto focusing. I don't know whether this is true on the 55-200mm, or for that matter whether the front of any 55-200mm rotates. The 55-300mm does, unfortunately. I don't think the filter issue is as important on a long lens as on a short one, usually, but the ability to fit a polarizer might be worth some consideration, and so might the compactness of storage if your carrying space is limited. Otherwise, the main difference here will be that you get a stop better VR performance.

    I can't find any information about whether or not the new 55-200mm has a rotating front element. Often you can tell by whether the supplied front hood is cylindrical or petal shaped, because a petal hood works only if there is no rotation. The 55-200mm apparently performs well without a hood, and none is provided.
  • edited September 2015
    Thanks for this advice. I think I'm going to order my 55-200mm as soon as possible.

    One last question, is this lens good for taking photos with wide angle?
    And what are the uses of camera lens filter and the lens hood filter?Should I buy them ?

    Thanks again :)
  • edited September 2015
    The 55-200mm will not go to wide angle. The focal length determines the width of angle. 18mm is wide - approximately equivalent to 28mm in full format. 24mm is moderately wide. 35mm is "normal", and above that are various levels of telephoto. The 55-200mm is a short to long telephoto zoom which basically picks up where the 18-55mm lens leaves off. You'll want both for full coverage.

    Some people consider a filter good insurance against lens damage, but unless a filter is the best quality, there is at least some possibility that it will degrade the image a little and add to the possibility of flare from off-axis light sources. Most filters are less robust than the lenses, and I rarely use a filter on any of mine. You get very little protection from impact with a filter. An exception is when you are in a very windy or sandy environment such as a beach, where airborne sand and particles might actually damage a lens surface. I'd find, if possible, a cheap UV or Skylight filter to stick on when in difficult places, but not use it normally. Digital sensors do not pick up UV haze, so the filter has no particular function except as a "see through lens cap". Similarly, many filters that were useful in the film era are no longer needed at all. When you shot film, you had to use a filter to change white balance. Now you don't. In black and white, various filters would change the rendition of blacks and whites - a yellow filter darkens skies, for instance, but now you can dial that in.

    If the front element of the lens turns when it focuses, some useful filters cannot be used. If the front element does not turn, there are some that may be worth having.

    For any lens, if you want to slow down shutter speed in bright conditions, a neutral density filter is nice. This is used for creating motion blur, for example in waterfalls and streams, when it's bright outside. Don't go too radical, or your AF will stop working, but something around 4X can be a handy filter to have, if you film running water.

    For a non rotating lens, a graduated neutral density filter can be useful. This filter is darker in one half than in the other. There are some conditions, such as sunsets, in which to get the sky exposed right, you'll end up with a black foreground, and if you expose the foreground right, you'll end up with bright, washed-out sky. A graduated filter allows you to darken the sky more than the foreground. Because it depends on rotational position, you can't use this conveniently on a lens that rotates when focused.

    A polarizing filter is also a very useful tool. This filter removes distracting reflections, and also can darken skies in color shots. It's especially valuable if you shoot on and around water, as it can filter distracting reflections out, and allow you to see down into the water. It is also entirely dependent on rotation, and thus not convenient to use on a lens whose front element rotates. A polarizing filter is the only filter whose effect can not be duplicated in post processing. What it does is unique. For AF and through lens metering, you must have "circular" polarizer. If shopping for used filters, make sure you don't get the older type, which can confuse AF. Of all the filters, though, this is the one I would consider a "must have" if you have any lens at all that can use it.

    The lens hood is mainly to block out stray light from angles outside the angle of view. Some light from the side can contribute to lens flare and ghosting. Apparently the 55-200mm works pretty well without one. A hood can help protect a lens from impact, but if you're happy without it, it's probably more convenient to skip it. Nikon's own hoods usually are made to install upside down for storage, and their caps are made to fit over an inverted hood, so if you do decide on a hood, it may be worthwhile to get the Nikon original.
  • edited October 2015
    I dont know much about photography. I hope I'm not asking a silly question. Photography has been my dream and my husband bought me the D3100 with 18-55mm and 55-200mm, which was more expensive than the camera. I love to take pictures with blurred backgrounds. I wanted to learn about it, so I watched a couple of videos on youtube and I see them taking beautiful pictures with an aperture of f/1.4 and f/2.8 etc. I have learned from this forum that one needs to purchase a 35mm lens to get that lower aperture. It makes me upset that after spending money on the the camera and the 55-200mm, I now want to purchase another lens. I wish we didn't buy the 55-200mm and instead s bought the lens that has a lower aperture. Am I correct? Please advise. I wonder how much would that cost? Thanks.
  • edited January 2016
    It's true that if you want those blurred backgrounds, you will do best with the widest apertures, which means that it's easiest to accomplish with the prime lenses. You can get a 35mm f/1.8 or a 50mm. f/1.8 which are considered the best bargains in quality lenses and will do this well.

    However, you must also remember that shallow depth of field (which is what you're after for blurred backgrounds) is also achieved with greater focal length. What this means is that that 55-200mm lens is not such a bad deal, if you can get far enough away from your subject, even though it does not have such a large aperture.

    You should also note that the blurring of backgrounds depends a lot on how you choose your background, and how far it is away from the subject.

    Here is a very quick and dirty (just did it while doing this message) example, in which I have put a subject in front of a brick wall. Both are done with the 18-55 mm kit zoom at 55mm and f/5.6. In the first half, the subject is close to the wall, and in the second, it is a little over 10 feet from the wall. Note how even with this lens, the depth of field diminishes with distance from the subject.


    I jiggled the tripod on this next one, but it's past bedtime and I think you'll get the idea. In this case, I used a zoom telephoto set at 135mm and f/5.6, which is well within the range of your 55-200mm. The subject is about 8 feet from the wall, closer than it was for the right hand shot above. Even accounting for the motion blur, I think you can see how much further the background bricks are than the subject.

    Nothing will give you creamy smooth portraits as well as a good fast prime lens at a length that's good for portraits, which in the case of a DX camera would likely be between 50mm and 85mm, but you can do a lot with distance and placement.

  • edited January 2016
    What's a good setting for outdoor shots of my horses with the 55-200mm lens on my D3100? They just don't seem clear. They kind of have a dark foggy look and aren't crisp.
  • edited January 2016
    If the new lens is not VR equipped, make sure you're using a fast shutter speed, especially when you get long. You will have difficulty hand holding at 200mm, unless your shutter speed is around 1/300 or better. Similarly, if your horses are moving around a lot, you need a fast shutter speed to keep them still. Although that is true for any focal length, apparent movement may be more obvious when you go telephoto.

    If your horses are looking too dark, try exposure compensating. If you were shooting a black horse on snow, you could easily use a compensation of +2 stops or more. For less radical conditions, not so much but some. You can experiment and try different compensations until you find what works best.

    You can also spot meter on a subject. This will meter only about the same area as is covered by the center AF square, and ignores all the rest. It works well for a subject that's way different from its surroundings. If you spot meter, don't also compensate. You can try both to see which you prefer.

    Make sure you use single point auto focus. "A" for automatic, or "C" for continuous, and "dynamic area" for movement. Auto area focus may not work well. Make sure the AF point is the one you want. Center it with the [OK] button, and move it around with the back control.
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