Lens Question

edited October 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I've been interested in street and portrait photography.
I have a D3100, and I'm searching for a good lens that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Any help or suggestions?


  • edited October 2015
    Best advice I've seen was to work for a while with the 18-55mm kit zoom, which is a decent lens, and go out and do the kind of thing you're interested in. Keep track of the focal length you're zooming to, and try to keep it at either 35mm or 50mm. Decide which of these focal lengths agrees most with your style, and then choose one of the two great bargains in prime lenses from Nikon: the 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, which is very good, and specific to the DX format, or the 50mm f/1.8 AFS G lens, which works on both full and crop frame cameras.

    The 35mm gives what would be described as a normal perspective, and the 50mm a short telephoto. For portraits many prefer the 50mm, which gives a nicer look to the out of focus areas, and is a nearly ideal focal length for indoor portraiture. The 35mm will give you good depth of field, and for street use might be preferred because it will make focusing less critical. If you are expecting to need substantial depth of field, and if the light is sufficient, you may find the kit zoom works pretty well on the street; maybe well enough.

    On DX format, an 85mm lens makes a very nice portrait length for closeup shots at some distance. It's a bit long for indoor work, but ideal for head shots and for outdoor portraits. The moderate telephoto length gives very shallow depth of field at wide apertures, and can make backgrounds just disappear. Nikon makes a couple that are pretty expensive but won't actually knock you to the floor in shock, and a couple that will.

    Another alternative that I've seen good reviews of is the 40mm f/2.8 macro. This can be had now for under $300. 40mm is a good normal everyday focal length for general use, splitting the difference between 35mm and 50mm, and this lens adds macro capability for extreme closeups. It's not the optimal length for nature macros because it must come very close to the subject, but it's doable, and it's a nice combination of features. Worth a look if you like that focal length.

    None of the primes mentioned here include vibration reduction. Most relatively short lenses hardly need it, but you do have to keep that in mind, as you will not be able to shoot at ridiculously low shutter speeds as one can with VR.

    There are other lenses of course, but those first two are relatively inexpensive and almost everyone who has used either is agreed that they are very very good. If you like the focal length, there is little if any reason to look further.

    For street photography, one might also like a wider angle, but so far there are not a lot of real bargains in Nikkor glass, and few primes from anyone. Your best bet here might be to stick with zooms, but when you get very wide, prices go up. If you find yourself gravitating toward the wide end of your kit zoom, start saving your pennies. There are some nice wide zooms out there, but they do not come cheap.
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