Best Telephoto Lens for Nikon D3100


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Feb 19, 2012
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Washington, DC
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I'm looking to buy a telephoto lens for my Nikon D3100 and my budget is $500 max. Also, I'd like to get a lens that will allow me to Auto Focus. Any tips or recommendations would be helpful. I'm open to fixed or zoom, I just want to know what's best and my main desire is to have great depth of field.

It was recommended that I get an 85mm f/1.8, but I just wanted to get more information and find out if this will Auto Focus on my d3100.

Thanks in advance.
my main desire is to have great depth of field.

Are looking for shallow or deep depth of field? I thought great depth of field implies deep, but saw you were recommended a 85mm f/1.8. So you maybe looking for a lens that has wide max aperture.

What are you planning to shoot with the telephoto lens? Is 85mm long enough? If it is for outdoor portrait type shots, 85mm is quite nice (with my cropped DSLR body). If it is for wildlife type or zoo animals, it maybe a little short.
I'd recommend a DX lens, because they're made for DX bodies and you wouldn't be taking lenses much more heavier than you should.
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I would like less depth of field. I mostly shoot friends and family on vacation and things.
I guess you mean a shallow DoF so the background is blurred.

Four factors control the DoF:
1. Lens focal length
2. focus point distance from the image sensor
3. focus point distance to the background
4. lens aperture.

The closer to your subject you are, the closer the focus point is, and the shallower the DoF is. In othe words, if the only thing you change is the focus point distance, the Dof will also change with the DoF getting deeper as the focus point get further from the camera.

But, if the background is right behind the point of focus, like a wall immediately behind your subject, the wall will also be prety much in focus too. That's why #3 in the list also matters.

A key concept about the DoF is some of the depth-of-field (DoF) is in front of the point of focus, and some of it is behind the point of focus. The distribution of the DoF will vary from 25% in front/75% in back, to 50/50.

An issue many new to photography have when using an f/1.8 lens is that at wide lens apertures the DoF can get so shallow it is difficult to control what is and isn't in focus.

So there is a lot more to it than just buying a f/1.8 lens.


actually, No.
Actually, this lens will indeed AF on a D5100 and it's within the OP's budgetary contraints.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S NIKKOR Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

So DiskoJoe and you are each only partly right, because the older Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras won't AF on the D5100.

But I do not have a D5100, I have a D3100

3100,'s all the same in regards to auto focus. Neither of these cameras has an internal motor, so to auto focus with them you need the AF-S lenses that have a motor in the lens. The newest Nikon 85mm f/1.8 fits that bill.
Telephoto means 50mm or longer. How long do you want it to be? Do you need zoom or is a prime lens ok? Unfortunately "best" and a $500 budget don't usually go together especially if we're talking zoom lenses.

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