The best lens for a Nikon D3300....
is also the best lens for a Nikon D3200
The lenses that will be named are, on the basis of weight, scope, price and our independent review results, a perfect choice for a Nikon D3300, and thus also for a Nikon D3200, D3100 or D3000.
In How do I choose a lens? (Strategy for purchasing a lens), you can read which criteria we use in our hunt for the perfect lens for you. We assume that, as an owner of a Nikon D3300, you're a beginning SLR camera user. A "starter," who is looking for (another) lens that in terms of budget, dimensions, quality and applications is a perfect match for you and your Nikon D3300.
For portraits, experienced photographers immediately think about a bright, short telephoto lens with a focal length starting at 85 mm. A Nikon D800 (FX) with an 85 mm lens gives almost the same field of view as a Nikon D3300 (DX) with a 55-mm kit lens. And if you make a portrait in which you show some of the environment, then the 18-55 mm kit lens is also a fine portrait lens at shorter focal lengths. If you choose a very short focal length, as shown here, then the nose will be shown somewhat more pronounced than in reality.
The best lens for a Nikon D3300 does not exist.
We have made a selection from 50 lenses that we have reviewed on a Nikon DX camera.
You buy an SLR – or system – camera, that is to say, a camera with interchangeable lenses, because of the extra creative possibilities that a camera with interchangeable lenses offers. Depending on your capacity (financial and physical), the subject and your ambitions, there are always several possible choices.
We put to work our practical experience with reviewing nearly 50 lenses on a Nikon camera with a DX sensor to put together a selection of good lenses for the Nikon D3300. We report only lenses that we have tested. Naturally, there are even more good lenses for a Nikon D3300 for sale. We're doing our best to further expand the lens review list on CameraStuffReview, so that we can supplement this article in a year with even more optical jewels.
I have a Nikon D3300/D5300, but I'm not a starter!?
Given the high image quality of the Nikon D3300 and the D3200, it's quite possible that you're not a starter, but an (advanced) amateur photographer who simply enjoys this compact, light SLR camera. Or maybe you're prepared to spend more on lenses than most beginners. In that case, you can read our lens advice for a Nikon D5300, as soon as we've published that. There will be more expensive, larger, heavier and better lenses suggested there – without exaggerating. In "The best lens for Nikon D5300", we'll report on lenses that we think are ideal candidates for (advanced) amateur photographers.
Do you have a Nikon D5300 or D5200 but want to spend as little as possible on a lens with ahigh price-to-quality ratio, low weight and compact dimensions? Then the lenses in this article should be attractive options for you.
With an SLR camera, especially if you choose the largest possible aperture, the background will be much more nicely blurred that with a smartphone or compact camera. If you want the background to be even more vague that is possible with a kit lens or superzoom, then choose a bright (f/1.8) lens with the longest possible focal distance. Nikon has, especially for amateur photographers, a great series of Nikon AF-S fixed-focal length lenses with an f/1.8 brightness (28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, 85 mm), which without exception score highly in terms of price-to-quality ratio.
The best Nikon D3300 kit lens
Lay a 20 x 30 cm photo made with the Nikon 18-55 mm VR (II) next to a photo made with a professional lens at the same focal length and aperture.
You will see almost no difference.
If the Nikon D3300 or D3200 is your first SLR camera, then choose a "kit": the combination of a camera with lens. With a kit, you get off more cheaply than with the purchase of a separate camera body and a lens. There are experienced photographers who are dismissive of the quality of a kit lens, but you can make high-quality photos with them.
The Nikon D3300 will usually be offered in combination with the Nikon 18-55 mm VR II. The Nikon D3200 will be offered as a kit with the older Nikon 18-55 mm VR. Qualitatively, it makes no difference which of these two kits you choose. The Nikon 18-55 mm VR II is a universally applicable zoom lens with the same high image quality as its predecessor, but it's lighter and it's smaller during transport. Size does matter.
Nikon 18-55 mm and/or 18-105 mm, 18-140 mm or 18-200 mm?
18-55 mm with (and not "or") 18-140 mm or 18-200 mm: the price difference between D3300 kit and D3300 body is so small that you can better buy a superzoom as well instead of skipping the kit lens or exchanging it.
For many photographers, the kit lens is an ideal starting point, with which you can work well almost everywhere. If you know in advance that you are going to photograph many subjects that are further away, then it's smart to choose (as well) a telephoto zoom lens, that is, a zoom lens with a focal length of 200 mm. Sometimes, the combination of a Nikon D3300 with two lenses (Nikon 18-55 mm VR II + Nikon 55-200 VR) is offered. The Nikon 55-200 mm VR complements the 18-55 mm kit lens in terms of zoom range nicely, and separately costs about 150 euros. We have not yet reviewed that lens, so we'll make no statement about its image quality.
Perhaps you're considering buying the Nikon D3300 with an 18-105 mm, 18-140 mm or 18-200 mm zoom lens, instead of the kit lens. As far as the 18-105 mm is concerned: if you have no objection to a lens that is larger and twice as heavy as the 18-55 mm, then it can be a good idea. The 18-105 mm scored just as well in our review as both 18-55 mm lenses. The difference in zoom range you can see below.
The image quality of the 18-55 mm is better than the image quality of an 18-140 mm or 18-200 mm zoom lens, so it's a waste to substitute an 18-140 mm or 18-200 mm for the 18-55 mm. It's also nice to be able to work with as compact and light a lens as possible if you have no need of a long focal distance.
Are you really certain about supplementing/exchanging the kit lens?
You buy an SLR camera because you want to swap lenses, right?
Don't be led to purchase a lens as a replacement for the kit lens if you're satisfied with the quality of the photos that you're making.
Only when you run into limitations that get in your way when taking creative shots is it time to replace the kit lens, or to buy a more specialized lens as well. Possible reasons to replace the kit lens are:
- You prefer using 1 lens, but find the 18-55 mm zoom range too limited.
- You want a lens with a nicer background blur ("bokeh"), and thus a higher brightness. Then you can also shoot longer without a flash and not get motion blur.
- You're very critical of image quality and will gladly pay a bit more for higher sharpness, less vignetting or less chromatic aberration.
- You're going to photograph under extremely damp, dusty, cold or hot conditions, and you want to be sure that your shots will work.
- You're going to specialize more in 1 type of photography (nature photography, concert photography, wedding photography, street photography) and want a lens that fits your specialty better.
It may of course also be that you're still satisfied with the quality of the kit lens, but that you want to buy a specialty lens as well. Possible reasons to consider an extra lens in addition to the Nikon 18-55 mm VR (II) kit lens are:
- You want to get more in a photo than you get with the kit lens ("more wide-angle," that is, as short a focal distance as possible), or you want to bring subjects in closer ("more telephoto," or as long a focal distance as possible).
- You want to experiment with photographing with a fixed focal point, for example in order to better isolate your subject from the background.
- Photography is your hobby and you want to have a specialized lens (low light/macro/portrait) to indulge your creativity.We consider all zoom lenses with a zoom range of 5 or more, ranging from the Nikon AF-S 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR DX, Nikon AF-S 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR through the Nikon 18-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED AF-S DX VR, to be superzooms. With a similar zoom lens, the shortest focal distance and the longest focal distance are so different that you can photograph during your entire vacation without having to change the lens once. A superzoom is longer – especially when you zoom out to the longest focal distance – and heavier than a kit lens. The image quality of a superzoom is a bit less than that of the kit lens, because the greater the zoom range, the more compromises must be made in the design of the lens. For many photographers, practical considerations are more important than the very highest image quality. Those photographers are mostly quite satisfied with the image quality of a superzoom. A Nikon D3300 with superzoom delivers much higher image quality and more options than a smartphone, which you don't have to take along any extra lenses.
The best superzoom/vacation zoom for Nikon D3300
There is also a group that appears to focus strongly on the disadvantages of a superzoom. Judge for yourself what you find important and good enough. In our reviews, we evaluate all lenses in the same way, meaning that you can compare the image quality of various lenses with each other. A lens with an 8 is visibly better than a lens with a 7. With small differences after the decimal, you'll have to search carefully to discover the quality differences. On Flickr, you can find a page for every lens. Search with Google (for example, for "Nikon 18-200 mm VR II Flickr") to view practice shots made with the lens that you're considering buying.
18-200 mm zooms don't vary by much.
The image quality is not the same across the whole zoom range, thus one superzoom performs better at a short focal distance, while another zoom is better at a long focal distance.
Practically all the superzooms now are equipped with built-in image stabilization, so that you can also use them quite well in low light. In terms of list price, the originel Nikon 18-200mm VR II is above the budget of most starters. If you have no objections to a used lens, then for 300 euros you can find a second-hand model on Marktplaats. The recently released Sigma 18-200 mm Contemporary with a store price of 350 euros is also an attractive choice because this is the smallest and lightest 18-200 mm zoom lens currently for sale, while the image quality is about equivalent to other 18-200 mm zooms.
The best lenses for Nikon D3300:
- Universal: Nikon 18-55 mm VR II: light, compact, good and dirt-cheap in combination with a D3300
- Walk-around zoom: Sigma 18-200mm Contemporary: super-light, super-compact superzoom
- Standard lens: Nikon 35 mm f/1.8G AF-S DX: quality lens for less than 200 euros
- Portrait: Nikon 85 mm f/1.8G: high image quality and a good investment for DX and FX (Ivo's keuze)
- Macro: Nikon 40 mm f/2.8G AF-S DX: macrophotography does not have to be expensive
- Wide-angle: Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM: good price/quality DX wide-angle
- Telephoto lens: Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD SP AF: better telephoto than a superzoom
- Bokeh: Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art: delay the purchase of an FX camera
Macrophotography with a Nikon D3300
Tip: High-quality Sigma 105 mm f/2.8 Macro, for almost half the list price
If you like to take photos of very small subjects, then you're into macrophotography. Macro lenses are – also if you use them as a "normal" lens – without exception very good in terms of image quality: they all offer a very high, even sharpness from corner to corner and mostly very little distortion. Therefore, macro lenses are also very popular for reproduction photography. At a short focal distance (<65 mm), you'll quickly block the light from your subject, because with such a macro lens you come very close to your subject. If you use a macro lens for photographing a living subject, then choose a macro lens with a focal distance of at least 100 mm.
With a shorter focal distance, the chance is good that you'll chase off your subject, because you cast a shadow on it when you come close to take a shot. For these lenses, you usually pay more than you paid for your camera. For those who can work with a shorter focal distance, there is more to photograph with a macro lens than insects, then the Nikon 40 mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro Nikkor for 220 euros is a qualitatively attractive option.
Low Light: Night photography, concert photography
The high signal/noise ratio makes the Nikon D3300 a good choice for low-light or HDR photography. You usually have to dig a little deeper in the bag for a good lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or lower. For concert photography, a bright lens, in this case the Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 (on full-frame), is indispensable. Because it was possible to stand close to the stage, the wide-angle in this case delivered a striking perspective. If you want to take the same shot with a Nikon D3300, then you need a 16 mm focal length, in terms of field of view, not comparable with an 18-55 mm lens.
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A very nice wide-angle lens that we can recommend to every Nikon D3300 owner is the Nikon AF-S 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX. This superstar, with a street price of around 750 euros, is above the budget of most starters. The Sigma 8-16mm (sometimes for sale for 500 euros) offers an even wider view – with a wide-angle lens, two millimeters is a colossal difference in what appears on the photo – and very good image quality.Tokina 10-17 mm: Not only do you get a whole lot into the image, the characteristic fisheye distortion gives a square pond a completely different appearance.The Tokina 10-17 mm Fisheye delivers wide-angle shots with an outspoken character. This zoom lens has a store price of about 400 euros. View the shots taken with the Tokina 10-17 by CameraStuffReview reader Menno Herstel. The characteristic fisheye distortion smacks you in the face. You're taken by it, or you stumble over it. There's no other option.
The perspective of a short telephoto lens ensures that a nose appears smaller than in a shot made at a shorter focal distance. Therefore, portraits made with a short telephoto lens (50-85 mm on a Nikon D3300) are often found to be more flattering. If you choose a longer focal distance, then you still get a nice portrait, but you stand further away from your subject. The chance of motion blur also increases, as you can see here.
You may have noticed that when you make a portrait with the 18-55 mm kit lens, the background is less nicely blurred than in portraits of photoclub members with more expensive cameras. In order to realize a portrait with a beautiful background blur, you need a bright (aperture f/1.8) lens with a focal point between 50 and 90 mm. Both the Nikon AF-S 50 mm f/1.8G and the Nikon 85 mm f/1.8G are attractively priced and qualitatively good. The Nikon 50 mm f/1.4 is also good and quite affordable, but the 1.8 G version is 50% cheaper. Therefore, we advise the 1.8 version for a Nikon D3300 camera. The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 is also more expensive than the Nikon AF-S 50 mm f/1.8, but it has a longer focal distance, which better isolates the subject from the background.If you don't want to get close to your subject, then you need a telephoto lens with the longest possible focal distance.
Telephoto lenses for Nikon D3300
There's a challenge for us here. We have so far reviewed a limited number of inexpensive lenses for the Nikon D3300 with a focal point above 200 mm. The Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD SP AF and the Sigma 18-200 mm Contemporary are suited to bringing a subject closer from a distance. The Tamron is larger and heavier, but as a telephoto lens also optically better and brighter. Brightness is especially important for a telephoto lens because you can then choose a shorter shutter time, so that you prevent motion blur. Without image stabilization, at a focal distance of 200 mm you need a shutter speek of 1/500 of a second or less to be sure that you won't have problems with motion blur. With fast-moving subjects, such as motorcycles and cars, that's even less.
Lenses with a fixed focal length
Experienced photographers often work from creative considerations with a fixed focal point. Because you cannot zoom in or out, a fixed focal point forces you to think more carefully about the composition of a photo. Most owners of a Nikon D3300 will not yet have any need for a specialized lens with a fixed focal length, if we don't consider the previously named Nikon portrait lenses.
Even so, there is a large group of photographers who sooner or later consciously choose a bright standard lens with a fixed focal point. That is a lens for which the field of view is comparable with a 50 mm lens on a camera with a full-frame FX sensor. A standard lens is WTSIWYG for photographers: you get in the image what you see when you're not looking through the camera. In that case, you can't pass up the Nikon 35 mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Nikkor,with a list price just above 200 euros.
Nikon D3300 with the same beautiful bokeh as an FX camera?
Do you want the same beautiful background blur as in the shots of photographers with an expensive full-frame camera and an expensive, bright f/2.8 lens? You don't have to trade in your D3300 for a Nikon D600.
The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art is a bright lens with a beautiful bokeh and an – for a bright lens – attractive price tag. The same applies for the Nikon 50m 1.4G, although due to its longer focal distance this lens is a bit less broadly applicable.