Top 3 Lens Selections For Nikon D7100

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The Nikon D7100 has proven to be a very popular camera due to its ability to capture high-quality images, which are virtually identical to the image quality of the best professional cameras in Nikon’s lineup. Built upon the smaller, but still very capable CMOS sensor, the D7100 falls into Nikon/s mid-range camera lineup and targets more experienced photographers. As good as the D7100 is, the key to having a complete kit is to select excellent lenses, as lenses last forever, while digital camera bodies tend to become obsolete, due to advances in technology. That’s why I had to give you my top 3 Nikon D7100 lenses. Currently, the best lenses for the D7100 are the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140 f/3.5-5.6 ED VR and the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VRI.

The Similarities

When comparing these three lenses it is in a way like comparing apples to oranges, as they really do not share many similarities and are really completely different lenses with different uses.  However, one trait that they all share is excellent optics, especially at the price point that these cameras fall in.  Nikkor has always been known for their optic first and their camera bodies second and their experience in optics is evident in all three lenses.

Another similarity between the three lenses is the inclusion of Nikkor’s F-Bayonet mounting system, which has been around for a number of years.  One of the best things about Nikkor lenses is that you can often use older Nikkor lenses on today’s digital cameras because of the timeless F-Bayonet mount.  While all three lenses have a significant amount of plastic in their bodies, the mount remains metal.

Other similarities include the incorporation of the AF-S auto-focusing system using a “silent wave motor” built into the lens.  This system is fast, accurate and quiet.  In addition, the autofocus elements are on the inside of the camera and not on the outside, where they could be subject to damage from use.  All three lenses have a 7 blade diaphragms, as well as the ability to accept screw on filters, although the sizes are different.

While all three lenses have been designed for use on DX cameras such as the D7100, they also work on FX or full frame cameras, especially if the FX camera is operated in the DX mode.  While these lenses will technically work on a full frame FX camera in FX mode, it is not recommended, due to limitations on the lenses, which will impact image quality.  What happens is that the edges of the image will be cut off, as the light coming thru the DX lens is not covering the entire full frame sensor, which is larger than the smaller DX sensor.  This results in an image that has a border around the perimeter or will have the corners cut off.

The Differences

The biggest difference between the three lenses is that the 35mm lens is a fixed or prime lens, while the 18-140 and the 18-200 lenses are zoom lenses, which are capable of a wide range of focal lengths.  In general, prime lenses typically are faster lenses and in the case of the 35mm this is the case, with the 35mm capable of aperture settings of f/1.8, while the 18-140 and 18-200 are limited to f/3.5.

Another difference between the three lenses is in regards to weight and size with the 35mm lens weighing a mere 7.05 ounces, while the 18-140 weighs 1.08 pounds and the 18-200 weighing in at 1.23 pounds!  The 35mm lens is also significantly smaller at 2.76” x 2.07”, while the 18-140 is 3.07” x 3.82” and the 18-200 is 3.0” x 3.8”.  The difference in weight is especially noticeable after carrying the camera around in the field all day.  However, all three lenses handle very well and are well balanced on the D7100.

The Pros and Cons

As with cameras, there is no such thing as the perfect lens and these three Nikkor lenses are no different, with each having a number or positive traits or “pro”, as well as negative traits or “cons”.  The individual photographer will need to weigh the “pros’ and “cons” and determine how important they are in the type of photography they do.

In the case of the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8, the biggest pro of the lens is the excellent optics it provides, especially in low light situations.  This is followed by its small size, lightweight, low price point and the fact that it is a prime or fixed “normal” lens, very close to a 50mm lens on a full frame or FX camera.

The only “con” of the lens is its mostly plastic construction, which does help keep the price point low, making the lens extremely affordable.  In use, however, the Nikkor 35mm F1.8 is extremely tough and can take a fair amount of abuse, as the plastic appears to be very robust!

The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.55.6 ED VR is also an excellent lens that covers a very popular focal range.  This lens, which is shipped with the D7100 as a part of a kit, has a number of other “pros” including optical quality, which is excellent.  Other positive traits of this lens is its lightweight and compact size, which make carrying it as a ‘walk around” lens enjoyable.

The biggest “con” of the 18-140 is also related to the use of plastic in the lens.  In the case of Nikkor zoom lenses, the photographer selects the desired focal length by turning the barrel of the lens.  While the use of plastic keeps manufacturing costs low, as well as weight down, it is unclear how durable this lens will be after years of use.  Hopefully, this lens will still perform in 50 years the same way older all metal Nikkor classic lenses perform today!

The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200G ED VRII also has excellent optics, with the biggest “pro” being that it virtually covers the entire range of focal points and this lens could easily replace almost every lens in a photographer’s kit.  Other positive aspects is that the VR or vibration reduction works extremely well and will allow a photographer to shoot in lower light conditions, while shooting hand held at slower shutter speeds and stepping down the aperture several stops.  While the earlier version of this lens was very good, this version is much better with the VR system being significantly improved.

The main “con” of the 18-200 is its size and weight, which is significant when comparing this lens to the other two lenses.  That being said, the lens does handle well on the D7100 and seems to be well balanced.  The only other negative aspect of the camera is related to its mediocre performance in really low light conditions, as it is just not fast enough when it really gets dark!

Just the Facts, A Side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at optical quality over technical specifications when selecting a lens, many feel that the technical specifications are equally important. All three of these Nikkor lenses have excellent optical quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR II
Year Introduced 2009 2009 2012
Focal Length 35mm 18-140mm 18-200mm
35mm Equivalent Focal Length 52.5mm 27-210mm 27-300mm
Minimum Aperture f/22 f/22-38 f/22
Maximum Aperture f/1.8 f/3.5-5.6 f/3.5
Camera Mount Type Nikon F-Bayonet Nikon F-Bayonet Nikon F-Bayonet
Lens Elements 8 17 16
Lens Groups 6 12 12
Primary Format Compatibility Nikon DX Nikon DX Nikon DX
Secondary Format Compatibility Nikon FX in DX Mode Nikon FX in DX Mode Nikon FX in DX Mode
Maximum Angle Of View 44° 76° 76°
Minimum Angle Of View N/A 11° 30’
Minimum Focus Distance 0.98 Feet 1.48 Feet 1.48 Feet
Optical Conversion Factor 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Magnification 0.16x 0.23x 0.22x
Diaphragm 7-Blade 7-Blade 7-Blade
Distance Information Yes Yes Yes, 2
Aspherical Elements 1 1 3
ED Glass Elements No Yes Yes
Super Integrated Coatings Yes Yes Yes
VR (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization No Yes Yes

 

Autofocus Yes Yes Yes
AF-S (Silent Wave Motor) Yes Yes Yes
Internal Focusing Yes Yes Yes
Focus Modes Auto, Manual Auto, Manual, Auto/Manual Auto, Manual
G-Type Yes Yes Yes
Tripod Collar No No No
Filter Type Screw On Screw On Screw On
Filer Size 52mm 67mm 72mm
Size 2.76” x 2.07” 3.07” x 3.82” 3.0” x 3.8”
Weight 7.05 Ounces 1.08 Pounds 1.23 Pounds
Accessories HB-46 Bayonet Lens Hood, LC-52 Snap-On Lens Cap, LF-1 Rear Lens Cap, CL-0913 Soft Case LC-67 Snap-On Front Lens Cap 67mm, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap HB-50 Bayonet Lens Hood, LC-77 Snap-On Lens Cap, LF-1 Rear Lens Cap, CL-L1120 Soft Case
Cost $199.95 (For the latest prices and discounts.) $499.95 (For the latest prices and discounts.) $649.95 (Check out the latest discounts and prices.)

*Information from the Nikon USA website, including pricing.

The Final Frame: My Overall Recommendation

All three of these lenses are among the most popular of all of the lenses in Nikon’s DX and FX lineup and rightfully so as they are excellent!  Although most of the D7100 kits available today come with the AF-S DX 18-140mm f/3.5 – 5.6 ED VR lens, when it comes down to the best zoom lens for a D7100, I prefer the AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED for the longer focal length.  However, my favorite of the three lenses is the still the AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G lens.  While I am admittedly an advocate of primes lenses, this lens in outstanding and has a very low price point.  This lens attached to a D7100 is an excellent setup, as it is fast and light and is almost flawless optically.  My ideal D7100 kit would be an AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G for low light conditions, coupled with an AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED lens for everything else.  Now that is the perfect setup for the Nikon D7100!

Robert Alexander
 

A camera geek and freelance photographer, Robert (Aka "Rob" or "Bob") spends way too much time examining the finer points of cameras.

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