Since the days of the Nikon D40 where Nikon gives us a small lightweight DSLR at an amazing price, I have been mixed with both joy and pain. Joy because cameras like its current successor, Nikon D3100, has everything you need to confidently grow your skills as a photographer. However, the lack of an internal AF motor means that a lot of the good non AF-S lenses around will lose their AF function when mounted on the Nikon D3100. This translates to you spending more money on the more expensive AF-S version of the lens you would like. All things considered though, the Nikon D3100 is a great travel companion and I’ve enjoyed it most with the following combination.
1) Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II is a great walkabout zoom lens which I find a perfect match for the D3100. By selecting this lens with a D3100 body only, you may be spending a bit more than choosing the Twin lens kit (with the 18-55mm kit lens and the 55-300mm kit lens) but you’ll gain greater flexibility by no needing to change lens. Furthermore, at 200mm, you will already be getting a 35mm equivalent of 300mm and I find the extra 150mm reach with the 300mm (equivalent to 450mm) just doesn’t seem so important. I am much happier to just carry one zoom lens around and no worry so much.
2) Nikon EN-EL14 Battery
Keeping in mind that Nikon did not offer a battery grip for the Nikon D3100, you’ll really appreciate the extra batteries when you go travelling or have a long day’s shoot. My advise? Get at least 2 extra batteries and you should be pretty much set. If you find that you need more than that?you probably need a slightly more heavy duty camera that offers a battery grip as well.
3) Nikon Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G
No surprise, the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G makes the list. I would have recommended the f/1.8 for better cost savings but as I’ve mentioned, D3100 needs an AF-S lens with an internal motor to focus and so I had to choose this one. Keep in mind that with the crop, you are getting an equivalent of 75mm which is close to the 85mm that is ideal for portraits. For this option, some may well prefer the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM and that is definitely worth considering as an alternative.
4) Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
Even though I have already recommended the 50mm f/1.4G, with the D3100, I find myself shooting with the 35mm a lot as well and hence the inclusion of the Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G. Giving you the equivalent of a 50mm on a full frame camera, you can practice your composition with this lens to hone your skills creatively. By choosing this as the third lens, I am still able to keep the total equipment weight low and won’t have to bother with a large camera bag either.