I am new to photography, and currently own a Nikon D3100 with the kit 18-55mm lens. I also own a Nikon 35mm f/1,8G AF-S DX, that I generally use for portraits and in low light conditions.

Right now, I am looking for a zoom lens, preferably in the 55-200mm range for outdoor photography. Something which can be used to click landscapes and crowds.

For this purpose I was wondering if I should go for a high aperture f2.8 or higher or would a f4 do? The former is very expensive, and as of now I do not have any experience with landscape photography. The lenses I have been looking at are: 1. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens ($1899) and 2. Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR ($249)

(As you can see there is a huge price difference, so that got me wondering)

Any other lens suggestion apart from the ones mentioned above will also be appreciated

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Take a look at the 24-120mm f/4 as well. It's an FX lens with a constant aperture across the zoom range in a pretty ideal focal range for general travel purpose. I like mine quite a bit, so I highly recommend it. You do give a little on the far end, but not usually an issue for touristy shooting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 22:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Heard some good review about tamron f/2.8 lens which is cheaper than Nikon. You can check out if you are interested. \$\endgroup\$
    – GoodSp33d
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 7:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I heard that the make of Tamron lenses are not very good. How do they fare in the long run? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks John, I received the same advice on the 24-120mm from another user, and after seeing some pictures taken by it, I am leaning towards it now. Will compare the pictures by both (or see if I can actually borrow or rent the lens), and then I'll make a final choice. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ The newer Tamron lenses are much better (and costlier) than their predecessors. The Current Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC is an excellent lens. The newest 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC is very good, although not quite as good as Canon & Nikon's 70-200mm f/2.8 offerings. It does, however, compare favorably with anyone's 70-300mm f/4-5.6 at or below the same price point as the Tamron 70-200. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 17:59

6 Answers 6


Short answer: yes, f/4 will be fine.

Long answer: How do you like the kit lens? If you're happy with it, and you'd like something with more reach, they you may want to look at lenses like the 70-300mm. It's a great price/performance lens, and the VR is nice for beginners.

OTOH, if you consider the kit lens so-so, you may want to look at a more mid-range/high-end lens like the 24-120mm, which IMHO is a great all-around lens for traveling on a full frame body, and would still be nice on a DX body.

Certainly you can spend loads of money on lenses and you can waste money getting a multiple mediocre lenses, until you find one you really like. Some have recommended renting, especially for more expensive lens, to try them out. I haven't tried that path.

Take your time, and focus your money on getting the best you can afford, for the lenses you think you'll use the most. I had a kit lens and replaced it with the 24-120mm and can't be happier. Since I don't do a lot of shooting at longer focal lengths, the 70-300 was fine for me.

Now, I'm picking up prime lenses for various focal lengths. I've had a lot of fun working with one or two primes at a time. They have pros and cons too (+high quality, +low cost, -swapping lenses, -having to foot zoom), and certainly it is a personal choice - there's unfortunately no right answer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not very happy with the kit lens. I use the 35mm one, more often, infact all the time. Your advice on the 24-120mm sounds good. I think I'll look at flickr pictures taken with this and then see what I like more. Thanks for the help :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Be aware that there are two versions of the 24-120mm. The newer one is the f/4 which is much better than the old one. But I still suggest you go for the 70-300mm and only get the 2.8 lens if the 70-300 is not good enough. The 2.8 is very heavy. \$\endgroup\$
    – sbaechler
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 7:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ "...and the VR is nice for beginners." ;-) and not so beginner, I'd say... \$\endgroup\$
    – Rmano
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 19:44

Absolutely. Even if price is not an issue, an F/4 lens offers an important saving in weight.

Now, it is important to understand that aperture is one difference but the most significant is image quality. A cheap 55-200mm is rather poor and you have to stop it down to F/8 or even F/11 to get decent results which is very restrictive.

Still you can get a high quality F/4 lens instead like the Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm F/4G ED VR lens. It is cheaper ($1400 USD) and lighter than the F/2.8 version (850g vs 1.5kg). For travel photography this is an excellent option.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That was going to be my comment as well. "Absolutely". \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 23:23

Outdoor, daylight, sunny day photography will be happy with F4. Especially for landscapes and large groups. It won't be as happy if you shoot sports such as football or soccer. It's fine for motorsports.

I'd buy the less expensive lens. If you use it a lot, over the next year, you'll know if that is the lens for you, or if your usage really justifies the F2.8.

I shoot Canon, but the rules work for all brands. Note, Canon now sells four different lenses in the 70-200 range. It's a great range, and some folks want it all, others will accept slower lenses (which are also lighter) or lenses without image stabilization.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your advice, I actually thought about my interests and realized that I will not be shooting sports, maybe at all. So, I guess I'll go with the former for now. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:42

The 55-200 VR is of course a cheaper and lighter (do not underestimate this) lens.

The 70-200 VR (either f2.8 or f4) has:

  • Better image quality, though for many uses not that much: for example in the center they are probably comparable, while the 55-200 is a lot poorer in the corners. However this is likely to be of less importance, as in most photos at those focal lengths the corners would be out of focus anyway
  • Better build, metal mount, metal body, etc. Do not drop the 55-200 or you risk breaking it (I dropped mine but it's still alive, though do not try). The only real danger here is if you break it while in vacation, because you don't have a replacement; as far as cost goes, you can break 5 of them before getting equal.
  • 1 stop of aperture (f4 version) or 2 stops (f2.8); I wouldn't worry much, unless you are going to shoot indoor sports or wildlife
  • ability to use teleconverters (1.4x or even 2x on the 2.8)
  • better VR - the VR on the 55-200 is fine but it's neither active nor the new generation one
  • a lot lot lot lot better autofocus - here the 55-200 sucks, it is slow to focus and focus cannot be overridden on the fly. For sports, forget the 55-200

With the 55-200 you gain: - 1150$ in your pocket (for the f4) or 2200$ (for the f2.8) - 600g of weight when walking around (for the f4)

I can't help but notice that 1150$ is more than you paid up to now on all your equipment put together and 600g is little less than the total weight you are already carrying.

To recap my 2 cents: The 70-200 is worse for crowd photography (weighs a lot to carry around, you would "stand out" of the crowd) and costs a lot lot more. The 55-200 is unusable for sport/wildlife, so if you need that, you need to shell out the money (but then is the 3fps of the D3100 adeguate for sports?). The money you save from the 70-200 could then be used for a nice trip where you can take photos, or for some other precious equipment you miss, like a wide angle, a flash, a portrait prime, a macro prime; actually if your other option is the f2.8, with the difference in money you can buy all of these I listed and still have something left.

My final hint: search on flickr images shot with both lenses and see if the differences matter that much for you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the 3fps on D3100 is actually not adequate for sports, and I will not be photographing sporting events that much. Thank you very much for your advice. I think I will go with the 55-200mm for now and then later on when I am ready to venture into wildlife photography I'll think upgrading to the latter. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:36

Re your original question:

Please note that the Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR ($249) is not a constant F/4. It is only F/4 at the wide end. If you zoom a little, these lenses stop down very quickly, which is why they are so inexpensive.


find a lens rental near where you live and rent one of the good lenses. I rented a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 last spring and shot a few soccer games with my very old nikon DSLR and the images were almost all fantastic. Zoomed all the way to the tele end, the images were all razor sharp, in focus and had great colors.

Some rambling about these two lenses:

I could not believe that it was possible to get these great images from my 8 year old low end nikon body. I have borrowed other brand lenses from friends, an old Sigma 200mm zoom, and a 80-400 nikon, and nothing came even close to the image quality of the 70-200 f/2.8.

Its really tough to compare the 55-200 f/4-5.6 to the 70-200 f/2.8, since they are so far apart in price. They are not in the same ballpark. The 70-200 f/2.8 is a professional lens, its built like a tank, and the image quality is spectacular. The 55-200 is a consumer level lens, lots of plastic, and you won't get anything close to the images you can get with the more expensive lens, and its not constant aperture.

With constant f/2.8 I was able to get shots on cloudy days that were far out of range of my cheap 18-135 f 3.5-5.6 kit lens.

That said, my fingers were tingling from the weight of carrying the 70-200 f/2.8 around for a couple of hours. It is a very heavy lens, and detracts from the experience of whatever else you're trying to do (family gathering, sports event, etc).

Rent the good lens, see what the images look like, and then judge for yourself if $2099.00 is worth it to you.


You generally want quite a lot of depth of field for landscape photography. That means you'll be deciding between f/16 and f/22 more than you'll be worrying about the large end of the aperture range. Also, landscapes don't move much (although cameras sometimes do), so a fast lens isn't a big requirement. You won't need anything faster than f/4 for landscapes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you think about candid pictures of people in a crowd? I was actually looking for something that can work for both. Or do you think I should stick to my current 35mm f:1.8G for that? The only problem I see with it, is that it takes time to compose the image, from having to foot zoom. Or maybe I just need more practice with it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:53

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