I have the most basic model of Nikon DSLR, the Nikon D3200, with the 18-55 kit lens. I'm thinking of buying the Nikon 55-300mm lens, mainly for its zoom purpose. Is it a good lens? Can I take portrait shots using this? Like indoor and outdoor? How's the bokeh effect while taking portrait photos?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Knowing the camera you plan to use will be helpful. The sensor size affects the answer. I assume it is a DX sensor because you said most basic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    May 25, 2015 at 14:55

3 Answers 3


It should be OK but not great for portraits. Its a decent lens for its price but still entry level. So, I don't think you will like it much better than your kit lens for portraits.

Many shooters look for a portrait lens that:

  • Has a focal length around 80-110mm on a full-frame sensor*
  • A wide aperture
  • A nice look to out-of-focus background (the bokeh you mentioned)

(*) Assuming your basic Nikon DSLR has a DX sensor, the crop factor is 1.5, so this lens is equivalent to 83-450mm on full frame.

I am also assuming you want to be able to shoot with available light.

This lens is mostly designed for a long zoom range. This is helpful when subject (such as wildlife) are not cooperating with regards to their distance.

The maximum aperture is f/4.5 which doesn't get you much light. The Bokeh is good but not beautiful like some lenses.

On the budget of the 55-300 (around $250) I don't think you're going to get much improvement over your kit lens for portraits, so I would stick with your kit lens.

If you can afford the one-time investment (I don't know if this is a business for you or a hobby) good portrait lenses include NIkon 85mm f/1.4D and 135mm f/2 which you should be able to pick up used for less than $1000.

You may have other reasons you want a long zoom, but I'm not sure that portraits would be a justification for this upgrade.

Lens selection is highly personal. My recommendation is that you attempt to try out (even rent) a lens before buying. Also check out the store's return policy, especially for used lenses.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @"Assuming your basic Nikon DSLR has a DX sensor, the crop factor is 1.5, so this lens is equivalent to 83-450mm on full frame." - Not sure but you should rather divide instead of multiplying...? \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2015 at 18:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @user681768917 nope. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    May 25, 2015 at 18:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also worth noting Nikon's 85mm f/1.8 for portraits as a budget portrait lens option — or even the 50mm f/1.8, both for much less than $1000. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    May 25, 2015 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have a DX format Nikon and my 35mm prime lens gives me the range of view of a 52.5mm lens on a full frame camera ~ 35*1.5 crop factor. To get a range of 80-110mm equivalent for DX, look for something between ~50, maybe 55-75mm \$\endgroup\$
    – johnp
    Feb 5, 2016 at 2:08

I own this lens. The lens is really nice, but I have only used it twice. It is an entry level, but the image quality is really nice. The 300 mm zoom creates a really dramatic DOF. The limitation of course is the ƒ/5.6 aperture – significantly less than the ƒ/2.8 (2 stops less light). If you would like to use it for indoors portrait this would not be so easy with available light; however, for wildlife is really good.

I can say that it is good value for the money.


I would suggest to stick with the kit lens for portraits. The maximum aperture of 18-55 is f 3.5 which is good for the bokeh effect. Also the kit lens has VR II.

On the other hand if you purchase 55-300 without a VR (assuming as not specified in the question) it will be difficult to get sharp images as you will experience camera shake if you don't have steady hands.

I would suggest nikkor 55-200 VR II. The bokeh effect will be a little less compared to prime lens, but will serve both the purposes of portrait as well as zoom lens.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But the kit lens is f/3.5 only at 18mm, which is most definitely not the focal length you want to be using for portraits. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    May 25, 2015 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree to the above comment. But still I believe that good portraits can be taken by physically moving close to the subject(If possible). \$\endgroup\$
    – tushar
    May 25, 2015 at 18:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.