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?
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.
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.