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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?

  • 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. – A K May 25 '15 at 14:55
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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.

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    @"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...? – user681768917 May 25 '15 at 18:04
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    @user681768917 nope. – A K May 25 '15 at 18:15
  • 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. – mattdm May 25 '15 at 18:22
  • 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 – johnp Feb 5 '16 at 2:08
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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.

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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.

  • 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. – Philip Kendall May 25 '15 at 18:29
  • 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). – tushar May 25 '15 at 18:40

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