July 3, 2008 at 2:49 am #1341
Hey, all! I’m a newbie to photography with a dSLR and to Farktography as well.
I recently picked up a Nikon D40 with the 18-55mm kit lens, and added the 55-200mm VR lens. The two lenses don’t seem to be enough for me, though, as I find myself in spots where I’d like to get some really good DoF shots that I either don’t have enough experience to achieve, or don’t have an appropriate lens for. At some point, I’ll grab a Lensbaby because it looks really fun, but it’s probably a bit out my depth at this point.
I’m wondering if I could get some suggestions and some explanations about lenses? I hear a lot about “prime” lenses; what is a prime lens and what are the benefits and drawbacks to adding one to my kit? Should I be looking at going to a much higher (200mm+) lens?
Thanks for the advice!July 3, 2008 at 3:15 am #17473ElsinoreKeymaster
First of all, welcome to Farktography 🙂 You have a lot of good questions, so forgive me if this is long!
Let’s start with prime lenses. Prime lenses are lenses that don’t zoom through a range of focal lengths but rather are limited to a single focal length (e.g. 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm etc etc). Their zoom comes in the form of your own two feet 😉 Prime lenses generally have better image quality than zoom lenses, though you can find excellent zooms as well. Primes are also often available at wider aperture than zoom lenses.
If you want to play more with shallow dof, you’ll probably want lenses that are “faster” than the 18-55 kit and the 55-200 VR. Faster lenses have wider apertures (a lower f-stop number) resulting in faster shutter speeds. As aperture gets wider (f-stop number gets smaller), the depth of field becomes more shallow. A 50mm f/1.8 lens wide open (shooting at f/1.8 ) might yield a depth of field of only an inch or less, while shooting at f/8 or higher will give you a much deeper depth of field. The depth of field is dependent on aperture, focal length, and focal distance, and there are dof calculators available online for more precise info.
For lens possibilities, there’s always the 50mm f/1.8 which is usually available for $100 or less. At that price, it’s a cheap way to start playing with seriously shallow dof. If you want better quality zooms than you have now, there’s the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (Tokina and Sigma make similar lenses at the same aperture I think), as well as the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. For longer zooms there’s a Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 and a Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 that would get you close to your 55-200mm. I’m a Canon girl, so I’m not sure what else is out there from Nikon, but look for apertures of f/2.8 or lower for more depth of field flexibility (and low light capability for that matter!)
Hope this helps!July 3, 2008 at 3:30 am #17474sleepingParticipant
The 55-200mm VR is actually excellent optically, if you can overlook the plasticky construction, lack of a focus scale, etc., and it is capable of some pretty nice bokeh if you use the long end and open the aperture up a bit:
With the D40 you have to look at older and 3rd party lenses to make sure they don’t use the old style “screwdriver” AF that won’t focus on it. Tamron has started putting it in their newer lenses, and the Sigma HSM lenses will work.
Another lens to look at might be the new AF-S 60/2.8 macro. It’s actually not a great lens for doing real close macro work (you wind up with practically no distance between the lens and subject), but it’s reported to be excellent otherwise.July 3, 2008 at 3:47 pm #17475
Thanks for the responses! After looking at the dove picture, I think I’m seeing part of my problem outside of macro shots: I’m not giving enough distance from the subject to the background I want to blur out. 🙂 The “prime” explanation has been the best I’ve heard so far, and it makes perfect sense. The 50mm lens gets mentioned a lot in books and forums, so I think I’ll start looking there.
And thanks for the information on the other lens manufacturers. I know the Nikon stuff tends to be on the pricey side; it’s nice to have options!July 3, 2008 at 4:24 pm #17476sleepingParticipant
The nikon 50mm 1.8 won’t AF on the D40 – that’s one of the reasons I suggested the 60mm Macro. 2 other Nikon options would be the 70-300 VR and the 105mm VR macro.
Sigma makes a 30mm 1.4 HSM lens, and is coming out withe a 50mm 1.4, I think those are the only really fast primes that will AF on the D40July 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm #17477ElsinoreKeymaster
Good call, sleeping. I always forget that the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 doesn’t have the AF motor in the lens.July 3, 2008 at 5:12 pm #17478UranusParticipant
funny enough i find the 18-55 a nifty point and shoot, and my 55-200 is a cool multi-purpose lens , which i carry as standard (it keeps surprising me). I just bought the 60mm f/2.8 macro lens (cost a bomb) but i’m enjoying it immensely…great for close-up work, but a damn fine portrait lens too.
would have been quite happy with just the 18-55 and 55-200 for quite some time, though, because some of the limitations make me think harder about what i’m doing.July 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm #174793HornParticipant
Until I picked up a Tamron 28-200 off of Craigslist, the 18-55 was my standard lens.
I’m finally beginning to enjoy my 50mm 1.8 that I’ve had for almost a year, though I would personally recommend a 24, 28 or 35 if you’re looking for a wider prime, due to the focal length change associated with DX factor lenses (the 50mm equating to a 75). Still, it’s a nice little lens, particularly for low-light, just a bit more narrow than I’d prefer.
Of course if you really want wide, then pick up the 10.5 fisheye. I love the hell out of mine, just watch out for the CA.July 10, 2008 at 7:33 pm #17480
I’m looking at the 50mm 1.8 right now and probably a fisheye later on. From everything I’m reading, what I’m really looking for in my shots is a bit narrower DoF, and I’m not really worried about the auto-focus. Looks like the ~$100 50mm Nikor is just about right.
Thanks again for all of the help!
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.