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Best Lens for general purposes


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Initial post: Oct 20, 2012 6:04:42 PM PDT
I'm just getting started in photography and I would like to purchase the Nikon 5100 but I'm not sure which lens would be best to purchase as my first. Any suggestions?

Posted on Oct 21, 2012 6:01:18 AM PDT
Gatorowl says:
The generic answer is that it depends on what you want to shoot and the size of your budget. If you are unsure then purchasing the "kit" lens (the one that comes with the camera in a package) is a general idea. The 18-55 is a good, inexpensive lens and the 18-105mm provides more "reach." Perhaps, the biggest benefit of this approach is that after a month or two of shooting, you can see what focal lengths you enjoy using the most, and add an appropriate higher quality "prime" (single-FL) lens (e.g., 50mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8).

You will also likely get recommendations to purchase a flash if you shoot indoors. Your camera comes with a flash, but it is not optimal for getting natural-looking skin tones. I like Nikon flashes, but they are expensive. Others might recommend less expensive off brands.

So, let the board know what type of shooting you prefer and your budget, and you will get more specific recommendations.

Posted on Oct 21, 2012 6:44:46 AM PDT
Thanks for the information. I plan to do most of my photography outside. I live in Philadelphia and the city and it's architecture is so great and everywhere I go I see opportunities for great photos. After I posted this question I thought about it a bit and I guess my real question is related to the lens that comes with the camera if I bought the pair and if I should just buy the camera and get a different lens to start with or would I be better off getting a different lens with the camera when I made my initial purchase.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2012 10:10:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 21, 2012 10:15:08 AM PDT
Neo Lee says:
Go with the 18-55mm kit lens. If you buy D5100 kit (NOT the body only), the lens is included. It's about $100 if sold separately which is very cheap for a DSLR lens. This will give you some directions to getting your next lens.

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras is very nice for photographing people especially indoor or where light is dim. You'll get nice smooth background blur with this lens.

Posted on Oct 21, 2012 2:40:21 PM PDT
Gatorowl says:
I am jealous! Philadelphia is a lovely city with great architecture. Your City Hall in particular is photogenic.

For shooting architecture, photographers typically prefer wide angle lenses with low distortion. In the affordable category, that leaves the two lenses I mentioned and (barely) the 35mm lens that Neo recommends. I say barely because on the D5100 the 35mm is more of standard (approximating the proportions and perspectives of normal human vision) than wide angle. The 35mm is a very nice addition for your collection at some point, but I would not recommend it for shooting architecture. I've taken many memorable shots with that lens, but I found the background blur a bit harsh for my taste. This tends to be a common weakness at this focal length, so I don't dock it too greatly for that flaw. I actually gave mine away and replaced it with the newer 50mm 1.8G.

But to answer your question, the 18-55mm lens--the one that comes with most Rebel kits--is a very nice performer. It will serve you very well until you decide to get something better. Alternatives are quite pricey. In this category the best alternative "step-up" lens is the Sigma 17-50mm lens (I had the Tamron version and found it not worth more than the kit lens). It produces significantly better image quality, however, most photographers will not notice/care about the difference. For this small improvement, you must spend more than $600! You really need to know that you want this type of zoom to make that kind of investment. The Nikon version--17-55--is purportedly better (I've never used it), but it costs over $1000.

So get the kit lens. When/if you're ready to move on, you will have enough knowledge to make an informed decision.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2012 4:20:33 PM PDT
EdM says:
Jane- the kit lens is usually a very economical purchase. Check out this, and you'll see that the cost of the lens _as part of the kit_ is only $100.

Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens

There are also other things that can be had at a savings, and perhaps an additional lens, etc. might be desired. Also, note that you can get a free memory card, and as it's a 16 GB SanDisk class 10 card, that's a very good card also.

A step up lens, nice, but fairly expensive, is the Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR Nikkor Wide-Angle Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras.

I like it a lot, but it is a step up in price. I have shot urban and city shots, including in downtown Philly - with the clock tower, e.g., and the Masonic building. Really, you can do those shots well with a normal zoom, but for low light, you might consider the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras.

In the camera kit above, the 85mm lens at a discount is a macro lens, for closeups of flowers and insects, e.g. This, of course, is not general purposes, but it can be used like a medium telephoto lens. Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S DX ED VR Micro Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

IMO, the kit lens is so inexpensive [and relatively good] that the vast majority of people would be best off getting it. The price premium of any step up normal zoom lens will cost quite a bit, near $500 to significantly more for the best, "pro" type f2.8 lenses. Note that there is a kit lens option of the 18-200 on the D7000, but that's not what you asked about initially.

Note this piece by Nikon guru Thom Hogan on DX lenses, which includes both the 18-55 VR lens [be sure it's the one with VR] and the 16-85 lens.

http://www.bythom.com/nikon-dx-lens-summary.htm

This third party lens might be one option to consider for a constant f2.8 aperture lens:
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital DSLR Camera

Nikon's similar lens, Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens costs much more.

Posted on Oct 23, 2012 9:02:25 PM PDT
zanypoet says:
I have used all of the aformentioned Nikon lenses, 18-55, 18-105, 18-200, 16-85, as well as 35 on DX camera bodies (D90, D5000, D7000). While I don't have 18-55 anymore, when I had it, I found it to be as sharp as 18-105, and 18-200 while overall IQ of 16-85 to be better than all except 35mm prime. All the consumer zoom lenses are slow but if you are using them mostly outside on architectures, the need for faster f/2.8 isn't all that paramount. While 18-55 kit lens was very sharp, I always felt I needed more reach. I ended up upgrading right away to 18-105, then to 18-200 and when I wanted something sharper, I went with 16-85mm and 35mm prime. The build quality of 18-55 and 18-105 is essentially the same and both have plastic lens mount, which I dislike. I've even had occasional error messages with 18-105mm lens due to the slop in the mount. 18-200 and 16-85 have more robust build quality with metal lens mount, thus they costs more.

For me, knowing what I know now, I would have gone straight to 16-85mm and 35mm prime, despite the higher cost and skip the rest. I found the extra 2 degree at the wide end on 16-85mm genuinely more useful than the extra reach of 18-105mm and 35mm is superb general purpose lens, so light and so sharp and relatively cheap. I don't recommend 18-105mm due to extra weight on the plastic mount; if budget is an issue, by all means, go with 18-55 as it is a great bargain bought refurbished or as part of a kit.
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Discussion in:  Nikon forum
Participants:  5
Total posts:  7
Initial post:  Oct 20, 2012
Latest post:  Oct 23, 2012

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