I bought my first DLSR, now what's the best lens for ME?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Andrew Henry, May 29, 2009.

  1. Andrew Henry macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2008
    So here's the deal guys, I just bought a Nikon D40 w/ the 18-55mm lens for my first DSLR, and all I can say is WOW what a difference between it and my PnS, I have a couple of questions first, yes I did use the search function, but I didn't find many helpful results, so my search fu might be weak, so try to go easy on me if there's another thread! :D

    I'm really enjoying taking pictures with my new camera, the details are wonderful, obviously I'm not a professional or anything but even with my limited (severly at that) skills, I've managed to take pictures that look wonderful to me. My question is, I have seen a lot of pictures that I REALLY like, and I found that the term for them is "bokeh", I've had trouble reproducing those images with the kit lens that came with my D40, so I'm really interested in purchasing a lens that does them fairly well, I'm not trying to spend a fortune, so a happy medium between price / quality would be excellent for me. (if that's possible)

    Also I'm not big on using a tripod and I've found sometimes that I have to retake an image because of hand movement, would you recommend that I buy the 18-55mm VR lens? I was also looking at the 18-200mm VR lens, so any suggestions on that front would be awesome.

    Here's a picture I took yesterday that I personally think turned out very well, you guys may or may not think it did, but compared to a shot with my PnS it looks 1000% times better:


    I really appreciate any time you guys spend in helping me, and once again I sincerely apologize if my search fu isn't up to par and I missed a thread exactly mirroring mine. :eek:
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Whenever you ask what the best lens for you is it is best to tell us what type of photography you're into.

    No matter the speed of a lens or the VR technology built in sometimes you'll need a tripod. You'll find the faster the lens and or VR technology will only get you so far (a few stops if light better than those missing those features).

    It sounds like for you the 18-200 is a good idea because it's a good all-around lens. Your kit lens will produce decent bokeh if you learn to use it and hour camera. I've seen it happen.
  3. Andrew Henry thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2008

    Thanks for the reply, I guess most of the shooting I plan to do will be around the house, and pictures of friends, and you know the occasional trip to the zoo or the park, but I am especially interested in taking pictures using the bokeh style, they would be mostly close shots, like of an object or what not. Hopefully this explains a little of how my camera will be used. Sorry that I wasn't specific enough in my original post.
  4. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    "bokeh" is a lens quality, like resolution, microcontrast, and flare resistance. by definition, it is the quality of the out-of-focus blur. what you are referring to is "selective focus," which takes advantage of smaller depth-of-field and longer focal lengths to make the subject stand out of the background.

    to introduce you to depth of field, there are five variables: f-ratio (aka f-stop), focal length, subject distance, enlargement, and viewing distance. your primary concern is the first three. larger aperture, longer focal lengths, and smaller distance all lead to less depth of field. this means you need to do any of three things: use a smaller f-stop, get closer, or use a longer focal length.

    however, decreasing distance and keeping the same framing means using a wider focal length, so that won't work too well. that leaves smaller f-stops or longer focal lengths. in other words, you need to use longer focal lengths and wider f-stops. as an example, a 17-55 f/2.8 at 55mm and 10 ft (approximately a full-body shot) will yield a little more than 1 foot of DoF on an 8x10 print, which is more than small enough for selective focus...but now there are two more variables regarding subject isolation.

    first, if you play with a DoF calculator, you'll notice that a 50mm lens at a specified f-stop and subject distance has essentially the same exact DoF as a 100mm lens at the same f-stop and twice the distance, and a 200mm lens has the same DoF as the 100mm at twice that distance (e.g. 10ft - 20ft - 40ft), yet the same image taken with the 200mm appears to have a more diffuse background than the one taken with a 50mm. this is because you are standing farther away, not because of the DoF. take the 50mm image and crop it to the same dimensions as the 200mm, and you will have the exact same image, albeit with less resolution.

    finally, you have to take into account the subject to background distance. blur gradually increases with distance from the focal plane, so a background 10ft behind the subject appears less diffuse than one 20ft behind.

    in summary, just about all lenses will do selective focus. you just have to decide how far away you want to stand, and then you can decide what focal length (range) you want.

    VR may work, but remember it only corrects camera shake. you will need a faster shutter speed or a flash to freeze subject motion.
  5. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Hrm. So basically you're looking for photos of subjects that are up close ... macro it is. You want good bokeh? Shell out for a decent lens, I think the 18-200 will serve you well. While you're at it, pick up a book on photography.

    I've never heard anyone say they want to take pictures using the bokeh effect. This is nothing more than a DOF deal. Portraits are less snap shotty when your focus is on the subject and the background is out of focus (bokeh). You want up close pictures so your backgrounds are never in focus ... macro. Does the 18-200 do macro? 1:1?

    I think you have so much to learn but you'll get there. Just remember this, if you want to take pictures think outside your house. There is so much more to see and ceiling fans and light bulbs are seriously not as interesting as they seem.
  6. Andrew Henry thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2008
    Haha, I mean obviously I'll be taking pictures outside of my house, but nothing like taking pictures of birds etc that require special lens to get good shots, what I'm saying is that I really like the bokeh effect, to focus solely on one object then blur the background a lot. I just happen to like that style of photos, they look really cool to me, most of my shots will be on inanimate objects that aren't going anywhere at highspeeds, stationary cars, people, animals, the likes. Obviously I don't plan to sit at home and take pictures of light fixtures and ceiling fans.

    The reason that I'm inquiring about the bokeh effect, is that there are lens that produce a "better" effect than others, I'm just not quite 100% sure which lens those are that will work with the D40, as I know it needs to be a AF-S lens, and I am just trying to find the best lenses to produce that effect.
  7. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    You can get a lot of background blur with your kit lens. The amount of background blur you get with a lens isn't really the same thing as its "bokeh", but you were probably referring to background blur anyway. You want the background to be out of focus, while the subject is sharp, right? :confused:

    To get the maximum amount of blur using the kit lens, I'd set your lens to the longest focal length (55 mm) and the aperture as wide as possible at that focal length (f/5.6), and get as close to the subject as possible. You can't get too close because there's a minimum distance required for the lens to focus, and this distance varies between lenses. However, just get as close as you can using the kit lens at 55 mm and f/5.6, and it's probably the best you can do using the kit lens.

    I highly doubt that the 18-55 mm VR kit lens is going to help you get more blur. ;)

    The same technique can be used if you have a lens with a wider aperture attached. If you get a longer lens, say a Nikon 85 mm f/1.8, and you photograph a subject at 85 mm and an aperture of f/5.6, you'd also get more background blur because you're shooting at a longer focal length. You'd also have the option of shooting at a larger aperture like f/2.8, or f/1.8 (better), and get even MORE background blur!!! So yes, it's just a combination of those two things, plus how close you stand away from the subject.

    You have an 18-55 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 kit lens, right?

    - A Sigma 18-50 mm f/2.8, Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8, or Tokina 16-50 mm f/2.8 would be better.
    - A Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 would be even better than that, although only slightly. Plus you can't shoot at as wide an angle.
    - A Nikon 35 mm f/1.8 or Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 would be fantastic.
    - Nikon 18-200 mm f/4-5.6 is sometimes better for background blur.

    For background blur:

    - Shooting at 50 mm f2.8 is better than shooting at 50 mm f5.6 because of the apertures.
    - Shooting at 70 mm f2.8 is better than shooting at 50 mm f2.8 because the focal length is longer (although you'd need to take a step back to get the same framing).

    - Shooting at 100 mm f/5.6 (using the 18-200 mm) is better than shooting at 55 mm f/5.6 (using the 18-55 kit lens, or Sigma 24-70 mm).

    See a pattern? It gets trickier when you compare shots at different focal lengths AND aperture, but there you go.
  8. steviem macrumors 68020


    May 26, 2006
    New York, Baby!
    OK, here's one for you....

    What is a lens that I can use to make the sky in this photo be the colour that it should be (nearly black)


    I have a Sony A300, I used the original kit lens, I also have a 55-200 lens, but that would have cut out most of the photo.

    What lens should I save up for for low light city photos? Specifically Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights kind of distances...
  9. Abraxsis macrumors 6502


    Sep 23, 2003
    With the shake Im assuming you arent using a tripod while taking this image. Or else, its a bad tripod on a windy night. Otherwise, try using a tripod and crank the aperture all the way down to f/22 or smaller if the lens can do it. Then do a long exposure shot. Itll take some trial and error to find the right shutter speed, but youll get closer to the all black sky and vivid city lights I think youre going after.

    You can also enhance the image in a RAW program, Lightroom, or photoshop by increasing the contrast and increasing the blacks.

  10. macrumorsMaster macrumors 6502

    May 20, 2008
    Try 50mm

    Try the Nikon 50mm 1.8
    You can get it for around $133

    It actually gives you 75mm and that makes it a good portrait lens and great for close work as well.

    Primes are better for bokeh than zooms.
  11. steviem macrumors 68020


    May 26, 2006
    New York, Baby!
    Thanks Abraxsix, I'll look at getting a tripod or something, that photo was just from holding the camera as still as possible, and was pretty difficult to only have that amount of shake.

    It's a bit of a 'Monet' shot in that it looks really good from a distance and a bit crap when you see it in full detail :(

    Only thing I'm not sure about with a tripod is how portable one would be...
  12. aaronw1986 macrumors 68030

    Oct 31, 2006
    Or possibly the 35mm since the 50 won't auto focus on a D40.
  13. Andrew Henry thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2008
    Thanks for hijacking my thread!? :eek:

    I appreciate everyones feedback this far, I'm at work so I'm replying on my phone, I will write a more detailed response when I get home in a few hours! :D
  14. mcorf macrumors member

    Jul 25, 2008
    I bought a D90 about a month ago and it came with the Nikon 18-105 VR. The salesman talked me into buying the Tamron 18-270 and told me it was the best all in one on the market. It took great photos outdoors and the zoom was impressive, but indoors the autofocus was very slow and the quality just ok. The 18-105 was just as nice outside and better inside. I ended up buying the nikon 18-200 and the 35mm- 1.8 and now have the best of both.
  15. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    If you want bokeh, get a large aperture lens, such as the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S or the 35mm f/1.8 AF-S (note the 'S' on the ends of the names). Sigma has a good 50mm and 35mm, both f/1.4 and HSM (Both AF-S and HSM are acronyms that stand for, "Will autofocus an a D40"). You could also try shooting your kit lens at maximum aperture (18mm, f/3.5), and see if that's adequate for your purposes (it probably won't).

    If you're shooting in the sort of light that you demonstrate in the cat picture, and you're still getting blur from hand movement, a VR lens won't help you. Yet, if you must, the 16-85mm VR, 18-105mm VR, and even the less expensive 18-55mm VR are much better in terms of picture quality (i.e. sharper, less vignetting and chromatic aberration) than the 18-200mm VR.

    Also, no offense, I think your cat picture is poorly shot. You overexposed the center (i.e. you blew the highlights), probably a result of not using exposure compensation to balance the fact that the subject is much better lit than 90% of the frame. As for composition, the left third of the frame is basically useless, so you might as well crop most of it so that your subject isn't smack dab in the center.

    It'll be a couple of pounds in weight, but they're practically required for nighttime photography (unless you like blurry photos). Also, get a decent one, (*cough* Manfrotto *cough*) or you'll have trouble in windy conditions, esp. shooting by the river. Head over to B and H or Adorama in the city and get one for about $60.
  16. hogfaninga macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2008
    Chestnut Tree Cafe
    I had the 16-85 and the 18-105. Both are nice, but I found the 18-200 sharper and with CA it was better than the 16-85. Overall IMO the 18-200 has better IQ. Yes I know this can be debated and has been beaten to death on the Nikon forums. I just wanted the OP to know it was your opinion and not a fact. We can both produce websites claiming one of us is right, but that is futile. At the end of the day it is all opinions. I would buy the 18-200 if I was starting out like the OP.
  17. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    There's a lot of good advice already in this thread, but I think an answer-in-a-nutshell is still lacking:

    To get the selective focus (blurred backgrounds) you desire, the primary lens feature you want is a wide aperture (e.g. f/1.8). The longer the focal length that you can get in combination with a wide aperture, the more pronounced the effect will be.

    I second the recommendation of a prime lens. Prime lenses are usually "faster" (that is, they have wider maximum apertures) than zoom lenses. The 50mm f/1.8 is affordable and will give you some nicely blurred backgrounds, but you'll have to focus manually if you use it on a D40. If you want to shoot really small objects, then consider a macro lens, but those don't come cheaply.
  18. Andrew Henry thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2008
    Thanks, that's what I was looking for, I know the 50mm f/1.8 is AF only, but I thought I saw that they made a 50mm f/1.8 AF-S was I mixing it up with a different lens? IIRC it definitely wasn't cheap either.

    One more thing, do you find it hard to manually focus? Or is it not as bad as it sounds?
  19. NEiMac macrumors regular

    Aug 13, 2007
    THe really dry side of the Pacific NW
    I would suggest you get a 55-200VR or 70-300VR, seems it would go well with what you already have the 18-55. Then consider getting a prime like Nikon 35 F.1.8 or Sigma 30 F1.4
  20. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    To get that you are going to need a lens that opens up to at least f/2.8 or more. What you are describing is "depth of field" (or sometimes just DOF) Look up "depth of field" on Google.

    DOF describes what part of the image will be in or out of focus, "bokeh" is used to describe the quality of the defocus and is a secondary effect.

    The D50 lacks an in-body focus motor so any lens you by should have it's own. This eliminates many good older lenses but here are enough newer AF-S type lens to choose from. Nikon has a new 50mm f/1.4 lens that would be perfect.

    Be warned that "fast" f/1.4 or f/2.8 optics is not cheap. You pay for optics by the square area of the glass and the area qudruples every time the diameter doubles and going from f/5.6 to f/2.8 doubles the diameter

    Look at some used lenses. Just remember that your D50 lacks a focus motor.

    All that said, you can cheat and add the effect in Photoshop. It you are careful and don't over do it, it can look real. Draw a mask, feather the mask and apply it to a layer that has bbe filered by a gausian blur. Used this way itis a non-destructive effect that can be backed out or adjusted.
  21. Andrew Henry thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2008

    Thanks for the info, also I have a D40, no biggie though! :p But yeah, I understand the whole concept for DOF / Bokeh, I've been doing a lot of reading up since I first made this post, but it's just not worth it to go through and change it up!

    Here's a couple test shots that I thought turned out decent:




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