Lens help

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by MrMoris, Mar 18, 2016.

  1. MrMoris macrumors newbie


    Nov 24, 2015

    I am a new photographer and I need some help with learning the lenses.
    I have the Nikon D5500 and I have 3 lenses and I was wondering what every lens is good for.
    1. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II.
    2. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G.
    3. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G.

    Thank you so much for your help,
  2. kenoh macrumors demi-god


    Jul 18, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
    Hi Mor,

    OK, I am an amateur so feel free to ignore me.

    1. The 18-55 is the kit lens. This is an OK starter lens covering an OK zoom range. However as you grow as a photographer you will use this one less and less. What you will do however is benefit from using it to see where you naturally like to shoot i.e. what focal length you have it on most often.

    2. The 18-105 is a slightly more useful lens as a walk about catch all lens. however, you need to keep your shutter speed up to keep good images as it doesnt have VR.

    3. This lens is the one you want to learn to use. Although as a 50 on your camera which has a cropped sensor - APS-c not full frame, then it may feel a little tight at the edges. Don't worry this will start to make sense to you soon.

    What you need to do is be comfortable with your lenses right now. You have enough there to start to get a feel for what you want to do. Google and youtube are good sources for info on learning to use the lenses but as a rough rule of thumb here are the focal lengths and their usual uses. Note, the rules of photography are there to be broken so these are guides not mandatory more a case of the lenses most useful for...

    Shorter than 21mm for extra wide angle and speciality shots i.e. fisheye
    21mm-28mm Wide angles usually for landscapes and some street
    35mm - 50mm "normal" lenses general purpose great for do it all within reason, good for street photography, bit of architecture, for portraits towards the 50mm length range and also street depending on how close you want to get.
    75mm-135mm close up work, portraits
    200mm+ long distance, wildlife, sports events

    Longer the focal length, typically more specific about the object/subject of your picture you are closing in on.

    Now, here is the thing. These focal lengths are all for full frame. All lenses are marked for the full frame focal length so for example your 50mm is a 50mm on a full frame but on your camera model it will be more like a 75mm in terms of how tight the field of view is. You need to google the difference between full frame and cropped sensor to get a better description than I can give here. I recommend looking at this brilliant post from @kallisti to get a feel for what it means.


    I hope this is OK as a starter. Welcome and give us a shout with anything you need help with.
  3. admwright macrumors regular

    Sep 11, 2008
    The 18-55 is a good general purpose lens, especially if the light is bright.
    The 18-105 gives you a bit more options for composing as you can frame tighter. But as noted in the earlier reply the lack of VR can hinder you especially at the longer end, where VR is most useful.
    The 50mm gives you lower light options (indoors and darker times) and shallower depth of field (subject isolation, which is nice for portraits). If you are close up and use the lens at 1.4 then you will have very shallow depth of field, which can actually work against you.

    Best to try the three lenses on the same scenes and see how they differ and where they are similar.

    All the best
    Andrew W.
  4. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    I would use the 18-55 and/or just the 50 f/1.4 to start with. The more limited zoom range will force you to do what we call "foot zoom" and walk to where the subject fills the frame to your liking before the shot. The 18-105 is a lazy photographers lens. It will train you to just stand in one place and twist your wrist. Bad ergonomics and no aerobic workout involved.

    The usual lens on my Canon 7D is a 28-75mm Tamron, usually at either extreme. My favorite racing lens is a Canon 100mm macro and my "bird lens" is a 120-400mm Sigma on a tripod.

  5. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    The sad truth is, these three lenses don't provide a lot of variety. For wildlife or sports photography, you'd want a longer telephoto, and while 18mm (27mm equivalent full-frame) is as much wide angle as many people use, eventually you might want something even wider (that'll probably take a lot more shooting experience - only when you start cursing the lack of either a longer or wider lens, not before).

    The 18-105 is the most versatile. It covers the entire range of the other two lens, and more. There are two principle reasons for you to use to those other lenses:

    low light: The 50mm f1.4 will get better results in low light, but because it's not VR, you may find the VR lens gives you similar or better results for shake. However, if shake is not a problem (tripod), you'll get lower noise from this one.

    VR (vibration reduction): The VR lens will allow you to shoot in low light with less shake (hand-held), but more noise than the 50mm.

    then there's weight and bulk - if the 18-105 is too much to carry around (and you don't need the extra telephoto range), you have those smaller options. If you're shooting indoors, for example, it's not as likely you'd need the 18-105.

    The 18-105 will give you greater telephoto "reach" - it's essentially a 0.5x - 3x zoom
    The 18-55 is roughly a 0.5x - 1.5x zoom
    The 55 is a 1.5x fixed telephoto - it's nice for portraiture, but a bit too narrow for most indoor group photos. As a "prime" lens, you're trading versatility for technical quality and a certain kind of discipline. As others have noted, working with limitations (a non-zoom in this case) can help you learn.

    Changing lenses is a bit of a hassle (that's why so many people use zooms). In a case like this (since there's so much overlap), if you choose the correct lens before you start shooting, you may have no need to switch lenses during the shoot. With some experience, you might choose the one lens you need for the day, and leave the others at home.

    In my case, my lenses complement, rather than overlap. I have a kit zoom (similar in range to the 18-105), and a telephoto zoom that picks up where the 18-105 leaves off. That means I do have to change lenses, but the overall range I can cover is much larger. My next lenses would likely extend my range even farther (wider wide angle, longer telephoto). I haven't had much need for a fast prime, so it's low on my list.
  6. anotherscotsman macrumors 68000

    Aug 2, 2014
    Great advice from everyone so far. I personally found that the best way of getting to know the character and capabilities of each lens is to go out and have a play to see for yourself. Subject or environment doesn't really matter, just look to see what you can achieve. Like a lot of people with zooms, I tend to find my photos are at one extreme or the other just because of the differences that can be achieved with the same subject.

    To illustrate, have a look at a couple of my posts this last week - a view of some buildings with hills behind. One (today) at 70mm (on full frame), the other (black and white) at 300mm (full frame) from the same spot. OK, that's a bigger range than you currently have but it shows what can be achieved. Also, go on Flickr and search for photo groups that focus (no pun intended) on the lenses of interest and see what others have done.

    Hope this helps.
  7. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Lots of good advice here. I'll just add look at your photos and check which focal length you prefer.

    Also the 1.4 lens will let in more light than your 3.5. It will also give you a shallower depth of field (blurry background or bokeh) which can be good for certain types of photos.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    the 18-55 is a very good lens because of the "VR" feature. You'd use this most of the time for general photography.

    the 50mm lens is best used for low light situations where you don't want the harsh look of a flash it is also used to get a shallow DOF effect that takes the background out of focus.

    The 18-105 is used in place of the 18-55 in the rare case that you are shooting in bright light and have some physical barrier that prevents you from walking up close to the subject. I'm thinking about zoo animals or kids soccer games in bright sunlight

    Remember that subject to camera distance determines "perspective" which is the size ratio of close to distant objects. Focal length determines what is in the frame and what is cropped out. So the big zoom is NOT the same as walking up closer. Some people ignore this fact and use the longer 105mm lens because they are to lazy to get closer. Don't use the lens that way.
  9. MrMoris thread starter macrumors newbie


    Nov 24, 2015
    Thank you so much guys for the great replies they all really helped me.
    What about photographing people during night time. Do you think I might require a Speed light? and if so which one can you recommend me for the Nikon D5500?
  10. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    I have a couple of speed lights. Depends what sort of look you want to end up with. I've got SB900's but there are cheaper ones out there. More important is learning how to use them (especially off camera) properly.
  11. MacRy macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    If you're on a budget and just want to try flash to see if it's something you want to get into then I recommend Yongnuo YN560III speedlights. They're really good for the price. I've got a couple of them and I use a YN-560TX radio trigger for off camera flash chicanery and I've been really happy with them.
  12. MrMoris thread starter macrumors newbie


    Nov 24, 2015
    And it can be connected to my camera? Where can I read how to use it?
  13. deep diver macrumors 65816

    deep diver

    Jan 17, 2008
    Solon, OH
    There is a lot of great advice here.
    Anyone can push the shutter release button. Clearly, you want more than that. Get out and shoot. Do not try to learn everything at once. You might be able to find some classes in your area, or some kind of photo group. Most of all - just have fun with it.
  14. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Flash guns work by either fitting in your hot shoe (metal square above the view finder) or off camera. In that case you will need a lead or a remote trigger of some kind to fire it.
  15. mofunk macrumors 68020


    Aug 26, 2009
    I thought those entry level Nikon don't have Commander Mode? Or what ever you call it.

    @OP you should rent before you buy because right now you have two kit lenses and one prime. Try a site like lensrental.com to see first if you like the gear because you can run into NAS syndrome or lol Buying stuff you don't need or use. I have the SB 600 which I rarely use but I purchased it because I shoot events from time to time. The on board flash works whenever I need more light. The SB flashes are great for when I'm shooting groups of people.
  16. MacRy macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    It can and like Apple Fanboy said - it can be used off camera too, which is much more interesting to play around with. Just hit up YouTube for videos on using off camera flash as there's loads of good tutorials on there. The same can be said for any type of photographic technique.
  17. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    The 50 1.4 is a really good lens. As others have said, it will work more like a 75mm because of the cropped sensor, but it is still outstanding. If you are going out with just one lens, take this one. Watch videos on using aperture for subject isolation and how to take control of the light you are using (available or otherwise).

    We got by without VR before, and a steady hand will help you do so today. VR at 55mm (or 82.5 equivalent) is not that big a deal to me. It might matter more to you. I would take the 50 1.4 over it and zoom with my feet across that range, I would just about call the 18-55 redundant and only use the other two.

    Early in my photography, I wanted as much zoom or focal length variance as I could get. This is completely the wrong approach. Aperture range is much more important. Think the aperture range as a 'zoom' of light and depth of focus. Getting from f1.4 to F22 is way better than f5.6 to f22.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 20, 2016 ---
    the 560 IV are even better than the III for off camera work (each 560 IV can be an RF transmitter as well as receiver). The drawback is they cannot be used with high speed sync off camera. You would need this when shooting with flash in sunlight. At $70 each amazon/ebay/BHphoto/adorama it is hard to go wrong.
  18. jerwin macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2015
    Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II is reputedly quite sharp, despite it being a kit lens.

    The 50mm f1.4 lens is sharpest at f4-- so while f1.4 may be useful for "blurred backgrounds", and generally useful for learning about aperture controls, this lens should be considered as more than a one trick pony.

    The 18-55 lens has a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.31x; the 18-105, .2x and the 50mm is 0.15x. So, if you want to take photos of small things, experiment with the 18-55 first; then get a proper macro lens. (The 40mm macro is a favorite of mine, though photographing small animals at the very small focusing distance required for 1:1 reproduction ( 0.163 m) will test your patience. Good for flowers, though.

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