n00b lens questions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by cantthinkofone, Mar 6, 2007.

  1. cantthinkofone macrumors 65816


    Jul 25, 2004
    Missouri, USA
    Im looking to buy the D50 some time in the future, maybe a D40. Im not really familiar with camera and all the features that go with them but i have an idea. One of the things that i don't understand any aspect of is camera lenses.

    Could somebody explain in dummy terms too me what all the settings and specs of lenses mean?
  2. Lovesong macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2006
    Stuck beween a rock and a hard place
    Oh boy- are you about to get a tirade of "use the search function" posts on this thread.
    It's a fair question, and although I went through this yesterday, I really have nothing better to do, so I'll oblige.

    As you may know, SLR cameras, and dSLR cameras (like the D40 and D50) have interchangeable lenses. This means that depending on what you're shooting (err, taking pictures of), you can mount the best-suited lens, in order to achieve optimal results.
    Now, you're probably looking at all the lenses on B&H or the Nikon site, and saying to yourself, OK, what's the difference. The first thing to learn is that there are "prime" lenses, and there are "zoom" lenses. A prime lens comes at only a fixed zoom, and you cannot...err, zoom with it. The only way to magnify somthing is to physically move closer (not true for macro lenses, but I'm not even going to touch this). A zoom lens, on the other hand, allows you to...err, zoom. Meaning that you can twist a ring, and have the optical elements in the lens decrease your angle of view, thus making far away objects appear closer. Why are there prime lenses then? The theory is that prime lenses are sharper- meaning their edge-to-edge image quality is supperior, though you give up the convenience of a zoom. Prime lenses are also usually "faster" (see below).
    Now, given the 2 cameras you have selected, the D40 and D50, one thing you will have to remember is that you will have a 1.5 crop factor, meaning that if you were to get a normal (film) SLR, and use the same lens on both the Nikons and the film cameras, the zoom on the Nikons will be 1.5 times more on the long end. This is due to the sensor (acquisition chip) size, but you shouldn't worry about it; it's just a preface for below.
    There are a number of lenses that can be used on an SLR, and, like I said, there are specific uses that go along with those lenses. There are 2 things to consider, when selecting a lens- focal length, and aperture. The focal length, i.e.-the zoom range (or the fixed length of a prime) is the magnification that the particular lens will give you. A 24-70 lens, for example will allow you roughly a 3X zoom. It's important to start thinking about lengths, and not zoom X's. So at 24mm, the lens will be at the "wide end", and at 70, it will be at the tele-end. Similarly, a 70-200 lens, will allow you to zoom from 70 to 200 mm (and everything in between), a 200- 400 lens will be more and more zoom... you get the point. Prime lenses are often used at several lengths- 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm tend to be the holy-trinity, though landscape photographers often use wide-primes- in the 14-35 range, and sports photographers use 200+ primes to capture action from the bleachers.
    OK, so the smaller the focal length, the wider your perspective. Now, remember a while back when I said that you are looking at cropped-sensor cameras? Well, this is important in that it will determine the lenses you get. A wide 24mm lens on a Nikon D40 becomes a not so wide 36mm, a 28-70 zoom becomes a 42-105. You gain more telephoto range, but lose the wide-angle with most dSLRs.
    Lens speed is determined by the maximum aperture that a lens has (aperture is how wide the little blades in the back of the lens open during an exposure, and determine how much light enters and falls upon your sensor). A lens that has an aperture of 2.8 is faster than one that has an f/4, which, in turn is faster than f/5.6, etc. In photography, the larger f number means smaller aperture. I'd get into what that means, but I don't want to bore you to tears.
    Now, you're probably wondering why you'd want to use different apertures. Aside from determining how much light enters the sensor, aperture is also responsible for determining the depth-of-field. This means the area in your picture that is in focus. Wider apertures allow for shallower depts of field, so you can artistically "isolate" and object from the background, while smaller apertures, allow for things in the background to be in focus so you can have a "storytelling" image.
    Fast glass is great- allows for faster shutter speeds to be used, and usually produces nicer-looking bokeh- background blur. This is also why they tend to be more expensive, and for the most part, only those interested in going somewhere with their photography would look at them.

    I think this covers the basics- you'll probably encounter things like VR in the lens names (stands for vibration reduction), or IS (image stabilization), which is nice feature when you're shooting handheld, and tends to add several hundred dollars to your lens purchase price.

    If you want to learn more about the individual lenses, go to http://www.fredmiranda.com/
    Under the reviews, there is an abundance of info about the individual lenses, including links to sample images.
    Good Luck.

    Alright, that will be $600 for a semester of intro to photography :D
  3. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    Since lovesong has given you a pretty informative answer, I'm going to do you a favor and summarize what's likely to be the rest of this thread:

    "Buy a Nikon"
    "Buy a Canon, Nikon sucks"
    "Nikon is so much better it's not funny"
    "Hey, don't forget about Pentax/Olympus/Sony"
    "Canon wipes the floor with Nikon, I don't know why anyone even looks at Nikon"
    "Don't buy the kit, get the ____ zoom instead"
    "You don't want to buy a zoom lens! You'll never learn to be a photographer! Also, women/men will shun you and you will smell bad"
    "Learn to search the forum, n00b"
    "MacRumors search function doesn't work worth beans, dork"

  4. Grimace macrumors 68040


    Feb 17, 2003
    with Hamburglar.
    my favorite (for which I am most guilty) is "a 50mm f/1.8 lens is a lens that should be in everyone's bag. Ridiculously sharp and ~$75.
  5. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    I never use my 50mm lens on my DSLR, it's just too big with the crop factor.
  6. cantthinkofone thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jul 25, 2004
    Missouri, USA
    thank you so much for the crash course. i never could find a explanation about what lenses do what and how they do it, only reviews on lenses.

    Do i detect a hint of sarcasim? or are you serious? I don't see how a $75 lens could be that great :p
  7. Lovesong macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2006
    Stuck beween a rock and a hard place
    Oh, and don't forget,
    "You don't need an SLR, you will never learn photography. A P&S is for you."
    "Get this lens, because I use it all the time."
    "Are you kidding, this lens is $H1te!"

    Seriously though, figure out what kind of things you like photographing, what your budget is, and how serious you are about it.

    Landscape- you'll want something wide to ultra-wide (think 10 - 30 range)

    Portraits- probably a couple of primes- 50, and/ or 35/85/100

    Art Photography- probably some fast primes, and a nice zoom (I'm talking $1000 +)

    Wildlife/Sports- Long zooms, or long primes, if you're made of money

    Macro (bugs and flowers)- special macros (the 60mm/50mm/100mm, or the 65, if you fancy on the Canon side, I don't know about Nikon)

    Remember there is no bad place to start in terms of lenses. An SLR will give you definitively- better results than any other camera you've owned (unless you happen to have a Hasselblads or a Rangefinder somewhere). If you're interested in the art, then after a time, you will know exactly what your needs are and where to go next.
  8. Lovesong macrumors 65816


    Sep 15, 2006
    Stuck beween a rock and a hard place
    No Grimace is actually right. It's a great lens- the outside of it is made of plastic, and it "feels" cheap, but the optics on it are amazing for the price.
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    You're smart to pick out the lens(es) first. That's what matters. But about the D50 and d40... The D40 lacks a motor inside the body to focaus the lens and will therefore ONLY work with lenses that contain their own motors. Nikon makes lenses with and without motors. So the D40 wil limit wich nikon lenses yu can use. In "Nikon speak" the D40 works only with AF-S type lenses.

    Back to Lenses. Which to buy depends on the subject you want to shoot, your budget and how much gear you can carry with you. A lens is defined by it's length or range of lengths and it's maximum aperture. After this hey can have (or not have) other features too

    • focus motor or not
    • vibration reduction
    • the filter ring rotates or not when focusing
    • over all sharpness and contract
    • construction, plastic or metal

    likely more.

    Tell people what you want to shoot and you will get some recommendations.
  10. jayb2000 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 18, 2003
    RI -> CA -> ME
    This might help as well Photography Class

    However, as one Lovseong so presciently pointed out, you may not need a D40 or D50.
    If you are unfamiliar with ISO, White Balance, lenses, the rule of thirds, leading lines, etc, etc, you might really be better off getting a good P&S that has a full manual setting. DPReview is a great source of info. And if you are bent on getting the D40 or D50, check out byThom.

    Either way, have fun with it and take LOTS of photos. That is the beauty of digital. :D
  11. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    Correction: the D40 works just fine with most of Nikon's lenses; the key point here is that it does not autofocus with any except the AF-S lenses. One can still slap a 35mm f/2 or a 50mm f/1.4 lens on that camera and it works just fine -- the difference being that the photographer will have to manually focus. It's up to each individual how important that is....
  12. cantthinkofone thread starter macrumors 65816


    Jul 25, 2004
    Missouri, USA
    Once again, thanks for all the advice and input!

    My budget is going to be very low. I will probably just get the camera and the basic lens that comes with it. Then when i have some money to spare and i feel the need to, i might buy another lens. Im looking more towards the D50 than the D40. I have messed around with one at wally world and really liked it during my 5 minute self demo.

    I really liked how fast it would shoot. Im so used to point and shoot wait 3 seconds cameras. So the fact that the camera would talk about 1.5 pictures a second had be jumping for joy. I'm i correct is saying that the D50 will take RAW pictures? It has a setting on it for RAW but wasn't sure if it was true RAW format or not.

    I plan to shoot mostly land scape. I don't need to get a full 180 degree shot, just basic shots. Defiantly some pictures of cars and motorcycles. And then once in a while some fast action shots. I have started racing my ATV and would love some shots of me coming at the camera with all hell braking loose behind me. And then some pictures from about 10-100 feet away of me, or another person on a ATV during a race.

    The main thing i want is high res shots (2k+ x 1600) pictures that are not grainy. And have good color to them. Thats really all i care about. Good looking shots that are large in size that i can work with and then scale them down to 1600x1200 or 1024x768 ish sizes.
  13. wmmk macrumors 68020


    Mar 28, 2006
    The Library.
    don't forget about pentax, but forgetting about olympus and sony would be just fine. it's actually a bit sad when I think about how true your post is...:p

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