First lenses for my needs?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jeff_ward|4, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. Just bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D3300. It came with the cheap 18-55 DX VR in the kit.

    I'm looking to buy multiple lenses for specific needs. Budget is in the $150-450 range per lens (flexible). I'm a hobbyist, so $2000 lenses are out.

    My photography needs/style in order:

    1) Indoor, well lit (florescent) photos and video of exercises from a tripod (I'm a Personal Trainer, building a video portfolio for online clients).
    2) Outdoor full sun beach/pool "Swimwear Shoot" photography, from close-ups to wider beach/waterfall/background shots. My wife is a physique athlete/fitness model. We pay hundreds of dollars every time we get pictures done. I want to learn to do them myself.
    3) Bodybuilding show stage photos, indoors in a dark auditorium, shooting up to a spot-lit stage from 20-60ft.

    I want to retain full auto-focus capability on my D3300, and I want to retain VR (I believe). Some of the less expensive lenses seem to drop these features.
    I THINK I'm looking for a fixed Prime lens for video in studio?? (30? 50? 85?, for price, likely a 1.8)
    I THINK I'm looking for a mid-level (price around $400+/-) telephoto 55-200, or 70-300 for the stage shots??

    I'm looking at Nikon/Tamron/Sigma lenses... Are there others I should consider?

    Based on my needs, if you had to pick 2 more lenses for my next purchases... Which two and why? Options?

    THANKS for any help from the experienced photographers!

  2. Video from a tripod doesn't need VR. You also don't really want to shoot it at f1.8 since the lack of DOF at that aperture and fast phase detection AF in video mode are a lethal combination. - Suggestion try your kit lens first. At least let it tell you which focal length to buy.
    Dark stages shouting for a long lens and VR will blow your budged at some point. There is only the 70-210mm f2.8 VR to go for, or maybe a stabilized macro lens that won't make you entirely happy.
    For the outdoors stills a half decent zoom will do fine, depending on the print size you have in mind. An 18-140 is more convenient to carry than switching between 18-55 and 55-#.
    Try things out with what you have. Don't rush to buy lenses. If you have the EXIF data of your previous paid shots look what was used there and read up if you'll benefit from it.
  3. You are demanding a lot from a 450 buck lens. You can only buy afs lenses to use with your model and they are the most expensive. You need to do research abd realize youre wanting a lot for little payment. Not going to happen
  4. We pay hundreds of dollars every time we get pictures done.​
    There is a reason for that. I own exactly the lenses that will do what you want, but I paid more like $6,000 for them instead of $450. You just aren't going to get much for a couple of hundred bucks per lens. They cost more like $600 to $1500 each. Instead of buying several cheap lenses that ultimately won't do what you want, consider buying just one lens that is decent. Look for a used (ebay) Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 HSM OS lens. Should be able to snag one for $300. The other lens to consider for shots in low light and at a distance would ideally be a Sigma 50-100mm f1.8, but those will cost more than a couple of hundred bucks. There is a reason for that. Another thought is a Nikon 85mm f1.8G. It has AF but no VR. They for for around $400 used, on ebay. Another lens that would be great is the Sigma 50-150mm f2.8. You should be able to snag one for $400 if you are patient. These are the cheapest lenses I can think of that even have a chance to do what you want. There's a reason you are being charged several hundred dollars for photos shoots. Shooting moving subjects at a distance in dim light calls for lenses that cost big bucks. Most photographers pay thousands per lens to do that. If they could do it with lenses that cost a couple hundred bucks, you bet they would. In the real world, that doesn't work.
    Kent in SD
  5. (Edit: Sorry, crossed over.) Few Nikon primes have VR (except for long telephotos and a couple of macro lenses), though Tamron have started adding VC. The main reason to have a prime would be to let you lose the background more (which it sounds like you don't want to do) or to freeze action in low light (which may be useful for stage shows, but won't give you much flexibility) - in you're budget, something like the 85mm f/1.8 AF-S (just over the upper end of your budget) is a good long telephoto that will blur the background more than, say, a 50mm f/1.8 AF-S. You'll gain a little sharpness over the kit lens, but - at smaller apertures - probably not all that much. There's something to be said for a longer lens to isolate the background you want, but it's less an issue in a pretty location.

    I'm with Jochen - shoot with the kit lens first and see what you find yourself needing (more aperture, more focal length) or at least the focal lengths you need.

    Unless you're confident about the level of lighting, I'd hesitate on the 55-200 or 70-300 (both of which are decent but not without compromise, the latter being slightly better optically) for the stage show. I think 55-200 is about the focal range you want, from the maths, but I'd consider hiring a 50-150mm f/2.8 Sigma (huh, which seem to have been discontinued in favour of the 50-100mm f/1.8 since I last looked) or a 70-200 f/2.8 Nikon, which are more likely to cope with the low light, and see what you can get away with in focal range and aperture - you can always stop them down to f/5.6 and see how that affects your images. Those lenses will exceed your budget to buy (although you might be lucky with a used 50-150, as Kent says), but at least you can see what you need - no point buying a cheaper lens that doesn't do the job.

    Good luck, and don't rule out what you've got just yet! If you're getting anything right now, I'd suggest a cheap 5-in-1 (or similar) reflector to help you get the lighting you need, or a cheap tripod for video work (and bear in mind that video is pretty undemanding by still photography standards).
  6. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Unfortunately, your camera will not take the AI and AIS older lenses. That is where the bargains are.
    If you have not used video with clients, at least when I was teaching Martial Arts, I found it to be an enormous waste of time except in very limited context. Editing down to brief "right & wrong" clips, "take and watch", or for promotion. Both your time and students is quickly used up in sedentary mode. Just an opinion from earlier video camera / teaching days. If you have someone to run the camera it is better, but it will still eat your time.
    You can find a Nikkor 24-85 3.5 4.5 G in your budget -- quite a satisfactory lens for the money. It alone will do much of what you require.
    I have used a AF S Nikkor 50 1.8 G, also inexpensive, for performer / stage, shots to good effect.
    Longer, a Nikkor 180 2.8 AF ED is currently on line for $426 -- several in the near price range. I have used that in AI at various events. It has a nice reach.
    Much of what you need to do is a question of developing technique as much as equipment.
    Best of luck in your search.
  7. A lot of great advice so far. Since this is your first DSLR, I'd advise learning what you have first. I've owned that lens. It can do quite a bit. Is it perfect? Nope. But it can take great shots, but the key is the post processing. Whether video or stills you want to put your best forward. If you're doing video, I'd advise getting an external microphone as the one on the camera is not the greatest. A good shotgun mic would be wise. Better yet, a wireless lavaliere (lapel) mic would be better. Or a headset mic (think Billy Blanks and Tae Bo)

    If you don't have the experience/software and/or skill to process your photos/videos, you might want to consider outsourcing the material to get the most out of it. Taking the shot is only 1/2 the process. Post processing can make or break your hard work.
    Keep in mind that your DSLR is a DX model, which means the focal length is 1.5x MORE than the label. So your 18-55 actually has the viewable focal length of a 27-82.5 mm lens. Not as wide as you might think. Outdoors, the 18-55 is a great lens. Indoors it can suffer if you don't have enough light. You may want to consider a dedicated flash. Inside dark auditorium; if the stage is lit well, you'll probably get some good shots, but that distance will be a problem. I did a runway show with a D5100 and an 18-55. It worked, but wasn't the greatest. But they were kids, so it didn't matter much.
  8. So your 18-55 actually has the viewable focal length of a 27-82.5 mm lens.​
    Just to head off (I hope) any confusion, this means that, mounted on a DX camera like the D3300, the 18-55mm lens has the same field of view as a 27-82.5mm lens when mounted on an FX "full-frame" or 35mm film camera. 27mm in a film camera or 18mm or your camera is moderately, but not extremely, wide-angle; 18mm on a film camera is extremely wide angle. If you actually got (for example) a 28-85mm lens designed for film-camera use, and used it on your D3300, it would behave as a slightly-wide-of-normal-to-moderate-telephoto zoom. When we talk about "equivalent focal length" we mean that, because the DX cameras only see the middle bit of the frame, their angle of view is different than the same lens put on a film camera.

    If you don't have a photographic background and don't think in terms of how wide a lens might be in terms of its focal length when used on a film camera, don't worry about this - 18-55mm is a good mid-range zoom that goes from fairly-wide to fairly-long on your camera. A 100mm lens on your camera is still twice as long (has half the angle of view) compared with a 50mm lens on your camera - "equivalent" focal lengths only matter if you're comparing cameras with different sensor (or film) sizes. But bear in mind that if you're talking to someone about how much "reach" you think you need and you're trying to decide which lens to buy/hire, you need to be clear that you're using a DX camera body, not an FX one.
  9. You are not likely to be able to displace the experience and training of a profession photographer, no matter what physical equipment you get.
    For your present state of knowledge and experience, and, especially, price range, it would be impossible to beat the "kit" lens bargains provided.
    You have the 18-55mm which will be good for most of your likely shooting. The next step would be the 55-250mm telephoto "kit" lens.
    Those two lenses would serve for a broad range of shooting. A 50mm prime would complete the kit for now.
  10. To be honest, I think you'll be happier in the long-run to hire a protographer/videopgrapher who has the gear AND the skill to produce professional-looking products. After all, you are using photography/videography as a tool for business, not a hobby, so you are better off with a professional rather than a hobbyist.
    I can't stress enough the specific expertise required to do what you want. I myself have all the gear (except the lighting) needed to do all the things that you listed, but I would hesitate to do it myself especially because it has a potential impact on my livelihood.
  11. For your indoor videos I`d think on illumination/accessories, to have better and balanced light. Usually, light comes for the ceiling so the head is overexposed while the legs are dark, and you hardly can isolate the model from the background.
    I don`t see the need of a fixed focal length lens for other than special wide open effects. I`d start using the lens you already have; after a few sessions you`ll find what you really need.
    For the beach/pool photos, you definitely need a longer lens, a 70-300 would be a good option. Here I`d get also some illumination gear, at least a hot shoe flash for fill light and a big circular reflector; if you want "swimwear shoot" photos you`d like to have more light modifiers to avoid harsh light, to balance illumination, to hold that stuff, etc.
    For the stage bodybuilding photos I`d use the aforementioned 70-300 and the hot shoe flash.
    And I`d have a look at
  12. A couple of notes from a D3200 user.
    First of all, as some have mentioned, that kit lens, cheaply made as it is, is pretty decent. Don't discount it just because it's not fancy. It's pretty sharp, and it works. As JDM Von Weinberg suggests, a next step might be the 55-200, or perhaps the 55-300 if you are willing to spend some more.

    If you're not entirely sure what focal length will suit you best, the kit lens is useful because it covers the territory of both the most common cheap primes, 35 and 50 mm. Keep track of where you zoom the lens, and you'll know soon enough which focal length is most useful.
    Second, although it's true that function is limited, the D3300 will actually accept and make images with nearly any Nikon SLR lens ever made. It will not meter with manual lenses, but it will work. The manual says you should not use pre-AI lenses, but you can do so with no harm. It will not AF with older "screwdriver" type AF lenses, but it will meter. For video and fast shooting, older lenses aren't terribly convenient, but if you're taking time with a shot, you can use just about anything. Guesswork metering can be learned, and the camera's histogram helps a lot. Manual focusing can be a drag with the small viewfinder, but it also can be done.
    Remember too that depending on what the final size and destination of your images is, the D3300 has a lot of room for cropping. Here on photo. net, the permitted pixel dimension for displaayed photos is 700 pixels wide, but a decently processed photo can look pretty good on the screen, even if it would not make a good display print. The D3300 starts at 6000 wide. If you're making a big fancy print, you may need it all, but if you're printing to the web, you have a lot of leeway.
  13. By way of trying to make our advice consistent... the 55-200 and (especially) the 70-300 are decent lenses (the 55-300 falls between them); something longer than your 18-55mm would certainly be useful for typical beach/pool shots, since you probably want to isolate how much of the background is visible, and not include too much surrounding (especially if someone's standing there with a reflector trying to light the subject). On that note, in good light, I'd strongly recommend a reflector over a flash given your requirements - you usually have another light source (flash at your show won't go down well), you want continuous lighting for video, and reflectors are much cheaper than flashes. However, as Matthew says, there's plenty of resolution in a modern DSLR - you can afford to crop a bit if your lens is too wide, although you're also magnifying any optical imperfections in the lens.

    The hesitation I have about the 55-200, 55-300 and 70-300 is that they all have a fairly small maximum aperture (f/5.6, and you may want to stop down to f/8 to improve sharpness). If the subject is well lit, that's fine; if not, you may struggle getting enough light to freeze the subject without turning the ISO setting up to very noisy levels. This gets worse if you crop the image: a certain amount of light hits the sensor as a whole, and if you crop the image to throw away half of it, you get an image that's as noisy as if only half the amount of light was available. (You also have fewer pixels, but that's less likely to be a problem unless you crop a lot.) You may be okay if the spot lighting is good enough. I'd argue that if the stage shows are the main reason to want a longer lens, it may be worth checking what apertures and focal lengths you may need before blowing your budget on one of the slower zooms - if they won't do the job, saving for a 50-150 or a 70-200 may be better than spending the money now. If it turns out you'd be fine with a smaller aperture, you know you can buy the cheaper lenses with impunity. Of course, my advice does assume you can hire one of these lenses for a small enough amount of money that you shouldn't just have bought something in the first place.

    Anyway, good luck. Getting product-level images is going to be tricky (like Keith, I have the kit but wouldn't want to risk someone's livelihood on my ability), but hopefully you've been learning in your previous experiences. Keep at it, work with the limitations of the lenses you can afford, don't rule out what you can do with image editing, and don't expect the first attempts to look perfect!
  14. Awesome replies, everyone. THANK YOU...

    I'm confirming suspicions, and eliminating what I thought was erroneous advice.

    The studio video I plan on shooting does NOT have to be seriously high production quality. It will be web-based 15-30 second clips, so yes, I'll go with the kit lens I have now, and invest in stationary lighting.

    The beach pictures will NOT be for her livelihood. We both make great money as Personal Trainers, so her photo-shoots are a nice addition to the website to market us... not to get her work with commercial modelling. We get multiple inquiries per week from professionals who want to shoot with her for the serious portfolio work, usually time for pictures. My photos are, at this point, purely for fun and basic marketing. I don't expect to shoot the same quality as a guy who does it for a living, with thousands of hours behind a camera, thousands of dollars worth of glass, and years with Photoshop...

    A friend of mine went to the last show we attended, with his Canon T5, and a 300mm lens I think... I'm getting his aperture information from him to see if the basic Nikon 55-300 f4.5-5.6 ED VR will work. He was shooting WITHOUT a flash from 60ish feet back. The stage lighting at bodybuilding shows is VERY bright. That is why the competitors paint themselves chestnut brown, so that they don't wash out definition.
    Great idea to check the information stored in the RAW images we got from one of the pro shoots. Obviously, he was using a full-frame camera, and a monster telephoto, and TWO cameras. I learned a lot... as I got to work the reflector (and do bikini adjustments!)

    From what I'm reading, just picking up the 55-300, and a hot-shoe flash (and a reflector) will get me everything I need to START.
    This is a new hobby. I'm excited about it... but not ready to dive in with a $1000-3000 investment.
    Again... THANK YOU!! I'll keep reading, learning, and contributing.
  15. just picking up the 55-300, and a hot-shoe flash (and a reflector) will get me everything I need to START.​
    that's about the gist of it. i personally wouldnt get the 55-300 as it's not great on the long end, but it may not matter for your purposes, since you are not taking landscape pics and dont need corner to corner sharpness. since you are just starting, my main advice is not to overthink this initially and work with the gear you have. an investment in tripod and flash/reflectors will probably give you more bang for the buck than dumping hundreds or thousands into lenses right away. later on, you'll have a better idea of what you actually need. for example, if you aren't shooting low-light pics with no flash, you dont need a fast prime right away. down the line, you may want a specific focal length for video as well as a lens with a clickless aperture ring. but it's better to master the learning curve right away before diving into the deep end.
  16. I shoot national bb contests twice a year. My 70-200 is barely enough for closeups and i can only get 3/4 body shots at 200. Im shooting at f3.5 to 4 and 1/160 with iso in the 3200+ your gear wont hack it. Theres a reason why ur friend gets nice images. With the 55-300 ull get your crop but u will miss a lot of shotd and the iq will be lacking imo.
  17. Buy used!
  18. Thanks for clarifying, Jeff.

    The 55-300 isn't as strong as the 70-300 at the 300mm end (and neither of them hold a candle to, say, a used 300mm f/4) - but it's also the cheapest of these options. 300mm on a crop-sensor camera is very long - at 60', that'll put 4.8' across the long edge of your frame, so you'll be able to do a half body shot even at the longest distance you suggested. Allegedly the 55-200 is sharper over the common range and even cheaper, so I'd lean towards that for now - but your call; for what it is, there's nothing wrong with the 55-300, so don't over-think it if you decide you want one. It's no 300mm f/2.8, but it's also not $5500, so I'm sure you'll be fine!

    Later, when you can afford it, I'd think about picking up the essential version of DxO Optics Pro - it's very good at pulling the best out of a lens, and the elite version's PRIME noise reduction is really effective if you need to use high ISO to compensate for a small aperture on a budget lens. It's not cheap (unless you compare with Photoshop), and it can wait - just save your raw files. In the meantime, the Gimp ( is free and, other than being a bit esoteric, very capable for image editing. I'm sure others have plenty of other recommendations.

    For video, get a cheap tripod. There are many ways of spending a lot of money while trying to get incrementally from a cheap tripod to a good one (Thom Hogan has an amusing if old article on it here), so I advise against spending "just a little more" trying to have a slightly better option - I laughed at Thom's article, then made the mistakes he mentions.

    All I can say with the stage lighting is "good luck" (and you won't have dynamic range problems on a modern sensor if you shoot raw and edit the result correctly). I doubt it's as bright as you think, but I could be wrong. The only way to find out is to try - and if the only solution is to hire an enormous lens (the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR mk1 is the cheaper option, other than some good Tamron and Sigma lenses; the 120-300mm f/2.8 Sigma is the scary option), you'll find that out.

    Re. lighting, you might be okay for the videos - if not, there are often over-priced lighting banks, or you could get a high-power flashlight. The flashlight community has moved on in recent years, and something fairly affordable like a ThruNite TN30 is quite scary on turbo mode for what it is. (I have one, and the slightly scarier but appreciably more expensive TN36.) You might want to diffuse it through something, though. A flashgun will do even more, but if you're fighting the sun you can need a lot of oomph, and then you have to worry about balacing the colour - a reflector is cheaper and much easier (and will work for video). Bear in mind that a flashgun mounted on the camera tends to give you quite ugly lighting; if you get one, think about a coily cable (not Nikon's, they charge ridiculous money for a wire) or wireless flash trigger so you can move the light off to one side. And older flash models like the SB-600 work just fine with your camera and give a lot more power than you might expect from something current like the SB-300. You're highly unlikely to make the flashgun work usefully at long distances, if that wasn't clear. But it won't take long of reading Strobist to get you beyond my expertise with lighting, so I'll quite while I'm ahead.

    Good luck with it all. It sounds like you're going in with realistic expectations, and hoping to have fun with it, which is the best attitude to have. Let us know if we can help more!
  19. On the right track. It is vastly more important to get started than to buy a truckload of gear. Get out shooting, and pay attention to what works, what not and figure out why things do not work. Check the learning section on this site, local photography courses or books as 'Understanding Exposure' to get the basics in your head, and enjoy.
  20. For video, get a cheap tripod.​
    pretty subjective, and possibly-misleading advice, there. the el super cheapo pods (> $50) arent particularly good investments, lacking durability as well as acceptable stability. plus they can be bulkier than necessary.

    instead of cheap as criteria, i would say application-specific. for shooting video in beach environments, you dont want anything too heavy, if you're going to be humping over sand dunes and the like. you dont need a massive weight rating if your longest lens is a consumer zoom and you have one of the lighter DSLR bodies -- what you might need for mountaineering, landscape, and wildlife would be overkill here. but you do want something stable, since beaches can be windy. most likely, this means a decent leg set and maybe spending a little more for a separate head, preferably tilt/pan. i wouldnt overspend on this, but then i wouldnt underspend, either.
  21. Being a new amateur photographer
    myself and starting with the same
    setup as you did not too long
    ago, I will throw my two cents
    in on your questions. Again,
    this is just how I personally
    came to my decisions and by no
    means reflects what the pro
    photographers might choose to do.
    I took one 10 hour workshop with
    my 3300 before I decided it
    wasn't good enough to suit my
    needs. The picture quality is
    great but the lack of
    functionality and having to
    access the menu for features all
    of the time drove me nuts. I also
    purchased some older cheap ais
    lenses and some dandelion chips
    to offer metering on the 3300
    with the older lenses. I
    purchased a 35-135 and a 100-300.
    I also purchased a 50mm 1.8d,
    which did not auto focus on my
    3300.mind you my kit came with
    the 18-55 and the 55-200 lenses.
    This setup lasted me about a
    month.. Then I scrapped it all. I
    went out and purchased a D7200
    that allowed me to have more
    control over the camera and also
    allowed the option to use those
    older lenses without being
    chipped. I also purchased a new
    sigma 17-50mm 2.8 which was just
    under 300 on eBay brand new. I
    then purchased an older but in
    great shape nikkor 80-200mm 2.8d.
    Those two lenses allow me to
    shoot pretty much anything I
    want. The 80-200mm lens was about
    350, also on eBay. They both
    offer great versatility along
    with great picture quality. I set
    the 100-300 ais lens up with a
    nikon 6t achromatic lens filter
    for macro, in case the desire
    arose. So for me, I woukd
    recommend the sigma and the 80-
    200mm 2.8. Both can be had for
    just around 600 or so if you are
    patient and shop around. The
    moral of my story is.. Don't buy
    a bunch of stuff, you'll outgrow
    quickly. You'll be better off
    getting now what you will grow
    into in the future. If you're
    unsure early what you want to
    shoot, take the advice of others
    on here, shoot with what you
    have until you know it's no
    longer good enough before rushing
    out to buy something just for the
    sake of buying it.
  22. pretty subjective, and possibly-misleading advice, there.​
    I'd better justify my "cheap tripod" claim, which I concede is subjective. :) Yes, cheap tripods (especially from department stores) are generally rubbish. They're not very stable, they break, and they're a pain to use. I'm okay with this - I expect cheap stuff to be a bit rubbish, it's only when I spent a lot of money that I complain about limits. (This is why I never owned a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 - it's better than the f/1.8, but not perfect, and costs a lot more.)

    The thing is... I suspect you mostly want this for video, with a short-ish lens in controlled conditions (I'm not assuming you're taking it on a wildlife hike). You're not going to place demands on the tripod's stability, you won't be abusing it, and you won't be changing the set-up often enough to be bothered by ergonomic issues. Effectively, I'm saying a $30 might be better than resting the camera on a table.

    As Thom Hogan indicated, you could spend $200 on a tripod and you'll end up with something substantially better than the "cheapest possible" advice I suggested. I suspect, while it would be nicer and more robust than my suggestion, it won't actually help you do what you suggested any better, especially with video. It would also still have limitations if you want to use it in more demanding situations. You could fix some of those limitations by spending $500, and you'd still have things it wouldn't do perfectly. Earlier this week I was testing one of my lenses with a tripod that I bought in around 2009 (a Manfrotto 055CXPro3), expecting it to be all I'd need - it cost me over £200, and the current equivalent is about $400, not including a tripod head. It's a perfectly decent tripod, by most measures. It was absolutely not capable of holding the lens that I was trying to test properly; I still have it as a back-up, but it's £200 I shouldn't have spent in retrospect. I do have a tripod that can hold that lens, although it wasn't with me when I was testing. It cost me over $1000, and I never would have believed it necessary when I started out.

    My advice with tripods is:
    • You get what you pay for (at least if you're careful)
    • If you don't need much support, there's nothing wrong with a flimsy tripod (I have both a VTP-787 and a Tamrac ZipShot - they'll both barely hold my camera, but they're both tiny and much better than nothing at all if I left a big tripod at home)
    • If you upgrade your needs, your idea of "good enough" will probably change
    • If you spend a lot of money hitting exactly the "good enough" limit, you might find you waste that when you need more
    I bought my Manfrotto for use with a 150-500 Sigma lens, for which it was fine. With a 500mm prime which I acquired later, not so much. Needs change. For now, I believe your needs are relatively undemanding (and you don't really know what they are) - so while I'd suggest getting something to make your video work possible, I don't think now is the time to spend $150 and discover that you should have spent $250. At least you'll only have wasted the cost of a budget tripod even if my advice is bad. Just for goodness sake replace it if you get that 300mm f/2.8 we were discussing!

    But my other rule of tripods (and tripod heads) is that they're personal. Everyone has their own feeling about ergonomics. Gitzo tripods have a habit of pinching my fingers and drawing blood, for example, and Arca-Swiss quick-release levers shred my nails. Others claim these are the best on the market. So please take my input purely as an opinion, and make up your own mind. I'll let you know if I state a fact!
  23. 80-200mm 2.8d​
    At the risk of coming across as argumentative, while the 80-200 f/2.8 AF-D is a well-known lens and often a good option for the money, I would be very wary of it. Some swear by theirs, but I'm not the only one who had a bad experience. It's quite good at long distance, but (in my opinion and according to a number of testers) it's awful both in autofocus accuracy and, to a lesser extent, in actual image quality when used at short range; some seem to have had less trouble, however. When I tested side by side, I found it to be visibly worse than the 70-200 even on the undemanding D700, and much worse on something with more modern pixel density. It's also a screwdriver focus lens, which means it won't autofocus on your D3300 (one advantage of the D7200 that Paul upgraded to is that the D7200 will autofocus this lens). IIRC it also doesn't have a tripod collar, which means it's going to be precarious if you want to use it cantilevered off the front of your little D3300. I traded mine in for the current 70-200 VR mk2 when I got my D800 - the 80-200 was mostly a paperweight to me until then. Just because the 80-200mm AF-D was a bargain on a film camera doesn't mean it'll hold up to the latest 24MP bodies.

    There's an AF-S version of the 80-200 f/2.8 which is allegedly very good optically, but there are issues with part availability. If it turns out that you need something like a 70-200 f/2.8 (and I hope this is a decision that you come back to after shooting for a while and saving up) I'd either look at the Sigma or consider a mk1 70-200 f/2.8 - which is just as good as the mk2 version I have except when it comes to quality on the corners on a full-frame camera at 200mm, which is irrelevant on your D3300. The used mk1 version is therefore cheaper, although I stress the "-er" - it's likely still way outside your current budget.

    More urgently, if you decide you need aperture, the 50mm f/1.8 AF-S really is appreciably better than the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D in every way other than that it's quite a bit bigger and it's moderately more expensive. It's optically appreciably better, in addition to having autofocus on your camera. While I have both (the AF-D mostly for size and because it's not worth much to sell on), I'd suggest the extra money for the AF-S is a worthwhile investment - if you decide you need a 50mm prime. You might also find the old pre-Art Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM used somewhere, and that lens is exceptional on a DX body (although not so much in the corners on full-frame). But I'm not sure I'd rush to acquire either until you've done enough shooting to decide you need them - it sounds like you need something longer.
  24. I agree that the 80-200mm 2.8d is
    a bit slower at times to auto
    focus, but as far as image
    quality, ive never had any
    issues. As far as comparing it to
    the 70-200, I woukd hope the
    latter is better it's newer and
    costs four times as much. The
    tripod collar or lack thereof
    could be an issue for some, but
    again, I don't shoot from a
    tripod so my experience is
    different than others. Even
    though there are modifications
    that can be made to add a ring to
    use it on tripods, I don't find
    it necessary. I do agree with you
    that the 50mm afs is superior to
    the d version at minimally more
    money, and overall I wasn't
    necessarily stating these are the
    lenses he shoukd get with his
    current setup, simply stating
    that in my situation, I ended up
    spending more in the long run by
    not knowing what it is I was
    actually trying to accomplish
    with my shooting. On the plus
    side, I now have a setup that
    suits me, as well as a backup
    camera and a plethora of lenses
    to be able to teach my son how to
    take pictures and have fun doing
    it. Lol
  25. you could spend $200 on a tripod and you'll end up with something substantially better than the "cheapest possible" advice I suggested. I suspect, while it would be nicer and more robust than my suggestion, it won't actually help you do what you suggested any better, especially with video.​
    i cant see how this could possibly be true. if you've ever actually used an el cheapo plastico pod for video, you know you basically have to fight with it the entire time. the worst part is the head. the legs may hold up if you're not rough on them for a little while, but a cheap pan/tilt head is an aggravating thing, and a cheap ballhead is even worse. they tend to be not very supportive or stable, and subject to a lot of motion vibration. they're good for a monolight or reflector, but i wouldnt recommend on for any serious video work.
  26. Paul: The 80-200AF-D is certainly slower to focus, though I don't consider it to be that bad unless we're talking about the mk1 push-pull version (which I think wasn't "-D"). My concern was accuracy of focus. I believe it's a known thing that the telecentricity of the lens (the distance to the optical exit pupil) varies substantially as the focus distance changes - or (bearing in mind it's been a while since I had one) at least as the lens is zoomed. This affects the geometric relationship that phase-detect AF system has with the focal plane, meaning that you can't trivially sort it out with AF compensation. At long distances, I found it would focus reliably. At short distances, particularly at 200mm, it would miss focus by quite a long way. The reasoning I presented for this is based on hearsay and rumour, and may be completely incorrect, but I certainly saw the behaviour that this would explain.

    Separately, the lens is softer at short focus distances, but the effect isn't as pronounced as the missed focus might suggest. Others seemed substantially happier with their 80-200s (Paul is not the only happy customer, and I'm not the only unhappy one), so unless there was a lot of sample variation, I can't say for sure what's going on unless people tended to be shooting at long range. Of course, other than the AF-S one, no 80-200mm lens will autofocus at all on a D3300, so I'd really think very carefully before getting one at all! (At least, try before you commit.)

    Please ignore my comment about the tripod foot. The most recent two-ring 80-200 AF-D has a foot on the lens. The push-pull versions don't, meaning that tripod use means cantilevering a 1.2kg lens off the front of (in the case of a D3300) a 410g body, which isn't such a good idea. I'd forgotten that the newer version had a tripod collar.

    I do think the 50mm AF-D, even experimentally, would be a false economy - but I agree with Paul: shoot first and find out what you need, then shop! Also, no lens is perfect, and all our advice is going to be based to an extent on our own priorities.

    Eric: My expectation was that Jeff wants body-building exercise videos, and that these could be shot with the camera in a static postion in a gym, at least for the relatively short snippets being discussed, and likely with the kit lens. I absolutely agree that a budget tripod will be a nightmare the moment you go hiking with it, try to track a moving subject or precisely frame a landscape, use a big lens on it, use it in wind, etc. My argument was that Jeff didn't appear to need a tripod for any of these things - and that a tripod purchased for the intended video purposes could sit in one place, possibly with the lower leg sections not extended, with any centre column down, without anything hitting it, and without the need to adjust framing significantly - and it only has to hold up to 2MP (HDTV) images. A table would almost suffice (indeed, a "pod" bean-bag on a chair would almost suffice). I'm talking about the best case for a tripod.

    If it's going to be given a more strenuous test, certainly spending more money on a better tripod will help (although only a ridiculous amount of money will fix everything). If you're trying to do smooth pan/tilt tracking of a video subject, for example, you need a more expensive (and possibly video-friendly, meaning resistant to twisting) tripod and probably a fluid head. Jeff can go and check the prices for a Sachtler, although I recommend sitting down first. My argument was just that if the camera is static, you might not need this, and that it's easy to spend $80 instead of $40 and realise you've still not got something that'll do what you need. But caveat emptor, and the best thing to do is to go into a photography store (ideally not a department store) and make up your own mind what you need.
  27. Tripods come in three varieties -- cheap and nearly useless, better and moderately prices -- and the Really Right Stuff, which is a tripod you will leave to your favorite child in your will!
  28. a tripod purchased for the intended video purposes could sit in one place, possibly with the lower leg sections not extended, with any centre column down, without anything hitting it, and without the need to adjust framing significantly - and it only has to hold up to 2MP (HDTV) images. A table would almost suffice (indeed, a "pod" bean-bag on a chair would almost suffice). I'm talking about the best case for a tripod.​
    well, sure, if you're just using a tripod for a static indoor location, you don't need a carbon fiber Gitzo. However, i would advocate for not getting the cheapest possible 'pod, and also upgrading to a decent pan/tilt head if the focus is video, not stills. The thing with the el cheapos is they tend to denigrate each time you use them. It's a bit of an assumption to say that the head will never need to be adjusted for different angles, etc., or that you'll never have to lug it from one location to the next. if you underspend on this, you could easily fall into one of Thom's scenarios, where instead of $40, you're spending closer to $200, because you really needed a $150 leg + head kit, but instead you bought something inadequate, and now you realized you have to spend more to get something which isnt completely mediocre. I'm not going to recommend a specific model/brand, because there are so many at various price ranges, but a good rule of thumb is to figure out what features are the most important for your application, and go for one which has those features. Many of the tripod kits with included heads' weak point is the head itself -- it's rare, for instance, for a kit ballhead to have a separate panning lock.
  29. I think Eric and I are having a raging agreement, with slightly different starting premises. I should have been clearer:
    Indoor, well lit (florescent) photos and video of exercises from a tripod​
    I interpreted that as Jeff wanting a tripod mostly for setting up the camera in one place, in a gym - or, at worst, at a client's house. It won't have to deal with wind, nobody will kick it, it's for a small lens, setting it up won't be hugely rushed, it won't need to be carried very far, and I'm assuming the camera is locked in place while the videoing happens so panning isn't an issue. Since it's primarily for documentary purposes, even the framing doesn't matter much. Yes, even with gentle use, tripods wear out - and a cheap one will break sooner. But since Jeff is on a budget and wants to spend money on lenses, I claim that even a very cheap one will probably do this well enough for this stated purpose (so long as it's not a design intended only for a compact camera or designed for portability rather than stability, like my ZipShot).
    If Jeff wants a tripod for general use, does need to move it around, wants to pan with video, etc. (e.g. if Jeff wants to video exercise on a beach) then Eric is absolutely right, and the cheapest possible tripod won't do, and is a false economy. With lenses, I suggested hiring a more capable/expensive lens to find out what was needed - for an extreme example, hiring a 120-300mm f/2.8 for a bodybuilding show and finding you only needed f/5.6 and focal lengths below 200mm would mean you probably don't need more than a 55-200mm for your purpose, and tell you whether it's worth a 55-300mm or 70-200mm f/2.8 instead. The disadvantage with tripods is that, unlike lenses, you can't really hire a $1000 tripod and then "stop it down" to make it behave like a $100 one and find out if that's enough. You can pay for features you know you want, but other than trying it in a store and hoping for the best, the only way to balance "enought stability" against cost in a tripod is to buy it - hence Thom Hogan's advice just to go for an overkill support solution from the start. Under the circumstances, that didn't sound like an option, so I suggested getting something minimally costly until Jeff can work out what, if anything, else he needs.
    If Jeff already knows what he needs from a tripod - or if it's blatantly more than I suggested - I'd certainly spend more. Wobbly videos won't look professional, and a tripod that can't actually hold the camera where you want it isn't useful. Don't believe someone in a department store if they tell you that a $40 is rock solid - even a $1000 tripod will wobble if tested hard enough. I just didn't want to suggest Jeff spend half his budget on what may be much more or much less tripod than he actually needs - it's up to Jeff to get the experience to work out what his demands are, and only then make a more expensive choice. However it appears he needs something to be getting on with. My "cheapest possible" advice was based on a lot of assumptions about such a tripod still being useful, and that's not to say Jeff should cut so many corners he ends up with something only useful as a paperweight - just that if you might find out retrospectively thatyou bought a paperweight, it's best to have bought a cheap one.
    I appreciate we've gone a bit off the topic of lenses (let alone Nikon ones) - I hope this discussion is still useful for Jeff to approption his budget, though.
  30. Ooh. I made up a word. "Apportion", sorry. :)
  31. hence Thom Hogan's advice just to go for an overkill support solution from the start.​
    i think it's important to contextualize Thom's remarks. He's coming from a place of being a workshop teacher, primarily for landscape and wildlife photographers, who have slightly different needs than someone like the OP, who isnt shooting long lenses, and doesnt need to make archival-quality prints. Thus, a $700 tripod set would be complete overkill, and not what i'd recommend here.
    Wobbly videos won't look professional​
    This gets right to the crux of the point i was trying to make. It's better to realize this beforehand, rather than after the fact. Throwing an extra $100 at a more capable support system shouldn't completely blow the OP's budget, and could save $$ down the line by not having to repurchase a better tripod after finding out the el cheapo plastico results in the wobblies. Even for indoor exercise videos, i would imagine there would be some repositioning of angles, etc.

    It's a bit daft to say, "ok, get a tripod that barely works and move it as little as possible, because it may prove to be inadequate if pressed into rigorous duty." That's a bit different than saying, the shooting requirements may not be the most challenging (at first), but get a tripod that will at least handle basic video set-ups and perhaps a bit of transport from location A to location B, which will also hold up to more extensive use if and when that's necessary. There are plenty of inexpensive leg sets which will satisfy these basic requirements, but underspending on a head means you might get something which doesnt really lock securely, and may even break if you try to tighten it to make it more stable. That actually happened to me when i had one of the generic bottom-barrel pods with a plastic pan/tilt head which came with my first DSLR kit. After using it once or twice, i realized it wasnt good enough, and went out and bought a manfrotto 190 and a metal ballhead. If Jeff is serious about making pro-quality videos, he'll probably want something at least one step up from bottom of the line.
  32. While I doubt we're still helping Jeff at this point, I think I should respond in case anyone comes back to the thread. :)

    I guess Eric had a bad experience with a very cheap tripod. My very cheap tripod, while a pain to use and mildly bent, is still fine - it was my Manfrotto (equivalent currently $75) that couldn't hold my lens, was unstable, and broke, hence my differing advice.

    A Manfrotto 190, in its cheapest (twist lock) form, is $179, plus a head. That's a substantial chunk out of the total lens budget. And while the 190 is a perfectly good tripod (designed for light-weight travel photography), it's not really a video tripod: tripods intended for extensive video work are designed to resist twisting so that you can pan the camera without causing vibrations, and I'd doubt a 190 would excel at this. That's not to say that you may not find something else in the same price bracket that's better (if probably less portable than the 190), but if you want smooth panning in video you're probably after a fluid head for another $100. That's not a trivial total to spend before you know what you actually need, and whether even this solution will be "enough".

    I've been assuming - and this is the crux of my argument - that the video work involves putting the D3300 with, perhaps, the 18-55mm kit lens on it, pointing the camera straight at what you want to video, and leaving it alone. I'm assuming no huge rush in the set-up, that it's not going to be moving around much, it's going to be used mostly indoors (not in the wind), and that framing what you want to shoot is going to be reasonably easy. If camera shake is a problem under those circumstances, it's because the floor is vibrating as you exercise, and no tripod will help you. No tripod will wobble if nothing is causing it to vibrate, otherwise it would be a perpetual motion machine. For video, the mirror box and shutter stay open, and won't cause vibration (after the first few seconds).

    Any tripod designed for a DSLR will hold a D3300 and kit lens, especially on the level and basically pointing straight ahead. You could achieve this with a work top and wedging some papers under the camera to point it the right way, but any tripod is easier. Even a VTP-787 or ZipShot would probably hold that much weight, and they're really not designed for DSLRs; I've taken a photo with a D800 and a 14-24 on my ZipShot (with the camera strap around my neck in case it collapsed) and, with delicate technique, it easily beat what I'd do hand-holding. Adorama sell a 50" Vivitar for $7.99 that's much more solid than the ZipShot (which is effectively a few metal straws tied together with thin bungie rope). I'd expect it to cope just fine with the requirements as I understand them (but I'd probably stretch to $9.95 for the Takama just in case). You could break these twenty times and still have change compared with a 190-based solution.

    But. If you're going to be carrying it around and need to set it up quickly or want it to be robust; if you want to use it outdoors where wind affects stability; if you want to change framing repeatedly (as for general photography) and can't wait for the tripod to settle down after; if you want to support a heavier or more cantilevered lens; if you want to shoot smooth panning video; in general, if you want a decent tripod that won't frustrate you, there's no way a $10 tripod is going to cut it, and that'll just have been a waste of $10. But as you place more demands on the tripod, you'll find every tripod is compromised at some point. Pay your money and take your choice. Eric seems to be assuming that the realistic demands on this tripod (and I'm not even clear whether Jeff already has one!) are somewhat higher than my own assumptions; if he's correct, so is his recommendation.

    My advice to anyone in Jeff's situation is to work out what you need before spending a lot of money (for whatever your definition of "a lot of money" might be), and don't buy anything expensive "just in case" - because it still may not be enough for what you actually need. Any camera and lens will take good photos of a low-contrast scene in good light at a small aperture. Only very expensive cameras and lenses can do the same thing in challenging conditions (high dynamic range, high ISO or with the lens wide open). Likewise, any cheap tripod will handle easy conditions (which I believe, maybe erroneously, Jeff has), but you can spend a lot handling difficult conditions. Without knowing more, it's hard to tell where on the spectrum between my advice and Eric's anyone should be falling. And even then, tripod ergonomics are sufficiently personal that the final decision can only come down to the buyer.

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