Good prime lens?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jennifer_voss, Jun 27, 2008.

  1. Another photographer suggested that I buy a prime lense when I asked how she got such clear and crisp portraits. I
    have a D80. Any suggestions on what lense I should buy... I feel like I have no clue!
  2. What kinds of things do you shoot, Jennifer? Even without knowing I can suggest the Nikon 50mm f1.8 D with confidence.
    Its cheap ($110 street price in USA) and very sharp.
  3. If you're looking for something sharp as a razor blade and fairly cheap then look into the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D. It's just a smidge over 100 bucks and pretty decent for portraits. The 1.4 version is closer to 300 bucks I think.
  4. That's the one I was looking at online, but didn't know if it was good or not... just randomly found it. I do mostly engagement, family, seniors, and weddings. I just never seem to get the detail I want when doing close ups. Right now, I only have the standard lens that comes with the camera. Any other suggestions on lenses? I need a zoom as well. !!
  5. Jennifer... we need more info! what do you shoot? Kids? Landscape? Flowers? There is a lens for every category! Also
    what lenses do you have and very important, how much dough you have in hand for a piece of glass? Rene'
  6. That photo above was taken with the 1.8D not the 1.4. When I type fast I get stupid ;)

    Asking something such as you're asking, which prime AND zoom you should buy is going to start a fight! Only kidding...kinda.
  7. Another vote for the 50mm AF f/1.8D. Be sure to buy from a reputable source, either your local camera shop or a proven national source like B&H or Adorama or KEH.

    Which lens do you have? The D80 came with a few different choices.

    What's your lens budget?
  8. Yes, tell us what lens you are using and perhaps post an example of an image you are not happy with. There are a lot of
    variables that contribute to sharp images. How confident are you about technique? Perhaps you have a poor lens sample.
  9. Jennifer, the 50mm f/1.8 is a very good lens optically. While it may help you, it also is limiting.

    The 50mm focal length on a digital body is actually a short tele lens. In other words, it does not have a wide angle of view so if you want wide shots or groups shots, this won't be the best lens. OTOH, it is a wonderful lens for portraits as long as the subjects don't mind you getting in close. Some people have a problem with that.

    What does 50mm look like? Simply set your kit lens to 50mm. That will give you a rough idea.

    There are many other possibilities but virtually all will cost more money. Setting a budget would be helpful.
  10. I believe I have the 18-55mm lens.... FOr a prime lens, I wanted to stay under $200.... Most of my portraits are
    somewhat clear, but when I try to take photos of my one year old, I seem to never get those detailed eyes, etc. I'll
    attach a few photos

  11. [​IMG]
  12. Sorry for all the links. I can't get them to post right
  13. If you're wanting to stay under 200 bucks, just get the 50mm 1.8D. It's too cheap to contemplate whether or not to get it really, and you won't be disappointed as it's one of the sharpest lens out there. It will also autofocus on your D80. I have a D60 so I focus manually.
  14. I have been focusing manually, b/c for some reason... it just stopped doing auto focus. It's so strange. I need to have it looked at. I've become used to manual focusing thought now.
  15. The EXIF data shows that the pictures were shot with the 18-135mm, a lens that has a reputation for very average performance. Nice lighteight lens for travel, but it doesn't have great optics.

    That said, it looks like you may be a little soft on your technique. Be sure to cradle the lens with your left hand, and press lightly on the shutter button.

    It seems like you are a prime canididate for the 50mm 1.8D. Besides being one of Nikon's better lenses, it's the only prime that's within your budget.
  16. "I have been focusing manually" ~~~~ There you have it....

    Buy the 50mm 1.8, and send the 18-135mm to Nikon when you have the 50mm in your hands.
  17. If you have kit zooms or less expensive zooms then the 50mm f1.8 is a great bargain and very useful lens. It makes a fine short portrait lens. It will be sharp and also great for low light work without flash. Some mid priced zoom are not real sharp with the f/stop wide open. Stopping down may help. Critical focus on the eyes can help also if you are not doing that when shooting portraits. The 50mm lens is definately worth it. $109.00 at BHPhoto. I am going to purchase a 28mm f2.8 pretty soon as a walk around lightweight lens.
  18. The trouble with all zooms, especially the inexpensive ones, is that they are really optical compromises at best. All of
    those glass elements are just inviting image degradation to occur via scattered / reflected light within the lens. This is
    what your mentor meant by sending you to primes.

    If you are shooting the "kit" lens that came with your DSLR. You will notice a huge difference in your images with a more
    expensive zoom or a prime lens.

    As for the 50mm/F1.8 AFD Nikkor. On a DX body it equals a 75mm lens, and works great as short portrait lens.
  19. I strongly disagree with most of the answers.

    First of all the 18-135mm lens is among the sharpest zooms there are, even if you spend a lot more. It is sharp even wide open. Go read the tests. It has other problems (distortion and vignetting). If you cannot get sharp images with the 18-135, you will certainly not with the 50mm.

    Second, the most common reason to lacking success is the photographer. In both images posted here the light was not optimal, and you run into problems with DOF, and with contrast.
  20. Before you buy a prime look at the focal length you use most often for portraits. The 50mm f1.8 may be perfect or may be a bit wide for your tastes. Its outside of your budget but the 85mm f1.8 Nikkor is also a very nice portrait lense. If most of your portrait shots are in the 80-90 range then IMHO you should consider the 85mm instead and save some to get the right lens first. The most important issue is how you will be using the lens.
  21. I have the 50/1.8 and love it. I use it over 50% of the time. I have found conditions where my monopole really helps when the light is low and and my shutter speed in a little lower than a I like (this would work well with your kit lens) The 50/1.8 lens will teach you alot about composing because you have to move your feet to zoom in or out.
  22. For a zoom lens the 35-70 f/2.8D, if you can find one. It will rival the 50mm primes for sharpness and contrast.
  23. I had all these lenses 180mm F2.8, 105mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8, 60mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 35mm f2.0, 24mm f2.8 and 20mm f2.8. They are all excellent ( the sharpest was 85mm f1.8). However, I sold them all and ended with Zoom lenses (except for the macro lenses) why:

    1- I could not see any big difference between the quality of the photos coming from zoom compared to prime. There is always subtle difference but in this digital age where you can easily adjust the contract, saturation and sharpness then you can nearly correct any photo providing it has been shot in the correct exposure.

    2- Zoom give the flexibility needed for quick snap.

    3- Zoom reduce the number of switching lenses which reduce the probability of dust intering the camera.
  24. For Nikkor 50mm 1.8 D to retain its auto focus Move the aperture ring to F22 and then mount the lens on camera. you will have auto focus working. This is a sharp lens for the money. If you like to shoot faces (Portraits) then I like the 90mm Tamron or 105 Micronikkor. Regards ifti
  25. >Another photographer suggested that I buy a prime lense when I asked how she got such clear and crisp portraits.

    This statement may be true 15-20 years but it is pretty dated based on the current zooms lenses.

    In any one day, an image shot with the latest 24-70mm/2.8G will be more crisp and has higher contrast than the
    50mm/1.8AFD or 50mm/1.4AFD shot at f/2.8. This is due mainly to its more current optical design and the more
    widely available optical technologies in it.

    I can say that this is also true with the 17-55mm/2.8DX.
  26. The 50mm f/1.8D is the first lens I bought for my D40 after a little over a year using the 18-55 kit lens, and I love it!. You can count my vote for this lens as well. I bought mine used for just under 90$ in mint condition and I regretted not getting it earlier than I did. Although this lens does nto have AF suport on my D40 it was still worth the money, not to mention that you can't go wrong with the "fast" aperture at 1.8, for those shot when you need to open it up a little more for dim situations.

    Unlike Beshr above, I found the optical quality was apparent right after my first shot, most noticeably in the sharpness and clarity. To me it would make sense that prime lenses would output better quality only because they are built with less amounts of glass than zoom lenses, but I could be wrong.

    For what my amateur opinion is worth, in regards to your issue with catchlights in the eyes, I found that having a good light source helps in bringing the eyes out. Alot of people seem to use post processing to sharpen the eyes out a bit and make them "pop" - which is fine, but I also found that a little bit of timing (when the eyes are wide open), as well as placement of your subject in relation to your light source, and how tight of a will have a lot to do with the final result. I hope this helps- what are you waiting for go get your lens!

  27. Unfortunately, Nikon's current wide angle primes are out of date, so you're pretty much out of luck if you need autofocus. For wide angles, I use manual focus primes, they're really good, and there are even better Zeiss versions. Starting from 50mm up, all the current autofocus primes are excellent.
  28. hi jennifer,

    in this case improving your technique will help more than a new lens.

    looking at this pic (, it appears that the hand is in focus,
    not the eyes. shooting active kids is tricky because they move around so much. looks like you need a higher shutter
    speed and/or a greater depth of field (bigger aperture number). if you shot this with matrix metering, you might also
    want to use spot or CW metering and concentrate on the eyes. if they are in focus the rest of the pic will look
    clearer, as the human eye naturally looks to the eyes of a subject in a photo first.

    feel free to ignore arthur's suggestions that you need to purchase a $1200 or $1700 lens to get sharp pictures. he's
    obviously trying to justify all the expensive stuff he bought, but he also seems to have overlooked your budgetary
    requirements of $200.

    the 50/1.8 would be perfect for you. the price/quality ratio is the best you can do, period. it will surpass your 18-135
    optically at most apertures, but also allow you to achieve narrow depth of field by using larger apertures (smaller
    f/stop numbers). this is what makes subjects 'pop' in photos where the subject is in crisp focus and the background
    is out of focus, otherwise known as bokeh.

    the 50 is great for portraits since it behaves like a 75mm lens on a DX sensor, but too long for walkaround use (for
    which your 18-135 is better-suited). it's also way better in low light than a kit lens, which is great for no-flash, natural
    light pics.

    if you want detailed eyes, though, narrow DoF is not your friend. shooting at max aperture with the 50mm (f/1.8), it's
    possible to get one eye in focus and one out of focus, depending on how close you are. that's when you want to stop
    down to f/4 or 5.6, maybe even f/8.

    the 50/1.8 works great on a d80 and makes the camera very inobtrusive, which is good for candids.

    now, about that 18-135. while optically more complicated and therefore not as crisp as a fixed-focal length lens
    (aka "prime"), you can still get good, crisp, detailed shots with it. i'd try using (A) perture priority mode, which allows
    you to set the aperture while the camera controls the shutter speed. if you're in bright lighting, use a low ISO value;
    indoors or in poor lighting, set Auto-ISO to 800 or 1250, which is about the max. on a d80 without significant noise.
    generally, best results will be obtained by stopping down 2-3 clicks on ANY lens. so for a 5.6 max aperture at
    135mm, you should stop down to f/11; at 18mm and 3.5 max aperture, you'll get better sharpness by stopping down
    to f/7.1 or f/8.

    of course, if you still have problems like a hand in focus instead of an eye, you might have to bump up the shutter
    speed as well. starting in A mode is still a good idea, but pay attention to the speed the camera sets when you
    review your shots in the LCD. now switch to (M)anual mode, dial in your desired aperture, and bump the shutter
    speed one click. repeat until desired effects are achieved. you might also have to tweak the ISO unless you are in
    Auto-ISO mode when increasing the shutter speed and/or decreasing the aperture.

    as far as a better zoom, i'd suggest something with a constant 2.8 aperture; anything else will be only a marginal
    improvement on your 18-135. i personally like the tamron 17-50 and 28-75, which give excellent bang for the buck,
    but both are way out of your current budget at around $400/$350, respectively.

    you might want to see if amazon still has the sigma 24-60/2.8 for around $200. while probably not as good as the
    $1700 24-70 arthur got so lathered up about, you dont need a lens that was designed for use on a $5,000 camera
    (the D3); the 24-60 should work great on a D80.

    one last suggestion: get "understanding exposure" by bryan peterson if you havent already. it's a great learning tool
    which will allow you to take better pictures without emptying your wallet on new gear, which is useless if you dont
    know how to use it properly anyway.
  29. To further comment on the last pictured talked about.... It does look like the child's hand and the leaf are in focus. They are also centered in the frame. I would guess you may have used the center AF point, which did it's job. The center is in focus. The problem is the kids face is OFF center. I think you can lock the focus and the face and then move the camera to get the composition you want. I know kids move a lot at that age, and you may just be shooting from the hip, but learning how the AF picks what to focus on may be helpful.
  30. I'm not at all a fan of the single focal lenses. I have about four I'm selling, including the 50mm. I think they are WAY over hyped. They are now older lenses with the older pre-digital coatings. They aren't very flexible either--they can't zoom. What shutter speeds are you using? Do you use a tripod? Where are your AF focus points being placed? That's the place to start. I've come to think that a cheap lens on a tripod is sharper than an expensive lens that is hand held.

    Kent in SD
  31. "I'm not at all a fan of the single focal lenses. I have about four I'm selling, including the 50mm. I think they are WAY over hyped. They are now older lenses with the older pre-digital coatings. They aren't very flexible either--they can't zoom."

    I don't think primes are over hyped. They are often sharper than a zoom, simply because they are simpler. No moving parts, fewer glass elements. Well refined designs. The 50mm is quite probably the sharpest lens in anyones bag, for those reasons.

    Older and without "digital coatings" isn't a problem for most good primes. In fact, some of the older zooms are still "pro grade" sharp lenses on dSLRs.

    Yep. They don't zoom. Use them where their FoV or DoF or sharpness or SPEED are what you need to get. Fast primes are more flexible than a zoom, when you need a faster lens. Find me the f2.0 or faster zoom.

    Given the original poster wants to do sharp portraits and wants to keep it under $200, I think a prime lens just might be what she needs.
  32. If you have some money then consider the 105mm/f2 DC AF Nikkor. It is expensive. It allows you to adjust spherical aberration to get perfect bokeh in all circumstances, which no ordinary lenses give, not even the supposed bokeh Kings one sometimes hears of. If you do a lot of people shooting then you may know the importance of the non-distracting background, and perfect bokeh is the route ot background heaven. It is also a pro level lens and built to last.
  33. It depends on what you are 'prime'arily shooting.

    OK, I'm a film rangefinder, specifically Leica, kinda guy. My camera world is pleasantly frozen round 1955 (IIIc/M3s). For street, I'm very fond of 35mm focal lengths. Wider lenses are much easier to focus. I generally don't go beyond 90mm. I have three of each. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome: I'm fighting the cure.) The 'normal' 50 is kept for available light where speed trumps the convienience of the wider lenses. I used my 135mm one day only in a football stadium. Bag weight.

    Zoom lenses on the film SLR I have, I found to be sloooow and a terrible compromise. Were I digital, I'd think I'd be worried about noise from jacking up the ASA to make zooms usable.

    Your mileage may vary...
  34. I agree with Kent in SD regarding primes. I sold two primes because it is not right to my shooting. They are are not as versatile as zooms. And newer zooms lenses are optically good as well.

    I also agree that 50/1.8 is overhyped. This lens is certainly not everybody. True, it is sharp, but only if you take it from f/2.8 and up. If you shoot wide open, (f/1.8-f/2.2) it loose its sharpness and contrast. But it is cheap and lightweight and sharp over f/2.8. So if you are in pursue of sharpness, you should "alter" you mind that you actually purchase a 50/2.8 lens.
  35. Ah masa sih ? 50 1.4 punya gue tajem-tajem aja tuh..

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