Just got a new[ish] Nikon, looking for lens suggestions

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by yockenwaithe, Jun 17, 2016.

  1. I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D90 with a Tamron 18-200 Zoom lens Don't get me wrong the lens isn't bad per se, but it's not really sharp or fast enough for portraiture, which is mainly what I'm looking for. Can anyone suggest a good, cheap lens for such a purpose? Any older f mount lenses work too, they don't need to be autofocus, though preferably they should be AI
    Thanks in advance!
  2. I should note I'm going to get the 50mm f/1.8 prime for street photograpy, though I'm not sure of how good this'll be for portraiture
  3. SCL


    The Series E 50/1.8 should do the job, or the Series E 100/2.8 if you prefer the longer end.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    So much in picking a portrait lens is comfort level with working distance. It can be done effectively with any good lens in the 35-135 (FX equivalent) range. Under 35, some care needs to be taken to avoid distortion, over, and even with 135, you can get some compression. I have the 50 1.8 and it is quite a good all "arounder". Have gotten good informal portraits at close mid range, 6-10 feet. With the D 90 it will effectively be a 75, so better for portrait than street. Good luck with your decision!
  5. The 50mm f/1.8 is a pretty good start - the AF-D is small and cheap, and probably worth it over the AI lenses for convenience of having working metering - the optical formula goes back to the manual focus f/1.8 50mms. The AF-S version costs twice as much and is twice as big, but it's appreciably better optically. Neither are extortionate, and would make a decent short portrait lens; they're both very sharp stopped down, and they'll both isolate the subject at wider apertures much better than your zoom. If you're really worried about cost and size, the 50mm series E is almost a pancake (the AF lenses have the front element heavily inset) and, coatings aside, is the same formula as the AF-D - I got one for when I'm space limited, since it barely makes the camera thicker than the grip.

    For a longer telephoto there's the 85mm f/1.8, but the AF-D version, while very sharp, has (I believe) quite ugly bokeh. The AF-S version is better, but costlier and has quite a lot of LoCA. The Samyang 85mm f/1.4 isn't bad at all if you can live with manual focus, but I've currently got my eye on the new VC Tamron 85mm f/1.8. Longer than that really is quite long on DX; I quite like the 135mm f/2.8 AI (and relatives) on an FX body, but I suspect you'll find it longer than is convenient on a D90. Still, I'd start with the 50mm and work from there when you decide what focal lengths you need. That's one big advantage of the zoom - at least you can experiment with cropping!

    Good luck, and welcome to the dark side.
  6. The 50 might be enough. When I shot Nikon DX with a D90, it was all I needed for portraits.

    If you have lots of space, an 85 or 105 is great, too, but for most people on DX, it's not the best choice.
  7. Just to expand on what Peter said, the conventional (read: from people trying to sell lenses) advice for a portrait lens is to aim in the 85mm-135mm range on full frame. That's partly because the conventional distance from which to shoot a portrait is about 15', since if you get much closer you start getting big noses and small ears (the perspective difference between the front of the head and the back is more significant), and much farther away you get a "flattening" effect (reduced 3D distortion) - supposedly people "remember what people look like" as though they're at this distance, so it looks natural. That said, unless you go to extremes, that's a very rough guideline - many less conventional portraits are taken with a wide angle, and some (including me) often use a longer telephoto for some portraits because it gives more control over the background at the same aperture; this is common for model shots, and it's convenient for candids. You can tolerate qutie a lot of apparent perspective distortion before it gets intrusive, and even then some people like the effect.

    On a full-frame camera, an 85mm lens used at 15' distance puts 15'x36mm/85mm = 6.3' on the long edge of the frame (36mm). For a 135mm lens, it's 15'x36mm/135mm = 4'. So an 85mm will just about fit a person full frame in portrait framing or an upper body shot in landscape (replace that "36mm" figure with "24mm"). A 135mm will do an upper body in portrait, or head and shoulders in landscape. 100mm-ish lenses are popular as between the two. But as I said, the 15' is an extremely rough guideline.

    On a crop sensor like the D90, you've got a sensor 2/3 of the size in each direction compared with full frame, so you'll see 2/3 of those distances - or the equivalent of using a lens 50% longer on the full-frame body. 85mm on full frame looks like roughly 57mm on a DX body; 135mm on full frame looks like 90mm on DX. So you get pretty close to the shorter and longer conventional telephoto lengths if you use a 50mm and an 85mm lens on the D90. Whether you agree with the conventions of what a portrait should look like is another matter.

    The other reason the 85-135mm range is suggested is because fast apertures (for background separation) in those focal lengths aren't ridiculously expensive, so camera companies can reasonably sell them to you and you'll see a difference in what the lens can do compared with a budget zoom. An 85mm f/1.4 or a 135mm f/2 is a chunky lens, but not ridiculous or excessively specialist. A 200mm f/2 is huge (and something like a 400mm f/2.8 is worse). At the same aperture, longer focal lengths lose the background better, so an 85mm f/1.4 (or f/1.8) makes the background disappear more than the equivalent 50mm lenses, and they do the same relative to 35mm lenses, etc. If you want to blur the background, the 85mm makes a substantial difference - but it also means you'll have to stand a long way back for group shots.

    50mm lenses tend to be cheapest, so as others have said, I'd start there and see how you get on. If you want to blur the background more, an 85mm is the next obvious step. Good luck!
  8. The D90 does not support metering with the old MF Nikkors, which you may know already. If that is no problem, you could try the Nikkor 75-150 f/3.5. It might be a little long on DX, but it is very cheap (should be able to get a nice copy for $100-$150) and creates nice separation. The 85mm 1.8G is quite a bit pricier but works well on DX. There is also the 105mm f/2.5, but I think the 75-150 will give you more flexibility.
  9. Thanks all, looks like I'm getting the 50mm f/1.8 and possibly the 85mm f1.8 if that's not enough, though it probably will be
  10. Tamron 18-200 Zoom lens Don't get me wrong the lens isn't bad per se, but it's not really sharp or fast enough for portraiture​
    Just to take the contrarian point of view, I did portraiture for decades. 90% of the time in a studio using a sturdy tripod and multiple strobes. The lens' max aperture was of almost no consequence at all, and a little lens softness, or the judicious use of soft focus filters, decreased retouching costs and made the mother of the bride look 10 years younger, which in turn made me out to be a hero. Just sayin'
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  11. I accept the "aperture doesn't matter for portraits" thing - if you shoot at f/1.8 from anywhere close, you'll have bits of the subject out of focus too (which you might want artistically but probably not in the conventional sense). It's one reason that longer lenses can help - you can use a smaller aperture to keep the whole subject sharp, but a distant background still gets blurred. Still, it depends where and what you're shooting - I've taken a lot of candids (I'm not a professional) in places where the background is very messy and out of my control, and blurring it was helpful. If you paid for a nice studio background, you might not want to have made it invisible! Still, you can always stop down a faster lens; making a slower lens faster is tricky.

    I've also heard the "softness is good for aesthetics" thing before; indeed, several people sell filters specifically to achieve this, and the old "vaseline on the lens", or a stocking stretched across the front, wouldn't happen if it didn't sometimes help. Generally it's about reducing lens contrast so wrinkles aren't so obvious. If you're going to use images straight out of the camera, this is probably still good advice. Still, ideally things like the eyes and hair should be sharp, even if the skin isn't contrasty, so doing some editing after the fact can be beneficial even if you're not going the full airbrushing route. I find it easier to soften an image in editing than to sharpen one - apart from anything else, sharpening adds noise, whereas softening reduces it, and sharpening also tends to add haloes and make bokeh look worse if you're not selective about it. So there's still a lot to be said for starting with a sharp lens, even if you're going to throw some of that sharpness away.

    But having a slightly soft lens is better than not having a lens at all, so don't sweat it. I'm just trying to justify to myself how much money I've spent on glass over the years!
  12. Just as an FYI, The 50 in my opinion is long for street shooting, unless you are shooting across the street. Consider the very good 35F/1.8 as well. A great lens for less than $200.00
  13. Just my $0.02, but I would not constraint myself with an AI lens (manual focus, no metering) with a D90. For street and general purpose, I would suggest the Sigma 30/1.4--just an awesome DX-mount lens.
    Wrt portraiture - are you talking about indoors studio portraiture? If so, nothing wrong with your Tamron 18-200mm. That kind of work requires a steady tripod and perfect lighting.
  14. Young pros I've seen working lately are shooting a lot of stuff at wide apertures.

    Using your 18-200 for pro-level portraiture (if that's your goal) in 2016 is, imho, a total no no...
  15. If an 85mm f/1.8, I'd strongly recommend the 85mm f/1.8G - some may find it long for DX, I quite liked the FL, whereas I never like the perspective of a 50mm on APS-C for portraits. I'd start checking with the Tamron which focal length you feel most comfortable with, and then make a shortlist of primes in that range.
  16. i find 50mm on DX a little short for portraits. i would consider the Tamron 60/2 macro or the Cosina Voigtlander 58/1.4 as dedicated portrait lenses. 85 could work, but is a bit longish on DX. One of the best portrait lenses for DX is the non-OS Sigma 50-150/2.8, worth picking up if you can find a used copy. that lens is great for event shooting as well.
  17. looks like I'm getting the 50mm f/1.8 and possibly the 85mm f1.8​
    i would get the G versions of both if you care about bokeh at all. the 50/1.8 AF-D's is fugly.
  18. First, let me say Congratulations! on buying a Nikon D90. It is a fine camera, and with a little care in use, will serve you as well as many newer (and more expensive) Nikon models. I own two, as well as a D700, I use my D90s regularly and am always pleased with the results I get.

    If you want the cheapest-best option, go for the Nikon 17-55mm kit lens. On the whole it performs well and I have even seen pros using it for their assignment work. Family friends recently had their daughter's wedding shot by someone (pro) who usedD90s and this lens for most of the shooting, and the results were exceptionally good.

    If you prefer a prime lens or want a better fixed length for portraits, take a serious look at one of the Nikon D 50mm lenses. A secondhand D lens will give you approximately a 75mm outlook. If used carefully and with an appropriate lens hood and a clean Nikon UV filter, it is also a mean on the street performer allowing you to stay at a discreet distance from your subjects, which can also be a positive factor in portrait shoots` The 50 will let you print easily to A4 or larger print sizes.

    Best of all, prices on used 50s if bought secondhand (ideally from a reliable seller such as a long-established photo shop) will please you without emptying your wallet or draining your bank account.

    It's very much a matter of horses for courses, as Australians often say.
  19. The 50 will let you print easily to A4 or larger print sizes.​
    printing sizes have nothing whatsoever to do with choice of lens. in fact, a shot taken with any lens on the D90 can be printed at A4.
  20. printing sizes have nothing whatsoever to do with choice of lens. in fact, a shot taken with any lens on the D90 can be printed at A4.​
    Well yes, but the larger the print, the more you'll see optical limitations. I imagine some wall-sized prints might start to look a bit ropey from the 18-200 - but I don't know how many people do enormous prints these days, and I worry far more about pixel peeping on a computer. And of course it's not the size of the print that matters, it's how closely you're going to look at it.
  21. The 18-200 was fine at every focal length (although you HAD to stop down one stop above 135 to get usable results) on my D50 at 6MP.

    When 12MP was the norm with the D90, even back then, above 135 it drove me crazy and I sold it.

    Printing below 8 x 10 or never cropping? It might make you happy (same with 18-300). Only viewing on the internet and screens? I think it would be just fine.
  22. I had a similar experience with the older 28-200mm zoom - which was very good on film, very good on a D700, and awful on a D8x0. I've just traded it in, slightly reluctantly since it was my first Nikon lens. It was also much better than the Sigma 28-300 that I used to use on an Eos 300D (which was weak even at 6MP). Still, I'd start with the lens you have and worry about Nikon Acquisition Syndrome when you need to. Look closely enough at any lens and you'll find imperfections.

    It's true that an acceptable lens at low resolution may not be acceptable at high resolution. I don't believe that "nobody makes large prints" is a reason not to need resolution, though - yes, you won't see much in a small on-line thumbnail, but it's now really easy to zoom in to 1:1 and scroll around a large image on lots of photo sharing sites. Arguably, especially for those of us with imperfect eyesight, this makes it much easier to see tiny imperfections. "The internet" is not 640x480 anymore.
  23. the larger the print, the more you'll see optical limitations. I imagine some wall-sized prints might start to look a bit ropey from the 18-200​
    not necessarily. really depends on the shot. i concur that the 18-200's optical flaws might reveal themselves sooner rather than later with a big print, but the point i was trying to make was that a 50mm prime is really no better or worse than most lenses for enlargements. ive printed 16x20 and even 20x30 with a 12mp sensor, so it definitely can be done. but if you're going for huge prints, the gold standard is a high-MP FX body.
  24. Of course a full frame sensor will outperform an APS-C sensor almost all the time, the problem is the money. I'm assuming that a prime lens will be sharper than the equivalent 50mm on a 18-200 zoom, in the case I don't want the image to look soft focused
  25. Apologies for the diversion, Spencer. A 50mm prime at a moderate aperture (say somewhere between f/5.6 and f/8 depending on the lens) is likely as sharp as anything, especially on a relatively undemanding body like the D90. The 18-200 shouldn't be awful at 50mm and f/8-11 kind of range, to be honest. I'd warn you that wide open, particularly the older Nikkor 50mm primes are quite soft as you move away from the centre - and the 50mm f/1.8 lenses are pretty dodgy if you're expecting sharpness (or at least contrast) at f/1.8. Stopped down they sharpen up quickly, though - and of course the zoom can't do f/1.8 at all. I just didn't want you to compare 50mm at f/1.8 with 50mm at f/5.6 and be disappointed!
  26. No need to apologise! The discussion helps
    I'll try to look at images taken with certain lenses before buying them usually, I've just never used an actualy full automatic lens before, so I don't know the build quality and sharpness differences. I'll keep in mind to stop the 50 down a bit, though hopefully it will be a bit faster than the equivalent at 50mm. At worst it could be used to get a soft focus effect for certain portraits in darker conditions due to the wider aperture
  27. Then glad to help. :)

    The optics of the f/1.8 50mm lenses were basically the same (except coatings) up to the AF-D version; the handling does differ. My series E is a bit gritty in focus (it probably needs a CLA, but it didn't really cost enough to justify it). The AF-D is very plastic, and the focus ring isn't really as nice as a manual lens, but it's not bad - I'd actually prefer it to have worse ergonomics if the lens could be made shorter in comparison. Mainly, though, I'd get at least the AF-D because it'll give you metering on the D90 - otherwise you'll be reviewing a lot of image histograms (or using an external meter). For sharpness at optimal aperture, any of these should be extremely good.

    If you want to have it for aperture reasons, the AF-S is worth the extra - it's appreciably sharper (although not perfectly sharp) at wide apertures, especially away from the centre of the frame. It's also substantially bigger, but handles somewhat better. (It's also a G lens, so if you have any film Nikons, bear that in mind for compatibility.) You can use the AF-D wide open, but expect some blur - also its bokeh isn't all that nice. The AF-S is a bit soft but the bokeh is much nicer. If you want a lens that's tack sharp at f/2 across the frame, unfortunately you're looking at Sigma Art lens money. (If you want tack sharp at f/1.4, that's why the Zeiss Otus costs so much.) If the subject's in the right place, though, there are more important things than "tack sharp".

    For all my warnings to be realistic about what lenses can do, I suspect you'll be happy with the 50mm (and 85mm) lenses. It's a common recommendation to add a cheap 50mm prime as the next choice after a kit zoom. It's only after some peering at pixels and deciding that you want to get closer to perfection that you end up throwing as much money at Nikon (and Sigma et al.) as some of us have - and I'd do my pictures far more good if I spent time shooting rather than obsessing over kit!
  28. At 50mm and f/8, the 18-200 will deliver pretty even results across the frame. though not quite as sharp as the 50/1.8 D at that same aperture, that should still be in the acceptable performance range. for me, deciding how big to print a shot would depend on how much i liked the shot more than the lens.
  29. With this body, I think you'll want an AF lens. 50mm f/1.8 will be great, the 35 f/1.8 AF-G is also great. Those are my picks for a DX kit.
  30. At the beginning of the digital revolution, I received a Tamron 28-200mm lens as a gift from a colleague who was abandoning film for digital. The excellent performance of this lens changed my negative opinion of zoom lenses and third-party lenses.
    My 28-200mm may have been a poor performer in low light but it was a very strong performer in bright light. It became my lens-of-choice for beach portraits because it could easily handle full-length to head & shoulder portraits without having to change lenses in the harsh environment.
  31. The new 50mm 1.8 primes are amazing and
    are reasonably cheap especially if you buy
    second hand. In NZ they are around $250
    second hand. So maybe $150 American. I
    have owned both the 35 and the 50 and found
    the 50 much better. Better bokeh (background
    blur) and less intrusive. The 3m is a great lens
    but by having the 50mm you will get the same
    frame 2-3 steps further back from your subject
    which I realy liked. Another amazing lens is
    the Tamron 70-300mm VC usd. I have owned
    the Tamron and the Nikon version. I found that
    they are both very sharp lenses and will give
    you great zoom length. They are not too
    heavy also. The great thing about the Tamron
    is the fact that is almost half the price of the
    Nikon version and takes photos that are just
    as good. There are plenty of debates online
    saying the Tamrons better or the Nikons
    better. So realy theyre both good. For a mid
    range zoom, the 16-85mm would be a good
    lens to own. This will give you a decent range
    and also a very wide shot at 16mm. And again
    quite affordable. hope this helps :)

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