Lens advice please!

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by chloegreen97, Feb 2, 2021.

  1. Hello All,
    I just brought my first DSLR camera (Nikon D50). I've no previous experience other than my old digital camera and my phone but have just moved to the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside so am looking to photograph landscapes, wildlife (inc Pets) and maybe some portraits but mostly the first two. My camera was body only so I am looking for a lens that will suit my needs and any technical information you may be able to impart to a newbie in the simplest terms. Once COVID is over I plan on going to some classes but until then I'm flying solo so any advice is appreciated!
  2. Budget?
    Landscape, wildlife and portraits are a wide range of photographic opportunities, and there’s hardly a one-lens solution for it. The D50 is quite old technology and low-resolution, which doesn’t leave much leeway for cropping (wildlife). Nonetheless, the camera is certainly capable of producing good images.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2021
    chloegreen97 likes this.
  3. If you really crave a "one lens wings it all" solution; I believe there is a Tamron with an almost endless zoom range? - 18-400mm or such? - Check prices, watch YouTube reviews (by Matt Granger for example). I (happily!) don't own such a lens.
    My conservative recommendation would be 4 lenses:
    • kit zoom 18-50 (or 55?) VR (for starters, landscapes...)
    • long counterpart 50-200(something?) VR - It has to be VR. Don't pay a 3rd pizza for any unstabilized telphoto zoom!
    • An inexpensive 50mm f1.7 or f1.8. Yongnuo might be cheaper than Nikon. - You 'll want that one for flattering portraits some day.
    • 200-500 for wildlife. - Not cheap but bang for the buck. Maybe buy it together with a nice D500 some day. (I'd buy that combo myself, if I was into wildlife and no, I am usually no Nikon guy.)
    Kit zoom is 18-50 /55 and dirt cheap. There are 18-70s (3rd party) that make "having just 1 zoom" more versatile. Nikon's 18-140 seems pretty handy too. If it has to be cheap, you can maybe spot some 18-200 somewhere?

    I am sticking to kit zooms. If I want telephoto, I buy 2nd body for 2nd longer kit zoom. Endless zoom ranges tend to get paid with lower image quality. - Thats why I don't want 18-200 or such. Zooms will break / wear out some day, so keep them cheap.

    Kit zooms are a way of toe dipping, to figure out which focal lengths you might like well enough, to replace them with something great later. Sinking tons of money in gear is easy. Better get an idea what you might want (most) before you get started with that.
  4. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    Hi, Chloe,

    First of all, welcome to the forum - I'm sure you'll find lots of good advice here (some of it contradictory !), and plenty of support. I am in sunny (sometimes !) Norfolk (not a million miles away), and the wide spaces and big skies offer plenty of landscape opportunities. As @dieter says, there is no one lens solution for your requirements - you probably know this already, but usually landscapes are shot using a reasonably wide angle lens, whereas wildlife often requires a longer focal length. There are zoom lenses which will cover most of the areas you need, but the good ones are expensive - you may be better off with a small selection of prime lenses (fixed focal length) for higher quality images, as budget (= cheaper) zooms tend to compromise.

    One accessory you may find useful is a sturdy tripod - enables you to use a smaller aperture, hence a slower shutter speed, for landscapes, and will also support the weight of a longer telephoto or long zoom lens for wildlife work. My personal preference for zoom lenses is to stick with ones with a maximum zoom range of three (i.e. a lens going from say 20mm to 60mm focal length - pretty much as @jochen suggested for the standard 'kit' lens), to balance quality against usability.

    With wildlife photography, are you intending to be 'in the field', as it were, or working from hides on Nature Reserves ? If you are in a hide, a zoom of 100mm to 300mm should give you sufficient range to capture much of the wildlife close to the hide - again, a tripod or bean bag will give added support to try to avoid camera shake.


  5. +1 to all the above. FYI: The classic 2-lens kit for various Nikon APS-C (DX) cameras, like your D50, is a Nikkor 18-55mm and 55-200mm (both DX kit lenses). These are not great lenses, but they are more than adequate for your D50, and tend to be very affordable. Add a "normal & fast" lens with a Nikkor 35mm/1.8. These will serve you well at very reasonable prices. You don't need anything fancier until you're ready to move up in capabilities in your camera body. Add a 1.4x (best option) or 2x teleconverter to add a little reach for your telephoto. Off-brand will serve with this kit. The 1.4x is likely best given the rather slow nature of the 55-200mm. Buy lenses with Nikon's "Vibration Reduction" (VR) feature, or a decent tripod. You won't initially need both. (I like the tripod option for longer duration landscape shots.) You will not need any more than this to learn the ropes and reach the full capabilities of your D50. If you can only buy one lens, then there are some super zooms to consider, but they are substantially more costly than your camera body, such as the Nikon 18-300mm VR f/3.5-6.3. Personally, I recommend you start with the simpler and less expensive kit lenses and grow your way out of those. Good luck, have fun, and share your images with us.:)

    Addendum: Please be aware the batteries for the D50 were subject to a recall from Nikon long ago. See this LINK.

    Addendum #2: You might appreciate Ken Rockwell's review and settings recommendations for the D50, at this LINK. Many members here hold a strong prejudice against KR, but his information can be useful, particularly if you're looking for a place to start with various settings and options. I did a Route 66 photo tour with him and found him to be personable and amiable; a pleasant travelling companion. Take everything he says with a grain of salt and test it to see if it fits your needs, but don't be afraid to use it as a starting point.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  6. Although I'm now using much newer cameras, I have shot some of my own favorite photos with a D50. One wonderful lens is the older Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, another is Nikon's AF-S 70-300mm VR f/4.5-5.6 IF-ED. (The latest version of this lens, the AF-P, is not compatible with the D50, AFAIK.) Those two lenses will give you great versatility. If this is too costly a package, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that others mentioned above is also very good.

    Despite my deep respect for David Triplett, I completely disagree with his recommendation of Ken Rockwell's site for a beginner. It is not prejudice. Rockwell has stated that he sometimes makes things up "for fun." While an experienced photographer can tell when Rockwell is making things up, that is much more difficult for a beginner. As far as the settings he recommends for cameras, Rockwell likes garish colors, which many of us don't. The shot I will show, done in bright sunlight, is saturated enough for me.

    I'll put up a photo taken with my D50 and the 70-300mm. Even though it's an older body and the most inexpensive one in the Nikon line when it was produced, the autofocus system allowed selecting the bird's tiny head as the autofocus point. Even when they're not flying, you have to work fast with hummingbirds. I've also gotten may shots of hummers and other birds in flight in which the autofocus performance was a pleasant surprise, and portraits and landscapes that I was happy about. If you decide on the 70-300mm, make sure it's the model described above. Even though the camera is DX, the FX version of the lens (for full frame cameras) is better, and VR is crucial.
    G&R and luis triguez like this.
  7. +1 for David's comments about the lens combo (+ extender if you need it) and gradually upgrading. At some stage, you might find yourself wanting to upgrade the D50 too.

  8. SCL


    Hi Chloe - I started my digital journey with the D100 and later moved to the D300, which has been satisfactory for me since its introduction. The above recommendations are generally right on target, but take your time buying a collection of lenses or you're liable to end up with a collection of little used lenses...and be a "Jill" of all lenses and a master of none. Starting out with either a 20-35mm or 50mm all purpose lens, IMHO, is a good start. They will work especially well for portraits, landscapes, and many nature (not wild animals) shots, and still give you some room to crop your images with good end results. One thing not mentioned above, which can be an initial stumbling block for newcomers is the need to have good, usable photo-processing software, Photoshop and Lightroom are very popular, but can be costly for the budget conscious. After many years of using both, I opted for the free GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation) package and have found it to be quite satisfactory. It is available in the Windows and Linux versions - not sure about Mac. As far as buying lenses and a tripod (which I strongly encourage), I've found Ebay to be a great place to acquire good used equipment at reasonable prices; if you're uncomfortable or wary, try KEH, Adorama, or Roberts Photo...all offer return privileges and reasonable prices on used gear, as well as competent conservative rating standards. Good luck in your new adventures. This site offers lots of encouragement and insight, so feel free to ask as you learn.
  9. Landscapes can be taken with a wide range of focal lengths, but most shots would be on the wider FOV side.
    Wildlife on the other hand tends to want long (or extremely long) telephotos.
    I wouldn't attempt to use the same lens for both. I would go with two lenses to start with.

    The kit 18-55 zoom while not particularly impressive will be an affordable lens to start with that will be able to capture lots of landscape views & not be terrible at portraits/pets as well. I'd probably back this up with a longish telephoto going to ~300mm. This is IMO pretty much the minimum for wildlife, unless you are very good at stalking. If you are willing to wait in a hide & persuade the subjects to come to you it might prove long enough. I'm not good at wildlife so often have to resort to lenses of 500mm & more to get close enough. I'd put up with a significant gap between my lenses focal lengths rather than restrict the long end it should be possible to get something like a 100-300 or 70-300 without excessive expense.

    After using these lenses for a while you may find your style of shooting works better with a different lens, but you'll have a much better idea of what you want & can then either replace or supplement your starting lenses with more expensive lenses chosen specifically to meet your refined requirements.
  10. G&R


    Do vintage 35mm SLR Nikon lenses work with the D50?

    I'd look at the old film SRL cameras that have the same lens mount because they often come bundled with a 18-55mm zoom autofocus, and it might be possible to get the whole kit for £10 - maybe convert the body into a clock? Assuming a vintage lens is still clear it would cover portraits and street shots. For wildlife you can get a fairly new Sigma or Tamron 300mm with build-in macro focusing for reasonable price too, but I started out with an even cheaper vintage trombone type manual lens. I think the best advice is to discover yours shots first and only then buy the required lens.

    You might end up remortgaging your house to pay specialised wide apertures etc. :(
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  11. My 'kit' 18 - 140mm AF-S f/3.5 ~ 5.6 Nikkor delivers pretty good image quality. I can well recommend that. It'll cover most needs short of distant or small wildlife and shouldn't break the bank.

    An option giving better image quality (that you won't outgrow by upgrading to a higher pixel-count camera) would be Tamron's SP 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. It'll cover everything from landscape to portraits, but not wildlife.... unless you get really close.

    A cheap, but optically decent telephoto zoom is Sigma's 70 - 300mm 'Apo' version. Not their standard 70-300! You can recognise the Apo version by a thin red band around the front of it.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2021
  12. G&R


    I second this, although I cannot tell the difference between some variants DG / APO / DG APO / APO Macro Super. Some have no band, some red, others gold. The DL ones typically have a more constrained aperture, but even that might be worth double checking on a case-by-case basis.

    One feature I avoid with Sigma zoom lenses is the "lock switch", or if I had that switch then I would never enable it, and that is because eBay often shows these lenses offered faulty! What apparently happens is the lock feature risks outside movement putting pressure on plastic rings, which results in tiny metal screws shifting by fractions of a mm, and those misplaced screws can permanently jam the zoom.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2021
  13. Suggestion for lenses:
    THINK REALLY HARD about what you will shoot, as that will drive your lens requirements.
    Example, if you don't shoot wildlife or sports, you may not need a long lens, and buying one may be a waste of money.

    Lens selection is full of trade-offs.

    If you want ONE general purpose lens, the 18-140 does a pretty good job. It is what I use on my D7200.
    The 18-300 and 18-400 give you more reach, and are great for a 1-lens travel kit. But these bigger super zooms also get bigger and heavier.
    With the super zooms, you just turn the zoom ring, you do not have to change lenses. convenient.​
    If you are OK with a 2-lens kit, then pair a shorter GP lens like the 18-55 or 18-70 (what I have) and a longer 50-200 or 70-300.
    Short lens:
    The 18-55 and 18-70 are smaller and lighter than the super zooms, so easier to carry on a regular basis.
    There were times when I used the 18-70 because I did not want to carry the extra weight of the 18-140.​
    Between the 18-55 and 18-70, I would go with the 18-70 for the slightly longer reach.
    Another option is the Tamron 17-50/2.8. The NON-stabilized version.​
    Long lens:
    Your wildlife pics may/will call for a long lens. Specific recommendation depends on what animal and how far.
    To relate a long lens to a binocular, divide the lens focal length by 35 to get magnification. So a 200mm lens / 35 = 5.7x.
    Make sure you get the STABILIZED version of these lenses. See the stabilization section below.
    Longer is not necessarily better. The longer the lens, the bigger and heavier it generally is.​

    A 35/1.8 DX is real nice to have when you want to shoot indoor or in low light, where the zooms are too slow.

    You MUST look at the lens compatibility chart.
    There are lens types that will NOT function on your camera, so you do NOT want to buy those.

    • A stabilized lens will compensate for YOUR motion. It will NOT compensate for the subjects motion. So at slow shutter speeds, if the subject is moving, it WILL be blurred.
    • For Nikon it will be a VR (Vibration Reduction), for some others IS (Image Stabilization).
    • For longer lenses, like the 50-200 or anything that reaches over 120mm on the long end, I REALLY recommend that you get the stabilized version of the lens. Longer lenses which are stabilized lens are makes it MUCH easier to hold and shoot, than non stabilized lenses. I grew up on non-stabilized lenses, and now that I have used stabilized lenses, I won't willingly go back to a non-stabilized lens.
    • For short lenses like the 18-55 or 35, IMHO, stabilization is really not needed. However, it will let you shoot in lower light, by letting you shoot at a slower shutter speed.
    Regarding 3rd party lenses.
    • The Sigma zoom ring turns in the opposite direction than Nikon. This may or may not be an issue for you, it is for me when I shoot sports. IMHO, better matched to a Canon user. Having said that, if you are shooting slow, it likely won't matter. If you turn it in the wrong direction, just stop and turn in the other direction.
    • The Sigma 17-50/2.8 has a VERY STIFF (hard to turn) zoom ring , which I did not like it. I have not seen any reviewers mention this issue.
    • Their zoom ring turns in the SAME direction as Nikon.
    • At school we use the 17-50/2.8, 35-150/2.8-4, and 70-210/4 at school. I like how all of these lenses work.
    • 17-50/2.8.
      • Can you use the 17-50/2.8 instead of the 18-55 or 18-70 as a GP lens? Yes. But it has tradeoffs. It is bigger than the 18-55 and the long end is shorter than the 18-70. But it is faster than both of the Nikon lenses.
      • I understand that the optics of the stabilized version is not as good as the optics of the NON-stabilized version. We use the non-stabilized version at school.

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