Lens speed and specs for DSLR?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by philip_maus, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. Well, I've done what I think is my 'due diligence' in the PN forums, and can't seem to find any satisfactory
    discussion on this topic...

    I am and always have been a (Nikon) film shooter for 35mm, but finally starting to cave and considering a DSLR
    purchase in the near future. One much discussed topic I seem to see, and no surprise, is "what lens should I get"
    with my new, latest and greatest DSLR? Over and over again, I see 18-200 f/3.5-5.6, or 70-300 f/4-5.6 and so on,
    and never too much talk about fast, constant aperture zooms or primes as a first, or even second choice. Even the
    Big House and others, pushes the packages with these lenses, seemingly in favor of the fast pro glass.

    What gives? Surely, if you've saved your pennies and can spend $3k for the latest FX DSLR body, you must have
    more than $375 bucks left over for a lens, right? Why go for these relatively slow, all-in-one ultrawide to
    supertele, plasticky, sticky outtey, distortiony lenses (VR and AF-S notwithstanding) when you could have have a
    fast, built-like-a-tank pro lens for only two or three times times the price? Or heck, even Sigma and Tokina has
    some nice constant f lenses for relatively low dollar, with some pro level specs and build quality. Surely price
    isn't the only factor here? Why drop the coin on the top shelf professional body and sensor, ostensibly to get
    the very best images possible, and then skimp on the lens? Seems like it should be the other way around?

    So, now that I'm done with what, as I read this, amounts to a rant, I'll get off my high horse and say that I'd
    really like to know what people think...Truly, I must qualify that I don't have a lot of experience with these
    lenses outside of a few brief looksies and trysies, so I may be way off in my comments here. My humble apologies
    if I am. I do know that "VR" has some impact and consideration with regard to lens speed (2 stops though,
    really?), and that with digital as opposed to film you have the ability to boost the ISO at will (don't you?) to
    compensate for a lens that ain't quite 2.8. Or 1.4 or 1.8 or what have you.

    Are VR and digital ISO control the big "freedom factors" that allow for the use of slow super-duper zoom lenses?
    Do these controls have enough affect on image quality to preclude the purchase of faster, and presumably better
    'pro' zoom and prime lenses? As for myself, I can't imagine parting - or even removing from my camera; DSLR or
    otherwise - my trusy 50 1.4, or 35 2 in favor of the aforementioned VR AF-S DC XHCDS super-lens. If I gotta have
    a zoom, and I probably do, I'm inclined to stick to the real thing. Am I just being not hip the times here?

    Somebody please, enlighten me on this!
  2. I'm as much a lens snob as the next fauxtiste. Never even owned a zoom until around 12 years ago.

    But the darned things are handy. Even the cheaper, slowish, variable aperture types with barrel distortion and all their warts can be more useful than the sharpest prime, in their... element.

    I got the 18-70 DX on a lark along with my D2H. Didn't really expect to like it or use it much. But here we are, more than 3 years later, and I still use it a lot more than I'd expected. It's perfectly suitable for a lot of the high volume, casual people photography I do, such as low budget/no budget events.
  3. Zoom lenses offer great convenience. You don't have to change lenses as often and you can crop in the viewfinder to maximize the resolution of film or sensor. The constant f/2.8 zoom lenses are as good as most of the primes they replace - at a cost of course. That's because they are designed for performance first and not to fit a price point.

    Image stabilization (VR) means you can use a long lens without a tripod. I have a 70-200/2.8 VR, which I regularly use down to 1/15 second with acceptible (not great) results). At 1/125 the results are as good as at 1/500 or faster without VR. I carried a non-VR lens, an 80-200/2.8 AFS, for years but seldom used it. Now I use the 70-200 for as much as 25% of my shooting (more for theater and concerts).
  4. The zooms are handy and with the problem of dust intoduction with digi slr, then not wanting to change lenses becomes even more a priority.

    But now consider people took fine pictures with primes before the zoom was invented, and they still work as before. I have a fullish set of primes, same in a auto focus set, and zooms to cover the same lengths. On a recent vacation, I went on several walking trips with a D40 and 18/135 kit lens. The terrain was such that more equipment would have been a real burden. I came back with some really nice pictures. Remember the lens you have will make a better pic than the one in your bag.

    My rangefinder and 4 lenses also made the trip. I never think about not having a zoom for it.

    Buy a D700 and use the lenses just as you did with film. They will work just fine. I think you are better off with a full size sensor and primes you already own than buying special expensive lenses for smaller format camera like a D300. Or just use the the lenses you have on a crop sensor.
  5. You need to enlighten yourself - try whatever lenses you are interested in and compare the results for yourself. It is the only way for you to know for sure how you feel about them..

    While I have the 'real' zooms and a 50mm lens, I also have the 18-200mm. Yes, a few have spoken out against it, but the majority of users, like me, are quite happy with the lens. What lens you need depends on what type of shooting you do and the camera body (DX or FX). Whether you should get one and will like it will be up to you, which will only be determined after you use it or any other zoom lens and compare them to your current lenses. If you are wondering whether a VR lens is a good replacement for a fast lens for low light photography, I would have to say sometimes but generally not - each lens has it place/purpose.

    The bottom line is that the 18-200mm is not a good choice for an FX camera because it is a DX lens.
  6. I think its just about picking the best compromise for your needs. Personally I prefer fast primes and use my feet. I do have a couple of zooms but they just don't cut it when I need f2.8 or faster. The pro zooms are just to big, heavy and expensive for me to justify buying. I already have enough primes that I could go to the D700 if I wanted-needed to. For daylight landscape the slow zooms can be enough.
  7. When I feel the need for speed I use my primes. When I need reach and flexibility I use one of the two zooms I own..

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