Need Lens for Nikon D40X for portraits

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by rebecca_kelton, Nov 7, 2009.

  1. What lens(es) should I look at to use with my D40X? I am an amateur, but want to take better quality portrait photos of my child (using the AF-S Nikkor18-55mm, 3.5-5.6 now). I usually just shoot in automatic mode, as I don't have the hang of manual well enough to quickly adjust and capture the moment.
    A friend suggested 50 mm, 1.4. However, B&H notes you cannot use with D40... same for 1.8. ???
    Price is also a consideration.
    Thanks for any help you can give me!
  2. The newer AF-S 50mm f/1.4G will autofocus with the D40x.
  3. You can use old non-Ai Nikon lenses--no AF and no metering but great glass and very affordable.
  4. You need lenses that have a built-in motor in order to autofocus on your D40X. Nikon lenses designated AF-S have these motors. Sigma HSM lenses also have motors. Other Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina lenses may or may not have a motor. You have to check with the seller to know for sure.
    The Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 and Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 Macro HSM are good general purpose lenses that are also good for portraits. You wouldn't need your 18-55 kit lens, so you could sell it and put the money toward the new lens. The advantage of a fast lens like the 50mm f/1.4 or the f/2.8 zooms is that they can blur out the background and emphasize the subject. If that's not important to you , you can use your 18-55 for portraits and put the money toward another lens or a good flash.
    The 18-55 is not a bad lens so if the problem is that the pictures aren't sharp, the problem is probably not the lens.
  5. I might be a little off recommending the AF-S 55-200mm VR, but it has good optics, the advantage of image stabilization, which for me works great when fumbling around following my kids, it's light and compact, it's fully functional with your camera model, and the price is really attractive.
    I use it all the time, along with my D40, to take pictures of my kids. Here's a sample, so you can get a better idea.
  6. For portraits/any kind of photography (even panoramas) on my D50 I use Sigma's 30 1.4 HSM - should work on the D40 (I think?) - very sharp lens (even at 1.4), fast focus, good carry-around lens (if a bit big for a prime)
  7. The AF-s 35 f/1.8 is a great choice. It's only like 200 USD and sharp.
  8. Something you should be aware of is that very "fast" lenses (f1.4ish) have a very shallow depth of field if they are used at maximum aperture (smallest f-stop). This can make portraits tricky as you might not get exactly what you want in focus. But, with practice, this is how you blur out the background and isolate your subject from the background. Also, if you are shooting in automatic mode you won't be able to control aperture, which is why you would want a lens like this in the first place! A flash might be what you really want, especially if your problem is blurry photos indoors.
    Here are three options:
    For photos outside in bright light: 55-200 VR. This will allow you to get a different perspective for your portraits.
    For photos inside if you want to blur backgrounds and don't mind controlling more on your camera: 35 1.8
    For photos inside if you don't want to worry about controlling aperture: SB-400 flash unit
  9. Rebecca, please let us know how much you can spend. Also please let us know what focal length do you prefer to shoot your portraits at? (essentially all FLs can be used for portraits, but the results are quite different)
    Generally, candid portrait shooters would either want to achieve a limited DOF to allow subject isolation and for shooting in low light; others might often find the results due to the perspective of a longer (telephoto) lens flattering as it tend to "flatten" facial feature (make big noses look "smaller). (some modeling shots take this concept to the extreme) Wider lenses and/or zoom lenses are generally more flexible to work with.
    Among the cheaper choices, there's the excellent 35 f/1.8 DX, which's a fast fast and sharp lens. It's a "normal" lens, which's shorter and wider than a formal portrait lens, but it's quite nice for a lot of the casual/environmental shots. The 50 f/1.4 AF-S would work more like a formal portrait lens on the D40x, and it's a even faster f/1.4 lens (good for low light, shallow DOF...), but it's less versatile lens on a DX body. (it does work on FX too)
    You can also go with a telephoto lens like the 55-200 VR (assume there's a serious budget limit). The longer FL has some nice benefits for portraits, as I've mentioned above.
  10. "want to take better quality portrait photos" Better in what way?
  11. Exactly, Elliott. 'Usually just shooting in automatic mode' suggests that something else might be the matter. The lens may have little or nothing to do with it.
    Rebecca, can you post an example pic or tell us more?
  12. This is great feedback!
    "Better" meaning the blurred back ground, so that my child is the subject... not the tree in the background or whatever it is. This is alot to think through because of the points about indoor vs outdoor, of which I am doing both... and budget would like to be around $200. I was originally seeing the 50 mm, 1.4 (I think) on B&H for $130, which would be nice. But saw that it wasnt compatible, at least with the auto-focus feature. I REALLY appreciate all the responses! And for the sample photos too!
  13. I agree with Mark "The 18-55 is not a bad lens so if the problem is that the pictures aren't sharp, the problem is probably not the lens."
    I suggest -Pl do not waste your money, the lens you have can deliver more than any quality portraits you want. Thus , just keep it , shoot with it. Most important part is - You learn -how to shoot good portraits of babies. Without knowing and applying good technique, no lens can give you good quality pictures.
    No need to buy fast lenses to make backgrounds out of focus.Just use any plain wall etc or sheet at a distance.
  14. Lenses with apertures of f1.4, f1.8 and f2.8 (50mm or above) make it easier to achieve a blurred background but it can also be done with some long fixed and zoom lenses that offer f4 - f5.6 apertures.
    One of the best lenses to achieve this is the 85mm f1.8 lens but it is slightly out of your budget, as is the new Nikon 50mm f1.4 AF-S lens (which will auto focus on your camera). The older 50mm f1.4 lens and the 50mm f1.8 are compatible with your camera excepts they will not autofocus. If you can scrape up an extra bit of money, a used 85mm f1.8, will probably give you the most pleasing results. You will also want to read up on what depth-of-field is and how to control it.
    The most economical way to achieve the look would be a lens like the 55-200mm (about $100 used), 70-300mm G (about $125). Shooting at f5.6 at 200mm will give you a nice blurred background but you need ample working distance. You can sometimes shoot on the wide end and still blur the background but it depends on how far back the background is from the foreground subject (see the attached photo).
  15. If you want to blur the background you need a fast lens but not too fast. As mentioned a 30 or 50mm lens at f/1.4 or 1.8 will give a fairly shallow depth-of-field and part of the subject may not be sharp. Also fast lenses tend to be expensive. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 are out of your budget as are the two f/2.8 zooms I mentioned above. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8 will not autofocus on your D40X and even a used 85mm f/1.8 will be more than $200.
    I see three possible choices:
    Nikon 50mm f/1.8 but you'll have to focus manually.
    Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S. Not a good choice for head shots because it's a little short and can distort the face some especially the nose. It's OK for full and half body shots and maybe head and shoulder shots.
    Nikon 55-200. You could use aperture priority and set the aperture wide open and you could get a fair amount of blurring of the background. You could keep the lens wide open and experiment with focal lengths until you find one that works for you.
  16. I would also consider the 35/1.8 Nikon, which is in your price range (especially used from KEH or something). It's about a 50mm perspective on your body. You can get some very nice 1/2 body shots ( I wouldn't go closer for fear of distortion ) with an opportunity to crop if you want a head and shoulder shot. After all, that's the samer perspective you'd get on a fixed lens medium format TLR. The nice thing about this lens is you will always have a use for it even when you are able to afford more traditional portrait lenses. Other than that you'd have to go manual focus ( which can work very nicely if the subject is not moving ) or above budget.
  17. From what I have read portraits are usually taken in the 85-100 range use your legs to zoom in as required
  18. If I can add a follow-up question, can anyone comment on the ease of use of something like a 50 1.8 on the D40? I have a D40 and N80, so am (ideally) looking to stretch my money by getting non-DX lenses. I have the 35 1.8 DX, but it isn't useful on the N80, so I'm looking for a fast 50mm as a normal lens on the N80 and short tele on the D40. Strictly amateur, walking around prime as well as the fast performance for indoor events where flash is not permitted or where it's too obtrusive. I'm looking at the 50 1.8 which seems to be universally loved, or the 1.4 AFS. Consensus seems to be that the 1.8 is outstanding, probably better optically than the 1.4 AFS, but with how narrow DOF can be, I'm not sure about manual focus on the D40 (If it was just for the N80, I would have bought it already). Anyone care to share their experience on MF for a lens this fast?
  19. For me, manual focus on modern DSLRs is a very hit-and-miss thing, especially with the tiny viewfinders and near-clear screens. The electronic rangefinder isn't very accurate.
    Unless you can somehow get a focusing aid on there, it'll be very difficult (it is for me).
    Focusing a 50 1.4 on my Nikon FM however, even without a focusing aid, is a lot easier

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