Nikon D300-Ideal lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by robert_premkumar, May 15, 2010.

  1. I am having Nikon D300 and the lens is Nikkor 18-135. I am interested in landscapes, street photography,wildlife and portraits with blurred background. I am not very happy with the results of 18-135 especially sharpness is lacking. My budget is $1000 USD. Please suggest a better lens.
  2. You can't shoot everything you want to shoot with 1000-dollars worth of lenses with that camera and get remarkably better results than the lens you have, which has very good image quality.
    But let's say for a moment that you eliminate the wildlife part of your requirements, since wildlife generally wants really really expensive lenses to get right...
    You could get:
    Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 (460 dollars - the one without VC and in-lens motor)
    Nikkor 85mm f1.8 (a little over 400) - GREAT for portraits
    You could then get either a 50mm or 35mm f1.8 Nikkor. The 50mm will keep you in budget, the 35 will throw you slightly over. I think the 35 would be a great street lens, so would the 17-50 for some things. That will bust your budget only a little.
    If you want an all zoom solution, the Tamron 17-50 and a Nikkor 70-300 VR will be in budget, too, but you won't have a "great" portrait lens.
  3. 50mm f/1.4 is good for potraits with 'blurred background'. That, along with Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 should give you a lot of coverage, but you will still miss a wide lens. So keep your 18-135mm as well for now.
  4. pge


    You already have a "do it all" lens so why not go for more specific use lenses now. Don't go breaking your budget right away until you see what you like. I would suggest starting with the 35mm f1.8 and or the 50mm f1.8. Use one or both of these for a few months and see where your needs take you.
  5. Thank you for the responses. I will restrict myself to landscapes, portraits and street. How about 50mm f1.8 and 18-200? Will these two lenses will serve the purpose?
  6. A lens that does everything will do nothing too well.
  7. I agree with Peter about the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and Nikon 70-300mm VR being an excellent combo for a wide range of things. Sell your current lens, look for used ones on e Bay etc. I think you would see a signifcant difference with these two.
    Kent in SD
  8. Robert, although the 18-200 is great for some things and I love mine, it is not a better lens than what you have in terms of Image Quality. Probably worse, and it solves none of your problems.
  9. The 18-135 does have a reputation for being quite sharp, in fact (it does have other problems, but sharpness is not one of them). While upgrading it can have certain benefits (more range, wider apertures), it possibly may not fix your problem at all.
    Can you post a sample picture which you find lacking in sharpness? There can be a lot of other reasons why a photo is unsharp, and maybe a sample would give us more clues.
  10. I am posting a sample picture. Please see the picture and give your comments. Thanks.
  11. As suggested sample picture is enclosed. What is lacking in this picture? In my opinion sharpness. Comments are welcome.
  12. Robert,
    Yes, it doesn't look very sharp, though it is a very small picture... So it's quite impossible to say whether the focus is OK.
    But luckily the EXIF data is still in there: it's shot at 50mm, the lens near wide open aperture (f/4.8), 1/30th of a second, at ISO500.
    The shutterspeed is low for hand-held, was it hand-held? The same shot with ISO800 should have given a more comfortable 1/50th sec. shutter, though that is still very marginal. Given the slow shutter and relatively high ISO, it also makes me wonder what the light was like; quite low I guess.
    Now, because of the slow shutterspeed, I'm not too sure whether the lens needs to take the blame for a lack of sharpness here, to be honest.
  13. Yes Wouter,it was taken in low light and hand held. Even otherwise, my problem with this lens is whenever I zoom the sharpness goes mostly in landscape photos. What's the reason?
  14. For $1000 you can try to get a used 17-55 or Tamron 17-50 will be a great lens for your camera.
  15. Well, it won't hurt with this lens (or any lens) to close the aperture a bit. The 18-135 should be nice sharp at f/8, and for landscape using f/8 is not much of an issue since the extra depth of field is typically welcome.
    Also, as you zoom in, it becomes harder to hand-hold the lens. Try to keep shutterspeeds faster than 1/(focal length*crop factor).. So at the longest end, that would be at least 1/200. If not do-able, consider using a tripod. But for landscape, really the 18-135 should be able to deliver, unless there is something wrong with it.
    For portraits, you indeed may want to check the 85 f/1.8, or at a budget the 50 f/1.8.
  16. For landscapes, the 18-135mm, stopped down, should be excellent. That means a small aperture and slow shutter speed while you keep the ISO very low. If you are shooting hand held, you will not get the crisp sharpness that landscapes call for.
    You did not mention a tripod. I suggest that you spend the big bucks and get the tripod and ball head to last you the rest of your life rather than another lens. Your one thousand can buy you the best there is, e.g., Gitzo carbon fibre and something like a Really Right Stuff, Kirk or Markins ball head.
    You may want to read up on tripods on this site. Or, take a look at
    Realize that there is no such thing as a cheap, lightweight and sturdy tripod. If you buy inexpensive, you will lose either on the necessary sturdiness or the weight. Most folks go through a succession of ever better tripods as they realize the money misspent trying to get by with a lesser pod. They end up spending more than they would have if they had gone with the best to begin with.
    Just my $.02.
  17. Ah... now we are reminded... the sharpest lens you can use is the one on the tripod at f8.
    As you zoom in, you are making the photo less sharp merely by hand-holding. You're on a D300, though. Don't be afraid of ISO 1600 and even 3200 occasionally. A well-exposed shot at ISO1600 will look better than a well-exposed hand-held shot at ISO 200 where the shutter speed was too slow every time. That said, VR would have stabilized that shot, for sure. And in that respect, the 18-200 might have done a better job.
  18. BTW, the large aperture used in your shot above is the cause of the lack of focus throughout the shot. It was focused on grass in the foreground. Lack of depth of field should not be confused with lack of sharpness. Though, secondly, hand held at a slow shutterspeed, there almost certainly has to be camera movement for landscape purposes. Some of us are steadier than others (I was much steadier when I was a young man), but none of us are human tripods. VR will not save you here either, IMO.
    Try that same shot, focused one third of the distance to animals, at F22. That mandates use of a tripod, or a beanbag equivalent if you want to experiment before getting a decent pod. You'll trade off a little diffraction for good DOF and locked down sharpness. Have the mirror lockup feature utilized too if your shutter speed is getting down to 1/30 or longer.
    Consider getting a book or DVD by a professional landscape photog, such as Tony Sweet. There are good tips on pods, technical aspects like F stop, DOF, as well as on compositional suggestions.
  19. Are the dark clumps Buffalo?
    But, if not, my confusion is still the result of lack of DOF as well as the camera not being locked down at a small aperture for a shot that wants focus from the foreground to distant mountain. Almost an impossibility, often calling for a technical/tilt shift view camera or lens, as well as a tripod.
    Ambition is good.
  20. David's advice is good, except I think you should NOT use f22 on a DSLR... ever... I have found NO lens that doesn't suffer from diffraction at that point, and you will have another source of fuzziness, and it will seriously compromise contrast as well. You're better off at f11 tops for most lenses, and I haven't found one that is even wise to use at f16 unless for some odd reason you gotta have that.
    Shoot at f22 and you'll be complaining about a whole different list of things you dislike about your lens.
  21. Avoid F22 most of the time, I agree heartily. Rules are made to be broken when it makes sense for a better all around image. Diffraction begins to be a factor on the D300 at F11. (See Thom Hogan's review, for instance.) However, that said, photography is always about tradeoffs.
    For macro work, and for landscapes that are requried to include both the foreground and distant mountains, and sometimes other shots with DOF issues at the extreme, as was posted in the example above, the only way to get reasonable focus throughout the image will be to stop down into diffraction territory.
    I have a D300, and I have used F22 to good advantage, both in macro and landscape. Not my favorite thing to do, but there is a reason the aperture is on the lens. I cited Tony Sweet as an example as I know that many of his landscapes were taken at F22. The diffraction that can be seen when pixel peeping, no argument there, is often not seen in the print. Again, the question becomes is there any other way to make the image happen? It sometimes comes down to accepting some diffraction or having no image at all.
    The alternative would be selective focus, say on the Buffalo, with both foreground and mountains out of focus due to the aperture. That is a discretionary choice. Who knows, it might look better than good focus front to background.
    I'd be very interested to see Robert's shot retaken at a very narrow F stop, with all of that DOF, with proper support under the camera.
  22. Hi Robert, as other have said prime lenses will give you superior quality over a telephoto lens- and that blurry background or 'Bokeh' as its known. I have a 50mm/1.8. Prob my favourite lens. if you can find a cheap 2nd hand 50mm/1.4 then even better! but its usually a third more in price.
    I bought a 10-20mm sigma wide angle for landscape but ive never been happy with it. The quality just isnt there and it seems to 'warm' all my images somewhat. I would love a Nikon 12-24mm... this could serve as a 'street' lens but great for landscape. I also have a 105mm Micro 2.8/D (the older version not the recent VR) which i have to say never fails to give amazing results and would double as a portrait lens although the bokeh could be descibed as slightly harsh compared to a nice fast prime like the 50mm or 35mm.
    if i was going to spend that amount on one lens Id go for the 12-24mm (second hand) and then later get a telephoto :)
  23. If you remove the "Wildlife" requirement, I'd recommend a used Nikon 17-55 f/2.8. I find this lens performs flawlessly for portraiture, landscapes, and street photography. It's tack-sharp and built like a tank. I guarantee you'll fall in love with it. You should be able to find a used one for close to your budget requirement.
    As others have mentioned, the "Wildlife" requirement is a whole separate category, and you could spend your entire budget and only end up with a mediocre "wildlife" lens that doesn't do any of the other categories well at all.
  24. Get a prime lens. Especially if sharpness is your issue.
    Look back at your last year of photos. Find your 10 favorites. Look at what focal length these were taken. Then decide what prime lens to get. I love the 85mm f/1.8. I also love my 20mm f/2 and my 50mm f/1.8. You might be able to pick up all three for less than $1000.
  25. NIKON ONLY 17-55 2.8 85 1.8OR 1.4 70 200 2.8 VR11 180 2.8 105 2.8 NO NO TAMRON OR SIGMA BUY NIKON AND BE HAPPY YOU DID
  26. The lens is not your problem here.
  27. Test your lens in good daylight at f8 or f11 with a high shutter speed and see how sharp it is. On a tripod would be much better. If you can get a sharp picture keep the lens, if not have it looked at. For landscape keep what you have and get a good tripod setup. For portrait work you could start with the Sigma 50mm f1.4. For street what ever your flavor, probably fast though and maybe wide like a Sigma 30mm f1.4 and over budget unless you use what you already have. For wildlife $$$$, long and fast is not in your budget at all and if you are interested get a tripod that will handle a big lens the first time.
  28. Robert, follow up on what David and Peter are saying above. Honestly, even if the 18-135 is not thé best lens Nikon ever build, technically you can get a lot more from it than what your sample picture shows.
    So, rather than dive in and get a different lens, read a bit, maybe some course (online or real life) on photography, some of the articles here on, and get a good grip with some of the technical sides (at the least understand aperture, shutter speeds and their limits). With those firmly under your belt, you will be better able to estimate what is lacking in your current gear and hence spend your money wiser and more specific to your needs. In the long run, it will be money saved and knowledge gained (and that stays useful for ever).
    So, in my view, do not spend money now on a different lens. A tripod - yes, and those too cost serious money. With that, get to learn what your 18-135 is capable off, and in time you will be able to tell what it cannot do, and hence what needs replacement. But first things first.
    That,of course, is just my €0,02!
  29. 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 for portraits or anything else where you want a nice blurred background. 85mm f/1.4 is also a champ, but too long for me for general use on the D300. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is great as a "normal" lens. Or even the lowly Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 does pretty well.
  30. You can get a lens that some claim is "just as good as Nikon's 17-55 f2.8" for a fraction of the price or you can get the spectacular real thing, used within your budgeted $1000. I'd recommend compromising in other areas but this is the lens to get.
  31. wow, one lens to do all that! unfortunately you would need to get a zoom lens, but under no circumstances would i ever use the words "ideal" and "zoom" in the one sentance.
  32. Landscapes? Find yourself a new or used Tokina 12-24mm f/4 lens, About as good as the Nikon version at half the price. If you primary focus is landscapes, you will normal be shooting in daylight and don't necessarily need a fast (f2.8) lens. A 50mm or 85mm lens won't be wide enough for much landscape work.
  33. There's no right or wrong focal length for any of the subjects you list. Sure someone will call me on that for wildlife but before you do check out the superb wildlife shots of Nick Brandt. All done with 50mm equivalent lens. I think I can get you what you need with 3 lenses.
    16-85 for Landscape/General purpose (substitute a Tamron 17-50 here but the distortions are nasty for architecture.)
    85 1.8 for portraits with the background wiped out and some landscapes.
    70-300 vr for wildlife (and portraits with the background wiped out). You can spend a lot more money for faster, bigger glass but unless you are wealthy I'd watch out for the more money=better photos argument.
  34. Robert,
    I had the Nikon 18-200mm lens and although it is a fine lens for many things I eventually became weary of the need to correct wave and barrel distortion in my photos. Since I tend to shoot a lot of landscape and wide angle shots in the interiors of churches, etc. I bought the Nikon 16-85mm. Even though it doesn't have the telephoto reach of the 18-200 it has a wider wide angle coverage and is much sharper in my opinion than the other lens. Frankly, I leave it on most of the time. As for super wide angle coverage I prefer the Tokina 11-16mm to anything else I've ever used. Barrel distortion is negligible at all settings. Hope this helps. Don't forget to shoot at the sharpest apertures with your lenses and use a monopod/tripod when you can. Dave Taylor, Chicago
  35. Thom Hogan suggests that the 18-105 VR lens is much better quality. You should be able to find it used for around 200.
  36. Dear friends,
    I never expected so many suggestions for my posting. All are useful suggestions. Thank you very much. I admit, my problem mostly lies with the shutter speed I use. I will continue to get guidance from you and request all of you to visit my portfolio and comment on my photos ,mainly the negative aspects.
    Robert Premkumar
  37. I am enclosing another photograph for your comments. Same lens (18-135). I think this one is better than the previous one as far as sharpness is concerned.
  38. Are you using any filters on the front of the lens?
  39. Robert, I would try someone else's lens on your body to make sure the lens is not defective. Your current lens is known to be a very very good one and you can get good sharp images with a $150 kit lens if you use a tripod and stop down to f8. Don't be afraid to use f22 to get the depth of field you need. We get wrapped around the axel about diffraction too much and it stops us from thinking and or taking pictures. I currently have all the fast high end glass I could ever need but like to remind myself that Galen Rowell used kit lenses to do allot of his finest work because they were light, easy to schlep to where he was going and at f8 met his standards using 35mm film. Some of his work was enlarged to mural size and still held up despite using inexpensive glass. I would get a tripod and ball head and start from there before purchasing another lens. Check out or if you want to learn about lens sharpness of a particular lens and find a copy of Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography. It's a good read. Good hunting. Andy
  40. If you need sharpness, I would invest it in about four prime lenses instead of zoom lenses. I have two, 24mm 2.8 and a 50mm 1.8 both are razor sharp and relatively cheap.
  41. Was the photo of the bisons also shot through a car window?
  42. The claim that prime lenses are sharper than zooms is one I bought into for years but it's just not true any longer. You'll get less distortion with most primes, and a larger maximum aperture for less money - but not more sharpness. Modern zoom lenses, even the cheap kit lenses, tend to be very sharp. Nikon's $100 18-55mm, for instance.
  43. Agreed, modern zoom lenses can match a prime in most cases. I did a lot of A-B tests with my Tamron 17-35mm SP Aspherical zoom lens against my Nikon 28mm and 35mm manual focus prime lenses. I couldn't tell the difference at all in most cases.
  44. Hello, I own a D300 with a Nikon 18-200-3.5. I am looking at the 85mm 1.8 Nikon or 17-55 f2.8 any thoughts.
  45. I have the 50mm 1,8 and the Tamron 17 - 50 VC and I am really happy with both of them, The tamron has a really good sharpness and a very clear image, I am thank full, even as a ''kit'' lens I have the Nikkor 18 - 200 VR which I use only on my secondary D80 as a back up camera. So I recommend you both lenses, Never worked yet with a 35 mm but I am going to try it ASAP

Share This Page