Starting from scratch

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by allan_martin, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. Hello.
    Realized I'm not happy with my current setup (18-200 and 35mm) nor with the ideas I was having in order to fulfill it.
    So I wanted some help to start over.
    walk-around zoom: 18-105 or 16-85 or ???
    low-light: 35mm 1.8G.
    tele: nikon 70-300, nikon 55-200 or sigma 70-200 or ???
    wide-range: sigma 10-20 or tokina 12-24 or tamron 10-24 or ???
    portrait: nikon 85mm 1.8 or ???
    macro: 105mm 2.8 or ???
    I tried not to compromise the quality while keeping the budget as low as possible.
    Feel free to change it and give me advices on what to change.
  2. I tried not to compromise the quality while keeping the budget as low as possible.​
    Don't we all? I started this thread awhile back, you might like it:
    Word of advice:
    Spend more money on lenses (1 or 2) that you will use most. Don't buy more than a lens at a time...learn it before buying another.
  3. The WHOLE THING is to match the gear to what you want to do with it. You gave us nothing to go on as to what you shoot, what kind of conditions, what you'll do with the photos, and what you are expecting a camera to do. You are thinking "gear", and you should be thinking of specific images.
    Kent in SD
  4. Allan -
    I don't have all of the information required to make a well informed recommendation, specifically WHY you are not happy with your current set-up.
    So...I'm going to make some assumptions in writing this, so please correct me if I'm wrong and please don't take any of this as condescending if it comes across as's not intended to be so.
    First, I'm going assume you are using the D7000 since that's what you referred to when asking about a portrait lens.
    Second, I'm also going to assume that you are not doing this (photography) as your primary source of income and are not intending to make it so. In other words, you're a hobbyist/advanced amateur looking for a budget kit to do just about everything.
    Finally, I'm going to assume that you don't have a speedlight/hot shoe flash or any other external lighting kit.
    So let's break it down:
    • A walk-around zoom should be lightweight enough to carry around all day and should cover a range of focal lengths from moderately wide (17/18mm on DX) to moderately telephoto (55-105mm on DX). There are many to choose from to fit just about every budget, from Nikon's least expensive 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 to Nikon's 17-55mm f/2.8 if you don't mind lugging around a three pound cannon and spending the money for it.
    • A low light lens is any lens you can low light. On a D7000, with a usable ISO of 1600, this is just about ANY lens...BUT since you seem to be referring to fast lenses, any zoom that's f/2.8 or faster and any prime that's faster than f/2 is good for low light. Basically, focal length choice and your budget are what determines your choice here.
    • A telephoto lens is any lens longer than 55/70mm. There are lots to choose from depending on how long you want to go and how much distortion you can stand. Of course budget is also an important consideration.
    • Wide angle: If you're shooting landscapes, this is an important lens...otherwise, it's a specialty lens that is money best spent elsewhere.
    • Portrait: Any lens that can be used for portraits. This can really be ANY lens, even though traditionally it's a lens between 70 and 135mm (for FX/film) or 55 and 105mm (on DX)
    • Macro: Lots to choose from...everyone makes macro lenses and they're available in many focal lengths. The perfect one for you is basically determined by what you plan on shooting and what a comfortable working distance for you is going to be
    So here we go...on to my suggestions...and lets keep in mind your budget, which I calculated to be somewhere between $2700 and $4000.
    • Walk around Zoom - Tamron 17-50 F/2.8 VC ($450)
    • Low Light Walk Around - 35mm f/1.8 DX ($200, which you already own)
    • Telephoto - Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 ($1180)
    • Wide Angle - FORGET IT until you know you need it
    • Portrait - No need for a specialty lens. Use the Tamron or Sigma for portraits.
    • Macro - You need to figure out your working distance and what you want to shoot. Then you can figure out what focal length you need and what lens to get. The good news is that the 105mm f/2.8 is about the second most expensive macro lens readily available so the most you're likely to spend is about $960
    Bottom line: All you really need are two fast zooms and a fast prime. You'll be all set for most situations. Spend any left over money on a good sturdy tripod and head and a flash (something like an SB-700).
    Hope this helps
  5. I have the 16-85mm Allen, I shoot nearly everything with it as I have two lenses, the other one being a 50mm 1.8, take a look for some idea of what it covers in my portfolio as most pictures are taken with it. I'm very happy with that focal range most of the time.
  6. Simon, I'll give a look at it. Thank you!!
    Richard, thanks a lot for de advices. Yes, I got the d7000, good perception. And you also got everything right, no flash and still amateur. But still haven't decided if I'll turn photography into my business. haha
    I think I didn't clear out that I'm not planning on buying all the lenses at once, but over a year or close. However, I wanted to get the set ready now, before I start to make the purchases so I don't lose money in the future.
    For the walk-zoom, I wanted something a little bit longer. I travel a lot and I can't take more than 1 lens for sure. Also, looking at my pics so far, I've shot a lot of them at ˜80-90mm. That's why I pointed out those 2. What do you think?
    And the portrait lens, as you've probably seen in the other thread, is what I really want right now. That's my passion at the moment and I was looking for something that was able to deliver it properly. Still got to find one specifically for this purpose.
    The wide-angle I probably won't get right now, but will be the next one to get, love big landscape scenes and architecture. However, if I got the 16-85 I'm not sure if I'd really need a wide-angle one.
    Finally the tele and the macro will be the last ones. I agree with you, the 70-200 and the 105 seem both fine. (I always heard that for macros, the longer the better).
  7. Here are my opinions:
    Your walk-around lens could be the 18-200 which you already own. Why not? Sigma now makes a 17-70/2.8-4.0 FWIW.
    Low-light? Okay, but what happens when you need 70mm in low-light? Or a 100mm? The irony is that you need the wider aperture in the telephotos than in the wides (because wide-angles are easier to hand-hold in low-light). So stick with f/2.0 or f/2.8 all around.
    Wide-angle: Tokina's 11-16/2.8 is great but the range is limited. Their 12-24/4.0 gets good reviews (I think).
    Portrait: Cosina-Voigtlander makes a 75/2.5 with an F mount. Have a look at Samyang lenses and see what you think. Some of them don't have automatic diaphragms, though.
    Micro: Tamron 90/2.8? Or Nikkor 55/2.8 or 60/2.8 maybe?
  8. What do you dislike about the 18-200 and 35 f/1.8? Let's start with that. All other advice will be just hints at how you could spend (or waste) your money, but may or may not address your actual problem.
    If f/5.6 is no issue, the 16-85VR is an excellent lens in many ways. As a travel companion, for me it works fine. But if you want wider apertures, you will be forced to choose differently: either 17-50, or 24-70, or 50-150 (Sigma, hard to find)..or primes. Either way, forced to choose there - or range, or aperture, can't have both. You would help yourself a great deal if you articulate for yourself what exactly annoys you about your current set-up, and how it holds you back. Define the needs you have. Then Richard's list is as good as it gets to make a solid choice.
    There are more considerations maybe for the telelens, to add to Richard's post. Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 you listed - it's more than a kilo and kind of large. It will demand more of your tripod and your bag. Budget for that too. For lenses like this, I'd really recommend holding and trying once before you put down money.
    As for 'selling quickly so it won't loose value'- I think that's not too important. Lenses are not like cars which continue to loose value - they loose some value for not being new, after that initial hit, it stays the same for quite some time. So in that respect, no need to rush.
  9. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS as a walk around lens and for portraits. Optically as good or better than Nikon's own 17-55 f/2.8.
    Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 (only available as used) for a telephoto lens and for portraits. If you don't care about weight or size - get a used Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 or 80-200 f/2.8 instead.
    Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for wide angle. One of the best wide angles for DX and the only f/2.8.
    Keep the 35mm f/1.8 as a general low light lens.
    Get manual focus 55mm f/3.5 AI (only available used) to shoot some macro - it's cheap and very good.
    The lenses above are good enough for professional work and versatile enough for most uses.
  10. Since you shoot a lot at 80-90mm and want a portrait lens then maybe a 85mm prime plus your 35mm might work. I suggest you purchase very good glass for the D7000. If lens speed is not and issue than I would look closely at the 16-85mm Nikkor, other wise a normal f2.8 zoom but you lose your 80-90mm range. Always a compromise.
  11. So let's go by parts:
    18-105 vs 16-85 vs sigma 17-70.
    What do you say?
    I've tried the 18-105 and it seems way too soft. Maybe it needed tweaking but I don't know...Is the 16-85 much better than the 18-105?
    And the sigma 17-70 seems way better than both, however I'll lose range. Agreed?
    ps: I want to get rid of the 18-200 due to it's optics. I don't think it's worth it, I don't use the longer end too much and the D7000 there's always some cropping right.
  12. The Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4~5.6 VC USD lens is very good value for money. The extra reach over a 70-200 makes it a better all-rounder, and the excellent image stabilisation to some extent obviates the need for a faster aperture. It almost certainly saves carrying a tripod around most of the time. I have no complaints about its optical quality, except when focused closer than about 7ft at 200-300mm focal length. Keep it to a longer distance, which after all is the main use of a tele-zoom, and the IQ is more than good enough.
  13. I've tried the 18-105 and it seems way too soft​
    The 18-105 is not known to be very soft. The 16-85 is marginally sharper, according to serious tests. Both should be better than the 18-200, but again, not by that much. Even if you do not use the long end of the 18-200, the 16-85 is roughly same size, same weight and same price - to me it seems too marginal an upgrade to sell the 18-200 for. The 18-200 is often knocked for its optics, and sure it's not the best out there. But it is not that bad, assuming your technique is good enough. But the latter is true for any lens.
  14. Hmm, it probably was my technique then.
    Actually the 18-200 is not really mine. A friend lent it to me for for anytime I wanted, but I'd like to have my own.
    Anyway I have to buy one now.
    It seems the 18-105 is the best choice, since the 16-85 and the 18-200 are better by little but much more expensive, right?
  15. When I upgraded from the D50 to my D90, I no longer liked my 18-200 as much anymore. (On 6MP, which was the amateur standard when it came out, it was really quite nice, a little soft at the long end, but on 12MP, it started showing more of its flaws.)
    I replaced it with an 18-70/70-300VR combo and am ECSTATIC with that combo. I thought I might miss VR at the wide end of that combo, but I don't so much. I'd rather stick my 35mm f1.8 on and shoot at f2 than use VR in low light anyway.
    I'd first get the 18-70 used cheap. Then get the 70-300 if you wish you had more telephoto... or one of the ultra-wides (I think the best value is the Tokina 12-24, I have the 11-16, though.)
    But... ONE at a time, imho. That way, you will really KNOW what you want next and not just guess.
    I could do virtually all of my photography with my 11-16, 18-70, 35mm f1.8 prime, and 70-300VR. I've also added, over the years, a 50mm f1.8 (nice for DX portraits, not ideal, but nice), 55mm f3.5 (STUNNING value for the money, this or the MF f2.8 would be a GREAT fun toy for close-up... and you can find them for less than a polarizer filter!), and 105mm f2.5 (GREAT for outside portraits).
    But... I bought them one at a time.
  16. Allan -
    The 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 is probably the most cost effective walk-around zoom in your list. The 16-85 isn't quite as long, but it's build quality is marginally better and it's nearly double the cost. Since the only lens you own is the 35mm f/1.8 DX, I would consider this as my first purchase. It's why Nikon bundles a mid-range zoom with their cameras. They're probably the most useful, all-purpose lenses out there.
    If you're set on purchasing a dedicated portrait lens first, (something I discourage until you're developed a style all your own and learn about lighting...which you can do with your mid-zoom), than I will recommend looking into the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ($469) and 85mm f/1.4 ($969). The Sigma 50 seems to render backgrounds much nicer than either of the Nikons and the Sigma 85 is much less expensive than the Nikon. By all accounts, the Sigma performs quite well too.
    BTW, a slow-ish lens like the 18-105mm CAN double as your portrait lens with decent lighting. Something like the SB-700 OR (for a similar price), the Paul C Buff Beginner Bees setup and a sturdy tripod will further your portrait photography much more cost effectively than a dedicated portrait lens, (which is really meant for environmental portraits where you can't control the background and want to blur it out.)
  17. Kent is absolutely right. That you were unsure your path tells me you need to think more about that before choosing any glass. Spe nd
    time looking at work that inspires you. Understand how it was done and what you old like to do. We pick the tools to do the job instead of
    choosing the tools first and then figuring out what you can o ith them.
  18. Actually I'm going to US for the holidays and this is the only chance I have until July to get my lenses.
    I wish I had more experience but I have to trust in your practice and overall theory.
    Think I'm going with the 18-105, if the 16-105 is no that beast compared to it.
    Regarding portraits, people say that the 1.4 would be too hard to handle for beginners, that some parts might be in focus and some be out of focus.
    I've never tried one before, is it really that hard? Cause I could consider the sigma 1.4 then.
  19. Shooting a wide aperture lens is exactly the same as shooting a slower lens when shooting at the same apertures. The learning curve comes into play when you shoot wide aperture lenses wide open and close to wide open. The longer the lens and wider the aperture, the more difficult the lens is to focus properly and, consequently, the more disappointed beginners become about the glass. Unfortunately, (and usually to the beginners' disappointment), it's not the's technique.
    Therefore, a 35mm f/1.4 is easier to use than an 85mm f/1.4... which is easier to use than a 200mm f/2, (but not by much considering the typical working distances between the lenses). Learning about Depth of field and how to control it is essential to getting quality results from wide aperture lenses. Unfortunately there are very few ways to learn proper techniques without practicing them. And practicing them on a wide aperture lens means you either need to know someone that's willing to loan one to you or that you suck it up and spend the money on one...and they're not cheap. The good news is that they will likely last much longer than your camera body. answer your question/comment:
    Regarding portraits, people say that the 1.4 would be too hard to handle for beginners, that some parts might be in focus and some be out of focus.
    I've never tried one before, is it really that hard? Cause I could consider the sigma 1.4 then.​
    Shooting an 85mm f/1.4 lens wide open is difficult if you don't understand HOW to use it. But you'll likely not learn to use it without practice and patience...and owning one. Just remember, (if you buy this lens), to learn how your aperture and working distance effects depth of field. If you don't, you'll end up taking photos of people where your subjects eyes are in focus, but their nose and ears are not.
  20. We pick the tools to do the job instead of choosing the tools first and then figuring out what you can do with them​
    As an advanced amateur/part-time pro, I like my toolbox to have all the tools I need in it so I can choose the right tool for the job rather than getting to the job and realizing I don't have the right tool. The only tools I currently lack are a UWA zoom (14-24mm f/2.8) because I rarely find myself needing one; a dedicated macro lens, again because I rarely find myself needing one; and an inexpensive walk-around zoom/super-zoom because I'm comfortable walking around with a 24-70mm f/2.8 cannon, a 35/85 prime setup, or just a simple point and shoot if I want to be discreet .
    OTOH, I do find my self wanting a 500mm f/4, but justifying the price knowing I will likely use it only a half dozen times a year (or will need to take up birding) is a tough one.
  21. I have to disagree with Richard:
    The 16-85 isn't quite as long, but it's build quality is marginally better​
    Build quality of the 18-105VR is a clear step down from the 16-85VR. That difference certainly is not marginal (grab them both, and you'll feel it). Not to forget the fact that 16mm is really quite a lot wider than 18mm. Those 2mm are far more profound than the 20mm on the long end. If your budget is OK with it, the 16-85 is the best of the three mentioned walkaround lenses lenses. Yes, it's a bit overpriced, still. So, if you rather spend less, the 18-105VR is extreme good value for money and an excellent choice.
    Either way, both these make good choices, it's more how comfortable you are spending a bit more for a relatively smallish upgrade.
    Skip the fast primes for now, figure out whether a 85 or 50 mm serves you better first (see also the other thread on portrait lenses you've got running). All of the lenses you are now considering can take decent portraits, so it's no disaster to not have this lens yet, and guessing the wrong prime in a rush would be a sad waste of money really.
  22. Wouter -
    Perhaps I should have been more clear. And you're allowed to disagree, especially when reading my statement I realize I should have stated it differently. I have hefted and used both the 16-85mm and 18-105mm. There is a clear difference between the build quality between the two, but it's a marginal quality difference when compared to the price. It's even more marginal when you compare the image quality you get out of the two lenses.
    Allan -
    So, unless you want/need the extra 2mm of wide angle, (which you WILL notice as Wouter mentions) and the metal lens mount, (which will likely last longer than the plastic mount of the 18-105), than I stick by my recommendation for the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6. If you do want the other things, I'll again recommend the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC... you lose out on the 50-85/105mm range, (which you mentioned is where the majority of your shooting takes place), but you gain a fast non-variable aperture of f/2.8 throughout the zoom range.
  23. If you have the budget to get some decent lenses, two of these will migrate with you to FX. But these will give you quality and brilliant images proven by the pros:
    12-24 (DX)
    24-70 (DX/FX)
    70-200 (DX/FX)
    With minor variations these come in f2.8 or cheaper versions in f3.5-4.5. You will have most focal lengths covered, and if this is all the pro's use, then that should be enough for you. All are available second hand for realistic prices. If you move up to FX, sell the 12-24 and buy either the 17-35 f2.8 or the 16-35 f4.
    I have been using the 18-35 f3.5-4.5, 35-70 f2.8 and 80-200 f2.8 for a long time and they were cheap as, used. The latter two were in every pro's bag. I bought the 18-35 3.5 as it was cheap, used, and I can't see any visible loss of IQ over the 17-35. If it was good enough for Galen Powell's gorgeous landscapes then that will do me.
    Another tip: There is a clue to Nikon lens quality with the 3.5-4.5 lenses compared to 3.5-5.6 one's.
    Buy used, and buy well.
  24. Nikon 35-70mm f2.8. Best lens ever.
    Not that I'm biased.
  25. Richard, rephrased, we agree!

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