What's the best lens combos for Nikon D7100 do you use for portraits & events?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by memory_mill, Oct 5, 2014.

  1. Hi all,
    I recently bought the D7100 coming up from a ......... D80. Yes... a D80. Skipping a few generations of tech leaps is always worth the wait, in my case it was 8 years. Phone-wise i always skipped a gen going from an iPhone 4s to a 5s etc. I always shot with the kit lens that came with my D80 (18-135mm) and had good-ish results with it but you never know what you're missing up on until you try something new.
    Before i got my hands on a great deal for the D7100 i moved from amateur photography to professional (photos for money). And it's now all i do. I shoot mainly portraits and events and have built my lens arsenal slowly but surely.
    I now have a Tokina 11-16mm for my kick ass wides, the life-saver 50mm f1.8 and the Nikon 55-300mm for those out of reach teles. But i still feel i miss something. The 55-300 is bad in low light indoor sports and very tight for events. Great for outdoor portraits but that's it. The 50mm was a fantastic discovery and allowed me to take fantastic indoors and outdoor shots.
    But here's my dilemma: While i do see the value of primes i also believe that with time it can cause dust particles to get in every time i change lenses and expose the inside mechanisms. Also, i love how convenient it is to have a, say, 18-135mm kit lens and just shoot the heck out of anything without having to stop, which can cause the "moment" to disappear. On the other hand, cheap zooms are not good indoors, and the f2.8s are expensive. Now that i proudly own one of the best DSLRs Nikon has ever built, the D7100, i need the proper gear that will complement my Ferrari. What's good to own a sports car if you don't have a speed engine installed in it?
    So my question for you is? What's the best Nikon D7100 zoom/prime lenses combos do you own for great portraits and events photography? I'm leaning towards a 18-55mm f2.8 for events photography, then 50mm and 85mm f1.8 primes for portraits. What's in your camera bag?
  2. As Nikon seem to have stopped (did it start?) caring about fast glass for DX, the pairing of a Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 OS and the 50-150mm 2.8 OS covers a-lot of ground. Sadly no handy overlap, but maybe the leg based zoom will work for your shooting style? Your 50mm 1.8 fits in at the transition for extra speed if needed for portraits etc.
    If you need longer, and like a bit of weightlifting, the unique Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 OS S is about as 'kick-ass' as you can get! It's more of a fast sports lens but sharp everywhere. I'm trying to arrange a visit from Santa...:)
  3. There's no such thing as an 18-55 f/2.8, do you mean 18-35?. A Sigma or Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 stabilized, and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 OS, in my opinion is the best combo there is for pro events with a Dx body. I use them for my pro work; concerts, events, and use the 50-150 for portraits too. (I have the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 and Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 to round out my kit, and for snap shots with family and such, a Nikon 18-135mm too.)
    Hey Mike, you beat me to the punch.
  4. Thanks Mike & Michael. I meant 18-55mm f3.5 my bad. But again it's not as fast as i want it to be. I'll def check out the 17-50 & 50-150 combo. I'll keep my 55-300 nikon to get some extra reach if i need it. And probably add the gorgeous Nikon 35mm f1.8?
    Mind you, for beautiful bokeh effects and background separation comparison, there seems to be a significant leap between f2,8s and f1.8s, that's one full stop. Good luck finding this kind of speed in zooms. Basically zooms are great when you don't have time to change lenses such as in the case of events. In portraits primes might be the best way to go.
  5. between f2,8s and f1.8s, that's one full stop​
    or 1.1/3 stops in-fact!
    or maybe better written as 1.3EVs?
  6. To be exact yes :)
  7. 11-16mm for my kick ass wides, the life-saver 50mm f1.8 and the Nikon 55-300mm
    I would think there is space for a 28/1.8 or 35/1.8, and/or a 17-55/2.8. I always felt the 17-55/2.8 Nikkor is a great fit for portrait photography on DX.
  8. For starting out in event photography, whose equipment requirements are quite similar to those of wedding photography, you might want to look at the suggestions of Nadine Ohara in this thread. I would only add that, since you already have the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, that you hang on to it, as it can be useful if some part of an event occurs in a small room.
  9. Dust is a non-issue - it is easy to clean yourself and you can get dust on the sensor anyway even without changing lenses.
  10. I shoot with the D7000 and upon a recommendation hear I purchased a used Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 the older non OS version and I couldn't be happier.
  11. The old Nikon 17-55mm 2.8 is completely out-resolved by the modern Sigma which has 3 stop OS (VR) and can be bought new (£300 UK Amazon) for much less the secondhand price of the Nikon (Ebay sold prices~£450). Secondhand they are selling at about £190.
    New, the Nikon is still ~£1000 here!
    a used Sigma 50-150 f/2.8​
    Yup, I've got the earlier HSM, non OS version too and it used to be a bit of a CA dog...along way from it's APO label. However, modern software has given it new life!
  12. I just checked photozone tests of the 17-55 DX and the Sigma 17-50/2.8 OS (on the D7000 body), the MTF50 values suggest the Nikon lens is sharper in the corners at f/2.8 at all focal lengths tested other than 50/55mm where the Sigma has a few percent higher values (and e.g. at 35mm the difference is quite pronounced in favour of the Nikkor (Nikon 1968 / Sigma 1171). In the center, and stopped down the differences seem to be very small. I find very difficult to find any evidence of the Nikkor being "completely out-resolved" by the Sigma, quite the contrary the Nikon lens seems to be a more consistent performer. Finally the bokeh examples shown in that review suggests ring-like bokeh in the Sigma which is not seen in the bokeh examples taken with the Nikon lens. For a lens intended to be used for portraits and general documentary photography of people, I find the quality of the out of focus areas very important and it is one of the things I really liked about the 17-55mm DX Nikkor.
    I don't find VR all that useful in short focal length lenses since to stop the subject movement (even if the person is not actively moving), I need to use a faster shutter speed than is needed to avoid camera shake, thus VR doesn't really solve a real-world problem that I have (if used for posed environmental portraits where the person's movement is intentionally slow then it may be different, but at events, usually people move their hands and turn their heads while they're communicating with each other and already at 1/100s this would result in blur). The 70-200mm range is different and I do appreciate VR at 200mm, it can sometimes be useful.
  13. OK, you can have this for £1000
    or this for £300
    Maybe there is sample variation involved, but I prefer the Sigma graphs. It would be handy to print them here, but they're copyrighted.
    For architectural interiors where 'pods are not allowed, I LOVE VR. Sure you can raise the ISO to give a handholdable speed, but you get much more noise...say ISO 800 to ISO 3200!
    Very few of my subject do, or even can, move so I guess I'm lucky that way!
    DxO seem to agree with me for their test for the D7100
  14. Well, in that case lenstip and photozone MTF results suggests opposite performance of the two lenses, which may be either tester variability or lens sample-to-sample variability. In any case I see no evidence of the Nikon being "completely out-resolved" by the Sigma considering the data from both test sites. The price of the lens is a separate matter and does not affect the answer to the question which lens is best for a given application. Once the lenses have been put in order of preference according to quality and the aesthetic taste and requirements of the photographer, then the prices can be looked at and a concious decision can be made.
    Personally I find that if the out-of-focus rendering of a lens is poor (ring bokeh etc.) the lens is not suitable for portraits or events, but the requirements vary by photographer.
    For architectural interiors where 'pods are not allowed, I LOVE VR. Sure you can raise the ISO to give a handholdable speed, but you get much more noise...say ISO 800 to ISO 3200!

    I understand that but the OP asked for lenses that are best for portraits and events. Hand-held architectural interior shots are a different application which may well be served by the use of a stabilized lens, especially if there are no people walking across the building.
    Very few of my subject do, or even can, move so I guess I'm lucky that way!
    At events people talk to each other, they dance, play, show emotion, even jump, and I often find that the facial features are blurred if I am trying to catch the peak emotion and do not use a fast shutter speed. So I try to keep the shutter speed at 1/200s or faster at all times (in fact quite a lot of time 1/800s, but that may not be possible in all indoor situations). That way the facial features are shown more crisply and I find that improves the communication of emotion.
  15. Indeed, for the OPs intended uses VR or OS has limited benefit.... but I'd rather have it as an option. It's handy too when you have to drag the shutter when using flash to capture the ambient light.
    DxO ranks the sharpness of the Nikon on the D7100 as a 9
    DxO ranks the sharpness of the Sigma on the D7100 as a 14

    Maybe Photozone got a poor Sigma? Sample variation used to be their Achilles' heel.
  16. For the past two years I've used a pair (ALWAYS have a back up) of D7100 with Nikon lenses 17-55mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 VR-1. Along with two SB-900 flash (again, back up always,) it's all I need. I have looked closely at the Sigma 17-50mm OS and it would be a good choice, but have kept the Nikon. The Sigma is sharper in the center but the Nikon is sharper in the corners. I'd be happy with either lens. I went with the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR-1 because I wanted the little extra reach rather than a 50-150mm f2.8 OS, which is also a good choice. I have a Sigma 30mm f1.4 but have only used it once. I'm likely going to sell it.
    I'll add that I don't like to carry a lot of stuff with me as it slows me down. Two lenses are all I need, and a couple of flash. Back up lens and body are out in the car. I also have a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 which I use for specific shots, but don't normally carry it on me. Some people like the single focal lens approach, but I found I was missing too many shots when I tried it. Simplify.
    Kent in SD
  17. i wouldnt say the sigma 17-50 completely outresolves the nikon 17-55. i would say that both cover about the same range, both are fast, and both have good IQ. the nikon might be better in the corners at 2.8, but the sigma has stabilization which is always a plus and is much more compact, so it's better as a walkaround lens which can also do portraits/events. the nikon seems overpriced for what it does, although a used copy might be more reasonable.
  18. I'm not a pro, so I don't need expensive 2.8 lenses. I do have a D7100 (upgraded from the D80 too). I do a lot of room light documentary portraits. I find the kit zooms are adequate for my purposes. I typically shoot at iso 3200 indoors and an 8x10 print is grainless. The kit 18-105 is very sharp and has VR, so I use that primarily for indoor portraits. The kit 18-70 3.5-4.5 is a very usable lens too. I also like the 50mm lenses for portraits at about f 2.8. Check out my folders for lots of examples.
  19. DxO ranks the sharpness of the Nikon on the D7100 as a 9
    DxO ranks the sharpness of the Sigma on the D7100 as a 14
    i wasn't aware of these scores, which do suggest optical superiority for the Sigma, although the overall scores are just one point off, which means they may not be that far off in actuality. i'm not sure how DxO calculates their tests, but the only areas where they rate the Nikon as better is in vignetting and light transmission (barely); the LoCa and sharpness scores diverge significantly. The Sigma is super contrasty and does not have sharp corners at all at 2.8, which may or may not be field relevant, depending on shooting style. but by f/4 the corners really perk up quite a bit. the Nikon is an older design by quite a bit, and at the time of its release, Nikon only had 6mp bodies, so the Sigma is a much more modern design. the Nikon has a better build, and was obviously intended to balance on large DX bodies like the d200 and D2x, but... that also means much more weight and bulk. the Nikon has its share of devotees, but it always seemed overbuilt and overpriced to me. i've had the Sigma since 2009, and its held up to fairly demanding use. i would much rather have a faster lens than raise ISO, especially on a DX body, and 3200 is pushing the practical limit on a 24mp body, but the OP might well value a longer range over wider aperture choice. 8x10 is not going to show too much noise, but printing any bigger than that might well be a different story.
  20. Do you guys think a 2.8 zoom is better than a 1.8 prime? Just wondering if perhaps getting a 35mm f1.8 and zooming with my feet would do the job, while getting shorter depth of field and better indoor exposure.
  21. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Do you guys think a 2.8 zoom is better than a 1.8 prime? Just wondering if perhaps getting a 35mm f1.8 and zooming with my feet would do the job, while getting shorter depth of field and better indoor exposure.​
    If you only have the choice of one lens, YES, in almost all circumstances for the tasks that you outline.
    There are a three main points to consider when addressing question:
    1. A zoom is definitely going to be more flexible. It could be thought of as a range of Prime Lenses available to you for your use.
    2. You can NOT “zoom with your feet”: zooming and moving the camera are two entirely different functions and each will result in a different outcome, one to the other.
    This is perhaps noticed most predominately in Portraiture and people Photography generally. If you have ONLY a 35mm lens and you want a FULL LENGTH Portrait, then, in Portrait Orientation your camera will be about 12’ or 4m from your Subject – and that will provide a specific PERSPECTIVE – especially about the FACIAL FEATURES. If you then want an HEAD and SHOULDERS Portrait then if you ‘zoom with your feet’ using your 35mm lens – then you intend to move closer to the Subject and your camera will now be about 3’ or 1m away from them - and that new Subject Distance creates a different PERSPECTIVE and that difference will be most apparent on the Facial Features of the Subject.
    3. The DIFFERENCE in the DoF created by F/1.8 COMPARED TO F/2.8 will NOT be very significant in the real world shooting of most Portraiture and Events. For Portraiture the difference in DoF will probably be more noticeable for ½ Shots to Full Length Shots - but even then it will not be significant.
    It will be likely that the one and a bit stop of difference in the useable Aperture will result in being able to use a faster SHUTTER SPEED (if the ISO is maxed out) and that may be significant if you are shooting without flash and you need to arrest SUBJECT MOTION.
  22. Do you guys think a 2.8 zoom is better than a 1.8 prime?​
    well, i use the 17-50/2.8 sigma much more than the 35/1.8 nikkor, so i would say yes -- on DX. on FX, ive actually been forgoing my 24-70 and 70-200 zooms recently, in favor of my 35/50/85 f/1.4 prime lenses. mainly because of the weight, but also because i've been trying to create more artistic photos, which a zoom doesnt necessarily avail itself to. but there are times when a zoom is the best lens for any given situation, no question, i just like the challenge of having a pre-set focal length but YMMV.
  23. I wonder if the sigma 18-35 f/1.8 would work in this situation? Its kind of an odd duck lens, its not light, nor does it have any sort of stabilization but it is fast and supposed to be good optically.
  24. a 1.8 zoom is undoubtedly better than a 2.8 zoom. ;)
    and you would see a difference in DoF of more than one stop. the difference would be more pronounced at the longer end of the zoom.
  25. There are many reasons why a 17-50/2.8-ish zoom is popular with event photographers. The range, obviously. But to me personally a constant aperture is very important when I use flash. I usually set the flash to TLL but all settings in the camera will be manual. That is I will set the aperture to get just the right amount of DOF, shutter speed (usually as high as it can go depending on the flash sync speed of the camera), and ISO. I will then adjust the flash output to give me just the right exposure. This prevents the camera from using SIO, aperture, or shutter speed to adjust the exposure in a way that surprises me. If you have a variable aperture lens, then you could cut down the light as you zoom out. I wish Nikon or someone can make a nice and compact 17-55/4 DX-only lens. Because when you use the flash, you almost never shoot at f2.8. I typically shoot at f4 to give me enough DOF to cover the subject. With available light indoor at night, f2.8 is often not wide enough for the current DX body because any thing shot with ISO>2,000 gets very noisy.
    I had the Nikon 17-55 but sold it to get the Sigma, which is cheaper, much lighter, pretty sharp, and has OS. I can't say that in the center my Sigma is better than the Nikon, but it is very sharp indeed. However the corners are softer. The Nikon has slightly better bokeh but the Sigma is fine. If you want to shoot video in the event, the OS comes in very handy. A constant f2.8 zoom will give you more than enough light for most situations when videos are needed.
    Since the standard zooms will cover a good range. You should complement it by primes to fill the gaps not cover by the zoom. Because these standard zooms go out to 50mm, a 50 mm lens is not all that useful. However a 50/1.4 lens is not too expensive and this will bring you much "more light" than f2.8. 50mm is a bit too long however on a DX body, unless you have plenty of working distance (=large space/room). You should get a 85/1.8 G for half body/head shoulder shots. (Most pro will probably also mount a second body with a 70-200/2.8 zoom to cover this range and to take candid shots of people who are not aware of you pointing the camera at them because you are far away) A 35/1.8 lens can come in handy when you need to shoot with available light indoors. However on a DX body I find the 35mm still a little too long. The new Nikon 20/1.8 should be better and will give you 30mm FF equivalent on a DX body.
  26. I use the following lens 95% of the time: 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 VRII. Rarely leave their respective bodies.
    I occasionally use a 85mm f 1.8 and a 14-24 f2.8.
    Bodies change pretty frequently, but lenses don't change that often. The 24-70 and 70-200 are FX lenses, but will work very well with a DX or FX body. And someday, if you go from a dx body to an fx, these will work well. The same is not true for a dx lens on an fx body.
    If you need really low light performance, consider the primes.
  27. I've just bought the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 (earlier non-VR version) for events and I'm very pleased with it so far. It was very good value for money, very sharp and the focus is much quicker than my 18-105 kit lens.
    It also focuses pretty close - it's the closest focussing lens I have, so will give me more creative options (detail shots).
    I am using a D90 so can't offer first hand experience of how it holds up on a 24MP sensor, but the various reviews I consulted suggest it's as good as the Sigma.
    I prefer primes (I have the 35, 50, & 85mm f/1.8 trio), but I don't think I could cover a rapidly moving event using them. I would miss a wide angle option, and would miss too many shots changing lenses (I only have the one body at the moment).
  28. Ziad:
    I shoot with primes for the most part and my kit includes 28 1.8 a 50 1.4 and a 85 1.8. For me when I am using my d7100 dx format camera i think that I have it covered. The new 35 1.8 is superb as well.
  29. the various reviews I consulted suggest it's as good as the Sigma.​
    i had the non-VC Tamron 17-50 before i had the Sigma. IMHO, the Tamron is sharper, especially at 2.8. the difference wasnt enough for me to dump the lens though.
  30. Nothing beats actual tests. All might look great on paper but if it's not taken to the field it's like chasing the wind. I guess we can say there are two camps of lenses to go with here: The zooms 2.8 and primes 1.8 I did a few tests with my 50mm 1.8 and took 2 shots indoors, low light with both wide open and stopped down to 2.8. The 1.8 was a clear winner. The question that struck me was when will i ever shoot indoor receptions/events in low light without using a flash? I have a diffuser cup and had great results shooting even with a 3.5 kit lens. Pairing the flash with a zoom 2.8 for indoors seems to be the way to go. If i need more reach i'll just get closer. For indoor sports, i'll probably need a fast 200mm (probably an f2) which i don't have the money for right now. This takes care of our indoor reception type events. Whether i'll go for a 24-70 or a 18-50 will boil down to budget.
    For outdoors, i guess anything can do, heck i got great shots using a 300mm f4.5, with enough distance you get enough DoF for your liking. i can perhaps add a 70-200 2.8 when i have no time to change lenses and an 85mm 1.8 for portraitures.
    I have a wide 11-16mm Tokina, i'll buy the Sigma 18-50 and 50-200 2.8 and later add the 85mm.
    That should complete my set for just about anything. Thank you all so much for your guidance and great info.
  31. I use a 24mm - 85mm nikkor vr lens ... works really well, you have the ability to shoot wide and telephoto
  32. D7100 ....I have all the primes and I like the 35mm AF-S DX 1.8G wow what a super lens...but when I need a midrange tele I saved up and spoiled myself with a 17-55mm DX AF-S 2.8 very expensive but worth every penny...nothing by any third party comes close to dead on fast fast fast autofocus like the real thing...and this thing is a tank... cost me $700 used but in excellent condition...and now when not shooting primes or long distance birding...that 17-55 2.8 is setting on my D7100 24/7.

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