I was approached by a colleague yesterday. He told me that he just bought a Nikon D90 with kit lens. (18-105mm f3.5-5.6 VR, I assume). He was asking my opinion on the next lens to purchase. Should he go for zoom/tele lens and what brand should he buy? He told me that one of the options that are within his budget is the Tamron tele lens but he surely can’t join his friends for outings because they accept nothing less than a Nikon. Funny thinking there’s such rule. Can you really tell the lens used from the photos taken???
D700 50mm nikkor f2 ISO500 1/1600s
Do you really have to go for specific brand? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes not. I’ve used one of Nikkor kit lens. The 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 VR, is one of the best kit lenses made by Nikon. It is sharp enough for an outdoor portrait shots and it comes with Vibration Reduction (VR) features which is good. Some other expensive lens does not have this feature. It is a good beginner lens. I started with that lens too in the early days and after a couple of years, I got myself a Sigma 50mm f1.4, (upgraded from Nikkor 50mm f1.4D) as I tend to shoot more portraits. The Sigma is one of the best 50mm available.
The idea of getting a zoom lens as your next is the typical way of thinking for most new photographers after getting their DSLR. That was also what I thought back then. From my experience, I have to say that you really have to go out and shoot, shoot and shoot even more. Overtime you will see your tendency towards certain style of shooting. It could be portraits shots or landscape or macro. Once you have developed this only then you should consider the next lens that will suit your style.
If you are going for the zoom lens, there are few things to consider. Bigger lens or longer focal length doesn’t always mean better. As you zoom further, camera shakes will be more visible. Photos can be blurry and soft. So vibration reduction is an essential feature to be considered for longer lens. Lens aperture is another specification to be taken into consideration. Bigger aperture is very useful in insufficient light situation. Bigger aperture means higher cost. If you really need the zoom, get one of the best zoom lens, the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VRII but it will cost you a bomb at RM7,000. Another cheaper alternative is the multipurpose Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VRII at RM2,400. You’ll get the focal length but not the constant aperture. Shooting indoors with this lens can be a bit tricky because of the varying aperture. It all depends on what are you shooting. If you are into birding, then even the 70-200mm VRII is not good enough. You will need to get at least 400mm f2.8 fixed lens and that won’t be cheap.
So there are many things to consider before getting a new lens. What I can say is try to shoot more and worry less about the lens.