General Question

lapilofu's avatar

What is a good Nikon lens?

Asked by lapilofu (4325points) October 24th, 2008

I’m thinking about buying a new lens for my Nikon D50. I don’t really like the zoom lens that came with it, but I can’t say why. I don’t really know enough lenses to judge. All I know is that I like the photos that come out of my film Pentax a lot more than the ones that come out of my digital Nikon, so I’d like something that would bring my Nikon closer to doing what my Pentax does.

Part of it is that my Nikon lens doesn’t get the shallow depth of field that my Pentax does. But there’s also something else going on that I can’t quite place.

For reference: photos from my Nikon and photos from my Pentax.

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18 Answers

cooksalot's avatar

The Nikon D50mm is on my wish list.

Les's avatar

This may be a dumb question, but are you manually adjusting the focus on your D50? There are two buttons you have to switch to allow you to manually focus, one on the lens itself and one on the camera body.

lapilofu's avatar

Here is what little I know about lenses distilled:

Adjusting where the focus is has no impact on how small the depth of field is, but yes, I have been doing that. (Incidentally, not all of Nikon’s auto-focus lenses have a switch on the lens—mine doesn’t.) What does affect the smallness of a depth of field is having a wider aperture—and I have that adjusted to its widest (the smallest F-stop, that is) at almost all times. What you see in those photos are the results.

Les's avatar

You are right about the effect of the aperture, but I’m not sure I understand what you said about where to adjust the focus. If I wanted to take a picture of a single flower, I would point my camera at the flower and focus on that. If I did it right, the background should be blurry with the flower standing out in the foreground (selective focus)
Those pictures you gave as examples are very different from one another. The set from your Nikon are wide depth of field by nature of the picture (except maybe the one of the row of columns), but the set from your Pentax are mainly closeups of people, with that selective focus going on. I think you are saying that you like the look of the selective focus (as do most photographers).

It would help to know what type of lens you are using. Generally, shorter lenses have greater depth of field (think wide angle lenses), but anything that can zoom (telephoto or just a 200mm lens will give you a shallower DOE, what you are looking for). If you are using a telephoto lens, to get the best DOE, zoom all the way in before taking the picture.

lapilofu's avatar

Right. The thing is, that my Nikon lens (it’s a zoom lens, I think 35–80, but am not positive) doesn’t seem to do selective focus as well as my Pentax lens (I have no idea what my Pentax lens is except that it’s not a zoom lens).

For instance, these two photos contain figures a similar distance away, but the former (taken with my Pentax) has a much more pleasant blur than the latter (taken with my Nikon at the widest aperture).

I think part of the misunderstanding is simply that I don’t really even understand the difference between the two cameras, so I can’t really articulate it. All I really know is that I like the photos I can take with my Pentax a lot more overall. And I’m looking for something that will draw my Nikon closer to that.

These and these albums taken using my Nikon might be better for comparison to my Pentax photos if you think that will help clear up what I’m looking for.

That’s interesting about zooming in all the way to get the best DOE! Somehow I had the opposite impression. I’ll see if that changes anything.

Les's avatar

Yeah, I see what you mean there. I am assuming that your Pentax is an SLR, but just a film camera, as opposed to the DSLR D50. Here is an interesting site I found
They have some handy little pics to show you why the DOE is shallower for longer lenses.

On your D50, on the lens itself on the top it should say what the focal range is (similarly for the Pentax, if it is SLR). Mine says 18–55mm, which is the standard lens that it came with. This does not offer a whole lot in the way of selective focus. I have to get really close to things if I want that effect. Now, my Nikkormat 35mm SLR has a telephoto lens with it which takes amazing pics. But, I am old fashioned in that I still like film.

eambos's avatar

@cooks I have that lens, and I love it. 50mm are my favorite lenses by far.

sumul's avatar

The 50mm fixed focal length lens is the way to go. Great answer, @cooksalot!

jtvoar16's avatar

Hi. I hope your ready for a very long read.

I think I understand what you are looking for: You want a high Circle of Confusion in your photos, which is mostly caught by the aperture range of f1.4 to f2 plus a very large Depth of Field.
In my experiacnes the best lens to capture those effects are as follows, in order of cost:
the Nikkor 50mm f1.4
Nikkor 50mm f1.8
Nikkor 85mm f1.8
Nikkor 60mm f2.8G (only on full frame sensors, the true range of the 60mm N is 2.8–4.3)
Nikkor 200mm f4 (Very old lens, but I still swear by it, kinda, mostly, okay so not really swear as much as enjoy)
Nikkor 24–70mm f2.8G
Nikkor 24mm SF f2.8G
Nikkor 200mm f2
Nikkor 500mm f4
Nikkor 600mm f4
Nikkor 400mm f2.8 (sweat jebus and all that is holly to you and I, this IS the only lens I would use if I always had the option to get far enough away)

Some other options to consider would be doing as some have suggested and giving a very large distance between subject and background, then shooting with a longer lens, providing a very good range of field. When ever I am out and about playing, I take my Nikkor 80–400mm f4.5–5.6 and shoot at the 400mm mark, even though I have an aperture of 5.6, I still get an amazing depth of field. In fact, some of my favorite photos to take are ones in which I use my 200mm f2, giving me an INSAIN DoF. Most people think I shot the photo with a macro.

The biggest thing to remember about Nikon is the fact that they are trying to “separate” themselves from “the old days” meaning most of their newer lenses are getting smaller, with fewer groups and sets, but with a greater quality of glass. Which means their lens are getting a lot lighter, and a lot smaller (unless it’s the 24–70, dang thing is to dang big for a dang portrait lens. but I still swear by that one, and I mean swear.) It also means nearly every new lens in the last 5 years has had ED or better glass (or that weird pseudo-ED glass) so most of the old “problems” like the CoC and lens aberrations are a thing of the past. Another consideration is the way the sensor gathers information, compared to a piece of paper burning up, and the type of camera and, the list goes on and on.

If nothing else, I have a plethera of saved masks for Photoshop that might help you judge your own DoF masks for creating false DoF’s and CoC’s.
Another consideration is Element Vignetting which a lot of old lens and some speciality lens have. I know when I use my 18–200mm lens on my IR D200 I end up getting a massive Element Vignette at 18mm and 200mm. THe 80–400mm does it a lot at 80mm too, unless I shot at a low aperture (as in a high f number, like f22)

I hope that helps. If you would like you can PM me or send me a lurve, or what ever the dumb name Fluther uses for a “Privet Message” to me and we can talk more in depth.

Oh another consideration is also precise focusing, if you ever upgrade to a D300 or higher (in my option you shouldn’t go any higher unless you are A) Rich or B) a pro) you can trick the camera into many strange things using the firmware.
So I hope that all helps, or gets you thinking.

cooksalot's avatar

mmm, also you might want to run a little bit of sharpening to defog the digital. That is another reason film seems to be sharper, and have more depth of field than digital.

eambos's avatar

I still use my old Nikon N8008 35mm film all the time. I love using a film camera so much more than digital. The limit on the number of pictures you can take really makes you think about the shot, making every image important.

jtvoar16's avatar

@cooksalot, I don’t really agree. I think it comes down to your camera and your sensor, and glass. I mean, if you have someone else like walmart develop your film, your not going to get that sharp of an image, not to mention if you are using really soft glass, you won’t get a sharp image no matter how hard you try.

cooksalot's avatar

True, but I was also taking into consideration that it is a Nikon and I know what the Nikon quality is. That is all I use and several other pros that I know use nothing else but Nikon also.

jtvoar16's avatar

okay, sorry. I didn’t want to step on toes, and I will admit, the Nikon sensor is awesome, but cannon has them beat, seeing as most of nikon sensors are cannon sensors backward engineered. I will say though, their glass is the best in my option.

eambos's avatar

Cannon has the better sensors, but Nikon has the better lenses and kits.

Cannon kits suck!

jtvoar16's avatar

Very true!
In my option I would say choosing between the two should come down to three (3) factors:
1) Your budget. Nikon if you like spending massive amounts of money on a damn good product.
2) Your skill level. Canon does a great job of “idiot proofing” their menus and sub-systems
3) Your company and\or employer. I have worked with people that were actually fired from their jobs because they shot with X brand at work but in their free time shot with Y brand. It goes both way. Photography is a BRUTAL line of work\career. I have heard of some ad agencies working with only people who shoot Nikon or Cannon, because they have a contract with one company or the other. The contract gets them big benefits but they can’t, by the law of the contract, work with anyone that “endorses” the other brand.

cooksalot's avatar

Talk about cut throat.

jtvoar16's avatar

It’s a wicked system out there. I like it thought, probably because I’m an A**H***. But only to my employers, not other photographers (unless they are A**H***s to me), or my models (unless they are my friends.)

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