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What is a good beginners lens? Wide angle and Telephoto.

Zinki Monga , Mar 11, 2011; 03:59 p.m.

I recently got a Nikon D3100 camera and have the 18-55mm lens that came with it. I have been learning the basics of photography and clicking pictures with it. So far I am happy with the pictures and what I have learned. I think I am ready to make some investment in lenses. I am really interested in getting a Wide Angle lens, but looking at so many lenses in the market, I am completely confused. So I would love to hear what you all think, what would be the best lens for beginners?


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Zach Ritter , Mar 11, 2011; 04:25 p.m.

Well, in the old days, it was a straight up 50mm. For you, I might say a 35mm on DX is a good choice.

BUT, if you want wide, then it becomes a bit more tricky. The best thing you can do is throw on the 18-55mm and decide if you like shooting within it's range and where. If you find it too short, start looking at lenses shorter than 18mm. If you like the 18mm to 35mm range, use that as a starting point.

Also, I highly reccomend getting at least one prime to try them out. Some people love primes, some do not. If you can find a used 35mm f1.8 DX nikkor out there, it sould be a cheap way to try them with very little lost if you decide to sell it.

John A , Mar 11, 2011; 04:52 p.m.

The best way to improve your photography, IMO, is to get one fixed lens and really learn to see with it. Zooms can make a novice lazy or at least give a sort of false sense of seeing. I don't think a long, or telephoto, lens is really a very good choice in such a case, it is too limited in most situations. A good 20 or 35mm lens would be best for really learning. On a DX camera, there aren't a lot of wider choices but the zooms, so if you go that way, consider only shooting at one focal length for an extended period of time--don't know anyone with that sort of will power though!

Anyway, I don't know your skill level and so my comments are fairly generic, but I don't think a telephoto is a good learning lens.

Alan Olander , Mar 11, 2011; 05:39 p.m.

Your 18-55mm is already reasonably wide at 18mm. To go wider with Nikon lenses, you would be looking at the 10-24mm or 12-24mm, but those $800 lenses. There is also the 14-24mm, but that is even more expensive. How often do you use the 18mm end of the lens you have now? Do you need to do something that can't be done at 18mm?

Stephen Lewis , Mar 11, 2011; 07:22 p.m.

You don't say what your level of experience is, or how long you have been using your present equipment, which makes it pretty hard to offer advice. I would say, use your present gear for a year, see what focal length you use most often, and then determine what you want to achieve but are unable to accomplish with your present gear. Next determine your budget. With all that info we can offer meaningful suggestions.

Jay DeSimone , Mar 11, 2011; 08:12 p.m.

Don't buy equipment just to expand...buy to meet a need that your current equipment can't fill. Otherwise, you'll buy gear that you never use, or will sell at a loss to get something you do need (ask me how I know this). When buying, it really makes sense to buy used...let the original purchaser take the depreciation hit.

I disagree with Stephen in that you should wait a year, because time limits are irrelevant...it's more based on the number of images you've captured and evaluated. Two photographers could spend a year with the same kit, one shoots 2500 images and the other shoots 100. Who is better able to figure out where his/her needs lie?

So, what limitations are you experiencing with your kit lens? If you often find yourself shooting at 18mm and wishing you had something wider, then it's time for a wide angle lens. On the other hand, if you often find yourself at 55mm and needing more reach, it's time for a telephoto lens. If you're not experiencing either of those issues, then you may not need a new lens.

Are you encountering problems maintaining sufficient shutter speeds indoors? Maybe a flash would be a better purchase.

If you're able to tell us where you're feeling crimped by your equipment and what your budget is, we can help. If you're just experiencing gear lust (we've all been there!), we'll do what we can to help talk you out of it.

Per Lindqvist , Mar 11, 2011; 09:55 p.m.

I also have a 18-55mm to my D60, and I also have the most irritating...worst then nicotine...gear lust. I think I can manage to take decent pictures with my lens today but I can't stop thinking that the result could be different/better if I had a more fancy lens. My pictures could be so much better. My economist/adviser/lonely planet/girlfriend keeps me from spending my money witch is good...but I hate that she might be right about this.
Anyhow....apparently there isn't any 35mm lenses in the whole of Argentina and its impossible to import here. Ideas?
Frustrated like many others :-)

Mark Drutz , Mar 11, 2011; 10:58 p.m.

I would look at the picures you've taken so far and ask yourself if they would be better if you had a wider lens or a longer (more telephoto) lens. As has been said, your lens is wideangle at 18mm. If you want wider, you don't need a very expensive Nikon lens. Sigma makes two very good 10-20mm lenses. One is f/4-5.6 and the other a more expensive f/3.5. I have the f/4-5.6 and I think the f/3.5 is probably not worth the extra cost for most people. Tokina makes a very good 12-24 f/4. Any of these tthree lens would be a good choice.

If you find you need a longer lens I suggest either the Nikon 55-200 VR or the Nikon 55-300 VR. My choice would be the 55-300 VR. There are other good 70-300 lenses, but the 55-300 VR is smaller and lighter and balances better on the small light D3100. I have a D3100 and a D90. I have a Nikon 70-300 VR which is a good match to the bigger D90, but too big and heavy to balance well on the D3100 (or D60). I handled the 55-300 VR and loved it on my D3100.

Arie Vandervelden , Mar 12, 2011; 12:20 a.m.

There are a number of ultrawide zoom lenses (starting at 8 to 12 mm) on the market. Most are pretty expensive and pretty good. There's a comprehensive review and comparison 3/4 down the page here:

If you want to get a standard zoom that goes wider, then check out Nikon 16-85 VR. While 2 mm doesn't sound like much, it's a world of difference.

Richard Snow , Mar 12, 2011; 07:01 a.m.

There's already been a few responses that 18mm on DX is fairly wide and that most don't need to go wider.

there's also been a post or two about the cost of wider than 18mm zoom lenses... and there have been a few suggestions.

I'd like to hear back from the OP to find out if wider than 18mm is really necessary or is the $250 35mm f/1.8 DX would be a better choice for learning.


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