DSLR n00b
October 20, 2009 9:00 PM   Subscribe

New to the DSLR world, and I need the hive mind's help with a couple questions.

I recently picked up a used Nikon D70 body (decent older DSLR, decent enough for the purposes of picking things up anyway) and a couple lenses (a 28-70mm and a 70-210mm lens, both Nikon). Over the past couple days I've spent free time reading through a manual that seems almost incomprehensible in places. I come from a fairly advanced point-and-shoot type camera, so I'm familiar with most of the terms like white balance, shutter / aperture priority, and the like. The advice of 'just shoot stuff' is certainly good, but a few things are bugging me.

#1: The longer lens (70-210mm AF 1.4-5.6 D) has one area to turn for manual focus and an aperture ring closest to where the lens hooks up to the body. There's no way to zoom in / out though - am I missing something here?

#2: I know the D70 has a crop factor of 1.5x. When I take a picture, it looks nothing like what I saw through the viewfinder. It's a *much* tighter shot than expected. Is there a way to adjust this, or is it just a mental adjustment?

#3: Looking to buy one more lens, primarily used for landscapes or macro. Is it possible to get wide angle and macro in a single lens without the cost breaking the bank?

Thank you O hive mind :)
posted by chrisinseoul to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
1) It may be a pump zoom - can you push/pull it away from, or towards, the camera? Pump zooms have the advantage of allowing you to adjust zoom and focus at the same time, but some people (me included) find them maddeningly imprecise and annoying to work with.

2) The picture you take should definitely be exactly what you saw through the viewfinder. That's a result of the basic nature of an SLR - you're looking through the lens exactly the way the film/sensor will be. I'd blame your brain.

3) Nope. At least, not that I know of. Also, you wouldn't want that - the point of macro is getting in really close; a non-telephoto macro isn't very useful. I don't even think anything like that exists, regardless of price. That's not to say you couldn't find a wide that could focus relatively close, but for true macro work, it's telephoto or go home.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:08 PM on October 20, 2009

1) That's a push-pull zoom. So you grab the big grippy part and slide it out to zoom in.

2) The viewfinder should accurately reflect the picture. That is irrelevant to the crop factor. If it doesn't that's a weird problem. dpreview lists the d70 viewfinder as covering 95% of the frame. I don't know what could cause that problem.

3) You don't want a wide-angle macro lens. If you want to fill the screen with a penny, and you have a 18mm lens, you'd have to hold the camera ridiculously close to the penny. This makes it difficult to light the subject (the camera casts a shadow), and also it makes focus even narrower. The term for how far you shoot with a macro lens is "working distance". With a 1.5x crop, I'd think an ideal macro macro lens would be 50mm-100mm.
posted by aubilenon at 9:13 PM on October 20, 2009

Oh, if you don't put your eye right up to the viewfinder it won't be the right size.
posted by aubilenon at 9:14 PM on October 20, 2009

Oh - in case you're not aware, for some reason Nikon calls all their macro lenses micro lenses. Which, admittedly, is more "obvious" to the layman, but makes things more annoying if you're used to photo terminology.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:21 PM on October 20, 2009

1 and 2 seem to have been covered, but I'll add to the voices on #3:

I don't think it's possible to get a lens that fits your requirements. Faced with a similar dilemma I ended up getting a nice consumer-grade wide angle lens and a super-cheap macro and they both worked for my purposes. The macro was cheaply made, felt 'plasticy' and cost 1/4 of the low-end canon macro, and I've taken some of my favorite pictures with it.

YMMV and it really depends on what you intend on using it for.
posted by EmptyK at 9:29 PM on October 20, 2009

Hi from the OP:

#1: The bigger lens is indeed a push-pull lens - that definitely wasn't in my dad's old bag of glass. You guys are good :)

#2: After a bit more playing around, I discovered that I see a zoomed-in crop of the middle of the picture. I have to zoom out to see the whole picture. Everytime I hit the play button to view pictures it's 2/3 zoomed into the picture (thus my confusion). Any ideas how to see the whole picture by default?

#3: I guess what I'm hoping for was something like I had (a Fuji FinePix s1000fd - great macro down to a *couple centimeters* with a decent wide-angle view. It also had pretty decent low-light conditions, but got really noisy - one thing I'm hoping to find.

Bonus points: what's your favorite low light lens for a Nikon (typically night scenes with some movement, like a street band)?
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:48 PM on October 20, 2009

For low light, try a prime lens (non zoom), such as a 35mm or 50mm. They have a much bigger maximum aperture, letting you shoot in very low light.

Also, don't be afraid of shooting at ISO 800, or even 1600 if needed.
posted by The Deej at 9:57 PM on October 20, 2009

Bonus question:

Nikon makes an amazing 35mm/f1.8 DX lens that autofocuses. It's hard to find in stores right now, so check adorama, B&H, etc. It's around $200

The ol' standby is the 50mm/f1.8 that doesn't autofocus on the new Nikons. I've taken tons of great pictures with these lenses because of the extremely shallow depth of field you can get at f1.8. I also think a prime lens forces you to compose your frames better, but that's just me guessing.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:58 PM on October 20, 2009

Favourite Low Light Lens: Sigma 30mm f.14

I don't have a Nikon but I have this lens (and its 50mm cousin) for my Pentax, which I love.
posted by Admira at 10:20 PM on October 20, 2009

that's meant to be f1.4 by the way. f0.14... now THATS quick :)
posted by Admira at 10:21 PM on October 20, 2009

I have a D70. I love the Nikon 50mm/1.8 lens for low-light photography. For me, ISO 1250 is the highest usable ISO on this camera.

With the above lens on this camera I can shoot without flash or tripod in nearly any low-light situation. Last time I checked, this lens was under $100 new.

If I had the dough, I'd get a good 35mm/1.8 lens so I could take shots in normal-sized rooms without having to back way up.
posted by zippy at 10:28 PM on October 20, 2009

Your Fuji had a sensor 1/4 as large (on each axis) as the d70. The lens didn't need to be as big (since less sensor needs less light) either. To focus the same distance you would need a much more powerful lens, which is difficult to make. When you make your sensor bigger, your DOF effectively shrinks. And when you're close in that can be a big problem. Plus the larger camera itself blocks the light.

Pulling your subject further from the lens stretches out the DOF too. For the crazy Canon supermacro lens (the only lens I know if that lets you get in that close) you have only millimeters of clear focus. I've done some macro shooting. Trust me; you'll be happier a foot or four from your macro subject.

* Okay, really, the equivalent focal length of the lens is actually what changes, but the formula for f-stop divides the aperture by the focal length, so you have to have a bigger aperture to have the same amount of light at the same zoom factor, which makes the DOF smaller.
posted by aubilenon at 10:44 PM on October 20, 2009

The D70 has an internal focus motor, so you can use all the older lenses as well. Disregard what "lockestockbarrel" said about the 50mm f/1.8.
posted by flippant at 4:11 AM on October 21, 2009

I'm sorry if this comes across as glib, as I'm not really answering your questions, but I suggest you get some in-person instruction. I agree that all this, "which lens" stuff is fascinating (and indeed, important!) but you might be going about it a step or so early.

You are beginning a potentially expensive endeavor, money-wise, time-wise and otherwise. It's also (like a lot of areas of study) a very easy thing to get frustrated with. Your best bang for the buck to be had right now would be to find someone in your area known to be a good teacher of photography. I imagine you could find someone through a local photography store or community college or the like.

The internet is a vast (read: daunting) resource for a beginning photographer. However, to a photographer the internet becomes a little less daunting with a few hours of real-world technical instruction. Even just a few minutes of someone showing you where to point your camera (and when) to avoid the "damn-this-piece-of-crap-it-keeps-making-my-pictures-too-dark/bright" frustration will go a long way.
posted by The Potate at 4:42 AM on October 21, 2009

Looking to buy one more lens, primarily used for landscapes or macro. Is it possible to get wide angle and macro in a single lens without the cost breaking the bank?

Sure, you can find terrible cheap lenses that do both wide and macro. I had a $120 Sigma a long time ago that was so out of focus it was interesting. It wasn't much fun for serious photography though.

The Nikkor 60mm micro is an amazing macro lens. It will blow away any P&S "macro mode".

At the wide end, consider something like the Tokina 12-24.

I've used both with my D70s. The Tokina is the lens I usually leave mounted to the body.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:46 AM on October 21, 2009

Seriously? Nobody has mentioned Extension Tubes? Extension tubes are installed between the lens and the DSLR body, and increase the minimum focusing distance of your lens (at the expense of being able to focus at infinity).

So you take your wide angle lens, use it for landscapes or whatever, and if you want a wide-angle-close-focusing lens, you install an extension tube. With the tube installed, you can bring your camera much closer to your subject and still be able to focus, but you will not be able to focus on something really far away (like for your typical landscape).

Someone more familiar with Nikon gear than I will have to chime in and recommend a specific one to work with your lens of choice. This is a good way to get a wide angle/macro/micro lens all in one.
posted by kenbennedy at 7:29 AM on October 21, 2009

Oh - in case you're not aware, for some reason Nikon calls all their macro lenses micro lenses. Which, admittedly, is more "obvious" to the layman, but makes things more annoying if you're used to photo terminology.

Tomorrowful, is it possibly because "macro" technically means a magnification of 1:1, and their close-up lenses may allow different mags?
posted by IAmBroom at 2:30 PM on October 21, 2009

Incidentally, I very highly recommend renting lenses, as a way to get a sense for what you like before you drop a lot of money on anything.
posted by aubilenon at 2:03 AM on October 22, 2009

Thanks all - marking this resolved for all the great answers :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 7:15 AM on October 22, 2009

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