55-200mm suitable for everyday use?
September 28, 2011 8:26 PM   Subscribe

Should I replace an 18-55mm lens with a 55-200mm?

My wonderful fiancee dropped my D40 straight on its lens and the mechanism is jammed right up. I'm bringing it to a camera shop tomorrow to see what it will cost to fix, if it's fixable.

But I'm wondering if I should just take the opportunity to buy a new lens. The camera came with an 18-55mm lens that is nice but I find it lacking for any kind of distance. If I bought a 55-200mm lens, would I find it usable for normal shooting as well as, say, bird-watching?

Basically, is a 55-200mm suitable for everyday use?
posted by InsanePenguin to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would say no. For bird-watching you'd do best with 300 or over, 50 is good for people shots, 35 is "normal" focal length on that size sensor, and wider than 35 is best for landscapes. These are all very general rule-of-thumb values, ymmv of course. There's a reason 18-55 is considered a "midrange" lens.
posted by matildaben at 8:33 PM on September 28, 2011

Er, not especially. 55mm is pretty tight. You'll find yourself having to back waaayyyyy up to shoot anything big. Why not go for 18-200?
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:33 PM on September 28, 2011

They compliment each other.

I would think that for your everyday use the 18-55 mm is more useful. In a digital, 55mm would translate to ~ 78mm or so. For most every day purposes, it probably will cover 60-70% of your photographic needs.

A telephoto is great to have (in addition). Another thing to consider - unless you are buying a very expensive lens, you would largely find it limited for doing available light photography in indoor situations (I hate in-camera flash and dislike the idea of hauling around an external flash for every day photography).

I eventually bought the 18-200 mm that Nikon offers. That and the Nikon 50mm are what I carry most of the time (although, I am seriously considering replacing the 50 mm with a 35 mm - if and when I can afford to buy it ..)
posted by justlooking at 8:34 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

340 equiv. is short for bird watching. Just as a reference point this picture was shot on a 600mm equiv. lens from less than *10 feet* away. Unless you're shooting eagles and great blue herons, most birds are small and shy.

And on the other end, 90mm equiv is too close for most everyday things, like group shots of people, or landscapes. A 90-340 equiv is a good lens for shooting sports from the sidelines. It's too close for most "everyday" things, and not close enough for birds.

I find that my most used lenses for everything but birds are a 18-36mm equiv. wide-angle zoom, and a fast 40mm equiv prime. I use the longest lens I can get for birds.

I went and did all the conversions so that there'd be a common point of reference. I'm shooting micro 4/3 so everything looks shorter if you just list raw focal lengths.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:42 PM on September 28, 2011

Yep, the compromises you'd end up making for much of your "normal" shooting and the limitations for zoom make it a complementary lens, not a replacement. Ken Rockwell recommends a couple of "do-it-all" Nikon lenses, an 18-200mm and a 28-300mm.
posted by holgate at 8:48 PM on September 28, 2011

One more thing to point out:
With the 18-55, how often did you shoot zoomed all the way to 55? Because those are the only pictures that you could take before that you'll still be able to take with this other lens. If most of your photos weren't taken at max zoom (and I'd guess that's the case), this other lens is not going to be suitable for them.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:56 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot depends on the sort of work you do, but a 55 at the widest end of the tele on a compact (APS-C-sized) sensor is very, very long for most peoples' day-to-day work.

Recall how tight your previous lens was out at 55 and then try to imagine taking shots indoors, etc., and never being able to get any wider. Portraiture starts at 55 on a compact sensor; the classic 50mm lens would be a 32mm on your sensor size, and many people consider the classic 50 to be too long for a lot of indoor work. A classic wide 28mm works out to 18mm on your sensor size, and that's generally where a lot of candids and indoor work start.

If you never, ever zoomed out (on the lens or with your feet by backing up), you can get away with a long tele. Otherwise you'll end up with two lenses anyway, and most people I know keep their wide-to-normal on more often than not.
posted by introp at 9:24 PM on September 28, 2011

i would say get both lenses. they are both super cheap (~$100), as they are pretty standard 'kit' lenses for nikon. i would NOT reccomend the 18-200 lens. the rule of thumb for zoom lenses is 'not over 4x' ...ie 18x4>55 and 55x4>200 but 18x4<> but, if you're trying to save money, sure, get the 55-200 now. and if you later find yourself missing the 18-55, replace it then.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:54 PM on September 28, 2011

sorry that didnt come out right ...18x4 is much less than 200, ie it's more than 10x zoom
posted by sexyrobot at 11:58 PM on September 28, 2011

gah...sorry html. it also deleted the explanation. a 10x zoom will have a lot of distortion is why you dont want one. ranging from 'fisheye' at one end to 'pincushion' at the other...none of your straight lines will ever come out straight.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:02 AM on September 29, 2011

i would say get both lenses. they are both super cheap (~$100)

Where do you shop? On Amazon I'd be spending more in the neighborhood of $500 to get both, which is why balked a little.

Thanks for the help everyone, I'll probably either just get the lens fixed or replace it with the same kind!
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:15 AM on September 29, 2011

Keh.com or Craigslist for gently used lenses.
posted by litnerd at 6:25 AM on September 29, 2011

I disagree with you sexyrobot, the mild distortion of the 18-200 is more than worth it's utility and versatility. It's my only lens 80% of the time, and the distortions (when they are noticeable) disappear with a bit of lens correction in photoshop.

I would not have only the 55mm+ lens as my only glass, it's ~80mm equivalent, and that is awful tight for most things, you will struggle to take shots of anything big, without backing up a mile.
posted by defcom1 at 7:50 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with above - if I had to pick just one of the two you offer up, I'd go with the 18-55.

Personally, I love Nikon's 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR (Amazon). The older model (the "II") is identical except it lacks the lock to hold the lens closed when carrying it. I don't find that to be something I miss. Yes, there is distortion on the far ends, but I've taken some awesome pictures with it that I'd not have taken if I only had one lens on. For me, a little bit of distortion is worth actually getting the shot I want.

You can get the 18-200 used from Adorama for ~$550. You could probably get either of those lenses from there used as well (looks like ~$150 for each lens). I have bought from Adorama and I would recommend their used lenses without hesitation - their quality rating is very pessimistic, and if you get a fairly well rated lens you likely won't even see the defects they saw, so don't feel the need to get only their best rated used lenses.

For the D40, make sure you get an AF-S lens so the auto-focus will work.

Finally, if you contact me separately, I have a used 55-200 AF-S/VR Nikon lens that I've been meaning to sell for a while now and will gladly make a deal on.
posted by ydant at 9:04 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I meant to link to the Adorama used Nikon zoom lenses search.
posted by ydant at 9:05 AM on September 29, 2011

I have an 18-55mm that came with my camera, and I bought a 55-250mm with image stabilization some time later.

I always have the 55-250 on because the IS is just so brilliant, but 55 is quite tight as others have said, and it's not ideal for all situations.

I want to sell it and get an 18-200mm with IS which will cover me for most all situations.
posted by cmetom at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2011

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