Which Nikon Lense
June 30, 2005 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I've decided to buy a digital Nikon SLR (lots of old lenses that will fit the digital body even though they won't work with the digital body's meter). I looked at the D100, D70, D70s and D50. I think I've decided on the D70s. Which "modern" Nikon lens should I buy to go with it? There is a 24-85mm with a 2.8 - 4.0 fstop that looks good. Any suggestions regarding the best "all-around" lens or any reasons I should look at a model other than the D70s?
posted by Carbolic to Technology (14 answers total)
You'll probably find this thread extremely useful. I seem to recall this being asked a couple additional times as well, if you're up for scouring the archives — but that was the only thread I bookmarked.

(Oh, and I absolutely love my D70.)
posted by rafter at 7:34 PM on June 30, 2005

I was given the D70 a couple of months ago. I have the Nikkor 18-70mm and I've been happy with it as a starter lens. It does have barrel distortion and vignetting at the low end. I've read somewhere (sorry, I couldn't find it just now) that the lens you mentioned has some pincusioning issues above 35mm.

Though you can't use the meter...would it be useful to try some of the older lenses to get an idea of your preferred range?

I love my D70 also and I was a lifelong Canon (35mm) and Olympus (digital) user.
posted by ?! at 7:40 PM on June 30, 2005

I've got a D70.

The 18-70mm kit lens is a pretty good start, but I found that I often wanted more reach, so I got the little 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G before I left on a trip and now I find I rarely have the kit lens on the camera. My main complaint with the 28-200mm is that it's slow to focus.

When thinking about what lenses to buy, I found Ken Rockwell's site useful.

He's got a lot of lens reviews too...

He doesn't like the 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF
posted by aneel at 8:11 PM on June 30, 2005

What sort of things or in what situations are you going to be photographing? What's your price range?

In case you're not aware, the Fred Miranda reviews are a good place to learn about lenses.
posted by undertone at 8:16 PM on June 30, 2005

I'm looking for a very general purpose high quality "fast" lens. Aneel's link to Ken Rockwell's site shows me that I was on the wrong track with the 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF (lack of sharpness) but those with a max fstop of 3.5 make me think they are to limited.

I can't say that price is not a consideration but $600-$700 or so isn't out of the question.
posted by Carbolic at 8:40 PM on June 30, 2005

Check out a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 -- some of them are a little soft, so I'd buy locally for ease of return; ideally you'd take your new camera to the store and cherry-pick the best copy of the lens. If you get a good one, it's easily as good as lenses costing twice or three times as much; the Canon 20D crowd oohs and aahs over this lens and compares it to Canon's 24-70 f/2.8L. And there's a $30 rebate on 'em now.
posted by kindall at 8:57 PM on June 30, 2005

(I have this lens for my 20D and like it, I forgot to mention.)
posted by kindall at 8:58 PM on June 30, 2005

What are you going to use it for? Do you need a zoom?

If you don't already have a normal prime then get a 50mm f/1.8. It's the best $90 you'll ever spend. It's a great general purpose lens, but slightly long on a D70.

If you want a slightly higher quality lens that's a little wider than that then get the 35mm f/2. I have one of these and I use it more than all my other lenses combined. It's small and very sharp with excellent color rendition. It's great for most purposes.

If you need a zoom and you can find one, get the 28-85mm zoom that's been discontinued for a decade. I have one of these that I found for $100 on eBay and I love it.

I tend to recommend primes to most people, especially those who are starting out. It's nice not to have to worry about zooming when you're first learning to make a picture and the faster aperture and higher quality of a prime are really worth it.
posted by bshort at 9:07 PM on June 30, 2005

A lot of digital photographers are freaked out about the encryption Nikon uses on their dSLRs. Effectively you can't use Adobe's Camera Raw (or other non-Nikon software) in your workflow. If that's a big issue to you, look to another manufacturer, like Canon.
posted by Monochrome at 9:13 PM on June 30, 2005

Err sorry I realized your camera isn't affected.
posted by Monochrome at 9:15 PM on June 30, 2005

While I use the 18-70 on occasion (AFS really spoils you), I'm not terribly fond of the lens in general. If you're coming from auto-everything cameras, you'll probably be satisfied. But if you've got any experience behind the lens, you'll start to despise the low-end barrel distortion and dark corners. Nikon cut a lot of glass out of the lens to reduce weight and complexity, which is great, but the image circle is now DX-sized, which sucks.

On normal 35mm lenses, a lot of the light thrown to the sensor is cropped--the nice consequence of which is that you almost never see really bad lens problems at the corners (chromatic aberations, dark corners, etc.) With the DX line of lenses, you're back to having to be super-critical of the lens performance, and frankly the 18-70 doesn't measure up. Even the new gee-whiz 17-55 f/2.8 DX has its share of problems (bad ghosting).

If I were you, I'd get the 28-70 f/2.8 (and the 17-35 f/2.8 if you've got extra cash to blow on your low-end). Even if I were sticking with Nikon, I'd never buy another DX lens again in my life. The quality simply isn't there yet (the 12-24 DX is a perfect example--just ghastly).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:39 AM on July 1, 2005

I bought a D70 in March. I already had 20mm, 50mm, and 105mm primes (and a cheap 28-200 zoom) from working with film. I bought the 18-70mm lens kit with the D70.

Of these five lenses, the two I use most often are the 105mm fixed focal length lens (primarily because it's a macro lens) and the 18-70mm kit lens. (It's the one Rockwell loves, if I remember right.)

If I could afford new lenses right now, I'd purchase a fast 35mm prime, which would be roughly equivalent to 50mm on a film-based camera, and a wide-angle zoom (12-24mm?).

Really, though, as many people have suggested, the answer depends on how your work with your camera. You say you want a fast general purpose lens. Civil_Disobedient has more photography experience than I do, and recommends against it, but still take a long hard look at the 18-70 kit lens I mentioned above. It'll probably serve your needs.

(I don't think the 28-80mm lens that people are recommending is versatile enough; it's smallest effective focal length is only 42mm.)
posted by jdroth at 3:25 PM on July 1, 2005

Just to clarify, for the money, you can't get a better lens/feature set than the 18-70 DX, particularly when you buy it bundled with the D70. But if you have the choice, get the f/2.8, full-frame 28-70 instead. Working at 18mm may sound nice, but in practice I find I have to zoom in a bit to avoid the bad corners.

Naturally, try them out yourself before opening your checkbook.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:38 PM on July 1, 2005

I ended up buying the D70s in the kit with the 18-70 zoom. Not long after I purchased the 85mm 1.8f D. I was relatively satisfied with the 18-70 until I saw how sharp the photos taken with the 85mm were. Now the pictures taken with the zoom seem fuzzy. My only regret with the 85mm is that it's a little long when couple by the fact that you end up with an appox. 1.5x focal length. I might have been better satisfied with a 50mm.

I haven't used the camera enough at this point to say much more but I thought I'd update.
posted by Carbolic at 1:26 PM on November 30, 2005

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