Would it be worth it to get another lens?
January 22, 2017 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D7200 paired with a Nikon 35mm 1:1.8. It's a miracle worker. You can see what I'm doing with it here. (Scroll down to the still shots.) I'm shooting in manual so 70% of the shots are tossed, but I'm getting a feel for it. (More inside.)

I really love my current set up but I feel like, aside from subject matter, I'm becoming repetitive. Should I spend a few bucks for a wide angle or telephoto? What do you Mefite photographers think about this?

Many thanks.
posted by snsranch to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nice pix! I think where the low F lenses really "shine" is in low light situations - most of yours are daylight. Go take a bunch of dusk/night pictures. The 1.8s can take pictures at night which artistically are a good match to what the human eye sees, and for me that's really important.

In other words: in bright daylight, a good smartphone camera is almost as good as a DSLR. But in poor light, there's no comparison.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:17 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I really like my D7100 paired with a 24mm f/2.8 prime. These days most of my photography is done with a Fujifilm X100t, though, since it's comparable with the D7100/24mm in terms of field and image quality, has a wider (f/2) aperture, and is a lot smaller and lighter, and I like to travel light. Plus I like the rangefinder.

For that reason, when I haul out the D7100, I like to carry around at least one other lens, even if I plan to use a prime for most shots. My current go-to is the 18-140mm VR zoom, because it covers most use cases for me. I do have an older 55-200 mm zoom that I occasionally use for longer telephoto shots, but its quality at the longer focal lengths is iffy. (You get what you pay for).

I also have a 35mm f/2 prime that is excellent for portraits, especially low light ones; it doesn't break the bank.

But my favorite prime with the D7200 is a 105mm macro lens, which I use for insects, flowers, and other nice small stuff.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:38 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Two thoughts.

Either as a result of your processing--but, much more likely in my mind, the lens itself--your photos look pretty low contrast to me. There's a few where the image has some pretty hot areas, but a lot of the rest are flat. This is the main reason why I'd get a new piece of glass--there's a great difference you'd find between the 35 1.8 and another prime lens for even just a few hundred bucks more. (And personally, I'd just trade in the 35 1.8 towards a better lens.) You don't have to break the bank, but I'd move up to the 50 1.4G. It will really pop. If you're in SD, you can surely rent it for a weekend to try it out.

The other thing I'd keep in mind is that model has a crop sensor. I do love 35s on crop sensors, which give an equivalent field of view to a 50 on a full frame (which feels like human vision). Sadly, the 35 1.4G is something like $1700, whereas the 50 1.4G is less than $500 (and I'm sure you could pick it up used off of Craigslist for much less). The 50mm that I'm recommending would feel like an 85--which is a nice length for portraiture, but can be a bit tough indoors otherwise--you keep having to step back and back and back to get people in frame. In any event, and perhaps not lost on you, with the 1.6x factor for APS sensors, wide is often not super duper wide, and telephoto can get really tight quick. I wouldn't pay a too high a premium for wide or long lenses for a crop camera.

Good luck and keep shooting!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:39 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

35mm is a nice length, especially on a crop sensor (lands around 52mm equivalent, and 50mm is a great full-frame angle). I agree with the above about contrast , but personally I doubt that it's the lens itself--most glass is good enough these days... Investigate your exposures and your post-processing technique. Vignetting on a crop sensor is really minimal, usually, so the contrast loss to correct for it should not be bad.

From your tumblr, I get the sense from the sort of pictures you're taking that you'd enjoy the compositions you could get on a telephoto?

That said, I find telephoto shots quite challenging and my personal tastes tend to run towards wider lenses. Something around 16-20 is lots of fun for sweeping shots and street views on a crop sensor. It's much harder to isolate a subject though, and composing shots requires a lot of attention to detail.
posted by dust_hypothesis at 6:46 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd move up to the 50 1.4G. It will really pop. If you're in SD, you can surely rent it for a weekend to try it out.

I don't have any specific lens recommendations because I don't know how you're feeling limited - what shots you can't get because you're too close or too far or whatever.

But I think the most valuable part of Admiral Haddock's comment is the suggestion to rent lenses to try them out. You can rent them locally, or online, but it's a fantastic way to try out lenses and see what kinds of photography new lenses will enable.

It's also great for events, because you can rent ridiculous $5000 lenses you probably wouldn't ever buy
posted by aubilenon at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nice shots! Keep shooting!

I love buying camera equipment, but it's really a hazard. Shooting photos is the way to make better photos. I would buy a new lens when you have a special shot you need a new lens for. That being said, I love my 8mm Peleng Fisheye, my 50mm f/1.4, my 85mm f/1.4, and my 135mm f/2.8. To be honest I find 35mm to be too wide on a crop frame camera, 50mm feels much better to me.

You're sort of shooting the same type of shot every time. Many of your shots look like you're maybe 3-10 feet away from your subject. Get really close, Go really far away. Many of your shots are looking slightly down or slightly up. Lie down on the ground and look up, Stand on top of a wall and look down, Look at stuff perfectly square on. Some of your shots feel too tightly cropped, for example on the dog photos (cute dog by the way) pull way back and show us enough of the street the dog is on to give us context and place.

Here's some stuff to shake you up:
Manually focus your lens to the closest focus. Spend a day shooting things by getting close enough that they're in focus.

Manually focus your lens to infinity. Spend a day shooting things that are far enough away that they're in focus.

Pick a 15' square and shoot a hundred photos of things in that square.

Spend a day asking strangers if you can take their picture.

Spend a day not asking strangers if you can take their picture.

Spend a day putting your subject at the extreme edges of the picture.
posted by gregr at 7:42 PM on January 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I love love love my sigma 10-20mm zoom. 10mm is usually a fisheye lens, but this one is flat-field, which makes for an interesting funhouse effect when you move it around. It's great for interior work, as it has 102 degree field of view at 10mm (meaning if you stand in a corner you can get all 4 walls (!)). It's great for really tight spaces and dramatic distorted portraits. It sounds like a weird lens, but I find that I use it a lot. Outside it takes landscapes that take in the whole world around you.

Definitely hit up a camera rental place and see if they have one you can rent (always a good idea when shopping for a new lens.)

Also, overstock.com often has really good deals on lenses and usually have 500-1000mm mirror lenses for ~$100...mirror lenses are wierd and fun, structured like a newtonian telescope, usually have fixed aperture, and odd donut-shaped bokeh...but for trying out ultra-telephoto/astrophotography, they are a good combo of cheap and light. You will probably have to run your shots through post-processing to increase contrast, but, again, thousands of dollars cheaper than conventional 500/1000mm lenses. Also you will need a solid tripod, but that's true with any telephoto. Ah, here's one on amazon for $120 with f6.3 and a 2x adapter (there are other kits on amazon even cheaper, but usually f8...some include ND filter for aperture control)

I'm shooting in manual so 70% of the shots are tossed, but I'm getting a feel for it.
Ummm...DO NOT THROW AWAY PICTURES! The world isn't running out of hard drive space anytime soon, you never know what you'll want later, and especially never never throw anything away from the camera itself, as it's pretty much impossible to judge a good photo on the tiny screen.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:21 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you want to move more towards portrait work, you might consider either the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 or one of the lower cost manual Samsang 85mms.
posted by Candleman at 8:28 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you've got a case of Gear Acquisition Syndrome. If you're feeling stuck in a rut, you shouldn't be asking yourself what new lens you should get and then thinking about how to use it. You should first think of what style or subject you want to shoot and then determine whether you need a new lens to achieve that kind of shot.

Go trawling through Flickr and find some pics that make you think, "I wish that I had taken that." Then check the EXIF stats on that photo's page (many but not all will have this) and see what the equivalent aperture or focal length is. Then you can decide whether you want an ultra-wide, telephoto, macro, etc.

If you're really insistent on buying a new piece of gear to kickstart your creativity, you can always get a Lensbaby lens. I had a Lensbaby Composer way back when. It was cheap relative to other lenses and produced an interesting tilt-shift effect. In the end I sold it because it was too much of a one trick pony, but it was a fun little toy for a while.
posted by alidarbac at 6:02 AM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Worth it" is a relative term, really. I mean, many people only ever shoot with one lens, and it suits them just fine. The legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson famously shot most of his work with a 50mm lens on his 35mm camera, so about the same field of view as your 35mm on the Nikon D7100.

With that in mind, I'll tell you that I shoot with the similar Nikon D5000 and I only use two lenses. One is the 35mm like yours, and I love it! There are times I think I never need any other lens on that camera. But, versatility is good, so my other lens is the Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom. Like all zoom lenses, there is a trade-off in convenience vs. aperture. But when I'm out and about, especially on vacation, it's nice to have just one lens on the camera that will do just about anything. True, I can't get as shallow a depth of field as a prime lens, and in low-light I have to bump my ISO up more than if I was shooting with a prime, but the Nikons handle high ISOs just great.

Sample shot with 35mm. Low light is where that lens shines.
Sample with 18-200. The long end gives a nice "flattening" effect which works well with this image.
Another with the 18-200. The zoom lens gave me the versatility to frame the shot how I wanted.

In short, sure another lens can open your eyes to more images. But unless you feel like you're missing shots because of the limitations of your lens, just keep shooting with that one until you become an expert, and keep learning more about lighting, exposure, composition and editing. Good luck and have fun!
posted by The Deej at 6:14 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are there any shots you wish you could get but can't with your current lens? Look at the kinds of shots you want to take but currently can't and that will guide what your next step should be. Like you, I was once wondering if I was becoming boring and needed a wide angle lens but then I realized that the shots I was really getting frustrated over missing required a macro lens. I'd initially rejected a macro lens because I thought it wasn't really practical, it was roughly the same length as the portrait lens I was using and I thought I wouldn't use it much. I was wrong! I love that lens and it's the one I use more than anything--because it can take the kind of photos I'm interested in taking.
posted by Polychrome at 8:41 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, I can't thank you guys enough! Some really great ideas and insights here. I'm off to go rent some lenses and work on some creativity exercises.
posted by snsranch at 3:53 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

A note on zoom lenses: The wider their zoom range, the more distortion you will encounter (fisheye on one end, 'pincushion' on the other...i.e. straight lines will appear curved outward or inward) so, say an 18-300mm (~15x zoom) will be much more distorted than an 18-55mm or 55-200mm (~3-4x). Point the lens at something square in the store and compare to the edge of the frame and it will be pretty obvious.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:56 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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