Inexpensive, basic lens for a Nikon D40?
May 29, 2008 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Inexpensive, basic lens for a Nikon D40?

I am overwhelmed by my options when it comes to lenses for my Nikon D40 DSLR. I have the 18-55mm it came with, but I would like something less bulky -- and less eye-catching -- for carrying around with me.

I see the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor lens, and it sounds great -- but I don't want to lose the autofocus.

I also see the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens, and it sounds glorious -- but too expensive.

Is there a basic lens out there, around $100, that will work with my D40, including autofocus?
posted by The corpse in the library to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Ok first thing, seriously, read this article on Sensor Cropping.

So that 50mm lens is really going to be a 75mm lens or so. Which is going to be awesome for portraits, but not a great lens to use all the time.

The Sigma is definitely more in the range of lenses you want. It's the equivalent to a 45mm lens which is pretty awesomely versatile.

Not sure if the D40 works with manual focus Nikon primes of old. If so, you might find a good deal if you can lose the autofocus. Otherwise, $100 doesn't get you much. It would be nice to have the 50, but if that's the lens you walk around with, your pictures are giong to be pretty limited.
posted by sully75 at 11:43 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Recommend either the Nikon 35mm f/2 or the 50mm f/1.8 old lens. It's AF so I'm not sure what you mean about "lose the autofocus". Maybe you can clarify.
Head to your local camera shop and pick up one that may be a little dinged on the outside but still has great optics.

I got my 35mm f/2 for $65.00 used and it's perfect.
posted by nougat at 11:50 AM on May 29, 2008

Check KEH, they have some really nice deals on used lenses. They're really accurate about their condition ratings too, so you can be pretty confident about what you're getting. I've bought a few older lenses from them and have been really happy.
posted by sjl7678 at 12:02 PM on May 29, 2008

Nougat -- Nikon's consumer dSLRs no longer have the body motors with focus screw that the AF series lenses require. D40's only autofocus with the AF-S series (motor is in the lens).
posted by mmdei at 12:07 PM on May 29, 2008

Ken Rockwell has some useful info, too.

Actually, he has a bunch of useful info for the D40 in general.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:18 PM on May 29, 2008

I have a Canon XTi. I got the 50mm/1.8 lens, which gives me the same sensor-cropping issue mentioned by sully75, but I still use it for everything. I would love to get a 28mm some day, but until then, the 50 is my only lens. I never take out the 18-55 kit lens.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:33 PM on May 29, 2008

Then again, I don't have the no-AF issue that you would have.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:34 PM on May 29, 2008

The best low budget lens, not to mention arguably the best deal in all lens systems right now is the $200-$250 Nikon 55-200mm VR DX lens. Big ol' zoom, great for portraiture. Not the fastest lens in the world for low-light stuff, but MAN that thing is a steal for that price.

It's a little bulkier than the 18-55 kit lens, but totally worth the hassle to carry it around.

Some shots I've taken with it.

Beyond that, I suppose the real question isn't "what small lens can I get under $100" so much as figuring out what you want to do with a lens. There's no magic bullet lens that let's you do everything all at once, though the closest thing that people are using is the 18-200 VR DX lens that is basically a combination of the kit lens you already have and the 55-200 I'm using, but that costs $600. Pricey, but worth it for most people who want to just have one lens that lets them do everything, provided they're in spots with lots of light, like outdoors.


Personally, I carry 3 lenses, and it breaks down to 1 wide angle, 1 mid range zoom, and 1 long range zoom, which are the 12-24mm ($1200), the 17-55mm f2.8 ($1200) [fast for low light, but its zoom is basically the same as the kit lens], and the aforementioned 55-200mm ($200).

I also shoot with a D40. You can save money on the camera body, but it's the lenses that make or break your photos.
posted by CharlieChu at 5:36 PM on May 29, 2008

Also to add:

mmdei is right about the autofocus motor thing, which basically means you should stick to the Nikon DX line of lenses, which are made specifically for the digital SLRs. You can try and use an older lens like the 50 f1.8 as described above, but no auto-focus is a HUGE pain unless the bulk of your photography is of still subjects.

Also also: take Ken Rockwell with a grain of salt. He's got a mountain of information and god bless him for that, but he's crazy wrong telling people not to shoot RAW and dismissing the need for fast lenses for low light.
posted by CharlieChu at 5:45 PM on May 29, 2008

The Nikon rumor blogs seem to think that there will be new Nikon lenses announced over the summer... Maybe there will be something you want, or maybe the announcement will lower the price of something you're already interested in.

I have the newer 50mm f/1.8 on a D40, and have been quite happy with it. I like it more than the kit lens, anyhow. Lacking autofocus is occasionally annoying, and the crop means that I have to back up a bit, usually, but for $100 its a good deal. Pictures of people come out really, really well. You'll probably want to focus manually when you're all the way open, anyway, given that the depth of field is so small.

Putting an older 50mm f/1.8 on the D40 is actually *not* a bad idea. (If it's really old, you might not get exposure metering, and that would be bad, I suppose.) You would have to manually focus, but putting a lens intended for full-frame on a crop gives you just the middle part of the lens, which tends to be sharper. So you'd be getting the sharpest part of an already very sharp lens.
posted by Zach! at 6:06 PM on May 29, 2008

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