Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

submit your photo


Hall of Fame
View past winners from this year

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Take the 2-minute tour ×
Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am an absolute beginner in serious photography. I'm a position to get a Nikon D70 body for $100 or so.

I've been researching lenses and I'm debating if I should get the one that originally came with the camera (18-55mm II) or a 50mm f/1.8. Like I said at the beginning, I really don't know enough yet to make an informed decision.

I plan on mostly taking portrait photos. Occasionally some outdoors shots, like park outings and such, nothing too fast-moving.

I'd like to keep my budget for the lens below $150.

If you need any more details, please let me know.

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The 50mm F/1.8 is certainly best suited for portraits. Its bright aperture lets you shoot in lower light and allows for much more background blur as seen in classic portraits, because it separates the subject from the background and tends to remove distracting elements.

Honestly, I would not use the other one for anything. Getting a poor lens is the easiest way to cripple the performance of a DSLR.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for the 50mm. I'm a portrait kind of fellow and I only break out my kit 18-55mm (stead of 50mm f/1.4) in extremely rare occasions when I have to go wider. –  rfusca Jul 18 '11 at 18:00
    
For many reasons I agree the 50 f/1.8 is the lens to go (at least in most cases) among these two, however the nikkor 18-55 is not a poor lens by any means. It's not fast nor sturdy, still its good image quality (talking of contrast, sharpness, chromatic aberrations and flare) and versatility are quite a matter of fact. –  MattiaG Jul 19 '11 at 16:59
    
Sorry but the 18-55mm II is a poor lens. I had access to 4 samples of it (each sent along with a different camera) and there is no way its performance could be confused with a semblance of quality. –  Itai Jul 19 '11 at 17:11

I bought my D70s with the 18-70 kit lens. I added the 50mm f/1.8 to my bag a few days later. Aside from an occasional need for a wider angle, the 50mm stayed mounted on that camera easily 95% of the time.

When I got serious about macros, I bought a set of extension rings, and occasionally slipped a 12mm ring under the 50.

When the D70s developed some "quirks" with its CF card slot and I was ready to upgrade the body, I moved that 50mm onto a D90, where it also stays nearly permanently mounted.

The thing that really keeps the 50mm on the camera is that it works so well wide open, and when shooting wide open at a higher ISO, I can get casual shots in remarkably dim light. I've really come to enjoy its slight reach over a "normal" lens as well.

When I next buy more glass, my next lens is likely to be either a full circle fisheye or a fast prime in the 30mm range.

share|improve this answer

I agree with Itai's answer: for portraits, 50 mm f/1.8 is a better choice. Optical quality for this Nikon lens is incredibly good, probably the best optical quality-price ratio for the brand. And it is fairly fast, which helps to take pictures in the dark. As the D70 doesn't have a low-light sensitive sensor, this should be a huge argument in favor of the prime lens.

Besides, from my point of view, if you are a serious beginner and want to improve your skills, the choice of the prime lens really makes sense. Prime lenses force you to prepare your composition, to think where to place yourself, to carefully choose your settings and give you good habits. Zooms tend to make you lazy...

share|improve this answer
    
I don't see how zoom lenses make you lazy. You can use a zoom just like a prime if you wish. It just gives you more flexibility. Of course, you can't just not think about the zoom and just change the dial until your shot looks right, but I think the argument of "some people get lazy with zooms" isn't an argument against zooms, it's against those who don't learn to use them properly. (For what it's worth, I've never seen a professional photographer using a prime at an event -- 70-200mms everywhere!) –  Billy ONeal Jul 18 '11 at 20:02
2  
Oh don't get me wrong, I like zooms, they are very handy in some situations where you need flexibility (well that was the goal...). But seeing friends starting with zooms, I have observed that they tend to zoom in/out instead of moving. That causes them to lack depth-of-field sometimes for example (particularly true for zooms with sliding aperture), or to get a perspective they didn't intend to get. Of course if you are methodic enough, it is not an issue. Otherwise having a prime lens helps. –  drolex Jul 18 '11 at 20:15

If you're really sure you'll mainly be doing portraits, then the 50 1.8 is a good choice. But considering your beginner status, you might find you don't like portraits and actually prefer landscapes, for example. Where the 50 1.8 is obviously limited in focal length but better quality, the 18-55 will be much more flexible.

Given that the 50 1.8 is relatively cheap, and that the 18-55 will still do a pretty good job of portraits, I'd consider getting the 18-55 with a view to getting the 50 further down the line.

share|improve this answer
    
The situations in which the 18-55 does pretty good portraits is extremely limited compared to the 50mm f1.8. –  rfusca Jul 18 '11 at 17:50
    
true, you'll get much better portraits from the 50, but you can still do portraits with the 18-55, as well as many, many other things that the 50 can't do as well. –  ElendilTheTall Jul 18 '11 at 19:21
1  
There is a sub-genre called telephoto landscapes, and a wider landscape can still be stitched with nifty fifty. –  Imre Jul 18 '11 at 20:11
    
I'm aware of telephoto landscapes - an 18-55 would do both 'traditional' wide-angle and telephoto landscapes. And stitching is a pain in the neck. Incidentally, I'm really playing devil's advocate here - just giving Jaquer both sides of the argument –  ElendilTheTall Jul 18 '11 at 20:40
3  
The "need" for a fast portrait lens is just a for-the-moment thing -- when I was a working pro, the "first thought" aperture for a portrait was usually in the f/8-11 range (f/5.6-8 equivalent for a crop sensor). Believe it or not, there was a time when environmental portraiture was supposed to include the environment rather than blur it out. It's a matter of taste, I suppose, but I prefer the more considered, deep-focus genre to the bokeh-based easy way out. –  user2719 Jul 19 '11 at 4:31

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.