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(I thought this question would already have been asked/answered here, but if it is I can't find it.)

I'll soon be doing some handheld indoor/low-light photography, so I want a VR lens to help with that.

I currently have the following lenses:

I have two camera bodies: a D300s and a D70.

So, my choices seem to be:

Option 1: 18-200mm VR, cost ~£545
Lens: Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G IF DX VR 17/20 by Thom or Ken Rockwell

Option 2: 18-105mm VR and 55-200mm VR, cost ~£460
18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR for ~£220, 15/20 by Thom or Ken Rockwell
55-200mm f4-5.6 G AF-S DX VR IF-ED for ~£240, 16/25 by Thom or 23/25 from Ken Rockwell

Option 3: 16-85mm VR and 55-200mm VR, cost ~£675
16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G IF DX VR for ~£435, 16/20 by Thom or Ken Rockwell
55-200mm f4-5.6 G AF-S DX VR IF-ED for ~£240, 16/25 by Thom or 23/25 from Ken Rockwell

Option 4: Something else?

Comparing Option 1 and 2, Thom's review scores suggest the 18-200mm is better (although he still "highly recommends" the other two), and Ken Rockwell suggests go for the 18-200mm if the extra ~£100 isn't an issue.

Comparing Option 1 and 3, Thom's scores are a little closer, and Ken still suggests the 18-200mm, and spending £675 is really in the more-than-I-want-to-spend zone.

So, signs are pointing towards the 18-200mm being the best choice, but that's mostly only from two opinions (albeit from authorative/popular professionals).

Would anyone here recommend anything different?
(Or should I stop wasting time and just order the 18-200mm?)

More Details:

I'll happily photograph most things, but my main focus is landscapes, trees, and related stuff, and it's generally either handheld or on a beanbag. So yeah, VR will be a help when in a forest, or just random handheld shots.

But I am actively looking at upgrading now due to photographing soon at an event, which will be mostly people shots, so that is a factor too.

The event itself is all day long, will be both indoors and outside, so could be a range of different conditions and lighting types. However, the photos are for recording the event, and unlikely to be used past a web gallery, so print-quality shots are not essential.

Looking on dpreview (here and here), it seems the D300s might produce acceptable results (for web-gallery use) at ISO 3200/6400 with Noise Reduction? (The the exposure calculator gives 1/125s at f/4 for that.)

Given that, would any of the f/3.5-5.6 lenses above therefore be good enough, or is it pushing things a bit far?

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1  
FWIW, your title is quite general but the actual question is fairly specific; you might want to edit your title. –  Reid Jul 28 '10 at 21:23
    
A useful link relevant to this question is photo.stackexchange.com/questions/804/… - has explanations of what VR does / is for (i.e. camera movement, not subject movement) and some interesting links with more details. –  Peter Boughton Jul 28 '10 at 22:16
    
Sorry, maybe I wasn't clear on the request for details. Since landscapes and indoor portraits are very different types of photography, I was hoping you could specify in the title which you were after. –  Reid Jul 28 '10 at 22:40
1  
Ah, ok. Considering it more, I think I'm confusing the matter by asking two questions together, which obviously (now) have entirely different answers, so I think I'll properly split this into two questions. –  Peter Boughton Jul 29 '10 at 12:44
    
Ok, I've created the following two questions: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1663/… photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1664/… –  Peter Boughton Jul 29 '10 at 13:27

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It sounds like you want to be photographing people, and VR won't help anywhere near as much as a fast aperture for that kind of indoor photography.

For example, based on this exposure calculator, your shutter speed at ISO 1600 under "domestic interiors at night" lighting will be 1/15 at f/5.6 and 1/30 at f/4 -- neither of which is fast enough to stop even modest human motion, and VR won't help with that. Keep in mind that those zooms are only f/3.5 or f/4 at the very widest focal lengths.

I believe your options are:

  • Fast prime (e.g. 50mm f/1.8 or 85mm f/1.8), which would be well within your budget.
  • Pro f/2.8 zoom, which is not in your budget for buying but probably is for renting.

The former would get you a shutter speed of ~1/180 and VR won't be necessary. You could probably even back off the ISO a bit.

w.r.t. More Details

None of the lenses you propose can be relied on to get good portraits inside. You may get lucky (e.g., exceptionally bright, people very still) but if you're being relied on as an event photographer, that's a huge risk. Keep in mind you'll be shooting at f/5.6 if you zoom in much. And VR can't be relied on for shake-free shots at 1/15 and 1/30; you'll have a higher hit rate, but it's no guarantee. Nikon will claim 4 stops improvement in workable shutter speed, but it's uncommon to actually get that.

I recommend you read this blog post over at LensRentals. It covers common mistakes for first-time event photographers, and I'm concerned that a number of them may be developing already.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for fast Prime over VR. Get a 50mm or 35mm prime lens. The lower f stop is far more important than VR for indoor. Besides, for indoor photography, you'll rarely need to go out to 200mm. As Ken Rockwell likes to say, if you can, you should always move to your subject for a better picture, instead of using zoom. –  Nick Jul 28 '10 at 21:20
    
Thanks for reply. In general I do landscapey stuff (handheld/beanbag), so that is my main focus for upgrading, and VR is presumably still worthwhile for that. However, the reason I'm actively looking at upgrading now is due to photographing an event which'll be mostly people shots, so of course that is also a factor. I'll go update the question with more details. –  Peter Boughton Jul 28 '10 at 21:51
    
Nick - I've just added more details to question, since I wasn't clear enough initially - I'm mainly after an 'outdoor' lens that is capable of indoor, rather than dedicated to that. And yeah, I certainly do move my body as well as zooming, depending on what is appropriate. (Though sometimes those damn laws of physics force me to zoom when I'd prefer otherwise.) –  Peter Boughton Jul 28 '10 at 22:02
    
@Peter Boughton: answer updated in response to more details. Also consider renting a pro lens. –  Reid Jul 28 '10 at 22:51
    
Thanks again Reid, those are good things to keep in mind on that blog post, and renting a good lens is a good suggestion too. I should say, I'm not "the" event photographer, just "a" photographer at the event - though of course I still want to make sure I avoid all those mistakes and get decent results. Anyway, I'm going to accept this, but then go ask more targeted questions. –  Peter Boughton Jul 29 '10 at 12:45

Reid is right - that VR does not help at all in stopping motion. So if you are taking pictures of people/moving objects then you will still get blurry pictures because of object movement/motion.

But, just in case that you are taking picture of static object or people who can stand/sit still and really need VR, I would recommend the AF-S 18-200.

For head shots, I very much recommend AF-S 70-200 VR (I or II). If that is beyond your budget, get the Sigma. It has f/2.8 AND VR (or OS in Sigma).

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks Johannes - see my update in response to Reid - the people stuff is more of an occasional thing, so even the 70-200 f/2.8 Sigma would be expensive for that. –  Peter Boughton Jul 28 '10 at 21:57
    
How about renting instead of buying? –  Johannes Setiabudi Jul 29 '10 at 2:36
    
Yep, renting is a possibility - as mentioned above, I've created a new (hopefully more sensible) question here: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1664/… –  Peter Boughton Jul 29 '10 at 13:29

The 18-200 was a fun lens on my D50. I took a lot of memorable photos and it was great for "walk-around" and/or Travel. I missed not having a super-zoom with this range when I went full-frame. It's got technical limitations - like being slow and not much good in low light. Overall it was a nice lens for those times when I didn't want to think too hard about the details and just enjoy shooting.

As a compliment, on my budget, I also had a 50mm f/1.8 prime (~100.00). It was very sharp, and fast which worked well in the dark. It was also small and packed/carried easily - an easy pick for a first/only prime.

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Completely agree with Reid... in this situation a fast prime is the way to go. I'd only consider a lens that was 3.5 - 5.6 indoors if I was planning on shooting with a flash... i used to do quite a bit of corporate work and the Nikon 85mm f1.4 prime really came through.

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I've purchased a number of Sigma lenses over the years and always found them to be excellent quality considering they're usually half the price of an equivalent Nikon and because the Sigma lenses are cheaper you can afford to buy the better ones.

The only situation where I'd consider the Nikon lenses over the Sigma is if cost was of no concern.

For portraits my trusty Sigma 28-105mm f2.8 has done sterling service over the years with never a complaint. It's my choice of lens for general use too.

For a DX format camera the 70-300 actually ends up as a 105-450 which means it can only really be used outdoors. I used to have one and got rid off it quite quickly, not a useful lens for me.

For your situation and budget I'd look at saving costs and opting for the 'lesser' Sigma brand but getting a bigger aperture lens like...

Goes off to Sigma UK website

Oh... they don't make it anymore. Maybe a second hand but quality lens from eBay will be the way to go. Sorry.

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Yes, stop wasting time and get the Nikon 18-200mm VR (I use it with a D50 and a D60). It's a fantastic lens.

Here are a few samples that were taken with my Nikon 18-200mm VR lens.

... low lighting handheld examples ...

These are with a Sigma 180mm Macro Prime

And now for a few with a Sigma 120-400mm OS

Here is a Deepzoom Collection with more photos. But it's a mixed set so I'm not able to say which lens was used for each shot.

If it counts for much a friend of mine has the Sigma 18-200mm OS (He has a D40) and from what I can tell it's just as good as the Nikon.

share|improve this answer
    
Based on my experiences with my current Sigma 70-300mm, I'd want solid evidence of quality before paying for a non-EX Sigma lens. –  Peter Boughton Jul 28 '10 at 22:04
    
BTW... for the down voter. The "stop wasting time" is meant as a joke against a comment the OP posted. –  Matthew Whited Jul 28 '10 at 22:36
    
@Peter, I have had great luck with my Sigma lenses. I was worried at first because of what I have read people saying about some of them online. But after getting a chance to use my friends 18-200 I decided to try a few out on my own. They have given me excellent results. Judge for yourself, I have posted a few samples above. –  Matthew Whited Jul 28 '10 at 22:39
    
The downvote is because it's not a good recommendation in this situation. See my answer for details. –  Reid Jul 28 '10 at 22:52
    
I'd have to bed to differ on the 18-200mm not working well indoors and in low light. I have many shots that would show otherwise. And it gives you an excellent zoom range when you are just going for a photo walk. –  Matthew Whited Jul 29 '10 at 13:31

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