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I am new to dslr's and got a nikon 3000 with 18-55 lens as a gift. I already see some limitations with the lens for walking about or on trails. So my question is being new should I go with a 55-200 or 55-300 or is there another step before I go with a telephoto lens.

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Limited by your current lens in what way? That is really the question that we need answered to provide solid recommendations. For example, by the maximum light capturing ability, the ability to track moving subjects, ability to frame the entire photo with a distant bird, etc? –  dpollitt Dec 19 '11 at 23:33
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What kind of things do you like to take pictures of while "walking about on trails"? Scenics, in which case your existing lens with maybe a polarizing filter isn't too bad? Closeups of bugs, flowers, lichens, etc? In that case a good macro lens and/or some extension tubes. Birds or other critters? In that case too long is never enough, with the limit being what you can carry, whether you want to or can bring a tripod, and how much you have to spend. –  Olin Lathrop Dec 19 '11 at 23:53
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As I read the responses maybe limited by the lens is incorrect. It is probably I am limited in knowing what the lens can do best. So I change the question to this......should I invest a minimal amount of $ to expand my equipment, less than $150, to learn how to take multiple types of pictures before formal learning. Or do I stay with one lens until I have more knowledge? I am reading on exposure and shoot in M mode now and will take beginner classes at local community schools when next semester starts to learn more on the equipment and mechanics. –  Tom Dec 20 '11 at 3:12
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To answer the updated question, I would learn more, and buy the equipment later! If and when you find a specific limitation, then you will know exactly what lens will make sense for you! –  dpollitt Dec 20 '11 at 4:19
    
This question might help you get a better understanding of the limitations of a typical kit lens - photo.stackexchange.com/q/8467/1977 –  ab.aditya Dec 23 '11 at 9:57

5 Answers 5

A 200mm lens is pretty long on an APS-C DSLR, equivalent in length to a 300mm lens on a traditional 35mm (or "full format" DSLR) camera. Of course, you may still find that length limiting for some purposes, but it's more than adequate for most genres of photography. And new or used, the 55-200mm zoom (with or without VR image stabilization) is a cheap lens that will let you explore your direction in photography without a major financial outlay.

Perhaps the most important thing when buying photographic equipment is knowing what you really need. Lenses, especially, can become really expensive in a hurry. By exploring the cheap option now, you will be in a better position to decide, when the time comes, whether you need, say, a good, fast, long lens (zoom or prime), or something with the ultimate in versatility (like, say, the 18-200mm zoom). The relatively low price of the 55-200mm will give you the full range of focal lengths, and you can tell by the kinds of pictures you find yourself taking (or still wishing you could take) what your next step should be. If all or most of your pictures are at longer focal lengths, then a faster 70- or 80-200mm zoom might be the ticket. If you find that you're working consistently between 55 and 100mm, then you might find that a shorter zoom or an 85mm prime lens is really what you need. Or you may find that having the "dual kit" is perfectly adequate for your needs.

If the 55-200mm doesn't do the trick for you, you can sell it for nearly what you paid for it. If you splurge on something that doesn't scratch your immediate itch (wanting a longer reach), you may find yourself with something you'll take a significant loss on when you change your mind. Don't worry about what's "right"; take the time to figure out what's right for you. When you're ready to jump into the deep end, you'll know.

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This seems to be the way I was leaning but am worried about the learning curve. I am still learning how to take pictures, will the extra equipment slow that process or will I be more pissed when I miss some shots. –  Tom Dec 20 '11 at 3:19
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@Tom: It's really not that bad. The learning curve, that is. Getting an enormous bagful of kit right away will leave you groping for a solution every time you raise your camera. One extra lens (and a bit of practice changing lenses) simplifies the decision tree a lot. It won't take very long to figure out which to use when, and which should be the lens that's on your camera when you go on a photo jaunt. You'll start to notice patterns in what you're doing, and they will tell you where to go next. Taking pictures is more important than buying equipment. Shoot first; ask questions later. –  user2719 Dec 20 '11 at 9:48
    
Thanks for the feedback. I will be visiting here a lot to bounce my questions off all the great minds here, and to read on what other people are asking about. –  Tom Dec 21 '11 at 1:59

This question is very subjective. With the limited information provided, I would suggest to someone after the kit lens to purchase a 50mm f/1.8 lens, followed then by a 70-200mm telephoto. That is, if they really are having trouble deciding on their own, and are unsure of what type of photography they want to shoot.

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A 70-200 is overkill if you don't know you need it. A yard and a half or so on a nifty fifty is one thing; a grand or two on spec is ridiculous for a newbie with a used entry-level camera (and a slow off-brand isn't going to be any better than the 55-200). –  user2719 Dec 20 '11 at 0:34
    
@StanRogers - Not all models are overkill. Canon for example has a 70-200mm f/4 and is a great value at $600. I do not think $600 is overkill at all. To get the full quality out of any DSLR, you will have to spend something over the $300 entry zooms. –  dpollitt Dec 20 '11 at 2:59
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Canon does not make, to my knowledge at least, Nikon mount lenses. There's nothing "off" about the 55-200mm Nikons; they're perfectly adequate for testing the waters. And you're still talking about $700 on spec for a beginner who may not find what they want at that focal length/aperture combo. The notion that you need to spend a lot up front before you figure out what you want is elitist silliness -- we're supposed to be enthusiasts, not the keepers of arcana. –  user2719 Dec 20 '11 at 9:37

With a Nikon DSLR, the simple answer to your question would be to get the 35mm F1.8 Nikkor. It is an essential piece of glass, light and fun to use providing an excellent range for all types of shots especially in low light and indoor. Things that a kit lens does very badly. When I bought my D90 I dropped the kit lens for the body only and added the above prime. I have a range of lenses now but that is still the favourite after 2 years and 25,000 worth of photos.

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I'd add my $.02 that the "next" lens after the kit lens should -- very possibly -- be a replacement for the kit lens. Many kit lenses are relatively low quality, great for showing you that your camera works right out of the box. But really, shouldn't you be looking for a good general purpose lens before looking into a telephoto? Something that spans moderate wide angle to moderate telephoto?

In the Canon world, this might be either a 24-70mm or 24-105mm zoom. There are days when I'm tired and this one lens is just enough. Other day, I carry a bunch of lenses, but it's good to know that I have a high quality zoom lens that will act as a wide angle, normal, and telephoto.

Agree with @dpollitt that the question could be refined to make the answers address specific concerns.

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Although you don't specify what exactly you want to do with the lens, I would suggest a 50mm fixed focal length lens, or, considering that you are using a D3000, a 35mm fixed lens - giving you approximately a 50mm lens equivalent.

If you mean to replace it with another zoom, then the 24-70 2.8 is a great bit of glass. Or if you want longer, then as mentioned above, a 70-200 won't disappoint.

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I think that a fixed lens is a bad idea for a newbie, they will very quickly get frustrated with it after using a zoom in the same range. –  user7226 Dec 20 '11 at 11:04
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I disagree. In my early days, the first new lens I bought after the kit lens was the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, and I have loved it ever since. But, each to their own. :-) –  Mike Dec 20 '11 at 16:35

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