I travel a lot and enjoy taking pictures of old structures, landscapes, as well as alleyways, staircases, and doorways. Can you recommend an all around lens for my Nikon D5300. Ps. A little zoom would be nice as well. Thanks Dave
You need to balance weight/convenience/price/results.
If you have a wallet of infinite depth & mind-reading servants to carry your kit around behind you, then to get best results you would need a fast prime lens of every length. Your mind-reading servants would, of course, hand you the camera with the correct lens already mounted just in time to take the next shot, each & every time, with impeccable precision.
As that's unlikely to be the case, then some compromise is going to be necessary.
At the opposite end of the scale is one lens that tries to do 'absolutely everything'.
Case in point - the Nikon Coolpix 1000; with a superzoom lens of 24-3000 mm [no, I didn't accidentally get an extra zero in there]
The downside of this otherwise spectacular feat is that it doesn't do anything else particularly well - I posted a question on here about it when it was first released - Nikon Coolpix 1000 - how to decide if it's a 'smarter' option than a good long lens? I wasn't aware at that time that it had a sensor the size of the ones in some mobile phones & as for sharpness... at the long end you'd have more chance of cutting yourself on a butter-knife.
That cured me of the desire immediately.
So, our compromises already tell us we can't have it all, so what is left is, of necessity, going to be somewhere closer to the middle ground. As we are talking about a crop-frame camera, price is on our side. It's easier & cheaper [as we saw from the Coolpix example] to make a zoom for a smaller sensor
Full-frame fast zooms are about $£€ 2,000 each, & you need three of them to cover the 18 - 300 mm range... so call it 6 grand. Crop-frame super-zooms are not as good as that, but they're not as poor as the ridiculous-zooms either.
Enter my 'guilty pleasure' walkabout lens - the AF-S Nikkor 18-300mm VR
f/3.5-6.3 DX AF-S G ED
Ken Rockwell has good things to say about it, too
It doesn't cost an arm & leg, $£€ 700 approx.
Image stabilisation is remarkably good.
Auto-focus is really fast considering how small the aperture is.
Bokeh is really OK.
Then, armed with that slice of opinion, take yourself down to your local camera shop; rent a set of primes, a couple of fast zooms & this 18-300.
Take each out on 3 consecutive days & compare the results/convenience/price... & then make up your mind.
In general, the more you design a lens to be able to do, the less it will be able to do all of them well. That's why there is no such thing as a "best" lens. There are only lenses that are "better" or "worse" for a specific task. The more disparate tasks you expect a lens to be able to do, the less you can expect such a lens to do any of those tasks as well as a lens designed solely for that single task.
In the end, what will be the "best" travel lens for you will not be the same lens as the "best" travel lens for many others. Similarly, what is the "best" lens for you to take landscapes, alleyways, and wider field architectural photos might not be the same lens that is "best" for you to use to get images of the details of staircases and doorways.
Lens selection is a highly personal decision.Often different factors having to do with lens performance, focal length, maximum aperture, price, size and weight, etc. must be weighed against each other in order to select the one that works "best" for you.
There is no "best" lens. Photographers constantly seeking the "best" lens end up with GAS. An appropriate lens will depend on your subject and preferences. Often, photographers have a set of several lenses to choose from.
Track Your Usage Patterns
To determine what lens you should add to your collection, keep track of your current usage patterns. Keep a list of shots you have difficulty capturing, and why. Keep track of the focal lengths you use for different subjects. Note whether you prefer to use wider or longer focal lengths. Put all of the data in a spreadsheet or on paper. Do not rely on your memory. Then use the data while deciding on your next lens.
If you don't have a kit lens, you can consider using a mid-range zoom. Quality will be reasonable, and it will cover a wide range of needs.
- 18-55/3.5-5.6 – The usual kit lens.
- 18-135/3.5-5.6 – Like a kit lens, but with a longer zoom range.
- 24-70/2.8 or 28-70/2.8 – Fast mid-range zoom.
You can also consider a superzoom, especially if you have absolutely no idea what you need. Superzoom ranges include 18-200, 18-250, 18-270, 18-300, and 18-400.
Be aware that there may be compromises in the design that could affect your usage. For instance, defects at the short and long ends may cause you to avoid those focal lengths.
Compare Test Images
There is an image quality comparison tool at The-Digital-Picture.com. Some superzooms do produce better images than those of some mid-range zooms. For instance, between Nikon's 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR -and- 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR II, the 18-200/3.5-5.6 appears slightly better.
You may also consider starting with a normal prime lens, though it won't be as flexible as a zoom.
- 50/1.8 – Good, fast normal prime lens on full frame.
- 35/2 – Normal prime lens on crop sensor.
Primes are usually faster than zooms and considered to produce better image quality. However, as with zooms, quality can vary. There are a number of primes that are well known for their image quality.
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Since you seem to photograph mostly close things that may not be in the direct sun, you need something with a wide aperture, such as a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lens or the more expensive Nikon 18-55mm f/2.8. If you need a bit more zoom, Sigma has a very nice 17-70mm f/2.8-4.0 (€400, this is my all-around lens)) but you may prefer the more expensive Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0.