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I have a Nikon D7500 with the 18-140 mm zoom lens, and I've been shooting for a couple of years, although I still consider myself to be a beginner photographer (check out my work).

I see myself shooting landscapes, portraits, and architecture most of the time. I want to buy a second lens, and my budget is somewhere around USD 400.

What should I be considering for a new lens that can enable me to start trying some different kinds of shots? I've had my eyes on a 50mm prime (like every other beginner photographer), but I also want to consider a macro lens (Nikkor AF-S DX Micro 40mm F/2.8G) or an ultrawide zoom (Nikkor AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR).

I'm kind of all over the place, and all I really know for sure is that I don't want any lens that's not at least as sharp as my kit lens. And I'm worried that I may be missing out on options.

What else should I be considering to help make up my mind? How do I find the right lens?

Based on the answers I read here, and reviewing my most-liked pictures, I decided to wait before I buy a lens, and save that money.

I plan to invest in a fast set of lenses (24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8)

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For all practical purposes, any variable aperture zoom lenses lenses with focal length ranges between 18-140mm are totally redundant if you already have an AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR in good working condition.

What you should not do is buy another lens because it is very marginally better on paper than your current lens. That's how you waste money on GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

There may be a few edge cases where an extra 1/3 or 1/2 stop of aperture at specific focal lengths with a different zoom might be beneficial, but those will be fairly limited to shots that will look barely better with one than the other in very specific scenarios (i.e. handheld photos of static scenes in low light). Good technique can go a lot further than 1/3 stop of aperture or even one stop of IS does. If you're using a tripod, as you should for static scenes in low light, or if your subject or other parts of the scene are in motion, then there's no real difference between any of the variable aperture zoom lenses in this range.

If you really want to supplement the 18-140mm lens with another lens that opens up possibilities the 18-140mm lens doesn't allow, you should think more in terms of true qualitative improvements such as:

  • Faster, constant aperture zooms, like a 17-50/55mm constant aperture f/2.8 lens
  • Wider focal lengths, like a 10-20mm or 10-24mm
  • Longer focal lengths, like a 55-200mm, 150-600mm, or 70-300mm zoom
  • Very wide aperture prime lenses, like a 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8, etc. which also tend to be sharper than zoom lenses when stopped down to the common apertures they share with those zoom lenses.

But don't go buying such lenses just because someone else, like me, tells you to. Buy whichever one you need when you realize which one will let you do something you want to do with your camera that your current lens does not allow.

From my answer to a similar question:

Lens decisions are an intensely personal thing. What one photographer may consider essential can be totally superfluous for another photographer. The more you know about how you want to shoot, the better informed you'll be to decide which lenses are best for you when the time comes to start spending more on gear. What one must be careful to avoid with this strategy is the constant desire to frequently upgrade to a slightly better lens (or camera) than what one is currently using.

and (slightly paraphrased):

At this point you're still discovering what kinds of photos you enjoy taking and what kinds you aren't interested in as much. Assuming you do decide to stay in it for a while, you might surprise yourself with what kinds of things you find you enjoy shooting the most and what type of things you quickly grow tired of shooting. It would be a shame to find any lenses you wasted money on near the beginning of your photographic journey aren't well suited to what you eventually find you most want to shoot.

In all likelihood, if you decide to stick with photography as a serious hobby, you're going to eventually outgrow the 18-140mm in your photographic development. Don't waste money buying a redundant lens that is, for all practical purposes, no better and less useful than the one you already have!

So:

In other words, start out at the ground floor and wait there until you know enough to know where in the building you want to end up, then use the elevator to go directly there instead of climbing the stairs one floor at a time using all of your energy (money) wandering around looking for where you want to go.

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Product recommendations are off-topic, I'm afraid. We can't tell you what to buy - but we can tell you what to look for so you can make your own mind up.

First you need to look through your existing keepers & see what focal lengths you use the most.

Secondly, decide whether your maximum aperture at that length is good enough to work with, or whether you want more.

Bear in mind, that other than fast aperture, you already have 'every lens between 18mm & 140mm'… so don't rush into duplicating anything in that range unless you're certain you know what you need it for.

One thing I notice from the first page of your pictures is there's no great reliance on a shallow depth of field [the site errors if I try to view more & I only quickly checked them at their initial size on that page, I didn't pixel peep.]
Most are nearly sharp front to back. An obvious outlier is the statue on a table with painting in the background. That one looks like the statue should be the subject, but the picture is in focus. Conflict of interest - and one time a shallower [or perhaps even deeper] depth of field would have clarified your intent.

If you want to experiment with 'shallow' you need a wider aperture lens, or test longer focal lengths, which can kind of do the same thing.

I still consider myself closer to beginner than expert in this field, but what I did, once I'd spent all my money on cheap lenses I eventually realised I didn't actually need, was I got a AF-S 50mm 1.4 G [FX] & a superzoom 18-300mm VR ED DX. I use the long end of that zoom quite a lot, for wildlife. Not so much use for architecture. AT 18mm I'm getting towards landscape/architecture capability, but it's not something I commonly photograph.
The 50mm does portrait well. It's also sharp as a tack where you want it to be & creamy smooth where you don't. The superzoom isn't quite so sharp, of course, but it's very much OK.

I do a lot of macro too. A nifty 50 on some cheap extensions is a great way to get into that without spending on a dedicated lens. I'm not saying the results are the same, but they're a good, cheap second best.

They've become my main two lenses. One to do "everything" which I keep on the camera when I'm going walkabout, & one for portrait or similar distance, & macro with £30 of extensions. Total cost, about £1400 [You could get either now second hand on eBay for £300 - 400.] Sure, I'd love the full set of f1/2.8s, but I can't afford them.
So, first decide what you want to do & what lengths & apertures you need to do that. Find where your existing lenses are lacking at those distances & find a gap that needs filling, not an area that would be duplicating.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ First of all, thank you so much for your answer! > An obvious outlier is the statue on a table with painting in the background. That one looks like the statue should be the subject, but the picture is in focus. Conflict of interest - and one time a shallower [or perhaps even deeper] depth of field would have clarified your intent. Yes, that was a mistake on my end. Based on your answer, I'll reconsider investing on a cheap lens. If I do, considering that I have a cropped-format sensor, I may go with a 35mm f/1.8 or later, a tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 or 150-600mm F/5-6.3. thanks again! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2022 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome. I'd definitely look at the 50mm 1.4 over the 35mm 1.8. I have both & the 35mm only rarely gets used. It just can't go wide enough to drop the depth of field to anything I'd consider useful. I actually only tend to use it on video when I need quite a deep DoF. I always think it looks 'just like a documentary' so that's what it gets used for. I definitely want one of those 150-600s next though ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 3, 2022 at 17:13
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[an edit changed the gist of the question after I wrote this]

A fisheye lens would be very much different.

A tilt-shift lens would open up a world of unique possibilities.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The 18-140mm is the kit lens for the D7500. The cheaper models get the even less flexible 18-55mm. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 4, 2022 at 9:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tetsujin I misread thus edited. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2022 at 17:33

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