I have recently bought a Nikon D5100 with a 18-55mm and a 55-200mm kit lens. Now I am planning to travel to Japan (next April) and I would like to buy a new lens now in order to practice before leaving for the trip.

Some of my colleagues suggest a wide angle lens, and others suggest the 50mm lens. I would also be more oriented for the Nikon 50mm 1:1.8G since it can shoot great photos with low light conditions and make also very good Portrait with blur background.

In Japan I would like to shoot a lot of details on the streets and people, more that portraits however.

Is the 50mm a good lens for this kind of photography or would you suggest something else? I have seen the 50mm 1:1.8G is out of stock in many shops (Amazon, Pixmania, etc). I live in Switzerland, does anyone know of other reliable web sites for photo lenses?

  • Can you please help me to understand what this means: "I would like to buy a new lens in order to make some practice" I wouldn't normally be so picky, but I think that is essential to the answers.
    – dpollitt
    Jan 10, 2012 at 22:04
  • Sorry, it was a typo error (now fixed). I would like to make some practice with the new lens before leaving to Japan :-)
    – Francesco
    Jan 11, 2012 at 13:02

4 Answers 4


I would recommend a Nikon 35mm 1:1.8G. With the crop-factor it is roughly equivalent to 50mm which is wide enough for most stuff. Also remember that 50mm was the prevalent lens in the good old days with analog films. As pointed out earlier, the 50mm lens is to narrow when taking the crop-factor into account.

BTW I have both of them and both are very good lenses. So I have compared them and have experience with both of them.

The 35 mm is a better all-purpose lens. If I only want to have one lens with me, I tend to use this more than the kit lens 18-55mm. I use the 50 mm mainly for portraits, especially when I am in a studio.

  • Thanks Johan for the info. Since you tried both lenses which are the meain differences between the two and which camera body do you use?
    – Francesco
    Jan 12, 2012 at 9:10
  • 2
    I use a Nikon D3000 which is a DX format camera and should in this respect be comparable to a Nikon D5100. I use the 35mm for general photographing and when I only want to have one lens with me. It is very light and small. It also a better general purpose lens than the 50mm. I use the 50mm primarily when I do portraits. The 50 mm have very good bokeh that I love when taking portraits. Jan 12, 2012 at 9:28
  • Updated the the answer with the information in my last question. Jan 22, 2012 at 8:56
  • After a while, I ended up buying the Nikon 35mm 1:1.8G. I started using it and, so far, I really like it! Thanks for the suggestions...next steps will be a decent filter and a "portable" tripod :-)
    – Francesco
    Feb 9, 2012 at 12:15

If you want to take pictures of the buildings - go with your kit lenses (18-55) and don't worry ;) Grab polarizing filter and you will have good pictures when it will be sunny (do not forget to unmount it when it is cloudy). 18-55 is perfect for the traveling and taking pictures of the buildings. Use F/5.6 and more for details.

If you want to shoot in low light, then get small tripod. 50mm F/1.8 will not help also if it is really dark.

If you want to take portraits, then 50mm is the best thing you can have (or 70mm), but you will feel not comfortable if you want to take picture of bigger building, you will simply fail.

10-20 will give you freedom, but you will not enjoy it for portraits...

Kit lenses are added with your camera just because you will be able to determine what you need next, but it doesn't mean that they are always bad and you need to invest more and more to get better ones ;)

In switzerland you can use www.toppreise.ch page and see the prices there.

Hope that helped at least a bit...

  • +1 for the cool suggestions. Thanks a lot. About the tripod I was lookign for a Guerrilla tripod since it seems quite flexible and easy to carry around. However at the shop they told me that it is to "light" for a camera like D5100. I still found quite hard to make nice photos in low light since they are almost always out of focus (most probably also due to my inexperience with proper shutter speed). I think I will take the 50mm for Portraits and "street details" (also due to my current budjet).About polarizing filter, I read that the 50mm 1.8G needs a 58mm instead of the 52mm, is that right?
    – Francesco
    Jan 11, 2012 at 13:07
  • Out of focus problem could be because of the shutter speed or that you really do not focus on the right point. Usually when you taking night shots, you focus to infinity (for landscapes) and of course if you wan to take picture of person during the night then person should just freeze and you must help camera to focus it or use manual focus mode. But if you wan to shoot person in a dark, maybe consider to get an external flash :)
    – Neoman
    Jan 14, 2012 at 8:42
  • About polarizing filter - you need to see exactly, but if this is the lenses you want - amazon.com/Nikon-35mm-AF-S-Digital-Cameras/dp/B001S2PPT0 then it says "Accepts 52mm filter attachments". But you can always find out this number by looking on the front part of the lenses, this is simple diameter of the lenses ;)
    – Neoman
    Jan 14, 2012 at 8:44
  • And about the tripod, consider buying the one which can support more then you camera weight, otherwise your tripod head will just move or will not be able to keep camera stable. Glad tips helped ;)
    – Neoman
    Jan 14, 2012 at 8:46

I haven't been to Japan, and I only have a 1.6 crop camera. In my experience a 50 mm lens is a bit narrow for (open/whole) street and architecture photos on crop cameras. If you're after photos of the details, and not the scene a 50 mm would probably work great. The f1.8 lenses of both Canon and Nikkor are very nice and affordable.

I've recently played with Sigma 10-20 mm f3.5 on my Canon 60D, and it was a lot of fun. After using a 24-70 for the last months the 10-20 mm is a very nice change. It also give you the opportunity to get portraits from less than 1 metre away, which might be handy in crowded areas.

  • I am looking at the 50mm for its capabilities in low light. Photo details would also be very interesting since in Japan there will be thousands of small funny things to capture. I was a bit worried about different posts about focus difficulties with this lens thought. On the other side I have seen it is possible to take "normal" scenes and not only short distance portraits with with a 50mm, but not having any experience with this model I do not know.
    – Francesco
    Jan 10, 2012 at 21:51

I wouldn't travel with more than one lens unless absolutely necessary - why carry more stuff? I'd focus on using the 18-55 kit lens, it's nice, has a nice range and is light weight - perfect for travel. If you made me take just one lens out of the three you are mentioning, I'd take the 18-55, hands down. The 50mm is great in low light, but how often are you going to do that? The 10-20 is great for wide-angle landscapes and city etc, but, the 18mm will be wide enough imo.

  • Actually that friend of mine (photographer) suggested the same thing, saying that, as beginner, the 18-55mm lens would be already fine to be used as wide angle. The idea of taking a new lens (and in the specific a 50mm one) was due to the wish of getting new possibilities/results, mainly in low light conditions. I am still looking to find a good and "portable" tripod that would assist me in night photos.
    – Francesco
    Jan 12, 2012 at 7:36
  • Ken Rockwell swears by this $39 Dolica AX620B100 tripod. You can find it a Adorama. The 50mm is a nice lens don't get me wrong, but with 55mm, you've got that covered - I'd rather bump up my ISO and travel light.. Jan 12, 2012 at 18:00
  • One more suggestion - as a beginner I definitely wouldn't start adding lenses. Adding lenses just confuses the art that you are trying to create - if you're pictures aren't nice now, 10-20 will only make a wider angle of not nice. Work towards interesting subjects and composition, and save your money. Spend the money you save on good books, like The Art of Photography. Jan 12, 2012 at 18:03
  • Thanks John for your suggestions. About the tripo I have seen it has been ordered by Adorama (much cheaper than Amazon.com -> 159$), but they cannot estimate when will it be available. I will try to look to another shop, since I would like to have it before the end of march. If you can give me some further suggestions about polarizer filters it would be great. I have seen their effect and I like it very much, but again are they worth while or is it more the "beginner entushiasm"?!
    – Francesco
    Jan 13, 2012 at 8:10
  • Yeah, Adorama has it for $39. A polarizer would be a good add-on. I use B+W circular. You should do lots of testing with it before your trip! Learn where it will help and where it will hurt. Sometimes you want to see through water, and sometimes you want a nice reflection, and sometimes a little of both :) A circular polarizer is nice, but you need to really learn how to use it to perfect your images.. Jan 13, 2012 at 13:47

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