We have a photography club in our college and I am the secy. Finally we got some budget approved and we are planning to buy some stuff for our club.

I am thinking of buying a Nikon D3100 body. For lens I am in fix. Should we buy standard 18-55 lens + 55-200 telephoto lens or one lens that can cover this whole focal length range (18-200)? Basically we want a telephoto lens because we already have D40 and D3000 with standard kit lenses (18-55).

P.S. Most students are beginners in the club, so they might not use very advanced features. Please keep this in mind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like the club is possibly missing something like a fast prime (nifty 50) and possibly a macro lens so that members can swap and experiment with different types of photography \$\endgroup\$
    – forsvarir
    Jan 22, 2012 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Check out this question: Would a fixed or zoom telephoto lens be better for learning? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jan 22, 2012 at 15:37

3 Answers 3


I'd say the goal should be to provide a wide range learning tools.

What you're really missing is a fast lens. With the 18-55 and 55-200 you'll really be limited to very 'constructed' shots if you want to shot something that displays good subject isolation - like a classical portrait (subject in focus and background blurred way out). Something like the 50mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/1.8 are both around $200 USD and provide a great learning tool in this. I would lean towards the 50mm just because its more of a portait focal length and gives you that option.

In addition to this, consider getting a set of extension tubes for macro shots, its another option that you'll give your members to play around with. You can also try reversal rings for some extra macro on your 18-55.

One day, when you have the money you may want to look at lens to give your members options to shoot birds and wildlife (lenses that go up in the 300-500mm range)- but I suspect they're out of your current budget. Options start around $1000 USD and go up for quality.

After this, consider stuff like flashes, inexpensive radio triggers, circular polarizers, backdrop stands ,and tripods.

I recommend against a 18-200, unless you know you're going to go out a shoot a mammoth range of things in the same shoot. The quality of the lens is comparability low and you lose a lot of creative control by only having slow lenses.

  • \$\begingroup\$ seconded on comment against 18-200. For its price, you can get a fast prime and a 55-300...and given the fact the lenses will be used by several people, having two is better than one :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24, 2012 at 12:33

Wow! What a wonderful opportunity. I have been doing digital photography since 2004, and I wish to recommend 2 lenses.

The Nikon 50mm f1.8 is a great lens to have. At an aperture of 1.8, you can blur the background, and it will also allow you to work in low light. You can pick one up for ~$125 USD at a place like Adorama.com or BHphoto.com. It is great bang for the buck for portraits and landscape. It is also very sharp. I have a book by the Magic Lantern Guides, called Nikon Lenses by B. Moose Peterson. It is a great guide to all lenses nikon makes, and can be great guide for deciding which lens to get. One final word about the 50mm...due to a crop factor of 1,5, your 50mm will be a 75mm, but this does not diminish its outstanding performance at low light and sharpness. You also will have to move in and out of a subject, but I cannot tell you the professional quality photos that I have gotten. Mine is a D-lens, which works with film cameras, and about a year ago, nikon came out with a G-lens for digital cameras. A little more expensive but will give you 50mm focal length.

The other lens is a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. This is great for portraits and landscapes, and it is very light weight and fast a f2.8. I recommend that you check out the Tamron website for more details. The lens costs about $500USD.

The lenses will be money well spent, especially with their fast apertures...not quite F1.4 or f1.2, but still good enough for professional results.

Good luck!

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the Nikon 50mm f1.8. It is a very good value for the money lens. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2012 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ As pointed out in other posts here, many people suggest to have a 50mm normal lens for learning photography. If you are looking for a normal lens it should really have a 35mm lens for the Nikon D3100, which correspond to a 50mm on a full format DSLR. The newest Nikkor 35mm f1.8 G AF-S is a good buy and on par with the suggested 50mm lens. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2012 at 21:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ also, the ~120$ 50mm f1.8 AF will not autofocus on a d3100. just the AF-S version, which is about 300 or 400$. The 35mm f1.8 DX does autofocus and costs 200$ :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24, 2012 at 12:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoséNunoFerreira - the 50mm AF-S f/1.8 is 219 on Amazon. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Jan 24, 2012 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca ops, my bad. the choice is then portrait focal distance, or standard focal distance :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24, 2012 at 16:01

Many consider the 18-200 a good "travel" lens. It is recommended in one of Scott Kelbys books. I do not think that the 18-200 is any harder to use than any other lenses.


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