1

I want your experience in choosing a new lens.

I already have a couple of lenses with focal lengths as follows: 18-55mm, 70-300mm (MF), and 55-300mm (AF) - regardless the 18-55mm. All my zoom lenses are pretty good outdoors, so I intend to get the 18-140mm for indoors, although its focal length is already covered in my lens collection.

So here's my question. Is it worth getting a lens having a focal length that I have already have, or should I pick up a new lens that has a new focal length - like the 16-85mm?

You ask: "Why do I need another lens?". The zoom lenses I already have don't work well for shooting indoors. It keeps me very far from my subject, and in tight spaces I couldn't get nice shots. That's why I am thinking of a new lens.

I know that every lens has its own properties and features, but my question is from a focal length point of view. Theoretically, I own lenses that cover 18-300mm, but they don't quite suit my purposes.

11

Your edit adds some clarification: you have trouble shooting indoors. Typically when shooting indoors and fighting tight spots means you need a wider lens. If the 18-55 isn't wide enough, then the 18-140 is going to be no different -- they are both 18 mm at the wide end. In other words, the 18-140 won't help that situation; the 16-85 is a bit wider, so that would be helpful.

The other indoor shooting problem is often a limited amount of light. A larger aperture is often needed to get better indoor/low light photos. The 18-55 has a maximum aperture range of f3.5-5.6 and the 18-140 has a maximum aperture range of f3.5-5.6, so again the 18-140 is no different at the wide end where it sounds like you need it. The 16-85 is also an f3.5-5.6 lens, so the aperture isn't an advantage there, either.

Assuming you do need both a wider angle lens and a faster aperture, there are a variety of options you could consider:

I'm sure this isn't an exhaustive list.

  • 2
    I second that: As you said in your question, your lenses are good outdoor ones; but for indoor, your needs are completely different, especially one the aperture point of view (no pun intended). If you current lenses don't have enough aperture (hadn't time to check online), then you have to consider buying these new lenses as if you had none... – gfd Mar 12 '15 at 14:16
  • You could add the tokina 14-20 f2 to that list. It is an expensive option but is bothe wide and fast. – lijat Jan 30 at 7:01
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I think the problem here is that you assume focal length is all (or the most important factor) you need to look at when choosing a new lens. It isn't. Your other problem is assuming that a lens is going to solve your problems. It may not.

All things being equal, getting a walkaround superzoom when you already have a "twin kit" of a wide-to-normal/short telephoto zoom and a telephoto zoom is only really going to be worth it if you can afford it, and a) the "breakover" point between your existing two lenses (in this case 55mm) is particularly awkward for your personal preferences on framing and working distances, b) you just really really hate changing lenses, or c) you really have to travel light (e.g., travel kit).

You typically aren't going to get a great improvement in image quality or any additional low-light capability, since all of these lenses are liable to have relatively slow maximum apertures (typically f/4-5.6). For indoor shots without a flash, you probably want a lens with a larger maximum aperture so you can either use a lower ISO setting or a faster shutter speed and still get a good exposure vs. your "slower" lenses. Or, you may want to get a flash or tripod instead.

If you think that stabilizing your camera (for stationary subjects) or adding light into the scene aren't the answers, and you're determined to get a lens, then what you're probably looking for is a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger. With zooms, f/2.8 is liable to be your maximum (unless you shoot Olympus), and can get expensive. With primes, you can get much faster for lower cost, but you won't have the versatility of a variable focal length, and will need to know approximately what focal length you prefer.

This is just me, but consider what it is you really want this lens to do. dSLR lenses tend to work better as special-purpose tools. Having a walkaround zoom and then getting another walkaround zoom is kind of like looking in your toolbox which only has a hammer in it, and deciding what you really need is a better hammer. When maybe what you really need is a screwdriver, a tape measure, or a wrench. Not everything is a nail. :) Consider the other possible tools you could buy and whether they might be a better fit than the tool you already know.

3

I used to not like overlapping lenses because I thought, "I can cover this with my other lens already." I even went so far as having quite a gap in the middle of my lenses (no midrange zoom). But after shooting in many different situations, I prefer to have overlapping lenses. Two reasons: Fewer lens changes, and lenses don't perform the same at all focal lengths.

Therefore, my zoom lens setup is: 16-35mm f/4L IS, 24-105mm f/4L IS, and 70-200mm f/4L IS.

If I'm going out, I usually have an idea of what I'm going to shoot and pick the appropriate lens for the situation. It's also good because I shoot both a full-frame and a crop-sensor body.

If a situation is veering towards the wide side, I can mount the 16-35 zoom on full frame and the 24-105/4L on the crop with basically no gap. If I'm going longer, I mount the 24-105 on full frame and the 70-200 on the crop. Again, basically full coverage.

I also have 35mm and 100mm primes. They are the two most versatile focal length primes, IMO.

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At the moment, this question reads to me like a case of Gear Acquisition Syndrome: the first thing to do is to work out why you want a new lens, and then pick a lens which lets you do that. Buying a lens for the sake of buying a lens has a high risk of just throwing money away.

I'd suggest sitting down, working out how your current equipment is holding you back, and then buying whatever it is that removes the block to improving your photography. That may be a lens, some lighting kit, some filters, a new body or a photography course at your local college. Only after that should you start thinking about focal length.

1

I'm guessing from your mention of the 18-140mm that you're using Nikon gear. The 16-85mm should make an excellent "everyday" lens that covers many situations, and offer a useful upgrade from the 18-55mm kit lens. It should be wide enough for indoor work, landscapes etc., and long enough so you won't be wanting to fit your 55-300 every time you need a moderate zoom.

The equivalent Canon is the 15-85mm, a superb all-rounder with a 35mm equivalent range of roughly 24-135mm. As with the Nikon it's a worthwhile upgrade from the kit lens, offering better picture quality with a focal range that covers more situations with fewer lens swaps.

Apart from having a decent all-rounder lens in your collection I'd say take Philip's advice and work out what's holding you back from taking better pictures. Do you have a decent, solid tripod or monopod, for example? As good as image stabilisers are, there are times when a quality lens is held back from delivering its best because of a lack of solid support.

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I would avoid picking up a new zoom, but rather look at some fast primes. If you can get a fairly wide angle prime with a large aperture (like a 35mm f1.4 - my Sigma Art lens is my favorite!) you will have a much easier time shooting indoors and I think you'd find that the images are of better quality.

  • 3
    35mm is not "fairly wide" on the OP's crop-sensor camera; it's "normal," roughly 50 mm-equivalent, and not wide. – Dan Wolfgang Mar 17 '15 at 1:15

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