I have a D70 with the stock Nikkor AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX lens. I'm about to replace the body with a D7000. I've found the 3.5 f-stop a little limiting in terms of DoF - and having viewed some photos from a friend with an f/2.8 lens am keen to get something that goes to this aperture/speed. Is the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED the lens to go for? I mostly shoot my family in and outdoors and am really looking for some nice upclose head and sholder shots taken while kids play etc (i.e. not posed). Should I go wider, e.g. 17-55mm f/2.8 G DX AF-S IF-ED? Later I'd also be interested in the 70-200mm f2.8 G AF-S VR IF ED II zoom - which of the previous 2 would this go best with? Are there any cheeper alternatives to these lenses (which are pretty pricey...)?

Edit: I should have mentioned that I have a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF prime that takes great shots - the issue here is that because I'm shooting my family in action (kids at play, parties etc) I really need the flexibily of a zoom. A prime maybe OK if say everyone sitting round a table but when kids are moving, running round and playing you just can't move fast enough to keep up and frame a good shot with a prime (well I can't).

UPDATE: I ended up dropping a whole lot of cash on a Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED - which I don't regret for an instant. This lens is beautiful and once the shots start rolling in, you quickly understand that a good lens is priceless. I would greatly encourage anyone new to digital photography to put money in the lens and NOT in the body - i.e. I think you'd be better off with a second hand $150 D70 + a great lens rather than a modern body that cost $1000+ but which will be worth $100 in 2 years. In 10 years your $1400 lens will likely be worth around $1400...

UPDATE: StuckinCustoms has this basic review of the Nikkor 24-70 lens with some nice sample shots (althought they are all HDR - but if you ignor that you they still give a good feel for the Dof and zoom range of this lens.


6 Answers 6


The Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 G AF-S ED is a superb piece of kit, and priced accordingly. If your livelihood isn't dependant on getting absolutely optimal quality every time, you could consider a third-party alternative.

I use a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 Macro lens that's good enough 99% of the time, and costs less than half the price of the Nikon version. You should check that a third-party lens works with the D7000 before buying one. I've heard of incompatibilities between third-party lenses and cameras that didn't exist when they were produced but I don't know if there's any truth in that.

The 70-200mm f2.8 G AF-S VR IF ED II is the natural partner to the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 G AF-S ED because one picks up where the others focal length ends. It's probably one of the most common configuration in a pros kit bag (along with a wide angle and probably a 50mm prime, just in case).

If you use the the 18-24 range of your current lens in your existing photos, you might consider another lens. That's up to you.

Personally, I don't want to carry a 0.9 kg lens around with me all the time. If I were you, I'd go for a Nikon 50mm f1.8 D AF. It'll give you high quality images for a fraction of the price assuming you don't mind "zooming with your feet". That's what I use 90% of the time when I know I'm shooting people at a modest distance. Spend some of what you've saved on an SB-700 flash, which will give you far more flexibility.

If you find you need a bit wider (group shots or indoors?), there's a Nikon 35mm f/1.8. If you need to shoot from further away (sports, or just less distracting?), there's a Nikon 85mm f/1.8. Those will all work better in low light, and you can buy the whole lot for less than a Nikkor 24-70mm. You lose the ability to go from one length to the other in a twist of the lens, but you probably know in advance what length you'll be shooting at in a given circumstance. You save money and (more importantly) carrying weight.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Scott. In fact I have a 50mm f1.8 - which takes great images but I really need the zoom because kids move around alot quickly and I need to be flexible. I'm going to go a 24-70mm but will look into the Sigma as a cheeper option. Cheers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ricibob
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. Well, you've got a choice of 2 Sigmas. I have the Macro version, which works just fine although it's a bit clunky. There's also a more modern HSM version which costs more but comes with a built-in motor and possibly better image quality. And I have a friend who swears by the Tamron 28-70 (or maybe 75?) that you might want to look at too. For what it's worth, I'll upgrade to the Nikkor version if I ever have that much money lying around, because it is a better lens, but for now I'm getting the job done. Happy shopping! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 16:54

For up-close portraiture, I would really look into one or more prime lenses, rather than a zoom lens. Zoom lenses are more complex, optically, and the widest aperture you can usually find for a zoom lens is f/2.8, maybe f/2. The quality you get from a zoom lens will usually be lower than what you can get from a prime, and often for a higher cost.

Prime lenses, or single focal length lenses, come with much wider apertures, as wide as f/1.2 (two and a half stops more light than an f/2.8 zoom lens, which is a lot!) You can usually find a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens for about $100 or so. Often referred to as the "nifty fifty", this lens is pretty much a must have for anyones kit. The DOF at f/1.8 is pretty thin, but not so thin that you need special skills to make the most of it. It is also possible to find 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm lenses at f/1.4. Usually more costly than the f/1.8 variants, they can usually be found for anywhere as low a few hundred dollars, and as high as a couple thousand. The depth of field at f/1.4 can be truly superb, and makes for some very nice portrait lenses.

When shooting indoors, the more light the better. Our eyes react automatically to the change in luminance between outdoor lighting and indoor lighting, so the difference (which can be considerable) is not as obvious to us. To a camera, on the other hand, the difference in light between an outdoor shot and an indoor shot can be quite large. Having an extra two stops worth of light with an f/1.4 lens will make it a lot easier to get low-noise, high quality portrait shots indoors.

Common prime lenses usually come in a standard sequence of focal lengths, and a few standard apertures. These include 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm and 200mm (when used on a full-frame/35mm camera). Common apertures for prime lenses below 135mm include f/1.8, f/1.4, and f/1.2. Some brands may use a half-stop rather than a third-stop scale, so depending on your camera brand (or if you buy third-party lenses) you may also see f/1.7 lenses. For lenses up to 200mm, the widest apertures are usually f/2.8, or possibly f/2. Good portrait focal lengths are 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm.

It should be noted that there are few full-frame digital cameras on the market, and most DSLR's are APS-C, or cropped sensors. The effective focal lengths on a cropped sensor can generally be shifted up by one "step". For example, on a Canon entry-level or semi-pro (prosumer) DSLR, the sensor is a 1.6x crop APS-C size. A 24mm lens is effectively a 38mm on an APS-C camera. A 35mm lens is effectively 56mm lens. A 50mm lens is effectively a 75mm lens. Just multiply the actual focal length by the crop factor (1.6 for Canon, 1.5 Nikon) to determine the effective focal length. With this general rule of thumb, you can determine what focal length you need to get full-frame compatible framing. This can be helpful when reading articles or books about photography, as most of them tend to assume full-frame shooting (a lot of photography books are still based on the film world.)

Prime lenses are really great for portraiture, particularly the wider apertures and shorter DOF. They do limit you, however, in that if you need different framing/field of view, you need to change lenses to achieve it. Zoom lenses can be very convenient and are often far more versatile than a prime lens. What zoom range you need would really depend on what kind of photography you wish to do. Generally speaking, however, the same prime focal lengths that are ideal for portrait photography still stand for zoom lenses. Namely, 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm. A nice general-purpose zoom range is 24-105mm, which on an APS-C sized sensor is 38-168mm. You can usually find a decent 24-105mm f/4 lens with image stabilization for a decent price, however it would lack that wide aperture and narrow DOF. You can also find 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses (38-112mm effective on APS-C) that will give you decent DOF and great optics, but for a higher price.

What you choose will ultimately boil down to what you want to do, and how much you want to spend. Some key primes like a 35mm, 50mm and 85mm with an f/1.8 or f/1.4 aperture can be found for a decent price, and should service most of your portrait needs. They will provide the best quality, at the cost of a bit more hassle and lens changing. A quality 24-70mm f/2.8 lens will probably cost more than all three f/1.8 primes, but you will only have to deal with a single lens.

As for the 70-200mm focal length, that would effectively be about 105-300mm on a D7000. Thats a pretty narrow field of view range, and probably not really ideal for portraiture (outside of the 135mm focal length). That focal range would be great for reaching wildlife and birds, if that is something you would like to do. If your key interest is photographing family stuff indoors and outdoors, I would first recommend a few prime lenses at 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm, and second recommend the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I think those focal lengths will better serve your goals.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Jrista, lots of good info there (I couldnt choose between your and Scotts answer so I flagged Scott simply because he got in first). I should have mentioned in my post that in fact I do have 50mm f1.8 prime that I picked up off a friend and its the fact that it takes such great photos that Im looking for a faster zoom - because Im so often shooting my kids at play, parties etc I really need the zoom - so I can stay out of the way but still get nice DoF shots. From what I read here I think the 24-70mm is the go and if I need something wider I'll go a wide prime. Cheers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ricibob
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem, better to give the rep to a new-comer than me anyway...I have plenty. ;) The 24-70 will be a very good lens, however you will need to get in pretty close to keep the DOF small with an f/2.8 aperture. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 16:52

You're right that you should be looking at something with a wider aperture based on your observation.

As for the angle-of-view, it is a really personal thing. It has to do with the way you see the world and express yourself photographically. Some people or more comfortable wider and others longer.

There is generally a preference for wider-angle for indoor shots since you can't move back so much to get more in your frame. Landscape sometimes is often with something wide but I've seen incredibly successful photographers who use a telephoto for most such work.

In any case, both the 17-55mm F2.8 and 24-70mm F2.8 are excellent lenses. The latter will let you upgrade to full-frame eventually and give you the field of view of the former, more or less. I recommend you go with the one of these two which corresponds to the focal-lengths you use the most on your current lens.

You can keep that one as a backup in desperate cases or make a nifty coffee mug out of it ;)

After that I suggest you consider a bright prime (50mm F/1.8 or F/1.4) for portraits. The longer 70-200mm would serve better for street and sports, which as far as I can tell is not your priority.


If you're wanting a fast lens, which it sounds like you are, there's nothing quite like a prime lens. Take a look at what kind of range you are shooting at frequently, but I suspect a 50mm would help you alot.


I have the d7000 and find myself in the same boat as you. So much so that if you preview my question history you will find a wealth of information about me looking for a good 2nd lens to my d7000 kit. In particular I want something super fast and great in low light.

I have narrowed the field down to the 50mm f/1.4 ($450) or the 35mm f/1.8 ($200).

I still drool over the 35mm f/1.4 but its close to $2,000.

Good luck and don't be afraid to ditch the zooms and try a prime.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for reading @kacalapy's question history :-). He has asked a lot about this and there is a ton of useful info in the answers :-). \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 1:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am off to best buy today, if i ever get out of work, to pick up the 35mm f/1.8 prime. I cant wait. \$\endgroup\$
    – kacalapy
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 1:14

This question doesn't really have too much to do with camera make or model, and lens offerings change from year to year, so I'm trying to keep this general.

The key to limiting depth of field is to increase the apparent size of your aperture from the point of view of your subject. There are 3 ways to achieve this:

  • Use a lower f-stop, also known as "relative aperture", e.g. f/2.8
  • Shoot with a longer focal length. Since aperture size is focal length (f) divided by your f-stop, higher f means a larger absolute aperture. For instance, a 200mm lens at f/4 has a 50mm aperture. A 100mm lens at f/4 has a 25mm aperture.
  • Move closer to your subject. To your subject, this makes your aperture look bigger.

Your background will also blur more if it is further away from your subject.

If you want to spend money to help achieve the effect, you're probably looking for a fast prime (with large relative apertures), a macro lens (which lets you get closer to your subject), or a telephoto (longer focal length). You can play with different f-stop/focal length/distance combinations in a depth of field calculator like (this one).


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.