I own a Nikon D3300, which I bought along with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. I am a complete newbie and until now I've been shooting in auto mode. Recently I learned about Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO settings.

Next month I am traveling to Bali, where I'll encounter beaches, museums, parks, mountains etc. I will be looking for some shots focused on face with blurred background while some of them with no blur. My subject will be near/far. Most of the shooting will be done in sunshine. As per my knowledge, I will need an f1.2+ - f4.0 lens to control depth. But when I search for these lens they came with 35mm.

For far subjects, I am planning to buy a "Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200MM F/4-5.6G ED VR II" or 70-300. Here are my questions:

  1. Will f/4-5.6 allow me to precisely control the depth of field? My 18-55 does a decent job but I have to be very close to the subject to get more background blur effect.
  2. Is it a wise decision to keep multiple lenses when traveling abroad with limited luggage?
  • 1
    It's best to ask one question per question. Your second one is rather opinion-based, but I think is covered well at photo.stackexchange.com/questions/13066/…. I suggest editing this question to remove that, and to put your key question about depth of field in a consumer-level telephoto zoom in the title. – mattdm Jun 9 '17 at 14:21
  • You might want to mention what your budget is. You mention fast lenses, and relatively cheap slow zooms, if you want a fast zoom, that will cost much more than the variable zooms you have mentioned. Most of the features you are asking for come with a price tag. – Robin Jun 9 '17 at 17:23
  • btw, there is no Nikon f1.2 lens that will work with your autofocus, 1.4 is the best you can get [but I wouldn't go that route right now, not for a holiday trip] See my answer for why. – Tetsujin Jun 9 '17 at 18:46
up vote 2 down vote accepted

For far subject, I am planning to buy " Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200MM F/4-5.6G ED VR II " or 70-300. Here are my question:

  1. Will f/4-5.6 allow me to precisely control depth of the field? My 18-55 does decent job but I have to be very close to subject to get more background blur effect.
  2. Is it wise decision to keep multiple lens when travelling abroad with limited luggage.

Okay let's learn a little about what shallow depth of field and great depth of field really are.

To keep it simple, the differences lay within the aperture. If you want to have an image that has a Bokuh style (blurry in the background, clear on the subject) then you need an aperture that with a wide pinhole. Meaning, the larger the pinhole the blurrier the image can be. In reverse, the lower the f/stop, lets say f/22, then the image - if focused right - will be considered Great Depth of Field or infinity depending on the type of lens you use. Older SLR lenses would refer to it as infinity which was in relation to the focal distance.

My guess is, since you're a newer photographer you won't be getting up into peoples faces with a 20-35mm lens taking portraits. That takes some balls and experience.

Now, unless you are using a lens that has image stabilization on it and you are shooting with a 300mm lens you will need a shutter speed of 1/320 roughly in order to prevent shaking. The longer the focal lens, the higher susceptibility to shake. Therefore, a higher shutter speed is needed to compensate for the shake. Now, what does that mean? A high shutter speed? Well, that means your image will come out dark if you left it with an ISO of 100-(clearest) and an aperture of f/4 (which is what you seem to want). Which means you will have to open your aperture up to let in more light - reducing the depth of field and you will need to increase your ISO - reducing your clarity (increase noise).

On a lens, it may say f/1.2-f/5.6. But what does that mean? That is the LOWEST possible f/stop reading the lens can handle. It doesn't mean that is the highest f/stop.

If you are shooting in full auto, you need not be concerned with these topics, but then if you are I question why you bought a $500 camera. That is besides the point.

Question 1: Nothing will change. Yes, at 300mm you can be further away to get the blur effect.

Question 2: It depends if you have a way to securely keep them safe and protected. Do you keep the mount caps? Restrict their movement. Keep the lenses with you on the plane while flying as a carry on. You will need to make sacrifices to what you can bring if you are bringing a camera with limited luggage.

Here is my flicker so you can see the metadata. Look closely.

Generally, the longer your lens it set (say at 100mm with wide-open aperture) the further away you can be while maintaining an out of focus background.

However something to think about is "Beach" photography will be VERY, VERY well illuminated, so in order to maintain a wide enough aperture to do this you will need both a low ISO (100-200) AND a strong ND filter (say 8-stop)

You don't want to be swapping lenses on the beach, so pick a good quality "all rounder" lens, I would suggest the 18-55 for the beach and the 55-200 for "far subjects".

The ND filter is the key to wide apertures outdoors.

  • This really isn't an issue unless shooting with an aperture larger than f2.8 (assuming a max capable shutter of 1/8000s). The lenses mentioned aren't even that fast, so there really is no need for an ND filter, unless the OP is going to switch to some fast primes. – Robin Jun 9 '17 at 17:19
  • The D3300 maxes out at 1/4000 which can be very limiting with bright sand reflecting bright sunlight at a beach. An 8-stop ND filter is a bit of overkill, but a 2 or 3-stop filter or a strong polarizer would come in very handy. At a white sandy beach the "sunny 16" rule is about 1 1/2- 2 stops off. ISO 100 at 1/4000 figures to about f/2.8. Any faster aperture setting and you need something to reduce the light. – Michael Clark Jun 9 '17 at 19:44
  • True - I was really thinking back to when i was playing about with semi long exposures on the beach to capture wave movement. – Digital Lightcraft Jun 11 '17 at 8:09

I am worried here. You are traveling to Bali... and you want a blurred background!!?? Xo)

For a blurred background try to buy a 50mm f1.8 lens, that normally is a good asset to have. As Digital Lightcraft commented you will probably need an ND filter using the 1.8 aperture.

On a trip, as a tourist, you will probably will be using more the 18-55 lens


But probably your biggest issue will be the light. You probably need to practice a bit (a lot) using a fill flash, because in a bright sun you will get harsh shadows.

Inclusive think on having an off camera flash with a remote trigger.

F1.2 is really fast lens that is perfect for photography with not so much light available. F3.5 for 18mm to F5.6 for 55mm is sufficient for you. The F number says nothing at all about the DoF (depth of focus) but one may expect that F1.2 lens would have wider DoF than F3.5 for the very same F setting (say F5). Fast lenses are hard to made; fast zoom lenses are even harder to make.

The DoF - Apperure relation is caused by the difference in focusing the light beams passing through the optical centre of the lens and light beam further and further from the centre. Closing the apperture you are blocking the outer, more defocused, beams.

Regarding the focal length: It is not good to have a gap in your lenses. You can get stuck in scenario where #1 is too short and #2 is too long for you - I'd suggest the 55-200 lens for narrow angle shoots. Maybe, try to have lenses that share some part of their range. I'd like to have 8-15, 11-24, 16-35, 24-105, 70-200 and 200-400mm lenses to cover everything from fisheye to telephoto.

Regarding the DoF you want to accomplish. You cas surely start with the lens you have. Opening the apperture as much as possible, setting the ISO to 100 and adjusting appropriate time should do the trick. and As Digital Lightcraft suggested, you can add ND filter or polarisation filter to slow the lens down.

What no-one has covered so far is that as a newbie, you don't really know what you want until you see it.
I know, I've been there only recently.

I'll briefly skirt the aperture issue - very fast zoom lenses cost a fortune*, so you might need to accept some compromise to start with.

I started with the 18-55 and a 70-300 ... and, as has been mentioned, that leaves a hole where you just always seem to find you need to be.

I fixed that with a 24-120 ...and because it seems de rigeur, I also got a nice fast prime, a 50mm f1.4, which is fabulous.

What I quickly discovered, though, is that if I'm on a walkabout as a tourist & not having 20 minutes to set up every shot what I really needed was a lens that "kind of covers most of it without having to change all the time"

That turned out to be the 24-120mm - AF-S NIKKOR 24-120MM F/4G ED VR
It's not the best lens I own, it's borderline on aperture at just f4, & when I've time to really set up a shot it's rarely the one I use, but it's the one I don't have to keep swapping for another all the darn time, when no-one else in the party wants to wait for me, or hold my camera bag while I swap lenses.

*The rather delicious AF-S NIKKOR 70-200MM F/2.8E FL ED VR weighs in at about £2300 [UKP], the AF-S NIKKOR 24–70MM F/2.8E ED VR a mere £1800.
Even the comparatively slow AF-S NIKKOR 24-120MM F/4G ED VR I mentioned earlier is a grand.

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