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I have a Nikon D3300 which comes with a kit lens 18-55mm. The quality and versatility of the kit lens is a bit limited so I purchased both a Sigma 70-300mm f4-5.6 and Nikon 50mm f1.8.

What I've found is that the Sigma is great for macro shots and far off objects but due to having a starting focal length of 70mm it means I have to be really far off from the subject. At least 6ft so sometimes I've found that the camera won't focus and I have to switch back to my kit lens to get the zoom and get a decent shot.

The 50mm is amazing but I find that due to it being a prime lens it's again limited in what I can shoot and only really good at shooting people's faces and smaller objects. Yes I know it's a portrait lens but I feel like I should of got the 35mm f1.8 instead to get more in the shot and be more versatile.

So that all being said... I'm looking at the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Lens as it would give me the nice range of the 35mm I wanted and also a wide angle at the 18mm range to get those bigger frame shots. But would this lens be suitable for general use such as streets, people, objects as well as landscape etc? From what I have read on this website: https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-18-35mm-f3-5-4-5g it looks to offer full versatility, even doing almost macro shots.

I was also thinking of getting the Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 but apparently being a more wide-angle lens it would produce poor shots for closer up or people shots... is this true?

One thing I've noticed is that whenever I see photographers taking street shots or even close up shots they have massive lens with massive hoods and don't seem to be using anything like the 35mm or 50mm. Is there a reason for this? Are they using more the 18-35mm lens to get the variance?

Any help or thoughts would be great as I'm pretty new to the photography game so finding it all a bit overwhelming. Thanks.

  • Instead of buying new equipment, try to do some reading/research on lens focal lengths, their effect and what they are suited for. Even though you are using Nikon, I know Canon has some useful information available on this: Canon How-To Video Library and Canon Digital Learning Center – osullic Jul 6 '17 at 12:52
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    Considering that the 17-50 F2.8 OS from Sigma is cheaper and still optically superb, why restricting to 18-35 F3.5-4.5 and pay also more? ;) – FarO Jul 6 '17 at 13:51
  • The old Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 is a decent lens. The Tamron SP 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II is a better lens at about the same price. – Michael C Jul 7 '17 at 2:24
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The biggest limitation of your kit 18-55 lens is that as a consumer lens built by Nikon to be affordable it has a very limited maximum aperture. That impacts low light capabilities, but worse, that impacts the extent to which you can separate your subject from the background, so unless you are talking studio work where you have an infinity background that's important.

Here's what I mean.. and you can do this yourself comparing your 50mm and your kit lens.. but it will be the same deal near enough with that kit lens at 35mm.

Here we are wide open at f1.8

Prime lens with a nice max aperture like f1.8

Here's the same shot with the kit lens.. because of the bigger max aperture, you can see everything including the kitchen sink! Even worse, because it needs another whole stop or more of light, the shutter speed is slower and we now have camera shake too.

Kit Lens

This is the problem with kit lenses. Cheap prime lenses like the 50mm and 35mm f1.8 can be way better than cheap zooms. If you want a zoom that works for portraits you really have to start shopping for the constant f2.8 lenses (that means that no matter where the zoom is, the aperture can still be f2.8) but that gets pricy, and unfortunately (pet peeve of mine) Nikon didn't build you camera to work with awesome older pro zoom lenses that are dirt cheap. The 18-35 is great and all, but it's still a variable aperture lens, and at 35mm it's an f4.5 which is not great for portraiture.

Honestly I'd suggest the 35mm f1.8 because seems like you want more full body shots rather than just head and shoulders. Ideally getting into more space would be good, because that 50mm on your camera is a very flattering lens.. using shorter lenses starts to create distortions of facial features, although it's not horrific at 35mm.

On street, many people swear by 35mm lens on a FULL FRAME camera, which is 23mm equiv on yours. Your kit lens is not too shabby for this purpose, because also with street, it's not unusual to shoot with a smaller aperture, e.g. f5.6 or even f8 because in street there is often a lot going on, and it's the context that is important. At f5.6 and f8 the depth of field is big enough that it captures more of the moment, and importantly also allows for some sloppiness around focusing.. in other words, if you don't get the focus perfectly on the subject there's still a chance that it'll turn out ok.

  • How would the Sigma 18-35mm compare? As it's got 1.8 aperture! – Cameron Jul 10 '17 at 12:37
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The quality and versatility of the AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED kit lens are every bit as good as the quality and versatility of the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6. Neither is a premium lens, nor are any of the various itenerations of the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 as far as prime lenses go.

Stop listening to lens snobs that love to act like they know something by panning kit lenses and get out there and shoot with it until you can look at images you took with it and tell exactly why it is limiting you. Then you will know what to buy next to get the shots you want.

The three lenses you now have are a good starter set that will allow you to experiment and grow as a photographer. Waiting until you know why you need anything else will save you a lot of frustration and wasted dollars trying to buy a solution to your limitations as a photographer.

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While the 18-35 f/3.5-4.5 would be good for general use and Landscape, less so for portrait, I would not purchase it in your case.

There will be almost no improvement using a 18-35 f/3.5-4.5 compared with your 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. It might be that the lens is a little bit sharper. But unless you want to do Pixel peeping, the lens won't help.

If you really want to improve (and spend a lot of money too) than seek for a ~18-35 f/ <2.8.

Otherwise I think you have a good set of Lenses to start with. I have about the same setup plus a ~25 f/1.7 (good for street photography at evening/night and indoors) and a 180° Fisheye for the fun.

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A few random notes:

35mm on dx (your camera sensor) is the equivalent of 50mm in film or Fx. So yes, you probably would have been happier with that lens. But! before you start eyeing more gear to fix your photos a few very important considerations.

Your biggest limitation is generally going to be skill, and dedication. There are very few things a 35mm vs a 50mm can't do. Zooming in and out with your legs is a huge advantage, not a disadvantage while you wrestle with the trade. I was at an event recently playing with gear for portraits for example and my favorite shot was with a 140mm equivalent lens that I had to back up and stand on a table to get...

I'm not saying the 35 or the 50 is perfect, because ultimately you decide what works but I would caution that your skill shortcomings, which lead you to have the lens choices and problems you currently have, are going to be present in any lens you buy right now.

What you should do: Go on some day trips, limit yourself to one lens each outing. With the 50mm expect to walk, and frame, and move. Get comfortable with the lens.

With the 18-55mm do the same thing but zoom in and out when you feel the image is almost perfect until you feel it is as good as it could possibly get. Then analyze your images for where you find you zoom most often (on Dx for me 24 and 35mm were probably 90% of my shots for a long time) Eventually you will find actual physical limitations that you can feel. You can't get wide enough because of space, or you can't get close enough (Because birds fly!?)

For me, wide has become a bit of an obsession and certain shots just aren't possible on wide or tele lenses, or vice versa.

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D5600 shooter here.

As limited as it is, the 18-55 kit lens can take really nice photos if you have enough light. Yes it needs plenty of light, but the zoom is nice and the VR works pretty well. Remember that 18-55 on crop is equivalent to 27-78 on full frame, and the 78 is in portrait range. You can do better, but maybe not right away.

My everyday carry-around is a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX OS HSM FLD. It's a little quirky with a moving focus ring when in auto-focus, but it's a nice piece of glass with enough constant aperture capability to make somewhat lower light photos easy to capture. The OS is quite good as well. The 17-50 equates to 25-75, also well within portrait range. They're the older Sigma pro line (EX) which are generally well regarded. Available new, used, and refurbed.

Having said that, my recommendation would be to work the daylights out of that 18-55 kit lens until your capabilities with it are exhausted. By that time, you'll have a better idea of what direction to head off to.

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The 18-35 is a good lens for landscape. It is not a good lens for portraiture. I would advise to have the Nikon 35mm 1.8g for general photography and portrait. It is good, sharp, and cheap. The portrait and macro lens I suggest you is the Nikon 90mm f2.8d.

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