I've got two lenses for my Nikon DSLR (the D5100) - the 18-55 zoom it came with, and a 55-300 f4.5-5.6 zoom that I really enjoy for wildlife. The problem I'm running into, is that I often find my self in situations where I'm swapping back and forth between the two lenses which is (1) risky and (2) annoying.

I'm thinking to keep the 18-55 zoom for everyday use, and sell the 55-300 and get one of the 18-300 zooms. On nikon.com there are two flavors of 18-300 zoom, the only difference I see is that maxes at f6.3 and the other at f5.6.

  1. Is there any difference between those two 18-300 zoom lenses other than the maximum aperture?
  2. Is there any downside to what I'm planning, other than that the 18-300 zooms let in slightly less light than my 55-300 (and everything that entails)?

The one with the dimmer aperture is the newer one. The main difference is that it is built to be much lighter at 550g vs 839g. It also has a newer stabilization system which is rated at 4 stops, vs 3.5, so that balances against the aperture difference.

There is no point keeping the 18-55mm once you have the 18-300mm which is in fact a better lens optically, although it is an ultra-zoom which compromises on ultimate quality in favor of versatility.

  • 4
    Keep the 18-55. Sometimes you don't want to carry a larger lens and maybe you want to carry e.g. an 18-55 and a 50mm f1.8 (as I often do myself). Also the 18-55 typically doesn't make much used and when/if you sell your body, it's useful to have the kit lens to go with it. – StephenG Jan 14 '18 at 1:18

I think the whole idea has some pretty big downsides, and you are gaining very little. You say you want to keep the 18-55 for everyday use, so would only use the 18-300 a few times a year. And when you use it, it gives you almost no advantage, only that you don't have to change lenses. You are paying a price for that though (except money), the image quality is much worse than the lenses you have now, and it is very big and heavy. I have the Tamron 18-270, and it's just gathering dust most of the time. It lets in so little light that I can't use it handheld from an hour before sunset, and it is so heavy that I really don't want to carry it all day if i'm not sure i will have time to shoot many pictures.

Changing lenses is part of the game when you use a DSLR, I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's not like to cause any damage unless you do crazy things like changing them in the pouring rain. I found that in trying to keep all options open, I ended up missing out on all the best stuff. I bought my superzoom when i bought my camera, for exactly the same reasons that you are giving now. I wanted to have every focal length covered, and change lenses as little as possible. Two years later I bought the 50mm f/1.4. I thought I would use it only a few times a year, in very low light, after all, how useful can a lens without any zoom be for everyday use. A few years later I realized I was using my 50 mm 98% of the time, and my 18-270 was just laying in the closet for months. The 50 is nice and easy to carry, it lets in about 15 times more light, it can get the background completely out of focus and the image quality is amazing. It is a top level professional lens, you can find pictures made with it from the worlds best photographers on every photo site. I found that by trying to have it all (big zoom range) I was actually missing out on all the best things (small depth of field, great quality and being able to shoot in the magical 'golden hour' and even at night).

My advise is simple, don't worry about having to change lenses 10 or 15 times extra a year, and buy a nice 50 mm prime instead. If you want to spend on equipment, it is better to spend it on something that opens up new possibilities.

  • What's funny is that the situation that prompted me to want this lens was exactly that - changing lenses in the pouring rain! :-) – Betty Crokker Jan 15 '18 at 4:33
  • @BettyCrokker: It's true, they are definitely useful sometimes, but in my experience it does not happen very often. I haven't been out in the pouring rain yet, when I do, i'll leave my 18-270 at home and bring my 50 mm. Usually when it rains it's quite dark, and there is the quality issue too. Maybe you can get it all though, you can pick up a used 50 mm AF-S f/1.8 for just over 100 dollar. Then you can try it and decide about the 18-300 in a few months. I wouldn't sell my zoom though until i was very sure the 18-300 has the same quality, I doubt it will. – Orbit Jan 17 '18 at 18:09

When I ran canoe expeditions I had a 70-210 mm lens that I used on the water, and a 28 to 85 mm lens that I used most of the time in camp. The key was to have some overlap in the ranges. I think the optimum overlap is about 25-30% of either the shorter end of the longer range lens or vice versa. Right now I have a 10-24mm lens and a 18 to 140mm. The overlap reduces the number of lens swaps by about 3/4

More recently I have done trips with only an 18-200 lens on the camera. This is a winning combination, as the lens and my D7100 is moderately weather resistant. Having this around your neck all day on a hiking trip can be wearing. I have a case that fits the camera with this lens on, and modified a computer bag strap sewing a 4 layer fleece tube on the wide, but abrasive nylon.

When I was shooting canoe trips, I sold complete sets of pix. At that point I could get them printed dirt cheap if I did it at the time of developing. (It was interesting to see the look on clerk's face when I dropped 8 rolls of 36 on the counter and asked for 35 prints of every frame.) But this meant there was NO post production editing. Exposure had to be right, and cropping had to be right in the camera. It was much like shooting slides. Using zooms allowed me to fill the frame with a canoe and white water from the shore, and to get candids in camp without getting in their face.

My wife has a 35 mm f/1.8 prime, which I have borrowed, and I have a tamron 90 mm macro that I use for plant closeups. I keep catching myself trying to zoom, instead of walking forward or back. Drives me crazy.

Anyway, in your shoes I would sell both lenses. Get the 18-140 zoom, which is one of the best kit lenses out there, And pair it with the 70-300 zoom which is much lighter than any of the 50-300's that nikon has made according to this chart: http://www.photosynthesis.co.nz/nikon/specs.html

100-300 would be a better fit by my overlap rule. It doesn't look like 100-300mm is a common size. Nikon used to make one, but it's no longer in production, but you can find it on ebay for about $200. Manual focus lens. Sigma has one at f/4, also discontinued,but readily available. Sigma also has a 120-300mm at f/2.8

If you are deeply into wildlife, then consider a set with 10-24, 18-200, and the Tamron G2 150-600. This gives you reasonable overlaps.

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