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I have been serious about photography for about two years but am self taught. I have read a lot of photographers comments about making sure you have good glass to shoot with but was unsure how one would know outside of price what is "Good" and what is not. I shoot with a Nikon d5100 and the standard Nikon 18-55 and a Tamron 70-300 macro zoom. Any thoughts on these or the subject in general would be appreciated.
Also, I would think nikon would make a good quality lense but also realize others specialize in lenses rather than body, so perhaps Nikons lense is not "good glass". Any comments?
good glass is usually a prime lens with a low aperture. like 1.4 or lower. a fast lens. you want nice sharp shots. but good usually means $1000 or more and average would be more like $600. and oh my god is more like $10,000.
it's not really about brand names as it is about speed, clarity in the lens itself, low aberration. but it's usually about prime lenses.
In general, both Nikon and Canon have their pro line of lenses, you'll have to spend some money, but you can't go wrong there. For less money Sigma and Tamron make some good glass for both the the Nikon and Canon. Here's a site I usually go to for reviews http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/
You usually notice the difference between good and bad in challenging photographic situations. Low light, action, extreme wide angle, extreme telephoto, stormy weather, lens meets ground, etc. If you're hanging out at f/5.6 or higher and only shoot in good daylight, there's no noticeable difference.
I shot with the 18-55 Nikon kit lens for a couple of years. You can get some pretty dang good images with that lens--if you know it's limitations. Good glass is wonderful, but it does not make you a good photographer. My advice would be to learn to make great images with the lenses you have. By the time you have mastered that, you will know exactly what you want. Unless you are independently wealthy, then go buy anything with a 2.8 aperture or larger. ;-)
things you'll notice is getting a sharp shot in low light. or having a good bokeh that you can control or that's smooth and creamy looking. $150 is low. i can't afford good glass, i can afford good enough glass. which does have aerations but i can remove those.
like there is a 50mm 1.8 - i think it's like $60 - and everyone loves it.
i have a 50mm 1.4 - awesome sharpness (thought my auto focus stopped working), and i think it was like $300 at the time.
then there is the 50 1.0 for like a $1000
i'm not sure if i would see a huge difference, but in low light when you can shoot with a low iso, or have a nice background, while shooting at a faster speed... all this stuff adds up.
Go make pictures with what you have. Fancier equipment only makes certain challenging things easier. Once you start bumping into the limits of your equipment, research, borrow/rent, then buy. Like everything, "it depends" on your skills, shooting environment, subject matter, desired output size/type.
I wrote my post before I went and looked at your gallery. I see you do know how to make some pretty dang good images with the lenses you have. :-) So, what is it you want to do that you can't do with the lenses you already have? The answer to that question will point you in the direction of what you might want to buy.
Pro lenses hold their value very well. Think of it this way, if you are making money from your photography, you can write off the purchase of a lens. A Canon 35mm L lens will set you back over $1,300. You write it off and it's like getting a 10-20 percent discount. You sell it a couple years later, most pro lenses in relatively good condition goes for about 10-20 percent lower than the price for a new one. It's a wash! But during those couple of years, you have the pleasure of using a good lens, plus that lens well get you photos that you can sell and make a profit.....but the photo selling part is still dependent on you.
Depends on what your shooting I would think... If you subject is controlable then wouldn't make much difference...but if it's going to be wildlife where you won't be able to control the surrounding sitiuation a small difference may make a big one...There is a huge price difference in lenses... I think you should look up the features of the lenses. I know that you don't need certain features in certain situations....I think if you shooting wildlife photography fast focus speed is a must usm... but may forgo the image stabilization... which makes the lens heavier and cost extra...
All the above is good advice. You can still get some good sharp photos. Use a tripod, shoot in RAW and you can do better then those with more expensive gear. Upgrade when you can afford it, even if it only a small upgrade. You will never regret it.
I agree with Trever and Loree, shoot with what you can afford and build up your lens collection. Tamron, Tokina and the like all make really good lenses and offer a "Pro" line, which are cheaper than Nikon and Canon, but still deliver great images. I've had top of the line Canon lenses that weren't that sharp, right out of the box and returned them.
I would think about getting a better sensor, maybe full frame and get better images that way. But that's down the road a bit.
So keep buying the best lens you NEED and non-Nikon lenses are my first choice and and maybe add a wide angle lens to your bag next.
Good lens is sharp lens. Doesn't matter if it is 1.4 or 5.6. Doesn't matter if it is prime lens or 70-300mm lens. Doesn't matter if it is nikon, canon or what ever. All this details you will choose depending on your need, taste and pocket.
Some people, like me, don't like too shallow dof of f1.4. I don't like how the background out of focus look like from Nikon 50mm 1.4.
My main concerns are sharpness, particularly in the corners, and chromatic abberations.
Not all good lenses are expensive. The standard 50mm or thereabouts focal length is very straightforward for the camera companies to make and even their cheap f/1.8 offerings are generally very good.
Wide angles are far more challenging for the designer/manufacturer and wide-angle zooms generally have trouble rendering the corners well and with CA.
With telephoto lenses getting good optical quality is not such a challenge as getting a decent aperture. The longer the lens the bigger the front element has to be to allow a given wide aperture. There are a few very expensive short telephotos with wide apertures but at 200mm+ you won't see anything less than f2.8 and by 300mm even that is very costly. Unfortunately, longer lenses mean more sensitivity to camera shake which requires faster shutter speeds and therefore wide apertures.
With zooms, there are some very good lenses in the 24-70mm and 70-200mm ranges (more or less). The greater the zoom range the poorer the performance of the lens is likely to be as you approach the limits, so if you want sharp pictures avoid lenses with huge zooming power.
For Nikon users there are a number of superb manual focus Nikkors from the old days which can deliver superb image quality often at a very modest price on the second-hand market. Anything that Bjorn Rorslett gives a top rating to is absolutely outstanding (as long as the copy you find hasn't been abused too badly); http://www.naturfotograf.com/lens_surv.html is his site.
I agree with James....depends on what kind of stuff you are shooting. I have a Nikon 50mm 1.8 prime and a Nikon 35mm 1.8G prime. The 50 I have is older and won't auto focus on my D5000, sometimes the manual focusing can be a bit off on mine too. Both lenses seem to work very well though. They do take sharp pictures, if the camera settings are within reason.
They are not as flexible, you obviously can't zoom with them. I either have to move myself closer or move farther away from what I am shooting, which can be a pain. They work great in low light though. Recently I've been the using both of them quite a bit. The quality of the images are much more noticeable verses the 18-55, 55-200 lenses that I have. Night and day.
The 50 is a nice lens to have in the bag, especially for the price. You can get a used one or a new one and it won't be much money at all. It's by no means a do it all lens, but none the less fun to own and mess around with. Even if most of the time you need a zoom, the prime can be pulled out for certain situations. Make sure you get a G lens otherwise you won't have auto focus on you particular camera.
Definitely read reviews and talk to folks like you are doing.
Robert, Nikon makes no bones about which lenses they sell are intended for serious and professional photographers. The build quality and optics really set themselves FAR-FAR-FAR apart from the basic kit lenses and walkabouts that Nikon and all the other names sell as "consumer" lenses.
I'm not interested in joining the fracas in the forum here since this is a mixed media website based on sales, but I would recommend you take the time to do some research on the net and look up lens reviews from Thom Hogan, Ken Rockwell, Fred Miranda and SLRgear.com to become familiar with the making of a quality lens. These guys are tekkies (I'm not, and thankfully we have THEM so I wouldn't need to perform the boring tricks they do!) There are some pretty demanding photogs out there especially those who shoot glamour and architecture ($50,000 per session on up)
The equipment you listed are Nikons entry level equipment. The D5100 is actually very good for what it is. It suits it's purpose. The 18-55 is a nice quality lens in the affordable consumer range, the Tamron 70-300 about the same. For nice snapshots they work extremely well. For enlargments........I won't even go there.
Nikkor makes a rare handfull of ~extreme~ high end zoom lenses. Quality that matches the best primes. 10-14mm uwa, the new 16-35mm uwa for FX, 24-70mm ED, 70-200ED and 80-200ED-IF and the 200-400mm ED. The older hard to get 17-35 gold ring is very expensive.
It's nice to see a bunch of opinionated folks sharing their points of view without a lot of ranting, rancor, posturing and wharrgarbl Nice balanced discussion!
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Note that incoherence or pointlessness is required for a proper WHARRGARBL reference. An angry, but otherwise logical, argument is not a WHARRGARBL. An argument that takes a reasonable (or at least arguable) position, but does so with an incoherent rant IS a valid WHARRGARBL.
My first camera was a starter kit consisting of a D80 and 18-135 kit lens. I next purchased the nikkor 17-55; expensive, but built like a tank, fast and sharp. The difference in terms of colour, sharpness, speed and contrast was night and day. I recently upgraded to the Nikon D7000 and although I obviously notice the difference compared to the D80, switching to the 17-55 made a far greater impact on the quality of my photography than switching from the D80 to the D7000.
I would recommend you try and rent some more expensive glass and see whether it makes a difference. The 18-135 was definitely not bad, but the 17-55 is in a league of its own and has been worth every penny I spent on it. Good glass is definitely a worthwhile investment.
As Ken Rockell would be the first to agree with...the number one key to taking a great photograph is improving your technique...and the best glass in the world wont change that. Build your technique and work with what you can afford.
I did not see the mention that the phrase "good glass" often refers to the fact that most of the lenses considered in that category maintain a specific f-stop throughout the zoom (2.8 or f4). There is a Canon telephoto zoom which is 70-200 f4 that is below $1,000.00 which many pros consider to be good. Yes, it is important to improve the tecnique. Though the faster and more expensive "good glass" lenses will help you if you are shooting in low light, wildlife, and sports. The best advice I was recently given by a professional photographer on another website was this: make sure that if you invest in the expensive lens you are going to use it to the fullest and often for several years.
Yes, and one other thing Ken Rockwell I am pretty sure mentioned was that the difference between three "great" prime lens and one really good "zoom" that covers the majority of what people will shoot is almost indistinguishable, unless you are shooting banners for the side of a skyscraper. And if you are going to do that you could just as easily buy a decent large format 100 megapixel full format "film" camera for $1500. ;o)
Although Ken Rockwell has a bad habit of pandering to every person who visits his website, so he tells the low budget guy his choices are the best, and vice versa for the guy look at the $13,000 monster glass. It can't be both. But in this particular case, I think his point is right, for 99% percent of situations, especially in this day and age where software can correct much of the optical problems of cheaper lens, the real difference between a great prime and a very good zoom, isn't worth the price difference.
"for 99% percent of situations, especially in this day and age where software can correct much of the optical problems of cheaper lens, the real difference between a great prime and a very good zoom, isn't worth the price difference"
Absolutely correct, Gary. In fact, in Canon's line-up the 70-200 f/2.8 is pretty much indistinguishable from the primes throughout its length. The 24-70/2,8 isn't far behind. I don't know about the Nikkors. It's important to realise that most zooms are aimed at undemanding enthusiasts only a few - and they are expensive - are made for the professional market.
In general, I wouldn't rely on Ken Rockwell's ad hoc opinions.
but then there is also tamron, an outside factor. and they have some good lenses too. my favorite is the tamron 28-75 2.8. it's near prime quality. it's always my backup lens. since i use the 28-300 - it's not as good, but has a better zoom and it's stable. so even if you have the camera, it doesn't have to be a name brand lens. however things like canon L and a few others, have internal mech's in them. they are sealed from moisture. but as a result, they are rather large and bulky - and bright white. while it reduces heat, it also beckons all thieves that you have a nice camera that you can afford one of them pricey white lenses.
See, I am iffy about Tamron and Sigma as some are good and some are crap. Now, Tokina I like but it doesn't fit the way I shoot. (Specifically the way you turn off the auto focus gives me some concern for my style.)
There is a huge difference betwwen a zoom and primes, 2 stops of light will mean the difference between getting the shot and not. Zooms max out at f/2.8, most good primes go to f/1.4, some will go as wide as f/1.0. If I bring a zoom to an indoor car show, I'm just carrying a brick around!
except that zooming with your feet - while recommended by the pro's, is not a good idea in traffic. or any time there is a cliff or a body of water. primes are sharper overall, but i still like my zooms... it really depends what your doing with it. if your a model photographer, or food, etc, a prime is your best bet. but if you travel, then a wide and a zoom is the way to go. if you shoot underwater, a prime i think is the only way to go, because you can't get your hand on the lens.
That true. I always carry my zoom in addition to a prime or two, depending on the target audience. But point is, there is a huge difference betwwen a good prime and a zoom, dispelling that notion suggested above.
Sorry, what does "depending on the audience mean". Does it mean you carry a zoom for customers who need less quality? And why would you carry a zoom, if your primes are always going to produce measurably better results. I would hazard a guess the real reason is the flexibility of the zoom far outweighs its faults in certain situations or you wouldn't use.
This is why many professionals carry zooms, and why I would guess they are amongst the most popular pro glass that either canon or nikon sales.
And unless the cars are moving at that indoor car show, I'd much rather set that brick on a tripod, and boost my depth of field and lower my ISO, before I try to hand hold at F 1.0...just saying. ;o) Of course I am not sure I would even shoot a car show these days, because unless you are shooting editorial, the copyright infringement threat isn't worth the hassle.
The main advantage of primes is speed, and there are only a few situations, like moving objects in low light (Northern lights) and sports where a tripod is useless that I see any real advantage over primes.
Depending on the audience is my slang for venue. Alot of venues, including car shows don't allow tripods nor monopods nor flash. And even if they do allow flash, there is usually nothing to bounce it off from - and direct flash, even with a stofen attached, on a highly reflective car don't sell very well. I've tried using both my canon 24-105L (f/4 IS) and tamron 28-75 (f/2.8) at car shows before, and the results were unusable. I can only use my primes there. Again, 2 stops of light is huge in alot of venues. I still carry a zoom mainly for those odd/sporadic shots I wasn't intending to get from the venue, and it's usually on a second body.
I think the "make sure you will get a lot of use out of it" is a great bit of advice. Pay attention to what you like to shoot most and the lens(es) you use most. My camera bag consisted of a Sigma 10-20mm uwa, the Nikon 18-55mm kit lens, and the Nikon 70-300mm tele. All pretty much "consumer quality" glass. I added the 50mm 1.8 prime since it was only about $100. I noticed that about 80% of the time, I was using the 18-55 because that was the lens that covered the range I shot most. I also noticed that the images I shot with the 50mm were sharper by a magnitude. So, the 18-55 was the lens I decided to replace with pro glass. I bought the Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8. I still use the others when subject/conditions require them, but most of the time the 24-70 is the one on my camera.
In other words, if you can only afford one "pro" lens, make sure it is the one you will use most.
You mentioned at the outset that a good lens generally has a low aperture like 1.4 and then made reference to an aperture like that gives you more speed which is what you want for crisp clean/sharp focus. My follow up question there is this. I shoot mostly nature shots like Autumn landscapes and Waterfalls. I generally set the aperture at 16 or higher for more depth of field or for capturing motion. So in the end would I benefit from a lens that goes to 1.4 if I rarely use that setting?
Also, for anyone who feels like commenting, I saw someone mentioned photoshop to clean up problems. Would that be more advantageous, than adding a lens in the earlier stages of my becoming a photographer? I currently use the basic IPHOTO as my photo editing tool.
It's not true to say that most good primes go to f/1.4 and some got as wide as f/1.0. There's not a single prime in Canon or Nikon's current line-up that goet to f1 and if you go beyond 85mm there isn't a single one that is faster than f/2. I guess what wings is saying is that he always shoots wide angle all the time, when there are f/1.4 primes available at the standard lengths.
And if you are shooting at f/1.4 your DoF is going to be hellish thin, which is OK for some kinds of work but not for others.
Generally speaking, a good f/2.8 zoom will get the job done, particularly with the newer bodies which have good high ISO performance, so you can use that to pull in a stop or two if desired.
it's a faster lens, so lets say you were shooting in low light, you shot it at f16, the shutter was like 1/100th. with a faster lens it might shoot it at like 1/250th - since you have more light you can have a faster snap. plus the glass is usually better so you have a sharper shot just because it's a good prime.
the 1.4 would be used when it's really dark out, when it's really bright you can't focus on anything. it's like getting your eyes dilated and it's bright and sunny outside. everything is really blurry. shooting it to get a soft bokeh, well it will be really soft, but everything else would be too. ironically to use these lenses you have to push up the F's to use it. but you'll get more speed from the shutter at a lower iso.
like i can get great performance out of my canon 70-200 f4l, it has a constant f4 throughout. where as my tamron is like 3.6-6.3 - which is really poor. at the highest zoom, it's hard to get a good shot because you already lost all that light. and if it's dark its even worse. this is why the f2.8 lenses are more expensive, and they are better glass.
There are a number of programs (and cameras) out there that will correct for optical distortions, photoshop is one of them, but probably the most expensive...albeit it does a lot more. I think my advice above was to be realistic. If I had waited around until I could afford the best camera body and best lens, I would probably not be where I am today in a photographic sense. Like Paul, I easily license a few thousand images a year, and I didn't need $5k in lens to accomplish that. But I did have to learn how to take a sharp, properly exposed image that had some semblance of photographic composition. And the majority of that came from experimenting, learning from others, and just putting in the effort. The rest came from reasonably good equipment.
All that said, I have a long way to go to reach perfection, and now having done this for awhile, I have a pretty good idea where great glass helps and where it doesn't. Its worth knowing that before you go out on a spending spree when you are just getting started.
And somebody kill me, if I ever become this guy (someone I know ;o)
Well I guess I just don't follow why its a faster lens. I thought it was simply faster because the aperture was able to open more and therefore it would be faster at the lower number " f1.4", but the same as any other lens at F16, or f5.6 ect ect. Is the dilation actually wider at f16 on a faster lens than it is on a slower lens?
There's alot of situations where I'm hitting the wall with f/2.8. There is not a photographer I know that couldn't use a couple extra stops of light at some point in their journey. The thin DoF is not that thin depending on your distance to your subject. Plus, the thin DoF and the design of the optics in a quality prime is what makes for that soft creamy artistic bokeh many photographers die for. That's just some of the things you pay for in a prime.
Robert, you don't want f/1.4 for nature shots. That said, f/16 might be pushing things too far because of the effects of diffraction, Try shooting the same scenes at f/8 f/11 and f/16 and then look closely at the results to see if there is any difference in sharpness. Most lens/camera combinations are at about their best at f/8
Photoshop is amazing but it takes a lot of learning to get the best out of it. I don't know IPHOTO.
My understanding is that when you are autofocusing, the lens is wide open, regardless of the f-stop setting. So, even when you are shooting at f16, your camera is focusing at f3.5 or whatever the largest aperture of the lens is. This means that lenses that open wider, focus faster. Thus the term "fast glass."
That's true, Loree, but I think the main reason they are called fast lens is because they can open up to a wider aperture which lets in more light which allows you to shoot the same scene at faster shutter speeds than you would with a lens that's aperture-challenged.
Here's a few lenses even wider than f/1.0 currently in production, mostly for the micro 4/3 systems:
Cosina Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds mount
Cosina Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds mount, announced 26/8/2010
Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH announced on September 15, 2008, it is the fastest aspherical lens to have ever reached mass production, with a MSRP of £6290 (approximately US$10,000).
SLR Magic HyperPrime LM 50mm T0.95 (f/0.92)
Noktor 50mm f/0.95 'HyperPrime' a fast CCTV lens design adapted for the Micro Four Thirds system
Mitakon 35mm f/0.95
I had just read an article a few days back about the sharpness being best around f8 and compared some of my shots from the past with different f settings and saw what you are talking about. I will add that while I am primarily shooting landscape I do enjoy learning more about all areas of photography because I may branch out more at some point. thanks for all the help!
In case you do branch out to other types of photography, here's a thread on "bokeh", alot of examples of artistic use of wide aperture lens there. Unfortunately the topic is now closed, I'm guessing old topics are automatically closed? -W
Thanks for the list, Wings. So far I have managed to get by without anything faster than the bog standard 50/1.8 (and that hardly ever gets and outing). I have been tempted by some of the faster primes but so far I haven't felt the need of them for the stuff I do so they would be very expensive toys.
The sweet spot varies from lens to lens and if you do enough research you might find someone whose done a write-up about a particular lens model. I tend to shoot in the f8 to f14 range unless circumstances force me to do otherwise.
I am with Gary and go from f8-f16 unless otherwise needed but it varies by lens AND also varies depending if you are shooting full frame or crop sensor. In general, the sweet spot will be lower than f8 for a crop and then with my 100mm macro f2.8 was TACK sharp (Though, very shallow DoF up close.)
I can't afford it ( I have an excellent and for most practical purposes 'as good as' 50mm Konica Hexar lens on my Leica MP ) but Leica glass is the 'best' glass there is. Followed by Zeiss. on my Nikon D700 I have the 50mm 1.8 Nikon and a Tamron 28-300mm. The Tamron is really good, and very compact for its range.