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bmicks Registered since 19th Feb 2010Sun 28-Feb-10 12:32 AM
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"Lens upgrade"


US
          

Hi guys,
Thinking about upgrading my 18-55 dx kit lens for my d40.
I do most of my shooting outside for landscapes and don't really know what the next step up would be in terms of quality of lens...especially in the realms of optics. This lens hasn't been bad for me, but I feel like upgrading something, and i am leaning towards spending more money on lens then body. I really have no complaints about the d40.. maybe it could be heavier to give more weight on the tripod (lol). Any thoughts?

  

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Subject Author Message Date ID
Reply message RE: Lens upgrade
blw Moderator
28th Feb 2010
1
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geoffmalter
28th Feb 2010
2
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dclarhorn Moderator
28th Feb 2010
3
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bmicks
01st Mar 2010
4
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blw Moderator
01st Mar 2010
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bmicks
01st Mar 2010
6
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MotoMannequin Moderator
01st Mar 2010
7
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bmicks
03rd Mar 2010
8
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musical Silver Member
05th Mar 2010
9
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blw Moderator
05th Mar 2010
11
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musical Silver Member
05th Mar 2010
12
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musical Silver Member
05th Mar 2010
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blw Moderator
06th Mar 2010
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05th Mar 2010
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18th Mar 2010
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18th Mar 2010
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19th Mar 2010
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29th Mar 2010
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27th Apr 2010
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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Sun 28-Feb-10 01:27 AM
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#1. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 0


Richmond, US
          

You may be surprised that the quality of the lens is actually quite hard to improve. Adding new capability is much more obvious. In the Nikon line the 17-55/f2.8 AFS will yield better light gathering capability (f/2.8 vs your f/3.5-5.6), quicker focusing (using a silent wave ring motor, as opposed to a geared micromotor), full-time manual focus override, and significantly better build quality. It will also improve IQ a little bit, but most are surprised at how little the upgrade is. This is not a criticism of the 17-55, but more a reflection on the excellent IQ of the 18-55.

You might also consider the 24-70/f2.8 AFS, although again the improvement is probably less than one would expect for the difference in price.

The 18-55 generally is about $150, while the 17-55/f2.8 is about $1300, and the 24-70 is about $1900 these days.

Even the third party lenses are significantly more expensive. The Sigma 24-70/f2.8 HSM is about $900, and the Tamron 17-50/f2.8 VC is about $800.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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geoffmalter Registered since 25th Feb 2010Sun 28-Feb-10 04:13 AM
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#2. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 0


US
          

After getting my factory refurbished D40 with 18-55 VR, the first lens I bought was the 35mm f1.8 for low light capabilities. It's my carry-around lens now, and IMO at $200 new a great deal.

Just picked up a factory refurbished 55-200 VR at Samy's Camera in Los Angeles for $100.00. Looks unused, just like my D40 (Opanda Exif software told me that my "refurbished" D40 had only 120 shutter acuations when I purchased it).

I believe in factory refurbished products. As the store told me the chances are better than not that your purchase will be new old stock or open box demo that has to be sold as refurbished rather than new.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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dclarhorn Moderator In depth knowledge and high level skills in a variety of areas including landscape Nikonian since 31st Mar 2002Sun 28-Feb-10 12:34 PM
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#3. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 0
Sun 28-Feb-10 12:36 PM by dclarhorn

Berwyn Heights, US
          

There can be significant advantages to upgrading your lens. But, be sure you know what they are and how you can utilize them before spending what will be a significant more amount of money.

In the realm of optics, your current lens performs very well. For real world viewing, you're not going to notice a lot of difference so consider that when spending a lot more for a lens. It's true that there are some performance factors that improve with more upscale lenses, especially corner sharpness, distortion and overall performance when shooting at maximum aperture, but what is significant in lab tests isn't necessarily so apparent to the average shooter.

The biggest improvements with the other lenses mentioned in this thread will be in the area of light gathering ability because of the wider maximum aperture and with build quality--better able to stand up to the demands of rigorous use. So if these factors are important to you, it does make sense to upgrade. Also, if you are shooting wide open or are in need of good vertical or horizontal perspective control (i.e. straight lines for architecture), an upgrade will help.

The other thing to consider is that some of the more upscale and faster zoom lenses are heavier and your setup on your D40 will be a little front heavy. It won't be a problem for small fast prmes like the 50mm or 35mm.

For landscape shooting and smaller apertures, I don't think the advantages will be as significant.

Dan L.
http://www.danlarussophotography.com/

  

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bmicks Registered since 19th Feb 2010Mon 01-Mar-10 01:21 AM
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#4. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 3


US
          

Thanks for all your advice guys... i have some decisions to make but i feel alot more informed now. I guess the biggest complaint about the kit lens I have, is the focus ring... it's very flimsy and loose. In manual focus, i'm afraid a small wind could blow it out of focus (lol). even in autofocus there seems to be some play in the ring. When i shoot with my 70-200 kit lens, the focus ring seems alot more tighter in manual, and in autofocus, it has no play at all.
Lately i've been shooting alot of landscapes on tripod.. been having sharpness problems not due to slow shutter speed. I know there are alot of things that can contribute. I use a tripod, wireless shutter, but i'm really starting to think that the focus ring's sloppiness could be giving me problems.
Thanks guys.

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Mon 01-Mar-10 02:29 AM
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#5. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 4


Richmond, US
          

> 70-200 kit lens

Surely you mean the 55-200 kit lens? (The 70-200 doesn't come in a kit, and these days it's $2400...)

> focus ring... it's very flimsy and loose

That's one of the things you get upgraded in the more advanced lenses. The kit lenses are definitely NOT designed to be optimized for manual focus, whereas the pro lenses generally are.

> shooting alot of landscapes on tripod.. been having sharpness problems not due to slow shutter speed.

Generally speaking the focusing ring usually isn't one of those issues, since a landscape at slow shutter speed is usually with great depth of field. At f/11, DOF probably is measured in tens of meters, so a little focus error here and there is not likely to be visible.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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bmicks Registered since 19th Feb 2010Mon 01-Mar-10 12:07 PM
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#6. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 5


US
          

>> 70-200 kit lens
>
>Surely you mean the 55-200 kit lens? (The 70-200 doesn't come
>in a kit, and these days it's $2400...)
>
>> focus ring... it's very flimsy and loose
>
>That's one of the things you get upgraded in the more advanced
>lenses. The kit lenses are definitely NOT designed to be
>optimized for manual focus, whereas the pro lenses generally
>are.
>
>> shooting alot of landscapes on tripod.. been having
>sharpness problems not due to slow shutter speed.
>
>Generally speaking the focusing ring usually isn't one of
>those issues, since a landscape at slow shutter speed is
>usually with great depth of field. At f/11, DOF probably is
>measured in tens of meters, so a little focus error here and
>there is not likely to be visible.

Yes, your right... 55-200 mm lens is not my kit lens but has better focus ring.. my bad. I'm still not happy with the focus ring.. your right, i will need to get a pro lens to fix

  

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MotoMannequin Moderator Awarded for his extraordinary skills in landscape and wildlife photography Nikonian since 11th Jan 2006Mon 01-Mar-10 03:30 PM
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#7. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 0


Livermore, CA, US
          

The optical quality of the 18-55 is excellent for landscape photography, which is usually done in the f/8-f/16 range where most lenses are at their sharpest. Probably the biggest downside for the 18-55 in landscape photography is the rotating front element, which means you need to orient a polarizer after focusing. Also the manual focus ring and lack of a focus distance scale make manual focus a pain, which is another thing commonly done in landscape photography. The big advantage to the 18-55 is that it has the least distortion at the wide end of all the Nikon "normal" DX zooms. It's easier for Nikon to design the optics for this lens, because it has less zoom range than all your potential upgrades.

Bear in mind, and excellent tripod and ballhead, and a good pair of boots, are probably your best investments in landscape photography. But since you asked about lenses:

On the question of upgrading, the question is, improve on another lens in this same range, or expand your range with a different lens? It sounds like you already have the telephoto end covered with the 55-200, which is great for landscape shooting but a bit short for wildlife. So you have a few potential routes, in upgrading your existing range or adding new capabilities:

Upgrade your existing range, I'd recommend 2 lenses to replace the 18-55. The Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-S DX is an outstanding lens that fixes all the problems with the 18-55, and although it was a $350 lens when it was sold new, its build quality is today only found in $500+ lenses. You probably can't buy this lens new anymore, but it's commonly found used for under $200. The other lens I'd recommend is the Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX. This lens gives you quite a bit more range on the wide end, and fantastic sharpness.

You could also consider upgrading your kit into the ultra-wide range, which is a great option for landscape photography. The 2 lenses I'd recommend here are the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 on a budget, or the Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 as the best ultra wide.

Your other option is to upgrade your low-light capability, with a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8, or Nikkor or Sigma 50mm f/1.4. I wouldn't make these a high priority for landscape photography though.

Larry - a Bay Area Nikonian
My Nikonians gallery

www.tempered-light.com

  

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bmicks Registered since 19th Feb 2010Wed 03-Mar-10 11:34 PM
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#8. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 7


US
          

Thanks for all the info.
So many toys, so few dollars!

  

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musical Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Feb 2010Fri 05-Mar-10 12:17 AM
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#9. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 8
Fri 05-Mar-10 12:18 AM by musical

north-central, US
          

Insight? Just that I love sky pictures. I decided to buy Tokina's 11-16mm. It will be a nice one to have, really, looks super cool, but be very careful. The nikon lenses may be better with their glass coatings and with the focus ring. Let me explain. The way the manual focus ring is geared, (on the Tokina,) is it called "geared?", no one could hit a perfect focus right on. A millimeter of turn throws it far off, at least to my eye once I see the image later on. Even a quarter of a millimeter turn. A human finger tip can't be that exact. Ok so, let the motor do it. Fine well, guess what, I didn't know that only an AF-S lens will have a focus motor in it. So, my lens can't focus! Ha. Amazing. Hey fine, so now I'm an abstract art photographer. Oh well, the lens was a dear gift and so the other way to do it all is to upgrade the camera body. I decided that with in 2 years I want a D-90. The day that happens the AF lens will auto focus. As for other lenses, let me mention that the 35mm 2.8 AF-S lens by nikon seemed really neat. Myself I do like big showy lenses that need big filters. The 35 is like: "mini", but I liked it. I didn't want to like it, but loved it.

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Fri 05-Mar-10 01:39 AM
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#11. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 9


Richmond, US
          

> The nikon lenses may be better with their glass coatings

Tokina's lenses are multi-coated too. Only Nikon's top lenses have nano-coating.

> The way the manual focus ring is geared, (on the Tokina,) is it called "geared?"

If you switch it to MF mode, it should not feel "geared."

> no one could hit a perfect focus right on

On an 11-16 lens, you should have a hard time missing, simply because DOF is pretty deep even wide open. For example, at 14mm, f/2.8 and focused at 10 feet, the DOF extends from 4+ feet in front of the subject to something like 70 feet to the rear. It's really pretty hard to miss the focus by that much.

> A millimeter of turn throws it far off, at least to my eye once I see the image later on

I don't have this lens, but on my 12-24, a millimeter turn of the focus ring changes the focus distance by only a small amount. Far less than the DOF at these focal lengths.

> A human finger tip can't be that exact.

Human fingers focused ALL of the lenses for ALL of the pictures before about 1985. No, they didn't have AF gears to deal with back then, but there were other issues to deal with. And we still got billions of in-focus photos over about a century.

> I didn't know that only an AF-S lens will have a focus motor in it.

That's in Nikon terminology. Sigma HSM lenses have focus motors too, and some low-end Sigmas have focus motors even WITHOUT the HSM indicator. Each of the vendors has a way of describing this.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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musical Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Feb 2010Fri 05-Mar-10 01:17 PM
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#12. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 11


north-central, US
          

Thank you. I am guilty of exaggerating too much. I see your points, and I am buying a -3 diopter lens this week. I exaggerate a little and whine a little. I'll be more careful. I am liking this list though and I plan to subscribe. My basic membership is up in 5 days. I plan to upgrade to a D90 this year I hope and plan, and I have a photo site with something 1000 pics. All is well. I'll keep the Tokina but look much more at Sigma's line. I'll get Nikon's 85mm macro lens in about 3 weeks. I liked your response very much.

  

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musical Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Feb 2010Fri 05-Mar-10 09:37 PM
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#13. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 11


north-central, US
          

I know I said "geared." YOu're right. It is free turning in manual. I see what you mean. I didn't know how to describe it. Maybe it is a spiral groove and the slant of that groove affects the quickness of the focus. So it is the lens design, and the slant would be at more of an angle if the slightest turn changes focus. See what I mean, I can almost picture it but have not the words to describe. I was experimenting with shallow depth of field. It's an effect I desired, not stopping down. I'm merely rattling on. As for missing focus, I did mean at wide open. Now... there is the green dot indicating focus in the viewfinder to aid in focusing, and that was omitted in my narrative. I like the Tokina, I do, just feeling the pain of a learning curve. I mentioned that the Tokina 11-16 is a very cool-looking lens, too.

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Sat 06-Mar-10 12:08 AM
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#14. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 13


Richmond, US
          

If you were using this lens on a body that had a screwdriver motor, you would discover that the focusing ring wouldn't turn at all. (Or if it did, you'd be turning the focus motor shaft by hand through the reverse gearing - not a good thing.) When you switch the lens to manual, you're disconnecting the ring from the AF drive shaft's gears, so it should turn freely. I don't know how the gears are arranged in this lens.

> there is the green dot indicating focus in the viewfinder to aid in focusing

Yep, and it's pretty accurate, too.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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musical Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Feb 2010Fri 05-Mar-10 12:24 AM
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#10. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 8


north-central, US
          

The Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S is on Amazon for $650. It looks well worth it.

  

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shokelah Registered since 07th Nov 2009Thu 18-Mar-10 01:12 AM
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#15. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 0


CA
          

I bought a Sigma 18-50 f2.8 to replace my Nikon 18-55 kit lens. I sold the Sigma and I am now using the Nikon "kit" lens again. The image quality is incredible and so is the sharpness. Quite an impressive "kit" lens. The only improvement might be to get a VR or a good tripod.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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musical Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Feb 2010Thu 18-Mar-10 03:59 PM
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#16. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 15
Fri 19-Mar-10 11:16 AM by musical

north-central, US
          

I sort of do agree that actual Nikon lenses are worth the extra few hundred dollars. Yes, the 1st pic is painfully out of focus. I choose this for that reason. The tokina looks cool to own and I want to be respectful to that company, too. It does well in more perfect lighting, (if I could see) but maybe the glass coating is far different. Low light makes for images without detail (pic 2), well yeah didn't I know that, I should? The point is that Nikon probably stretches out much better to the edge of a lens' intended design. Snapshot 1 has a neat distortion but it remains a struggle for me, not the distortion but the lack of subtle details, for example in the driveway area, and the painful lack of any in-lens focus-drive motor in my new tokina lens. Almost sadly I have a sentimental aspect to everything; I'm not pro, and so now I have many shots now of this tokina. Bright-cloudy works very well. This photo I attach is about 125kb. I set it for very good resolution, not max, to keep kb below 150kb. See where she is out of focus, that is a heart break. Although the snapshot looks cool, nice distortion to my taste with its tipsy distortion, yet some finer shadow detail might be lacking, yet it still looks neat in a way-- that's my home. Summary: picture #1 is set at 11mm, the same tokina lens; picture #2 would be typical of my wanting to stretch limits, design-limits of things; it's zoomed in to like 14mm. I don't mind any comments on any of this. A friendly pat on the back is nice and more wished for, and I do indeed know I can't focus well enough.





"Shadows are the soul of the picture."rick sammon

Photographs are of what the heart sees.
Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Fri 19-Mar-10 12:21 PM
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#17. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 16


Richmond, US
          

> I sort of do agree that actual Nikon lenses are worth the extra few hundred dollars.

There are many times when this is true. There are also many times when this is not true. Nikon do charge for being Nikon - and there is in fact no value to users for that. And there are plenty of times when Nikon don't even offer the right lens, making the comparison moot. That's why one really needs to evaluate specific models in specific circumstances.

> Yes, the 1st pic is painfully out of focus.

The focus on the 11-16 should not be so hard. At 11mm and focused at five feet distance, the DOF should extend from three feet to 15 feet - a total of twelve feet. And that's wide open at f/2.8. At f/5.6, DOF extends from two feet to infinity. And in fact, if you look at the skylights on the house, they are in very good focus. Down in the lower right corner, there's what looks like a pine needle - it too is in pretty good focus. I'm pretty confident that the distance is no less than 5 feet, since your eye height is probably close to that, and you aren't right on top of her.

This confirms that the DOF is indeed very deep and in fact encompasses the main subject. So the fact that the girl is blurry is almost certainly NOT due to focus error. Even a near-worst case, 16mm at f/2.8, focused at 5 feet, DOF is still from 3 feet to 7 feet, which really is a pretty big area, even for manual focus. Stopping down a little and/or focusing a little further away extends the DOF dramatically.

The lack of AF on this lens is not holding you back. If this were a longer and/or faster lens - for example a 105/f2 or 200/f2, or even the 50/f1.4, things would be different. With the 105/f2 AF DC focused at 5 feet, DOF is about 15mm or a bit more than half an inch. It is not only easy to miss that, it's quite likely. But when you have DOF measured in tens of feet, focus is not that much of a challenge.

So let's figure out why your subject isn't sharp. What was the shutter speed on that first pic?

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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conor5150 Registered since 04th May 2009Mon 29-Mar-10 04:56 PM
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#18. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 17
Mon 29-Mar-10 04:57 PM by conor5150

Bronx, US
          

I got the D60 wit the kit 18-55 VR last year around this time. I recently got the 55-200 VR for just over $200, great price for a very good lens. This certainly doesn't mean I keep the 18-55 in the bag as I have found I still use it quite a lot. I guess a part of me being new to this(dslr) felt that I HAD to get a zoom and that that was the way to go. I don't think I appreciated the 18-55 as much as I should have. So on my wishlist now is the 35mm f/1.8.

I think I have figured out that "upgrade" doesn't have to mean bigger and longer.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/conorcoen/

  

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enelsond Registered since 29th Jan 2008Tue 27-Apr-10 02:01 PM
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#19. "RE: Lens upgrade"
In response to Reply # 18


HAVERHILL, US
          

I have the D40 with the 18-55 kit lens. Like you, I got the 55-200 VR for the same money. Both are good lens for my use, which is generally anything outdoors. I recently got the Nikkor DX 35mm f 1.8 and so far I love it. Use it for portrait / indoor shots and general low light situations. Nice outdoor les too. I keep it on the D40 and only change when I feel the need to "get closer". I'm perfectly happy with these 3 lenses, and the D40. It's all I really need. Not to mention all I can afford. Loved your "Water Drop" photo. Cool!

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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