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Thread: The lens-filter dilemma

  1. #1
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    The lens-filter dilemma

    Hi all, first (real) post to CiC.

    I just got my first dSLR a few weeks ago and am still in the process of getting gear. Id like to get a macro lens, super-telephoto, and wide angle to go along with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX nikon kit lens. The problem is that I also want to get great filters to go with all my lenses and wanted to get some input on what the pros/more experienced do.
    I got a very cheap filter kit when I bought the camera. I knew I would need filters and for $10 (at the time), I figured I could get Cheap filters to hold me over until I got something better (hoya or B+W). But as I pick out the lenses I wanted and the lenses I would probably want in the future, I soon realized the filters could get really pricey since some of the lenses have 52mm, 58mm, and other openings. That being said, is it a better buy to get hoya or b+w 77mm top quality filters (nd, polarizer, uv would be what id get) and buy step up rings as needed? or buy as needed? or do others find more affordable, yet quality brands than hoya or b+w.

    With so much out there to chose from, its hard to make a smart and economic decision. This is also the same deal with the dx lens format or the fx format. If I want to get pro equipment (usually fx format?), the dx lenses might be a waste.

    Thanks in advance for the help,
    Trevor

    Lenses I plan on getting very soon:
    Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6
    Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    Trevor

    I've just replied to your 'hello' post in the 'New Members' thread. But, hello again.

    You said that you had just got your new D5100. Now, there's absolutely no one can tell you not to go out and buy lots of additional lenses. But ........ do you need them right now and do you know exactly what lenses you need?

    I suppose I'm just urging caution and a wee bit of restraint. Lots of lenses doesn't make us into brilliant image-makers (unfortunately). Knowing how to get the best out of what we've got is a better way of at least giving us a chance to be better image-makers. And, now, it's time to roll out my Lee Trvino story again .....

    Lee Trevino, champion golfer, used to talk about practicing with one golf club. He would spend days/weeks with that one club, getting it to do everything that it could possibly do, before putting it back in the bag and moving on to the next club. As he knew, it wasn't the club that was the problem, it was about how well he knew how to use it. Practice, Practice, Practice. Then practice some more.

    So, do you really need all those new lenses right away?

    Why not find out where your interests are really going to be before you start investing in new glass. Get to know what you can and can't do with your kit lens and then decide what your next purchase needs to be.

    As for filters - A number of us on here would urge you to get a good quality UV for the lens that you have. Put it on and leave it there. That provides a great deal of security - in the knowldge that unless you have a major accident, that filter is going to protect the front element of your lens, particularly from scratches and abrasions. It should also be said that there are some others on here who totally disagree with that point of view.

    If your interest is going to be landscape (as you said in your 'New members' post), then you will be wanting to think about Graduated Neutral Density Filters. And the fact that you have lenses of different thread sizes is not a big problem because you just buy the different adaptor rings (which are pretty cheap) and the filter holders and the filters fit onto these (See Cokin and/or Lee filter systems).
    Last edited by Donald; 5th August 2011 at 01:12 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    Thanks for the quick reply.

    Ive taken quite a few pics with the 18-55mm kit lens, but it doesnt seem to focus well enough or zoom well enough for the shots id like (again, Ill see if I can post any later today). Id like to get those lenses because Im going on a trip to Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey this month and wanted to have the option to get some of those different shots. Although, you are right. I probably should get some more practice in.
    As for the filters. I was told that I should never use a step-down attachment. Thats why I said to get the 77mm really nice ones and use only step-up attachments. I always keep the cheap uv one I have on, but have been debating getting these pricey ones if Im getting the new lenses. I just wasnt sure if people bought lots of different filters for the variant sizes or if the step-up attachments and switching filters wasnt practical.

  4. #4
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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    If you are serious about eventually going to FX then buy FX lenses. The best quality you can buy. Note I didn't say afford; I said buy. Almost everyone here will agree that the lens is the important part not the camera body. Buying the absolute best now will be cheaper in the long run then buying the gear twice.

    Getting FX will mean you will lose some wide angle ability; as using FX on a DX body will result in magnification by your crop factor (let's say 1.6) . But you enhance magnification ability on macro and telephoto lenses. Again my feeling on this; the loss of some wide angle ability is minimal considering the cost of replacing the glass. Bear in mind I am not really a wide angle user type so the conversion of an 16 to 35 mm wide zoom to a 25 to 56 mm effective lens is no big deal to me. Might be crucial to you. The conversion of a 105mm macro to a 168 mm is nothing but wonderful.

    You can use DX lenses on FX bodies , the camera will automatically adjust but the lessening is irritating; not maddening just irritating

    I am not giving this advice gratuitously; this is what I did. I started with a D40; the cheapest Nikon body I could find (Nikon only because I was shooting Nikon before changing to digital and I had some lenses and stuff). I knew i would eventually upgrade so I bought great lenses and filters whenever I could. Not to say I had the full kit when I made the conversion, just two macro lenses. Then I was forced (kicking and screaming for effect to impress my wife) to buy a new body because I broke the D40. Since I was going to suffer her wraith anyway by buying a D700 I figured a few extra bruises where no big deal and went completely mental and bought an 18-35 and a really good 50 mm plus UV filters and circular polarizers. The vision is now partially back in my right eye and next month I may be able to move back inside, but only if it snows. Weighing the cost versus benefit I probably made the right decision in the long run.

  5. #5
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    Since I was going to suffer her wraith anyway by buying a D700 I figured a few extra bruises
    I feel that I've perfected the 'MacKenzie mumble' that's put into effect whenever 'How much was that?' is aired. I'm pretty confident I can make '9...' sound like '7...' and '7...' sound like '4...'. Not sure it always convincing though.

    And then the credit card statement comes in!

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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    Hi, Trevor. Donald's advice to go slow on the lens acquisitions is sound, and is only reinforced by the substance of your OP. You say that you want to go FX, but the lenses you want to acquire are both DX. That just doesn't make much sense to me. The 35mm f/1.8 is a terrific lens at a really good price, but it is DX. The 55-300 is a mediocre lens at a relatively low price, but it's still DX. BTW, DX is not a bad thing (personally, I have no intention of ever moving up to FX), I'm just taking you at your word on what you want to do.

    The kit lens is not all that bad. If you're not thrilled with the photos, it is more likely to be your technique than the intrinsic limitations of the glass. You may want to learn a bit about shooting technique -- and a lot about post processing -- before deciding on your next lens. If you are trying to go birding with your 18-55, you probably should get different glass before proceeding. But, if you are not specifically precluded from taking the shots you want with your existing lens, you are probably better served by concentrating on using your existing equipment.

    Filters are a very specialized piece of equipment. I have absolutely no interest in using a filter to protect my lenses (and it is REALLY dumb to buy a decent UV filter to protect a $100 lens!), but if you must, knock yourself out. As to CPLs, NDs, and the like, these can wait a very long time before they become "must-haves." I have CPLs and GNDs, but seldom use either. I also have a step-up ring, just in case I feel the need to use a filter on a particular lens that I don't use much, and have never used with a filter. The step-up ring cost about $5, so I figured it was cheap insurance. But I honestly don't ever expect to use it. If you are actually going to use a filter, get one that fits your lens and allows you to put the lens hood on.

    When you finally decide to buy new glass, let me just mention a couple of FX lenses that I really like. I can't afford professional grade lenses, but the optical quality of these is as good as any normal human would ever need. I got them because I really like their optics and they fit my budget (I try to keep the cost of a lens under $500 if possible), not because they were FX. But they will fit your growth path if you stay committed to ultimately going FX:
    1. For standard zoom, I have the absolutely wonderful Tamron 28-75 f/2.8. This is a very sharp lens with excellent color rendition. It is a lot lighter than most standard bright FX zooms, which is a huge plus in my book. The one thing that may weigh against it is that it is not a very fast-focusing lens. If you want to use it for sports photography, you'll have your work cut out for you with it. Otherwise, it is a wonderous bargain at just under $500.
    2. For tele, which is not my favorite focal range, I use the Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR. This is a very capable lens, and is the upper end of affordable teles. Beyond here lies debt! Good bright teles are really, really expensive. But, if you can make do with darker glass, you can get terrific photos with this lens. It is qute fast-focusing, and very sharp up to about 200mm. Beyond that, you need to close it down to about f/8 to get decent sharpness. But, for the price, you get quite reasonable optics. I bought this factory-refurb to hit my price point, and got a third party extended warranty. The combination was just over $400.
    3. For macro and portrait work, Tamron's 90mm f/2.8 "portrait macro" is a very nice lens. It has the creamiest bokeh of any lens I own. I have a lot of trouble using this lens for general purposes for some reason. It doesn't seem to want to focus at mid-distance or beyond. In bright, contrasty scenes it's fine. But, commonly, I end up with an awful lot of missed focuses with this lens as a general-purpose workhorse. So I don't even try anymore for anything other than macro and portraits. But it is a marvel for those applications, and runs about $450.

    I have a couple of DX lenses that I like, but these are the FX lenses that I use and like on my DX camera. FWIW
    Last edited by tclune; 5th August 2011 at 05:02 PM.

  7. #7
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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    What I meant about the FX format is that if I feel the need to upgrade down the road, I wouldnt have that much of an issue if I already had some FX lenses. In regard to the 18-55mm, I do feel as if I cant get the shots Id like because of the focal length. For instance, when I see something in the distance, in all its grandeur, I cant necessarily convey that if the the lens makes it seem so distant. Ill edit this post later with a pic so you know what I mean.

    The 70-300 fx is a nice lens. And from what the other Trevor (tbob) said, it was worth it to get fx lenses. I was seriously considering getting that rather than the 55-300mm dx one I mentioned, but when I looked at the MTF charts, I was rather surprised to see that the 70-300 was severely lacking the sharpness the 55-300 looked to provide (see links). But Im probably overlooking other factors. It looks like the FX has far better minimum aperture.
    55-300mm DX
    70-300mm FX

    Filters: I tend to like photos with the polarizer and nd, so I originally thought to only get a cheap UV, a nice Polarizer and a nice ND. From what I read in the tutorials, its seems that I would be better off putting in GND in post. Im already quite familiar with photoshop. But the problem with the nice ND and polarizer exists that I wouldnt know what size to get. Out of the FX lenses you recommend, 2 are 67mm and one is 55mm. The one I have now is 52mm and the 55-300mm DX lens is 58mm. From what I understand, the lens hood wont be a problem, but Im still unresolved on what size is best to get. Like I said earlier, if I dont know what lenses I'll get, how should I know what size of nice filters to get? Once again, unless people think differently, I was advised to stay from step-down attachments. Step-ups being completely fine though.
    Last edited by Trevalex; 5th August 2011 at 08:13 PM.

  8. #8

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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    Quote Originally Posted by Trevalex View Post
    The 70-300 fx is a nice lens. And from what the other Trevor (tbob) said, it was worth it to get fx lenses. I was seriously considering getting that rather than the 55-300mm dx one I mentioned, but when I looked at the MTF charts, I was rather surprised to see that the 70-300 was severely lacking the sharpness the 55-300 looked to provide (see links). But Im probably overlooking other factors. It looks like the FX has far better minimum aperture.
    55-300mm DX
    70-300mm FX
    The main thing you're missing is that the 70-300 VR is a different lens than the one you linked to. Here is its page on the Nikon site: http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/lens...g_if/index.htm. The non-VR version of the 70-300 is not well-regarded at all. However, it is really hard to evaluate the quality of a lens from an MTF chart. Nikon adds to that difficulty by only measuring MTF wide-open. Canon does the courtesy of measuring wide open and at f/8 (?), which is considerably more useful. But, still, I have never been able to form a reliable expectation of image quality from an MTF chart. I know the usual hand-waving "10 L/mm indicates contrast, 30 L/mm indicates resolution," and "the closer sagittal and meridional lines track each other, the better the bokeh." But I don't have any real understanding of the charts and I don't find them dispositive in my lens evaluations. Some of this is presumably a matter more of comfort level than information content. I find other charts of resolution more helpful -- although still not enough to form a clear opinion. You may have a better grasp of them than do I. You could hardly have a worse grasp of them.

    As to filter sizes, the two main zooms that I indicated have the same size filter, 67mm. I use Marumi Super DHG CPLs, which are excellent CPLs that are competitively priced. I have little use for filters on macro lenses, so I would not bother with a filter for that (that's what I got the step-up adapter for, as a matter of fact). I do have a GND for my Tokina 12-24 f/4 lens (a DX lens), but would never consider putting a CPL on anything that wide. The only reason people seem to buy NDs is so they can shoot those foul cotton-candy waterfalls. I would rather slit my wrists than take a photo like that, so I don't bother with that filter, either. Obviously, YMMV.
    Last edited by tclune; 5th August 2011 at 08:42 PM.

  9. #9
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    Hi Trevor,

    Welcome to the CiC forums from me too, I have the predecessor to your D5100 (and I'm still happy with it).

    One thing no-one has mentioned yet, and it is very important, you must buy "AF-S" lenses by Nikon for your D5100 as it has no internal AF motor.

    I say "must" because almost everyone here that has tried to save money by just getting AF or AF-D lenses has regretted it - they say the lack of AF won't be a problem and they will manually focus, but the reality is MF is really difficult unless you have the time to mess with magnified Live View to be sure you have it right, doing it optically by eye through the V/F is not good enough.

    If you have an upcoming holiday of a lifetime soon, I would actually suggest you get the AF-S 18 - 200mm VR by Nikon - it is DX, it ain't cheap or fast, but as an all rounder, it is pretty good and you save yourself the hassle (and time) of frequently changing lenses, I used mine again yesterday for the first time in a while and I am pretty pleased with the results. Of course, in an ideal world, you might have got it instead of the 18-55, but hindsight is wonderful!

    Since you have the 18-55mm, to miss a step and go to the next level, how about /$/E 1600 on the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR?
    Because faster is the one thing that would tempt me now to 'replace' it.

    I have the Nikon AF-S 70-300mm VR and that is on my camera (for wildlife) 80% of the time since I got it, sure I'd like something longer and faster (aka brighter), but as someone said, they are really, really expensive. (and Heavy, is weight an issue?)

    Final advice:
    You will damage ALL your pictures by using a cheap UV filter on each lens, mainly by contrast reduction and flare, but if really cheap, perhaps also with other distortions and softness too

    Cheers,

  10. #10
    Harpo's Avatar
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    Re: The lens-filter dilemma

    May I suggest the possibility of renting the good lens just for the trip? That way you can try out some of the better lens or the longer glass and see how your pictures turn out. I did that when I went to Alaska recently and am glad I did. Can save up for the lens I want without destroying my budget!

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